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Election chaos at the Pa. and U.S. capitols

The Investigator

January 7, 2021 | spotlightpa.org

A hectic week, testing lags, obscure rules, sending tips, a new COVID-19 strain, on your dime, 21 hours, and tax revenues. 

The mayhem at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday was preceded by a different type of chaos at the Pennsylvania Capitol here in Harrisburg.

On Tuesday, Republicans in the state Senate refused to seat Democrat Jim Brewster, whose win had been certified by the state, Spotlight PA's Angela Couloumbis and Cynthia Fernandez report. 

Amid high emotions and partisan fingerpointing, Republicans also took the rare step of removing the Democratic lieutenant governor, John Fetterman, from presiding over the first session of the year. Democrats, in turn, responded by refusing to back Sen. Jake Corman from assuming the chamber’s top leadership position — an unusual maneuver on what is most often a largely ceremonial and bipartisan vote.

But those events were quickly overshadowed by violence in Washington after a mob of Trump supporters breached the U.S. Capitol to impede the official count of Electoral College votes.

Top Republicans in the state House and Senate said in statements the chaos was not acceptable. Those same lawmakers had earlier cast doubt on the integrity of the state’s presidential election.

So where do we go from here? Well, in Pennsylvania, both Republicans and Democrats are positioning their priorities for making changes to the Election Code. At the same time, county officials who actually run elections want to be front-and-center in the reform process, our Marie Albiges reports.

I hope you valued the 2020 election news we were able to bring you thanks to a partnership with Votebeat, which I'm happy to say will continue this year as Albiges covers redistricting. You can reach her with tips and ideas here.

Sarah Anne Hughes, Spotlight PA


"Right now, not only are we heading in the wrong direction on COVID in many states across the country, and including in Pennsylvania, but we still are far behind on our testing capacity."

— Matthew Wellington, public health campaigns director for U.S. PIRG, on the state's low testing capacity almost a year into the pandemic

» COVID-19 UPDATE: Keep up with our coronavirus tracker, and sign up for alerts for your county.

» Pa. lags nation in COVID-19 testing, nowhere near suppressing virus

» How obscure rules kill reforms and fuel partisan gridlock

» Former Pa. Gov. Dick Thornburgh dies at 88

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A NEW STRAIN: Pennsylvania for the first time this week identified a new COVID-19 strain that is believed to be more contagious in the state, PennLive reports. The person, in Dauphin County, experienced mild symptoms and had “known international exposure.” 

ON YOUR DIME: Taxpayers were billed $3,000 to cover the costs of a Senate hearing in Gettysburg where Rudy Giuliani and state lawmakers aired unfounded claims of election fraud, The Caucus reports. That includes $1,188 for a buffet.

AUTISM SERVICES: A policy change at the state Department of Human Services means that starting Jan. 17, crucial therapy services for children with autism will only be covered by Medicaid if they're conducted at home, WITF reports. More than 3,500 people have signed a petition calling on the state to reverse the decision.

SIGNIFICANTLY 'MISHANDLED': Investigators commissioned by Gov. Tom Wolf found managers of the state-run Southeastern Veterans’ Center made critical errors that "contributed tragically to the heartrending events that occurred there." The Inquirer first reported this spring that dozens of the nursing home's residents had died of COVID-19 as their families were kept in the dark.

21 HOURS: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette spent a day at Uniontown Hospital as health-care workers struggled to keep up with a flood of COVID-19 patients. Three days before the reporters arrived, the hospital's morgue reached capacity when three ICU patients died in a 3.5-hour period.

» AP: Split court tosses Pennsylvania victims’ rights amendment

» CAPITAL-STAR: Democrats propose longer eviction moratorium

» INQUIRER: State lawmaker's aneurysm not related to COVID-19

» THE WEEK: House nearly devolves into brawl during Pa. vote objection

» TRIBLIVE: 2020 tax revenues $467 million above predictions

— Sarah Anne Hughes, Spotlight PA

Send your answers to riddler@spotlightpa.org. Love the riddler? Chip in and become a member of Spotlight PA so we can keep the good times rolling.

BYE BYE 2020 (Case No. 74): The following words and arrangement reveal a phrase. What is the phrase?
Give   Get
Give   Get
Give   Get
Give   Get
Feeling smart? Challenge a friend.

Last week's answer: The letter "L" is the only one not comprised of 3 lines.
Congrats to Michael H., who will receive Spotlight PA swag. Others who answered correctly: George S., Lynda G., Lou R., Pat C., Joseph M., Kathy M., Roseanne D., Beverly M., William D., Jonathan N., Eileen D. Joseph A., and Joseph S.
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