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Pa. county charging 'unusual' fee for court docs

Plus, a major tax credit package is headed to Gov. Tom Wolf. 


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October 28, 2022
Search costs, tax credits, mental health money, insurance bill, expanded coverage, abuse charges, and candy really is getting smaller. It's Friday.

A Western Pennsylvania county is imposing a $10.50 “search fee” on public requests for court documents that experts described as an unusual and undue financial barrier to access. 

Between May 2021 and May 2022, Washington County collected $1,026.50 from the fee, according to a Right-to-Know response obtained by Spotlight PA. 

Open records experts told Spotlight PA they’re unaware of another Pennsylvania county with such a fee. 

Read Spotlight PA's full report: A Pa. county is charging people to search court documents — an unusual and undue burden, experts say

THE CONTEXT: The public access policy governing Pennsylvania’s county courts explicitly outlines the fees that clerks can charge for copies of court documents — up to 25 cents a page.

But it says nothing about a search fee covering the administrative task of retrieving such records.

Melissa Melewsky of the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association called the fee “problematic” and urged the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to explore the issue.

Washington County Clerk of Courts Brenda Davis said she is unable to remove or change the fee, a claim disputed by the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts (AOPC), which oversees Pennsylvania's county courts.


"As delicious and uniquely Pennsylvanian as our prize pack sounds, we don’t plan on sending it."

—Luke Bernstein, president of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, on a World Series wager with Texas' top business association; the loser sends snacks and beer
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A view of the Appalachian Trail from Perry County, sent by Stephanie J. Email PA Gem submissions (including Halloween, dog, and voting pics) to us here, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania
DONE DEAL: The Pennsylvania legislature has passed a controversial multibillion dollar tax credit package that includes a program to encourage natural gas-fueled hydrogen production here, AP reports. Spotlight PA reported earlier in the week that Gov. Tom Wolf and legislative leaders were quickly working on a deal.

'INCREDIBLY DISAPPOINTING': The Pennsylvania legislature is sitting on $100 million in federal funds it allocated to itself to spend on mental health needs. A 24-member commission was created to make recommendations about the spending, but WESA reports that disagreements on those suggestions have held the process up

STREAMLINED: Gov. Tom Wolf is expected to sign a bill that supporters say will make it easier for patients to get their insurance companies to OK new treatments, WITF reports. As Spotlight PA previously reported, the legislation has the backing of more than 70 condition-specific organizations.

EXPANDED COVERAGE: Pennsylvanians will now be eligible for Medicaid for a full year after giving birth, up from just 60 days, The Inquirer (paywall) reports. The change, which received federal approval Thursday, is aimed at reducing maternal mortality rates.

CHARGES FILED: The Office of Attorney General has charged four people who are Jehovah’s Witnesses with sexual abuse of 19 minors after a grand jury investigation, TribLIVE reports. Reporting by The Inquirer published in 2018 examined sexual abuse allegations within the group and uncovered a pattern of leaders silencing victims

OUT OF GAS: The autonomous vehicle company Argo AI, headquartered in Pittsburgh, is shutting down after it failed to attract new investors

'SHRINKFLATION' STRIKES: No, it's not your imagination — Halloween treats, including favorites from Hershey, are getting smaller

SERIES SWAG: Want to show your Phillies pride but can't find gear? Billy Penn has a guide to the best stuff available on Etsy. Game One of the World Series starts at 8 tonight. Here's how to watch.

SWIFT JUSTICE: If you're a Swiftie, you will get a kick out of this spotted lanternfly tweet from Tree Pittsburgh. If not, here's a dog video

QUESTIONS ANSWERED: The League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania held a great Q&A about the upcoming election on Reddit.

Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag. Answers submitted by 6 p.m. on issue date will be counted.

Yesterday's answer: Ascension

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Elaine C., Eddy Z., Wendy A., Becky C., btfoos, Don H., Susan N.-Z., Susan D., John A., Alissa H., George S., Joel S., Tish M., Irene R., James B., Mike B., Bill S., and David W. 
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