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Pa. GOP will refuse to seat Democratic senator

A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Tom Lisi
January 5, 2021
New session, code changes, eviction ban, autism services, top-shelf whiskey, and a special song. Welcome to Tuesday.
Pennsylvania lawmakers will begin a new two-year session Tuesday with a bang.

As Spotlight PA reports, Republican leaders in the Pennsylvania Senate will refuse to seat Democrat Jim Brewster whose narrow win in November is being challenged in court, even as it has been certified by state officials. 

The top Republican in the Senate, Jake Corman, said that he and his colleagues believe a decision in a legal challenge brought by Brewster’s GOP opponent is necessary before the chamber can act.

“Our goal is to get it right, not get it fast,” Corman said.

THE CONTEXT: At the heart of the dispute is Republican Nicole Ziccarelli’s request to throw out several hundred mail ballots that lacked a handwritten date on the outer ballot envelope, as required by state law. Those ballots gave Brewster the edge he needed to eke out a win.

The issue has already been litigated in the state court system, where Ziccarelli ultimately lost.

Despite the drama, the swearing-in of 202 House lawmakers, as well as 24 in the Senate, will go on as planned Tuesday, minus the usual pomp and circumstance. You can watch the House ceremony here, and the Senate ceremony here, beginning at noon.

“I believe this session is one that I have not seen in a long time where so much baggage is coming over from last legislative session that needs to be addressed.”

—  Rep. Sheryl Delozier (R., Cumberland) on the challenges Rep. Kerry Benninghoff faces as state House majority leader

POST IT: Thanks, Emilie S., for this view of Galen Glen Winery in Andreas. Send us your hidden gems use the hashtag #PAGems, or tag us on Instagram at @spotlightpennsylvania.
MORE CHANGES: A new session also means lawmakers are laying out their legislative priorities, including more changes to the Election Code. And after a grueling year, county officials in charge of administering elections told Spotlight PA and Votebeat they want lawmakers to take their concerns seriously and make some much-needed improvements.

EVICTIONS BAN: A group of House and Senate Democrats is calling on the state to ban evictions until the end of April, the Capital-Star reports. The new legislation comes after our own Charlotte Keith revealed the state failed to deploy $108 million in housing relief money last year.

LONGER WAIT: It will be months before vaccines become available to the general public in Pennsylvania, Health Secretary Rachel Levine said Monday. So far, she said, 135,000 Pennsylvanians have received a vaccine. The state expects 167,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, and 80,000 of the Moderna, will arrive this week, according to TribLIVE.

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.

EXPLOSIONS: Federal authorities are helping Pittsburgh police investigate a pair of explosions that occurred in two different neighborhoods Sunday. Local detectives are looking for a white pickup truck connected to the first explosion, the Post-Gazette reports.

» FREE FOR SUBSCRIBERS: A live interview with Daniel Greenstein, chancellor of the PA State System of Higher Education, at 5 p.m. Jan. 13. RSVP now and submit questions in advance to ypiper@spotlightpa.org.

TOP SHELF: Whiskey fans will be able to test their luck starting Friday during the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board's lottery for limited-edition Van Winkle whiskeys. Some bottles will go for as much as $400. 

THE CIRCLE OF (TREE) LIFE: A new company has picked Pittsburgh and three other cities to be "reforestation hubs." Cambium Carbon plans to use fallen trees to make its products and plant new ones in the process.

NICE TRY: An Acme employee who bought a lottery ticket worth $4.15 million — after the winning numbers had been announced — will have to return it to the store, a state court ruled. "No reasonable fact-finder could conclude that Ms. [Beverlie] Seltzer acted with the good-faith belief that she was permitted by law or by Acme's policies to give Acme $10 in exchange for $4,150,000," a judge wrote.

WHAT TO LISTEN TO IF ... you need some soul in your life: I've been listening to Philadelphia's Teddy Pendergrass on repeat since seeing this tweet. Pendergrass, who died 11 years ago this month, was celebrated in a 2018 documentary that's now on my must-watch list.

COMING IN APRIL: Did I watch a lot of TV in 2020? Yes. Am I planning to watch less in 2021? Heck no, and I'm already getting hyped for "Mare of Easttown." Kate Winslet plays “a detective in a small Pennsylvania town" who investigates "a local murder while trying to keep her life from falling apart." Sign me up!

Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag.

Yesterday's answer: Sabbatical 

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Susan D., John C., Jill G., Alan V., George S., Perry H., Neal W., Kim C., Jessica K., Heidi B., David W., Doug W., Christina L., Joel S., Lance L., Carol D., Chris W., and Ron P. 
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