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Gov. Shapiro's secretive climate change committee

Plus, Pa. courts aren’t getting a 2023 budget hearing. 

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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
Monday, April 17, 2023
🏆  TEST TIME: You know the drill: If you're confident you've been following the news closely, there's only one way to prove it. Put your knowledge to the test with the latest edition of The Great PA News Quiz.

In this week's installment: A total solar eclipse, high court election cash, and a ‘severe’ workplace safety violator.
RGGI review, court cash, drug disparity, abortion access, Suplizio defender, gaming governance, and Fetterman's return. Welcome to the week.
A working group assembled by Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro met in private last week as the administration weighs whether to back a cornerstone of his predecessor's climate change agenda.

The state's entry into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, an interstate consortium aimed at capping power plant emissions, is on hold amid legal challenges brought by Republicans and fossil-fuel interests.

Shapiro has stopped short of endorsing the program and said he'd convene a group to consider it and a state-level climate change plan.

The AP reports the group met for the first time last week unannounced, and Shapiro's office has declined to identify most members.

THE CONTEXT: Shapiro, whose administration has demonstrated a lack of transparency before, has tried to walk a tightrope between environmentalists who support RGGI and labor unions that don't.

The working group that met in private last week includes chairs from each column: Jackson Morris of the Natural Resources Defense Council and Mike Dunleavy, a retired business manager of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 5 in Pittsburgh, per the AP.

Shapiro's office declined to identify any other members of the group. His office also said the governor is letting members meet privately, without keeping public minutes and without a timeline for recommendations. 

Shapiro has questioned RGGI's impacts on the energy industry, energy prices, and even greenhouse gas emissions, but University of Pennsylvania climate scientist Michael Mann said pulling out of the program would signal a "lack of seriousness" about addressing climate change here.

"They began to ask people in my position to deliver on Sundays or holidays, and I told them, 'I'm not going to be able to work on the Lord's day at all.'"

—Ex-Lancaster County postal worker Gerald Groff, whose lawsuit over Sunday Amazon deliveries by the USPS is before the U.S. Supreme Court
»  How Spotlight PA will cover Pa.'s 2023 primary election

»  How to vote, find your polling place, understand mail ballots

»  A guide to vetting candidates for school board, judge, and more

»  A guide to the Commonwealth, Superior Court candidates

»  Los candidatos a la Corte de la Commonwealth y Cortes Superiores

»  A guide to the Pa. Supreme Court candidates

»  High court candidates with party backing show fundraising edge

»  Guía completa de los candidatos a la Corte Suprema del Estado

»  Court decision does little to clear up ballot curing confusion

»  Register to vote in the May 16 primary here; deadline May 1

»  Request your mail ballot for the May 16 primary; deadline May 9

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The Delaware River from Bowman's Hill Tower in Bucks County, via Don N. Share photos by email, use #PAGems on IG, or tag @spotlightpennsylvania.
A shot taken above the Delaware River showing the winding waterway and rolling hills.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.FOUR-YEAR GAP: Budget hearings are underway in Harrisburg, giving lawmakers a chance to force officials to be transparent in a public venue. But state judicial officials won't appear for questioning despite seeking a 12% funding hike, Spotlight PA reports. The state's court system participated in budget hearings in 2017, 2018, and 2019, but will not do so again this year, with officials mum on why.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.DRUG TESTS: A new study of a major, unnamed Pennsylvania health system found that hospitals are more likely to give drug tests to Black women delivering babies than white women, regardless of the mother’s substance use history. The excessive testing was unwarranted, The New York Times (paywall) reports, because the study found Black women were less likely than white women to test positive for drugs.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.ON HOLD: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito has paused a lower court ruling that restricted use of the abortion drug mifepristone. The high court is preparing to take up the case. In Pennsylvania, PennLive reports state Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill (R., York) is questioning the legality and appropriateness of an abortion resource website launched by Gov. Josh Shapiro last week.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.CITY CHARGES: DuBois Solicitor Toni Cherry is defending City Manager Herm Suplizio against sweeping corruption charges. Cherry told the Courier-Express that the city "had audits every year, and there’s no money missing." Spotlight PA's reporting on the state investigation that led to Suplizio's arrest found audits that were limited in scope and an alleged scheme that was exceptionally elaborate

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.SKILL GAMES: State Sen. Gene Yaw (R., Lycoming) is once again pushing to tax and regulate slot machine-like skill games statewide, calling them a moneymaker for bars and small businesses. The skills games industry is seeking formal recognition and wooing lawmakers to make it happen. Casinos, which see skill games as an economic threat, want them banned and have powerful allies of their own.

GEN Z BOOM: Gen Zers are set to make up the majority of the Lehigh Valley's population by 2050. They're entering the economy now. But a housing crunch has Becky Bradley, of the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, wondering where they're going to live, via Morning Call (paywall).

AUDIT ISSUES: Pittsburgh's tourism agency, VisitPittsburgh, receives 90% of its funding from tax dollars. But Allegheny County's controller said the group lacks basic accountability, per KDKA-TV. CEO Jerad Bachar is pushing back while one state lawmaker calls for a reorganization.

PUBLIC SESSION: Hundreds turned out for a public session on a contested $1.1 billion plastics recycling plant in Northumberland County last week. The Daily Item reports environmental and public health concerns faced off with economic expectations and early promises of job creation.

SENATE CHAIR: U.S. Sen. John Fetterman (D., Pa.) returns to the Senate this week after in-patient treatment for depression and is set to helm his first subcommittee hearing, this one on food stamps and the 2023 Farm Bill as another showdown looms over related spending.

FIRE REPORTS: A wildfire that burned 180 acres in Elk County, and which was 95% contained by Friday, was one of almost 100 fires seen statewide last week, according to DCNR. Taking to Twitter, the agency implored: "Please don’t start any outdoor fires right now!"

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.

Friday's answer: Countenance

Congrats to our weekly winner: Sherri A.

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Don H., Eric F., Dianne K., Susan D., Vicki U., Mike B., Jon W., Susan N.-Z., Elaine C., Wendy A., Kim C., Barbara F., Jane R., Beth H., Dennis M., Lynne E., Ada M., William Z., Craig E., Stanley J., Bill S., Tom M., Starr B., John H., Kimberly D., James B., and Irene R.
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