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Parents rights vs. student welfare, a gift ban plan falls apart, and a 2020 election hearing

Plus, minor league baseball lands a union.


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA

Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
September 15, 2022
LGBTQ lessons, 'hollow promise,' 2020 arguments, abortion desert, closed records, pharmacies sued, and baseball's new union. It's Thursday.
THIS IS A HIGH-STAKES ELECTION, and we're dedicating more resources than ever to make sure voters clearly understand the candidates' vastly different visions for the future of our state.

An informed electorate is the bedrock of a strong Democracy. So today, in celebration of Democracy Day, I'm asking you to take a moment and invest in Spotlight PA's trusted, nonpartisan reporting.

As a special bonus, the Lenfest Institute for Journalism has offered to match every single dollar you contribute as part of this campaign.

Will you honor Democracy Day by making a gift now?

We know you care about the future of our state, and we know you understand what's at stake this election. Put your money to work at this critical moment to help fellow Pennsylvanians make an informed vote this November. We can't do this work without you.

Thank you!

— Colin D., PA Post editor

Pennsylvania Republican lawmakers leading the push for Florida-style limits on school instruction about gender identity and sexual orientation here say the issue is one of parental rights and control.

But educators and medical professionals say the consequences could be dire for students, citing a marginalization effect that has been linked to physical and psychological harm and even learning losses for LGBTQ youth.

State Sens. Ryan Aument and Scott Martin of Lancaster County, the sponsors of Pennsylvania's Empowering Families in Education Act, the fate of which hinges on the outcome of this year's governor's race, have dismissed those concerns as "an extreme leap from alarmist opponents..."

Read Spotlight PA's full report: Efforts to ban, restrict LGBTQ curriculum in Pa. schools hinge on who becomes the next governor.

THE CONTEXT: Aument and Martin's bill would implement a K-5 ban on curriculum dealing with LGBTQ issues and restrictions for grades 6-12. It would also allow parents to sue schools for perceived violations.

While the bill would allow for student-initiated conversations on the topic, legal groups and advocates say the threat of lawsuits would deter schools and teachers from allowing those discussions to take place.

The Education Law Center, a legal advocacy group, also warned of infringements on students' First Amendment rights that would come from "stifling or discouraging identity-affirming speech."

The bill passed the state Senate 29-21 in June and awaits consideration in the state House. Should the legislation reach Gov. Tom Wolf's desk, he has vowed to veto it. But next year, Pennsylvania will have a new governor.

The Republican running for the office, state Sen. Doug Mastriano of Franklin County, voted for the bill. Democratic nominee Josh Shapiro opposes the legislation and "attempts to bully LGBTQ Pennsylvanians."


"We need to be thinking outside the box for revenue generation for the Motor Licensing Fund to pay for needed road and infrastructure improvements."

—State Rep. Sheryl Delozier (R., Cumberland) on her bill to allow specialty license plates in Pennsylvania as a means of generating road repair revenue
The upcoming fall election will be pivotal to the future of Pennsylvania, and Spotlight PA is delivering trusted, nonpartisan reporting, guides, events, and more to empower voters to make an informed choice at the polls. But this vital public-service journalism depends on your support.

We need to reach 500 gifts by Sept. 24, and as a special bonus, all donations will be DOUBLED. Help us reach this goal by making a contribution now.

Thank you to the 141 people who have given so far, including Dallas D., who said, "I want to preserve Democracy in this country." Join Dallas and give now in honor of Democracy Day »
» THE STATE OF PA ELECTIONS: Join us Thursday, Sept. 29 at 6 p.m. ET via Zoom for a free Q&A with Acting Secretary of State Leigh M. Chapman, who oversees elections in Pennsylvania. Chapman will discuss how her agency secures and runs elections, explain the state's voting policies, and answer all of your pressing questions ahead of Nov. 8. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org
A quick guide to all of Spotlight PA's 2022 election coverage:

»  How Spotlight PA will cover Pennsylvania's 2022 election
»  Your complete guide to the candidates for governor
»  Where Mastriano, Shapiro stand on LGBTQ rights

