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Wolf admin sues over GOP’s private voter info grab

Plus, Pa. begins repaying millions in overcharged unemployment interest.


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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
September 24, 2021
Subpoena salvos, high interest, mask back, DA arrest, local protections, liquor lows, and a Scranton 'skyscraper' on the horizon. It's Friday. Happy weekend.
The Wolf administration is suing Senate Republicans who are seeking personal information on all registered voters in Pennsylvania as part of a contested review of last year's presidential election.

Spotlight PA reports the complaint — filed Thursday on behalf of the state, Pennsylvania's top election official, and the Department of State — argues GOP senators are unlawfully pursuing a review based on "a disproven narrative" designed to undermine faith in the results of the 2020 election.

The lawsuit claims a related GOP-led subpoena improperly demands privileged information, namely driver's license and partial Social Security numbers for nine million voters — information the GOP plans to turn over to a third-party vendor for vetting.

"​​We would not let a large company act this way with personal data," Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the administration, said Thursday. "We have to uphold the law."

THE CONTEXT: Pennsylvania Senate Democrats are also taking their GOP colleagues to court, launching a separate legal action meant to block the subpoena and the election probe.

They argue the GOP effort is unconstitutional because it treads on the powers of the judiciary to rule on election disputes.

As for the subpoena, Democrats say it violates election laws that protect sensitive voter information.

They filed another complaint Wednesday seeking to prevent Senate Republicans from hiring a third-party vendor to assist with the investigation and to extend the amount of time the State Department has to answer the Republican subpoena until after the court considers their lawsuit.

"Why was this not shared with us until a Right-to-Know request of the media?"

—State Sen. Wayne Langerholc (R., Clearfield) scolding Pa. Turnpike officials over $104 million in payments missed in the shift to all-digital tolling

COVID-19 UPDATE: Pennsylvania's Latino vaccination rate has surpassed the non-Latino vaccination rate, but WITF shares a possible caveat; and a Pennsylvania court decision indicates COVID-19 could be considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. To find the vaccine, use the federal government's online tool, call 1-800-232-0233, or text your ZIP code to 438829 (GETVAX).
» CRISIS OF CARE: Join us Friday, Oct. 8 at noon ET via Zoom for a free Q&A on rising rates of Alzheimer's disease in Pennsylvania, the barriers to care, and the solutions urged by advocates. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org

Thanks, Kathy A., for this shot of Lehigh River from the Lehigh Gorge Rail Trail. Another great place to enjoy this weekend's beautiful weather. Send us your gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
PAID BACK: Years after discovering it overcharged thousands of Pennsylvanians millions of dollars in interest for unemployment benefits they weren't qualified to receive, the state has started paying the money back. Refunds totaling just under $1.4 million have gone out to nearly 22,000 people, with $19.4 million owed to 109,554 people in all. 

MASK UP: A Schuylkill County school district that "flagrantly violated" a statewide mask mandate for K-12 schools has reversed course and will require universal masking, the AP reports. The Tamaqua School Board's president said "threats" from state officials weren't the only reason.

DA CHARGED: Somerset County District Attorney Jeffrey Lynn Thomas is charged with hitting and raping a woman whose home police say he entered without permission, the Tribune-Democrat reports. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro called the details "deeply disturbing."

EQUAL RIGHTS: Chambersburg is now the 70th Pennsylvania municipality to adopt a local law protecting LGBTQ people from housing, employment, and other forms of discrimination, per WITF. Pennsylvania, meanwhile, has no such protections enshrined in state law.

SHORT SUPPLY: Those "supply chain issues" that led Pennsylvania to limit sales of some alcohol at state-run stores? NPR says they were caused by "skyrocketing demand" seen early in the pandemic and which has proven hard for the industry to shake.
VIDEO STAR: A Philadelphia-area YouTuber is facing charges in what the FBI is calling one of the largest cable TV piracy cases ever. The Inquirer reports Bill Omar Carrasquillo, aka "Omi in a Hellcat," built an illegal streaming empire and fortune authorities are set to dismantle.

COURT SUPPORT: The Pennsylvania Supreme Court says "comfort dogs" should be allowed for trial witnesses after defense attorneys in a murder case argued they could bias jurors by generating sympathy, the AP reports.

CAT SCRATCH: Pittsburgh is one step closer to banning cat declawing, a procedure vets say can be harmful. TribLIVE reports City Council on Wednesday advanced legislation that would outlaw the practice locally.

NO SMOKING: A new bill that carries fines for smoking in a car with a child is on the move, PennLive reports. The measure from state Sen. Gene Yaw (R., Lycoming) includes initial fines of $100 and fines of $250 after that.

BUILD UP: Scranton's Red Carpet Inn was auctioned off for parts this week, making way for its eventual demolition and possible replacement by a 17-story mixed-use building WNEP is calling a "Scranton skyscraper." 
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.
Yesterday's answer: Astronomical

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Susan N., Michelle T., Susan F., Kimberly S., Heidi B., Doris T., Elaine C., Craig E., Don H., Keith F., James B., Susan D., George S., David W., Becky C., Kim C., Bill S., Dianne K., Suzanne S., Neal W., Judith D., Irene R., and Elizabeth W.
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