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Pa. removes email database of public employees

Plus, Shapiro's secretive climate change committee.

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Friday, September 8, 2023
Hidden contacts, secret meetings, cause of death, debt busters, restorative policies, consumer privacy, and The Boss postpones in Pittsburgh.

State officials have cut off public access to a searchable, online database of state employee email addresses, saying it posed a security risk.

The move, which narrows the ways the public can access people who work for commonwealth agencies, presents transparency concerns and highlights the challenges of balancing the right to information and cybersecurity.

Read the full report: Pa. removes email database of public employees.

THE CONTEXT: The database was launched in 2012 and gave the public a way to directly contact employees in various state departments. 

Dan Egan, communications director with the state Office of Administration, which oversees cybersecurity for state agencies, said the directory put sensitive information at risk by exposing agencies to phishing attacks. 

Susan MacManus, a political scientist, said data breaches originating within a government's own workforce are a top concern among cybersecurity officials.

“That's the essence of the cybersecurity issue,” she said, “individual rights versus the right of the public to know, which means you have the right to privacy versus the public's right to have transparency.”


"I feel like this county works in a bubble."
Allegheny County Councilor Liv Bennett on confusion around the county's plan for the Shuman Juvenile Detention Center, which the county is spending millions of state dollars to renovate while seeking a private buyer.
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» CRIMINAL SOLUTION: Join Spotlight PA, the Pittsburgh Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and experts Thursday, Sept. 14, at 6-7:30 p.m. ET at Point Park University for a live discussion on how a Pennsylvania law traps people with mental health issues in jail. RSVP now; seating is limited. 

» STORY FEST: Spotlight PA is participating in Philly Story Fest, a first-of-its-kind festival that brings together storytellers from across the city on one stage. Join us Thursday, Oct. 5 from 7-10 p.m. at the Bok building in South Philadelphia (1901 South 9th St.). Tickets are $25 and available here.

» PATH TO EQUITY: Join Spotlight PA for its first in-person summit on Wednesday, Oct. 11, from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Whitaker Center in Harrisburg. Spotlight PA is co-presenting this event with Color & Culture, a Pennsylvania marketing firm. Tickets are on sale at this link until sold out.
Chicken-of-the-woods on a stump-in-the-woods (along Sycamore Run in O'Hara Township, near Pittsburgh), via Jennifer H. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
a bright orange and white stripped fungus growing out of a dark brown tree
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.SECRET GROUP: A group of 15 environmental organizations sent a letter to Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro objecting to the private deliberations of his committee on climate change and calling for the group to be disbanded. The group includes representatives from the energy industry, Capital & Main reports, and advocates are concerned about a fox-in-the-henhouse dynamic as the panel debates the future of Pennsylvania’s entry into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.
DEATH RATES: A Stateline analysis of federal data found that accidental drug overdoses were the number one cause of death for people under 40 last year in Pennsylvania. Some are calling it the “fourth great wave” of accidental overdoses in America, as counties across Pennsylvania debate how best to use their share of a $26 billion legal settlement with the companies that turbocharged the epidemic.
Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.
DEBT RELIEF: Politico reports that state Rep. Arvind Venkat (D., Allegheny) is sponsoring legislation that would use state funds to purchase and forgive Pennsylvanians’ medical debt. As lawmakers nationwide test ways to help the estimated 100 million Americans facing such debt, similar efforts are gaining steam in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, where medical debt worth $1.6 million was recently “burned.”
Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.RACE CONSCIOUS: Months after the U.S. Supreme Court banned race-based college admissions, PublicSource reports conservative legal guns may have a new target: race-conscious policymaking meant to address systemic racism at the local level. The outlet says Pittsburgh is taking steps to shield its programs from legal attacks and determine when it can legally consider race in contracting and other areas.
Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.DATA PRIVACY: A bill that aims to give Pennsylvanians greater control over their data privacy was discussed in a state House committee hearing this week. City & State reports “the hearing marked the beginning of the conversation on data privacy in Pennsylvania,” and that more hearings on the subject will follow.
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🏆 SMART SCORE? Did you stay on top of Pennsylvania news this week? Prove it with the latest Great PA News Quiz: Medicaid cuts, new state agency, and very Philly jobs.
SUPERFUND SITE: The EPA wants to add a Berks County area to a federal list of hazardous waste sites eligible for cleanup. The former Exide Technologies facility in Laureldale is deeply contaminated.

EDIBLE DOUBTERS: The state body that oversees medical marijuana in Pennsylvania gave a lukewarm response to calls for traditional edibles to be added to the state's list of approved products.

REN FAIRE: "Don’t be surprised if you’re heckled for not dressing up" and "Do eat a turkey leg" are on The Inquirer's (paywalled) list of do’s and don’ts for commoners at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, which is open now.

BOSS BREAK: Bruce Springsteen is postponing his September concert dates (including shows in Pittsburgh) to treat symptoms of peptic ulcer disease, WESA reports. He recently pushed his two Philly shows to next summer.

CINEMA RENOVATIONS: City Paper reports Pittsburgh’s Row House Cinema is set to acquire Dormont’s Hollywood Theater, with plans to reopen it for programming through the end of the year
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