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Scores of Pa. students seek school mask exemptions

Plus, Pa. Dems sue to stop GOP election probe, subpoena seeking voter info.


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
September 20, 2021
Subpoena showdown, loose masks, tight-lipped, road rules, 'predator catcher,' gun tolls, and Allentown via outer space. It's Monday, welcome to the week.
Democratic lawmakers have made good on a promise to sue their Republican colleagues over a contested election review and a related subpoena seeking, among other things, personal information on every Pennsylvania voter.

The lawsuit, filed by all 21 state Senate Democrats on Friday, argues the Trump-backed "forensic investigation" of the 2020 election "illegally treads on the court's duties, violates state law over election audits, and seeks information that is barred from public disclosure," according to the AP. 

CNHI reports some of the voter information sought by GOP leaders — birth dates and addresses, for example — is publicly available and routinely used by political campaigns. The same cannot be said for other information requested, namely driver's license and partial Social Security numbers.

While the subpoena also seeks poll worker training materials and communications between election officials, the backlash has remained focused on security concerns involving the GOP's plan to turn that voter information over to a yet-to-be-named third party for vetting. 

THE CONTEXT: Republicans in control of the state Senate say they believe the review is necessary to ensure there were no irregularities in last year's election — even though they admit they have no evidence of fraud.

GOP lawmakers in the state House, meanwhile, say they're focused instead on updating Pennsylvania's election law.

Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed their last effort in June, largely due to a heightened voter ID requirement Wolf said could disenfranchise voters. Weeks later, the governor said he'd prejudged the legislation and was willing to negotiate.

On Friday, state Rep. Seth Grove (R., York) reintroduced the same bill Wolf vetoed months ago, per The Center Square.

"Unionized teachers, firefighters, and other public-sector workers who belong to those pension funds are invested in Refresco's anti-union campaign, and potentially violating U.S. labor law."

—The Intercept on Pennsylvania's Public School Employees' Retirement System and other public pensions indirectly financing anti-union campaigns
COVID-19 UPDATE: An FDA panel has endorsed booster shots for high-risk individuals and anyone over the age of 64. Separately, new data show the Moderna vaccine is especially effective at preventing serious illness. To find the vaccine, use the federal government's online tool, call 1-800-232-0233, or text your ZIP code to 438829 (GETVAX).
Pennsylvania's own Lady Liberty perched above the Susquehanna River near Harrisburg. Thanks for the photo, @yatskoSend us your gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
CLASS ACTIONS: Several lawsuits filed by parents against the Wolf administration's school mask rule aren't expected to succeed, The Inquirer reports. Meanwhile, the AP found the state is struggling to enforce the rule with thousands of students requesting exemptions and an "apparent loophole" making that much easier to do.

QUIET PLACE: A handful of Lycoming County residents with water severely contaminated by a natural gas well refused to go public about the issue. An environmental sociologist spent months trying to find out why, writing in the New York Times opinion section that the decision to stay quiet wasn't about them, "it was about defending their community."

DRIVING TESTS: New state legislation would change the rules around medical marijuana and driving to require "proof of actual impairment," not just consumption, for DUI charges to be filed. The state Senate's transportation committee will consider the bill from state Sen. Camera Bartolotta (R., Washington) later this week, per The Center Square. 

AMATEUR STINGS: Musa Harris is the self-proclaimed "Luzerne County Predator Catcher," posing as a teenager online, arranging sexual encounters with adults, and confronting the subjects on camera — teachers, professors, police, and local officials included. But the Morning Call reports not everyone thinks Harris' tactics are a good idea

GUN TRACE: Philadelphia's gun violence epidemic is concentrated in a handful of neighborhoods already enduring higher poverty levels, lower life expectancy, and more blight. The Inquirer highlights the disparity with maps and visuals, the latest in its ongoing "Under Fire" series.
FIXER UPPER: Monessen Mayor Matt Shorraw is giving away vacant homes to counter decades of decay, the Wall Street Journal reports, all while the faded steel town serves as a visual backdrop for a brooding new television drama about "good people and bad choices," per the New York Times.

TOP CHEF: Michael Carter started cooking for others in a New Jersey juvenile detention facility, and subsequent prison stints solidified his culinary goals. Now he's a chef at one of Philly's best new restaurants, per Bon Appétit.

TRAILHEADS: A 270-mile hiking and biking trail linking Erie and Pittsburgh through "small towns, rural landscapes, and historic sites" is two-thirds done, the Post-Gazette reports. The opening, however, is still years away.

TOUCHDOWN: An Allentown billionaire's all-civilian space flight came back to Earth Saturday, splashing down off Florida's coast, per Lehigh Valley Live. The amateur crew was the first to orbit Earth without a professional astronaut.

TAKE FIVE: Stretch your legs, figuratively speaking, with City Walks, a website offering virtual walking tours of cities around the globe. Group excursions are available, too, minus the bickering about directions and achy feet. 
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Congrats to our weekly winner: Dennis M. 

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