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Pa. state lawmaker charged with theft, resigns

The Investigator
Your exclusive guide to the best journalism in Pa.
December 5, 2019 | spotlightpa.org
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State Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell, a West Philadelphia Democrat, resigned after being charged with stealing from her nonprofit. Plus, a look at how the state's sex offender registry law faces a life-or-death test before the Supreme Court. And a new periodic briefing from inside the Capitol.

“This is a pivotal moment in Pennsylvania.”

— Meghan Dade, the head of a state board that determines if someone is a sexually-violent predator, on the pending challenge to the sex offender registry law


Everything you need to know about what the legislature did last month — in one easy guide

Lawmakers recently wrapped up one of their busiest months this year, so we wouldn't blame you if you missed some of the developments. Here's what you need to know and what's ahead for the end of the year:

STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS... Lawmakers passed several bills that Gov. Wolf then signed into law, including a package that arose from last year’s scathing grand jury report on the cover-up of decades of child sexual abuse in nearly every Roman Catholic diocese in Pennsylvania. Among other changes, the laws eliminate the criminal statute of limitations on child sexual abuse for future victims. They also extend the timeframe for them to file civil suits. Some victims were disappointed the legislature did not open a temporary "window" in the statute of limitations to allow older victims to sue over decades-old abuse. Instead, lawmakers want to ask voters to decide the matter, and the earliest such a question could appear on the ballot is 2021.

CIGARETTES AND SUNDAY HUNTING... Wolf signed a law raising the minimum age for tobacco purchases from 18 to 21 (there is an exception for military veterans or service members who are at least 18). Wolf and lawmakers separately negotiated a deal to end Pennsylvania's longstanding prohibition (with some exceptions) on Sunday hunting. Under the new law, which takes effect in early 2020, hunting will be allowed on three Sundays every year.

MINIMUM WAGE... The House and Senate are expected to return later this month, and all eyes are on a proposal to increase the minimum wage. The Republican-controlled Senate last month passed a bill to gradually increase it over the next two years, from the current $7.25 per hour to $9.50 per hour. Wolf has championed a minimum wage hike for years, but the reception in the House has been much cooler.

JUDICIAL NOMINATIONS... In the Senate, the only major vote expected is on a recent slate of judicial nominations made by Wolf to fill vacancies on the bench. The largely secret nominating process has sparked controversy, as has Wolf’s choice to fill a coveted vacancy on the state’s Commonwealth Court, an appellate court that hears cases against government agencies.

PARTYING NYC STYLE... This weekend, many of your elected officials will travel to New York City for Pennsylvania Society, the annual fundraising-and-schmooze fest for the state’s political elite, including top politicians, lobbyists, political strategists and others. Expect a lot of tipsy 2020 talk.

AND SOME TRUMP... Also next week, President Trump is expected to touch down in Central Pennsylvania for a rally in Hershey. Expect more such visits to our battleground state as the 2020 presidential race heats up.​

— Angela Couloumbis

Only the best


Sex offender registry law in Pa. facing life-or-death test at top court

Critics contend it unfairly discriminates against offenders. Prosecutors say it's critical to ensuring the public's safety.


State Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell will resign after theft charges

She is accused of stealing more than $500K from her nonprofit to spend on real estate, vacations and luxury clothing.

» Flawed system protected Philly police commander despite known sexual misconduct
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» Speaking of... Task force urges end to public grand jury reports in Pa.
» Mariner East security manager, others charged in alleged pipeline security scheme
» Pa. lawmakers, judges get raises for 2020
» Concerns persist over how Philly’s most venerable arts school handles sexual assaults

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Moonstruck (Case No. 15): A ship passed through the same channel at the same time for eight straight days. But on the eighth day, it ran aground. Why exactly did this happen?
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Last week's answers: 1. The pardoned turkey would be the only one remaining; 2. The boat used by the pilgrims was named "Sunday"; 3. Only one side of the knife used to cut the cranberry sauce was contaminated. Congrats to Shawn T., who will receive Spotlight PA swag for correct answers last week. Other subscribers who correctly answered: George S., William W., Jeffrey F. and Annette I.
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