Support Spotlight PA's vital election coverage by making a gift now.
» ERIE TIMES-NEWS: Anti-abortion Oz's fetal tissue research (paywall)
» INQUIRER: How Shapiro plans to turn out Philly's Black vote (paywall)
» POLITICSPA: Fetterman, Shapiro hold frontrunner status in polls
» TRIBLIVE: Fetterman commits to Oct. 25 debate against Oz 
» WESA: Oz, Fetterman on proposed 15-week federal abortion ban
» WGAL: Pa. official looks to temper election night expectations
Deer at dusk in Venango County, via @johnmcculloughphotographySend us your photos, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag @spotlightpennsylvania.
GIFT PLAN: A clandestine plan to force a vote on a gift ban for Pennsylvania lawmakers collapsed earlier this week. Spotlight PA reports an unidentified state House lawmaker was expected to stand up and make the move, but that never happened. Good-government advocates who have spent years pushing for new limits on gifts from lobbyists and special interests called it another "hollow promise." 

2020 SUBPOENA: Commonwealth Court judges heard oral arguments this week concerning a GOP-led state Senate committee's subpoena for information on millions of Pennsylvania voters as part of a contested 2020 election review. WITF reports at least one of the judges signaled support for the subpoena, while another questioned the need for such data. The partisan probe has been on ice for months.

'NEAR-TOTAL BAN': West Virginia lawmakers have passed an abortion bill that they hope "will make it impossible for the state's only abortion clinic" to operate, the AP reports. Abortion providers in Pittsburgh, roughly an hour's drive from the border, have been bracing for an influx of West Virginia patients since the U.S. Supreme Court's draft Roe v. Wade decision was leaked in May, WESA reported.

REQUEST DENIED: Dauphin County is no longer granting PennLive's requests for reports filed by county jail staff that give insight into how employees treat incarcerated people there. The outlet says the policy shift follows reporting that used the reports to scrutinize and challenge official narratives around several deaths of imprisoned people, one that followed forcible restraints used by prison staff.

RX LAWSUIT: Erie County is suing five pharmacy chains over painkiller distributions that fueled the opioid epidemic, ABC27 reports. The lawsuit against CVS, Giant Eagle, Rite Aid, Walgreens, and Walmart resembles one filed by Allegheny County against the same companies last month, alleging they violated laws by ignoring related red flags. A similar suit in Ohio led to a $650 million dollar judgment.

NEW ALLEGATION: A world-renowned skateboarding and gymnastics camp in Centre County is facing a second allegation of misconduct involving a gymnastics coach, Centre Daily Times (paywall) reports. 

FAST BALL: Minor league baseball players in states like Pennsylvania have officially formed a union, just 17 days after the organizing effort began. Players have long complained about low pay and harsh conditions.

BEER SALES: Penn State is one step closer to approving beer sales in Beaver Stadium following Monday's 6-1 committee vote in favor of the idea, per StateCollege.com. A Board of Trustees vote is set for Sept. 23. 

KICK BACK: Why does this Philadelphia raccoon look more graceful and at-ease in a hammock than I ever have? Video of the lounge session went viral thanks to the hammock's owner, squid biologist Sarah McAnulty.

BAD TIPPER: A $3,000 "Tip for Jesus" left for a server at Alfredo's Pizza in Scranton was a fake, the restaurant says. WNEP reports the tipper disputed the charge and the eatery has taken them to court.

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.

*Bonus: Guess this week's theme on Friday for an extra chance at winning a shipment of Spotlight PA swag.

Yesterday's answer: Cardigan

Congrats to our daily winners: James S., Doris T., Elaine C., Wendy A., Kim C., Theresa T., Chris M., Rick A., Don H., Michelle T., Patricia M., Anne Z., Laura H., Mark O., Craig W., George S., Ted W., Mark C., John F., Bill S., Marty M., Bill S., Karen W., Irene R., James B., Susan N.-Z., Starr B., Daniel M., Fred H., John P., Kimberly D., Nancy S., fitch387. Beth B., Mike B., John W., Tom O., Michael B., Myles M., Greg V., Jody A., Judith D., Lex M., and Judy M.
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