Thank you for supporting award-winning journalism | Five for the Weekend

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Happy Weekend, all.

On Thursday, the Capital-Star team learned that it had won four 2021 Keystone Media Awards, including three first place awards!

First Place: Stephen Caruso, “Sent back to work, state human service workers say their offices aren’t prepared for the coronavirus;” “Philly caseworkers take leave, DHS closes offices after COVID-19 diagnoses;” “As cases grow, human service workers say they can’t use COVID-19 leave offered to other state employees,” Enterprise Reporting.

Honorable Mention: Stephen Caruso, “Ahead of primary, taxpayers bankroll questionable COVID ads;” “As Turzai backs police reform before resignation, Black lawmakers judge his legacy;” “The state Legislature received masks made by prisoners — but it’s unclear who used them;” “Pa. conservatives’ hopes for subpoena-fueled election investigation quashed by political reality;” “Campaign committees raise record $35.4 million to spend on Pa. Legislature in 2020 election;” “Can a closed Capitol be transparent? Yes, say experts,” News Beat Reporting.

First Place: John L. Micek, Stephen Caruso, Cassie Miller and Hannah McDonald, “Biden wins Pennsylvania, captures 20 electoral votes; set to become President-elect of the U.S.; Harris to make history as vice president,” Breaking News Story.

First Place: John L. Micek, “Reopening isn’t good enough. We need a reset on everything | Friday Morning Coffee;” “This is my family’s COVID-19 story. May all their lives be a blessing;” “‘People of color are exhausted’: What it’s like to be Black and American in this brutal spring,” Column.

You can read more about the awards here. 

For the past two years, our team has dedicated its time and effort to diligently covering the state Capitol and beyond. We’ve been laser-focused on policies, proposed legislation, and explanatory stories that inform the dialogue around what’s happening here in Pennsylvania, as well as taking deep dives into the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s a wonderful feeling to be recognized for those efforts. But more than anything, we hope we’ve informed and empowered those who read our coverage. Our one-of-a-kind coverage and these awards wouldn’t have been possible without the support of our readers.

So, from the bottom of our hearts, thank you all for your continued support of the Pennsylvania Capital-Star.

As always, the top five stories from this week are below. 

Cassie Miller, Associate Editor

1. Capital-Star Q+A: Rep. Seth Grove on election hearings, voter fraud, and the future of reform in Pa.

The Pennsylvania House finished a set of 10 hearings diving into the nitty gritty of the commonwealth’s election law last week.

The hearings were overseen by Rep. Seth Grove, R-York, the chairman of the House State Government Committee.

First elected in 2008, Grove has built a reputation as a fiscal hawk, even winning an award from the American Legislative Exchange Council — a national conservative business lobbying group — as legislator of the year in 2018.

He’s served as chair of the State Government Committee since last November, first jumping on as an interim chief in the immediate aftermath of the 2020 election.

In that role, he appeared at a conspiratorial press conference about Dominion Voting Machines, but did not join some of his conservative colleagues in calls for a legislative audit of the election, or a late December letter that falsely claimed that “the numbers don’t add up” in the state’s vote tally.

2. Mastriano, Pa. Supreme Court candidate slated to appear at QAnon conference

A Pennsylvania state senator and a Philadelphia judge who’s running for the state’s highest court are set to appear at a QAnon-branded conference in June, according to posts from a conspiracy-laden podcast.

State Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, and Judge Paula Patrick, a Republican running for state Supreme Court, are listed as speakers at the event, titled “Patriots Arise, Awakening the Dead!”

3. What you need to know about the 2021 Pa. primary ballot questions

In addition to casting a vote in municipal and judicial races, Pennsylvania voters will have to vote “yes” or “no” on May 18 on four ballot questions.

The first is a statewide referendum asking voters if they favor making municipal fire departments eligible to apply for loans from an existing state loan program.

The other three ballot questions are proposed amendments to the state Constitution.

4. Monthly checks to flow to Pa. children, families under tax credit tweak in new federal stimulus

State and local governments and small businesses are poised to net billions of dollars in benefits under the $1.9 trillion stimulus package that President Joe Biden signed this week, which aims to juice an economy that’s seen its inequalities widen during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the stimulus package also has another big winner: children.

The sweeping legislation includes billions of dollars to support child care facilities, expand food assistance benefits, and send cash straight to families’ bank accounts.

Most of these payments are one-time cash infusions, meant to stabilize industries and households ailing from the pandemic shutdowns. The marquee benefit will come in the form of economic impact payments – or “stimulus checks” – that send up to $1,400 to taxpayers’ bank accounts.

5. Black coalition calls for an ammunition tracking system in Pennsylvania

A coalition of African-American community groups is calling for a Pennsylvania database to track all ammunition sold in the Keystone State.

But activists face an “uphill battle” in the Republican-controlled state legislature, which has stymied gun control efforts for decades.

Lawrence Clark, a main organizer of the Zero Now Network coalition, says a tracking system for ammunition could help law enforcement solve gun violence crimes as homicides and shootings surge in Philadelphia.

And that’s the week. Enjoy the weekend and we’ll see you back here next week. 

Cassie Miller
A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry. Miller has an extensive background in magazine writing, editing and design. She is a graduate of Penn State University where she served as the campus newspaper’s photo editor. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in professional journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In addition to her role at the Capital-Star, Miller enjoys working on her independent zines, Dead Air and Infrared.