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PA farmers question price of gov't land grabs

Plus, mandating AI content disclosures.

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A daily newsletter by The logo of Spotlight PA, an independent, nonpartisan newsroom producing investigative journalism for Pennsylvania.
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen

Tuesday, March 5, 2024
Today: Eminent domain, court caps, indefinite isolation, Philly 'war' games, and burn after reading. This is PA Post. Thanks for checking in.

A Centre County highway-widening project is renewing scrutiny of the eminent domain process in Pennsylvania and how much it pays. 

The multimillion-dollar project in the U.S. Route 322 corridor will likely claim private properties — including longtime, family-owned farms.

Advocates say the eminent domain rules in state law short-change farmers — capping relocation support at $25,000 and leading to payout offers that fail to account for things like soil fertility and emotional ties to the land.

State Sen. Cris Dush (R., Jefferson) has proposed updating the law to include payments for "lost goodwill" —  which he defines as a farm’s location, community history, and reputation for producing crops. Dush also wants state land considered for projects before farmlands, but PennDOT says that wasn't possible with the U.S. Route 322 project in Centre County.

Read Spotlight PA's full report: Pennsylvania pays property owners for land lost to eminent domain, but farmers want more for their loss.


"Nothing in the Constitution delegates to the States any power to enforce Section 3 against federal officeholders and candidates."

—A five-justice U.S. Supreme Court majority saying states can't keep Donald Trump off ballots under the Constitution's insurrection clause; the ruling could doom similar challenges against U.S. Rep. Scott Perry (R., Pa.)

'All Sun, No Shade' Beach Towel

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BLACK WALL STREET: Join us Thursday, March 7 from 6-7 p.m. ET on Zoom for a free panel on the history of Harrisburg’s Black Wall Street and the people working to preserve its legacy and ensure a future for Black-owned businesses. Register here and submit questions to events@spotlightpa.org.


The Leap-The-Dips roller coaster at Lakemont Park near Altoona, via @lora_explores. It's considered the oldest operating roller coaster in the world, but it's closed for the summer. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.

A photo of the ascent on an old, wooden roller coaster.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.AWARD LIMITS: Lawsuits against Pittsburgh over the Ferm Hollow Bridge collapse, which followed repeated warnings, could yield multimillion-dollar jury awards. But TribLIVE reports the eight victims will only be able to collect $500,000 from the city combined due to a strict state law one attorney called the most draconian cap in the U.S.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.SOLITARY SUIT: A federal lawsuit filed Monday aims to stop Pennsylvania prisons from using solitary confinement indefinitely and placing anyone with mental illness in isolation units, The Appeal reports. The suit says over 40 percent of suicides occurred in solitary units, which house only 5% of the prison population here.
Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.BIG GAMBLE: As Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro calls for regulating and taxing skill games statewide, The Inquirer (paywall) reports Philadelphia is "waging war" on the slot machine-like devices, which have "proliferated in the city's poorest neighborhoods." City Council is considering a ban in most businesses.
Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.
PAUSE PLEA: Gov. Shapiro wants President Joe Biden's pause on new natural gas exports to be as short-lived as possible, citing concerns about the economic impact, per Bloomberg (paywall). The pause has Biden allies warning of electoral ramifications here, while Shapiro's energy industry embrace continues to rile environmentalists.
Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.IN BRIEF: Laurie MacDonald has withdrawn from the Democratic primary for U.S. Rep. Summer Lee's Pittsburgh-area seat and plans to mount a GOP write-in bid; Philly Mayor Cherelle Parker will attend Thursday's State of the Union address; and @PabloReports says a key staffer for U.S. Sen. John Fetterman (D., Pa.) is moving on.

'INFLATED' BILLS: Central Bucks School District officials were warned that a firm hired to address complaints about the district’s treatment of LGBTQ students had "seriously inflated" the scope of work and related costs, Courier Times (paywall) reports. The bill would grow to top $1.75 million.

AI DISCLAIMERS: Content made with artificial intelligence would require a disclaimer in Pennsylvania under a bill introduced by state Rep. Chris Pielli (D., Chester County), FOX43 reports. Fines would be possible.

BIRD BREAK: A popular stopover for migrating snow geese in central Pennsylvania has produced incredible images through the years. The Inquirer (paywall) reports climate change is shrinking the annual show

CLOUD POWER: Amazon will pay $650 million for a rare nuclear-powered data center near Berwick to support and lower the carbon footprint of its extremely energy-intensive cloud services. 

FIRE STARTERS: Controlled burns are becoming more common in Pennsylvania after years of anxious resistance. The Bay Journal reports misconceptions remain, even as ecological benefits add up.

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 5:30 p.m. on issue date will be counted.

Yesterday's answer: Celebrant

Congrats to our daily winners: Stacy S., Elaine C., Richard A., Don H., Jon W., Kimberly D., Bob C., Alan B., David W., David T., Vicki U., Craig E., Tom M., Marty M., Daniel M., Susan N.-Z., Judith D., Dan A., Kim C., Wendy A., William Z., Daniel S., Janet S., Leslie B., and Jane R.
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