Amid the big headlines in the state this year, one story trumped them all

By Kathy Matheson - Associated Press | December 28th, 2016 4:56 pm

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Looking back on 2016, one story trumped them all in Pennsylvania.

Donald Trump surprised the nation by winning the White House, a victory made possible in part by becoming the first Republican presidential candidate to win Pennsylvania since 1988.

The businessman edged Democrat Hillary Clinton by about 44,000 votes with help from rural and exurban precincts that saw more than 80 percent turnout. Even traditionally blue Erie and Luzerne counties turned red for Trump.

Pennsylvania proved a battleground throughout the presidential campaign, hosting Trump rallies in towns like Ambridge, Mechanicsburg and Johnstown. Clinton and her surrogates campaigned heavily in Philadelphia, including a rally with Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi that drew thousands to Independence Mall on the night before Election Day.

A look at some other top stories in Pennsylvania this year:

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KANE & COSBY

The Montgomery County courthouse in Norristown buzzed all year with two big cases.

In August, a jury convicted state Attorney General Kathleen Kane, a Democrat, of leaking grand jury information to a newspaper and lying about it under oath. Sentenced to 10 to 23 months in jail, she remains free pending appeal. The office is being led by one of her deputies until attorney general-elect Josh Shapiro, also a Democrat, is sworn in Jan. 17.

Comedian Bill Cosby has made numerous treks to the building for the criminal case alleging he drugged and sexually assaulted a woman at his Cheltenham home in 2004. The trial is still months away, but the judge says prosecutors can use a deposition in which the comedian acknowledged using drugs as a seduction tool. Cosby’s lawyers say he is now blind and cannot help with his defense.

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COURTS & CRIME

A grand jury alleged two Roman Catholic bishops in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese helped cover up the sexual abuse of hundreds of children by dozens of priests and other religious leaders over a 40-year period.

The findings were based partly on evidence from a secret diocesan archive opened through a search warrant over the summer. Prosecutors say no criminal charges will be filed because some abusers have died, the statute of limitations has expired, or victims are too traumatized to testify.

In Philadelphia, longtime Democratic U.S Rep. Chaka Fattah lost his re-election bid shortly before being convicted of using federal grants and nonprofit funds to repay an illegal loan to his failed mayoral campaign. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Two couples in northeastern Pennsylvania were awarded nearly $4.25 million after a federal jury found one of the state’s largest natural gas producers was responsible for contaminating their well water. Their six-year odyssey turned the village of Dimock into a battleground over the nation’s shale drilling and hydraulic fracturing boom.

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STRIKING OUT

Faculty who teach at the state’s 14 public universities walked out for three days in October when contract talks stalled over wages, work load and health care. The strike, the first in the system’s 34-year history, disrupted classes for 100,000 students.

A couple of weeks later, Philadelphia transit workers hit the picket lines over pensions, work rules and health care. Buses, trolleys and subways sat idle for a week, restarting a day before the election.

And classical music fans heard the sound of silence as labor disputes led to walkouts by the Philadelphia Orchestra and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. The Fabulous Philadelphians missed only one performance — opening night — but Pittsburgh’s strike lasted 55 days.

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MAKING LAWS

Philadelphia became one of the largest U.S. cities to approve a sweetened beverage tax. Revenues will help expand pre-kindergarten programs and renovate libraries and recreation centers.

Meanwhile, state officials eased decades-old restrictions on alcohol but made it harder to get opioid painkillers.

Grocery stores can now sell wine, and beer distributors can sell beer in just about any quantity, including six-packs and growlers.

To combat the drug addiction epidemic that last year killed 3,500 Pennsylvanians, new laws limit opioid prescriptions in emergency rooms and mandate that doctors check a statewide database when prescribing the painkillers.

After a long fight, lawmakers gave the green light to ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft to operate legally in the state. Uber also became the first company to make self-driving cars publicly available in the U.S. through a test program in Pittsburgh. A selected a group of customers got free rides in autonomous Ford Fusions, with human drivers as backups.

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PENN STATE

The Jerry Sandusky case continues to reverberate at Penn State four years after the former assistant football coach was convicted of sexually abusing children.

The university agreed to pay a record $2.4 million fine after a five-year investigation by the U.S. Department of Education found the school had repeatedly violated campus crime reporting requirements and failed to warn people about potential threats — including Sandusky.

The school must also pay more than $12 million to former football team staffer Mike McQueary. After it became public that his testimony helped prosecutors charge Sandusky, Penn State suspended McQueary from coaching duties, placed him on paid administrative leave, barred him from team facilities and, later, did not renew his contract.

A jury awarded $7.3 million to McQueary, finding the university defamed him. The judge added $5 million because he said the school’s conduct amounted to retaliation against a whistleblower.

That said, the Nittany Lions (11-2) had their best season since Sandusky’s arrest. The Big Ten winners play USC in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 2.

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SPORTS & LEISURE

Pennsylvania boasted two national championships this year. The Pittsburgh Penguins beat San Jose to hoist their fourth Stanley Cup, and Villanova won the NCAA title against North Carolina with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Kris Jenkins. It was the Wildcats’ first title since 1985.

The sports world lost one of its most revered figures. Latrobe native Arnold Palmer had the talent to win dozens of PGA Tour events and the personality to win a legion of fans known as “Arnie’s Army.” Also a trailblazer in sports marketing, the popular golfer died in Pittsburgh at 87.

And the creator of the Big Mac went to the big Golden Arches in the sky. Michael James “Jim” Delligatti first sold the double burger at his McDonald’s franchise in Uniontown in 1967. Delligatti, who ate at least one 540-calorie Big Mac a week for decades, was 98 when he died.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump arrives to speak at a campaign rally in Johnstown, Pa., on Oct. 21, 2016. Trump surprised the nation by winning the White House, a victory made possible in part by becoming the first Republican presidential candidate to win Pennsylvania since 1988. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
http://www.theabingtonjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/web1_AP16356671396569.jpgRepublican presidential candidate Donald Trump arrives to speak at a campaign rally in Johnstown, Pa., on Oct. 21, 2016. Trump surprised the nation by winning the White House, a victory made possible in part by becoming the first Republican presidential candidate to win Pennsylvania since 1988. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

By Kathy Matheson

Associated Press


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