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Traffic stop race data barred from public info law

Plus, imprisoned man's relief may have come too late.

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Tuesday, May 21, 2024
Today: Request denied, compassionate release ruling, defender dearth, 'forever chemical' limits, 401(k) problems, and Pa.'s new slogan.
A soon-to-be-adopted state ban on handheld use of cellphones while driving will exempt traffic stop race data from Right-to-Know requests.

The bill, which is set to receive Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro's signature, requires many law enforcement agencies to collect data on stops, including a driver's race or ethnicity in an effort to prevent racial profiling.

But it also exempts the data from open records requests.

“It seems like, you know, there's a purpose behind the gathering of the data. Therefore, why shouldn't that be publicly available?” said Craig Staudenmaier, an attorney specializing in Pennsylvania’s public information law.
Read the full report: Race data from traffic stops by State Police, other departments won’t be available under Pa.’s public records law.
"It’s about how compelling that call is — that after 20 years, I still want to come back."

—Beth Stroud, who was defrocked as a United Methodist pastor in Philly and is now seeking reinstatement after the end of an LGBTQ clergy ban
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Pine cones in Delaware County, via Don N. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania
Yellow pinecones on a tree.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.
DELAYED RELIEF: One of Pennsylvania’s oldest and longest-serving prisoners was approved for compassionate release by an Allegheny County judge on Monday, the same day he was hospitalized in critical condition. Spotlight PA reports it is unclear if Ezra Bozeman will have the freedom his family and advocates have fought for. 

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.
SHORT-HANDED: There should be about 1,200 public defenders employed in county courthouses across Pennsylvania, but there are only around 850 currently working here, University of Pennsylvania professor Paul Heaton found. Heaton's study, reported on by The Inquirer (paywall), revealed shortages in nearly every county statewide.
Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.
FOREVER LIMITS: Pennsylvania will revise its statewide limits around toxic "forever chemicals" in drinking water in light of new and more stringent federal standards, Environmental Health News reports. One in three Pennsylvania drinking water systems had detectable levels of PFAS in 2021. The chemicals have been linked to cancer and infertility.
Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.
OFFICE WORK: Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker on Monday ordered all full-time city staffers to resume in-person work five days a week starting July 15 after union warnings that such a policy could worsen the city's shortage of municipal workers, the AP reports. An official in neighboring Montgomery County quickly shared their job board.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.
BIG MISTA(K)E? The 401(k) — a "monster" to its Pennsylvania-based inventor — is driving inequality and failing to provide adequate support for retiring workers. Monday's episode of The Daily podcast delved into the issue as "the first generation to be fully reliant on 401(k) plans" exits the workforce and a "broken system" is laid bare.
🗞️ Coming Soon

Spotlight PA will soon launch a new weekly newsletter: How We Care. Every Tuesday, our team will share original reporting and perspectives on caregiving, a field that affects millions of people across the commonwealth. You can sign up for How We Care here.
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GRAVE DAMAGE: A historic York-area cemetery where more than 300 Black veterans are buried was vandalized before Memorial Day, via WHP.

NOTE TO SELF: Democratic state lawmakers are marking May as Mental Health Awareness Month with letters to their younger selves.

GETAWAY STATE: Pennsylvania's new tourism slogan is “Pennsylvania. The Great American Getaway," Gov. Shapiro announced Monday.
STORM SPREE: tornado in Pittsburgh on Friday, the first there in 25 years, is part of an emerging pattern, TribLIVE reports. 
ODD FIND: A resident in Lower Swatara Township, Dauphin County unearthed a "significant amount" of cocaine during yard work, police say.
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