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New tool helps you understand the impact of judges

Plus, Pennsylvania hydrogen hubs are set to get federal money.

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A daily newsletter by The logo of Spotlight PA, an independent, nonpartisan newsroom producing investigative journalism for Pennsylvania.
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen

Thursday, October 12, 2023
In today's edition: Prep talk, hub millions, anti-looting bills, debt payments, presidential polling, well watchers, and a 100-minute haunted train ride.

Pennsylvanians will be asked to vote on key races for state courts on Nov. 7 — positions with profound implications for some of the most pressing and hot-button issues of our time.

To prepare you for these decisions, Spotlight PA set out to convey the importance of the posts, combing through hundreds of decisions and identifying those that have had the greatest implications for everything from paid sick leave to legislative districts to gun control.

Our team has launched a new interactive tool that explains why the rulings matter, and how they directly affect your life. Learn more about the project here.

We've also put together guides that explain exactly what Pennsylvania's appellate courts are, the judges who sit on them, and more. Find those links below: 

Keep scrolling for more 2023 election coverage from Spotlight PA, including guides to the candidates for Pennsylvania's three appellate courts.

"We are reviewing the matter with other Senate members and considering solution-driven options which may include hearings."

—Erica Clayton Wright, spokesperson for Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward (R., Westmoreland), in a statement to Spotlight PA's Stephen Caruso on the possibility of hearings into Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro's handling of sexual harassment allegations against a now-former top aide
At Spotlight PA, we put voters front and center in our nonpartisan election coverage. Get all the information you need to make an informed vote this November by visiting our Election Center website

» Complete guide to who is on the ballot, when to vote & more

» Complete guide to the candidates for Pennsylvania Supreme Court

» Complete guide to the candidates for Commonwealth, Superior Courts

» What to know about the judicial retention questions on Pa. ballots

» Una guía de los candidatos a la Corte Suprema del estado

» Una guía de los candidatos a la Commonwealth y las Cortes Superiores

» Support Spotlight PA's vital, nonpartisan election reporting by making a gift now!
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» ELECTION 101: Join Spotlight PA’s government reporters Kate Huangpu and Stephen Caruso TODAY from 6-7 p.m. ET on Zoom for a free panel on Pa.’s 2023 judicial candidates. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org

The Arch Tree at Sinnemahoning State Park, via Karen A. Have a Pennsylvania photo to share? Send it to us by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.

A large tree that is bent in half and still in tact.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.HUB ACTIVITY: Reuters reports two proposed hydrogen hubs in Pennsylvania have won a share of $7 billion in supporting federal grants as critics warn the technology may not be as green as promised. Sources told Reuters the Mid-Atlantic Clean Hydrogen Hub in the eastern part of the state and the Appalachian Regional Clean Hydrogen Hub in the west are set to receive hundreds of millions of dollars each.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.LOOTING LEGISLATION: Pennsylvania House Republicans have responded to last month's looting in Philadelphia with bills that would ratchet up related offenses and penalties, WFMZ reports. A state Senate bill, the proponents of which recently pointed to the same Philly looting, aims to crack down on organized retail theft. CNBC reports such bills are being driven by retailers and may not actually curb crime.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.DEBT CLOCK: October has ushered in the return of student debt payments following the end of a yearslong and "transformational" pandemic pause, CNN reports. In Pennsylvania, more than 1.8 million people — most in their mid-20s to late 40s— owe a total of $66.5 billion in federal student loan debt as of June 30, according to Axios reporting, for an average of nearly $35,700 in student debt per person.
Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.EARLY POLLING: Another admittedly early poll has Republican Donald Trump beating incumbent Democrat Joe Biden by nine points in pivotal Pennsylvania (Biden's home state) in next year's presidential contest. The Emerson College poll comes a week after a Quinnipiac poll that had Biden and Trump essentially tied in the commonwealth. Both polls have U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) leading in his reelection fight.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.INJECTION FIGHT: An injection well dispute currently before Pennsylvania's Commonwealth Court is "being closely watched by the environmental community and the state’s gas industry at a time when Pennsylvania frackers generate billions of gallons of toxic 'produced water' each year ... but are running out of places to dispose of it," Inside Climate News reports. The EPA approved the well last month.
OFFICIAL STATEMENTS: There have been a bevy of lawmaker statements about the Israel-Palestine conflict, including one from state Sen. Nikil Saval (D., Philadelphia) condemning Hamas after Broad + Liberty reached out about social media posts by his chief of staff that appeared supportive. 

GUN CHECKS: Pittsburgh International Airport recently set an annual record for confiscations of firearms, totaling 36 on the year (so far), which eclipses the prior record of 35 set in 2019, TribLIVE reports.

BANK JOBS: PNC Bank, Pennsylvania's 14th largest employer, is set to lay off an undisclosed number of employees, according to a spokesperson who dismissed unverified reports that a 10% workforce reduction was coming.

FRIGHT TRAIN: Travel + Leisure details a 100-minute haunted train ride from New Hope to a scare field at an unknown location. It's called the "No Hope After Dark Train" and it's pulling out through Oct. 31.

ECLIPSE EFFECT: A so-called ring-of-fire solar eclipse is happening Saturday. People in eight states will be able to see the ring-of-fire effect, but PennLive says Pennsylvania isn't one of them.
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