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Shapiro restricts drug tied to wave of overdoses

Plus, everything you need to know to vote by mail.

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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
Wednesday, April 19, 2023
Schedule III, voting guide, 'needlessly segregated,' green steel, public funding, speed cameras, and balls and strikes. This is PA Post.

Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro on Tuesday said his administration will temporarily add xylazine to the state's list of Schedule III drugs, applying new supply checks in an effort to slow a rising tide of related overdoses.

The veterinary tranquilizer has infiltrated the street drug supply nationwide, leading to skin ulcers in users and harder-to-reverse overdoses.

Shapiro said his scheduling of the drug, which was labeled an "emerging threat" by federal officials last week, is meant to curb diversions of legal shipments into illicit drug supplies, not hinder approved uses.

Xylazine was linked to 90 overdose deaths in Pennsylvania in 2017 and 575 in 2021, officials say. In that same time, the drug went from being detected in one Pennsylvania county, Philadelphia, to 37 counties.

Read Capital-Star's full report: Gov. Shapiro's administration moves to schedule sedative for animals found in illicit drugs.

THE CONTEXT: Shapiro's overdose-minded xylazine or "tranq" directive will not be coupled with support for another harm reduction tool: supervised injection sites that advocates say have been proven to save lives.

On Tuesday, Shapiro reiterated his opposition to a planned supervised drug injection site in Philly that remains in legal limbo, saying his administration is "prepared to take action should [it] become a reality."

The Inquirer (paywall) reports three of Philadelphia's top five mayoral candidates are opposed to the consumption site too. And four Democratic state senators, including the primary sponsor of a bill that would legalize recreational cannabis here, are asking a court to block the project, citing the same federal law that currently prohibits pot.

Meanwhile, it's unclear what the impact of Shapiro's xylazine scheduling will be. While it makes unapproved possession easier to prosecute, the DEA says the drug is readily available for purchase online, meaning cracking down on diversions of legal stockpiles can only go so far.


"Why in the world would you allow disincorporation when you have $8 billion literally sitting up the highway that could help save the first city in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania from their financial woes?"

—Chester Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland calling on lawmakers to tap the state's rainy day fund to save the bankrupt city from possible disincorporation
»  How Spotlight PA will cover Pa.'s 2023 primary election

» How to request, fill out, and return your mail ballot

»  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

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

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

Support Spotlight PA's public-service election and voting coverage now.

» LEGISLATIVE AGENDA: Join us Thursday, April 27 from 6-7 p.m. on Zoom for a free panel on what issues and policies are on the state legislature's 2023 docket. Register here and submit questions to events@spotlightpa.org

Virginia bluebells, courtesy of David G. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
Blue, pink, and purple flowers crane toward the sunlight.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.MAIL CALL: Mail ballots remain an option in this primary election, but the rules around them vary. Some counties will contact voters if their mail ballots have disqualifying problems such as missing dates or signatures. Counties can also make their own rules about drop boxes. With that legal patchwork in mind, here's Spotlight PA's guide to requesting, filling out, and returning your mail ballot in the 2023 primary.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.HOSPITAL STAYS: A federal lawsuit filed by a disability rights group alleges Pennsylvania is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by "needlessly segregating" hundreds of people with psychiatric disabilities in state hospitals instead of funding and providing care in community settings, WESA reports. Pennsylvania's Department of Human Services declined to comment on pending litigation.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.'GREEN STEEL': The region's natural resources and infrastructure uniquely position southwestern Pennsylvania to lead a "green steel" manufacturing revolution, the nonprofit Ohio River Valley Institute says. The option is being pursued in Europe. Wide-scale adoption would curb pollution from an industry that's responsible for almost a quarter of the world's industrial emissions, per Inside Climate News.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.OPEN CONFLICT: York's top financial watchdog, controller AliceAnne Frost, signed off on public funding for her own nonprofit, The Program. The York Dispatch reports resolutions that would’ve funneled $317,470 to The Program were pulled from consideration by Mayor Michael Helfrich’s administration last month. A week later Frost resigned from the nonprofit and now says she won't seek reelection.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.ON DECK: Months into her first term, progressive U.S. Rep. Summer Lee of Pittsburgh has drawn a GOP challenger for next year's congressional elections. KDKA-TV reports Republican Jim Hayes will announce his candidacy this week. In other news: The Dispatch reports U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus (R., Pa.) is calling donors and party leaders as he eyes a 2024 run for U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.)'s seat.

WORK ZONES: PennDOT says it likes speed cameras in work zones and plans on keeping them. PennLive reports a pilot program that saw more than one million related violations issued over the past three years is ending. The agency wants to make the feature a permanent one.

OPEN CASE: The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday heard the case of a former Lancaster County postal worker who said USPS deliveries for Amazon on Sundays violated his religious rights. The AP reports the justices seemed sympathetic to Gerald Groff's case, but it's not clear how they'll rule.

STATE SUIT: Three western Pennsylvania school districts — two having already adopted anti-CRT policies — are suing the state of Pennsylvania for requiring "culturally relevant and sustaining education."

DAVID'S BRIDAL: Conshohocken-based David's Bridal has filed for bankruptcy protection for the second time in five years and plans to eliminate an estimated 9,230 jobs nationwide.

STRIKE OFF: The union representing ushers at PNC Park says a tentative deal has been reached with the Pittsburgh Pirates and a strike avoided. Picketing was planned for tomorrow's home game.

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: Interpolation

Congrats to our daily winners: Jon W., Don H., Craig W., Susan N.-Z., Wendy A., Elaine C., Elizabeth W., Dennis M., James B., Starr B., Tish M., Dianne K., Kim C., Tom S., Keith W., Bill S., Tom M., Stanley J., Craig E., Kimberly D., and Bob C., and Lynn K.
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