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A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
September 2, 2021
Senate expenses, abortion law, climate change hurdle, solid standing, book ban, and a historical marker for a crime. It's Thursday, welcome to PA Post.
EXPENSES EXPOSED
The Pennsylvania Senate for the first time is giving the public online access to the way the chamber and its elected members spend millions in taxpayer money on themselves.

Reports that show all 50 senators’ spending for the month of July were posted to the Senate’s website Wednesday morning, alongside spending information for the chief clerk and secretary. That information will be updated monthly going forward.

The Senate’s decision to post expenses online follows a year-long investigation by The Caucus and Spotlight PA into the legislature’s internal expenses.

The journalists analyzed more than 400,000 transactions from 2017 through 2020, and found the country’s largest full-time legislature spent $203 million just to feed, house, transport, and provide district offices and perks for lawmakers and their staffs — above and beyond lawmakers’ $90,000 annual salaries.

THE CONTEXT: Though a first for the legislature, and a win for taxpayers, the information provided online still does not give the public the full picture of the chamber’s spending.

The reports often leave out key details, including where a lawmaker spent money and why, and the records weren’t uploaded in a way that allows the public to quickly and meaningfully search or analyze the spending.

Still, posting the expenses where the public has easy access to them is “long overdue,” one press expert said.
NOTABLE / QUOTABLE

"If that happens on top of the current COVID pandemic, there is a tremendous chance that some of these hospitals will be stretched beyond their breaking point."

—Dr. Mark Roberts, of Pitt's Public Health Dynamics Laboratory, on the possibility of a "twindemic" should flu cases surge in Pennsylvania
COVID-19 UPDATE: The CDC says unvaccinated people should not travel this Labor Day weekend; survivors of COVID-19 are more likely to have kidney issues, per a new study; and state experts are trying to understand the scope of breakthrough infections. To find the vaccine, use the federal government's online tool, call 1-800-232-0233, or text your ZIP code to 438829 (GETVAX).
📅 UPCOMING EVENTS
» FUNDAMENTAL FLAWS: Join us Thursday, Sept. 9 at noon ET via Zoom for a free Q&A on addiction treatment oversight issues in Pennsylvania and how the state can keep people safe as they pursue recovery. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org
📷 POST IT
A gorgeous view of Mohawk Falls, one of 22 named waterfalls at Ricketts Glen State Park. "What a year for hiking and late August waterfalls!" said PA Poster Don HSend us your gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
DAILY RUNDOWN
2022 STAKES: Pennsylvania abortion-rights advocates and their opponents agreed Wednesday that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to let a Texas law banning most abortions go into effect could clear the way for a similar prohibition here if Republicans win the 2022 governor’s race, Spotlight PA reports.

FINAL HURDLE: Pennsylvania has been cleared to enter the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative after a commission gave final approval to Gov. Tom Wolf's request Wednesday. The Associated Press reports the plan will impose a price on carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel-fired power plants as a way of combatting climate change.

LEGAL STANDING: The Wolf administration's new statewide school mask mandate is built on solid legal ground, experts told TribLIVE. While voters in the spring curtailed the governor's emergency powers, the new order was issued by the secretary of health and cites the state's public health law. Experts say masks will help keep schools open.

BOOK BAN: Central York High School's principal sent teachers a list of banned books, movies, and other teaching materials last month that targeted Black and Latino creators, the York Dispatch reports. The ban stems from a unanimous school board decision and has inspired fear and disgust among teachers. 

RAIN PAIN: Residents in parts of Cambria County were told to evacuate yesterday over concerns of flash flooding as water levels rose in a Johnstown-area dam. According to the Tribune-Democrat, there were false reports the dam had failed.
IN OTHER NEWS
CRIME MARKER: There's a new state-sanctioned historical marker at the Media building where antiwar activists stole FBI files that exposed J. Edgar Hoover’s illegal surveillance operation, the Washington Post reports.

SURE, WHY NOT: Love corn mazes but worried about their environmental impact? No? OK, well, maybe you still want to visit a supposedly rare hemp maze in central Pennsylvania recently highlighted by PennLive.

CREATOR CAPITAL: Li Jin is the venture capitalist online creators turn to when they need to make big moves and enough of a star to warrant a Times profile. She runs her operation out of her childhood bedroom in Pittsburgh.

FRESHER PRINCE: NBC's streaming service Peacock is rebooting "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" as a drama, and the role of Will will be played by Jabari Banks of West Philadelphia, Deadline reports.

BOOM BUST: Pennsylvania farmers were thrilled when the pandemic seemed to boost local sales directly to customers. But according to Farm and Dairy, the trend hasn't continued into 2021.
THE SCRAMBLER
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.
 
I I T A H E N R Y B N L
 
Yesterday's answer: Curriculum

Congrats to our daily winners: Becky C., David I., Michelle T., Doris T., Mike B., Wendy A., Neal W., Susan N., Susan F., Tracey C., Barbara F., Beth T., William M., Kevin H., Elaine C., Marty M., Eddy Z., Craig E., George S., Briann M., Kimberly S., Joan S., Mary Kay M., Chandra D., Kevin M., Heidi B., Kevin S., Patricia M., Susan D., Irene R., Jill A., Judith D., Suzanne S., Bill C., Eugene L., James B., Fred O., Dianne K., Dennis M., Don H., Jodi R., Patricia R., Joel S., Joan B., Johnny C., Bill S., Al M., Rick D., Catherine J., David W., Jay H., Perry H., Daniel M., Carol D., John H., Elizabeth W., Lance L., Kim C., and John A.
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Spotlight PA is an independent, non-partisan newsroom powered by The Philadelphia Inquirer in partnership with PennLive/The Patriot-News, TribLIVE/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and WITF Public Media.

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