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GOP wants more control over Pa.'s judiciary branch

A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Tom Lisi
January 14, 2021
Judicial districts, executive power, staying mum, fracking ban, Farm Show cam, a must-read book, and a new career. It's Thursday. 
Republican-led panels in the state House advanced a slew of proposed constitutional amendments Wednesday, some aimed at weakening the judicial and executive branches.

One would give the legislature the power to draw districts for electing appellate court judges in Pennsylvania, a major shift away from the current statewide contests, Spotlight PA and Votebeat report. The majority party has made overhauling the courts a priority after a slew of unsuccessful litigation involving the administration of the 2020 election.

Another would give lawmakers the power to unilaterally end a governor's disaster declaration, the result of long-festering resentment against Democrat Tom Wolf over his actions to control the coronavirus pandemic, Spotlight PA reports.

CONTEXT: While the tensions that prompted these amendments may have boiled over in 2020, they began long before that.  

In 2018, after the state Supreme Court struck down a congressional map it said was gerrymandered to give Republicans an unfair political advantage, several GOP lawmakers called for Democrats on the bench to be impeached.

One GOP lawmaker renewed that call in October in response to the court’s rulings on several election-related cases, and its upholding of Wolf’s emergency COVID-19 declaration.

In a statement, Wolf forcefully dismissed both proposals. But ultimately, he won't have a say over their fate. That decision belongs to the voters, who will likely see both questions on the ballot this May.
"It’s what you get when [the federal vaccination] plan amounts to dumping doses at hospitals and counting on them, left to their own devices, to vaccinate as quickly as possible."
— Lindsay Wiley, director of the Health Law and Policy Program at American University, on UPMC vaccinating remote employees ahead of some frontline workers
POST IT: A great shot of Gifford Pinchot Lake in York County. Thanks, Reid WSend us your hidden gems use the hashtag #PAGems, or tag us on Instagram at @spotlightpennsylvania.
HOMEWORK: The head of Pennsylvania's public universities told Spotlight PA he has not studied how the system has historically perpetuated racial inequity and pledged a review. Chancellor Daniel Greenstein said he was committed to improvements but admitted they would be better informed by understanding the system's history.

ON RECORD: A group of Pennsylvania Republican lawmakers who spread misinformation about baseless claims of election fraud, then abandoned those claims to call the state's GOP-supported voting law unconstitutional, has stayed mum about the U.S. Capitol attack and its effects, The Inquirer reports.
FALLOUT: An initial investigation by SEPTA, the Philadelphia-area transit agency, indicates that seven of its officer who attended a pro-Trump rally in Washington did not participate in storming the U.S. Capitol. Meanwhile, WHYY reports that Sen. Doug Mastriano's campaign spent thousands of dollars on buses to transport people to the rally that preceded the riot.

FRACKING BAN: Pennsylvania Republicans led by state Sens. Gene Yaw and Lisa Baker are suing the Delaware River Basin Commission in federal court to try to strip the authority of its power to ban natural gas drilling near the river, the Associated Press reports. The basin supplies water to Philadelphia and half of New York City.
MISSING CONNECTION: Federal and state efforts to deliver reliable internet to rural public school students have been a major disappointment, The Incline, Mon Valley Independent, and McKees Rocks Gazette 2.0 report. School districts are still trying to fill in the gaps.
BYE BYE LANTERNFLY: They have a cute name, but the threat of the spotted lanternfly is bad enough that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has given Pennsylvania a $1.5 million grant to fight the invasive species.

A BIG DRAW: To promote a new interactive exhibition infused with Crayola products, the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia is looking to set a world record by completing a 6,500-square foot drawing. A local art teacher is leading the effort.

LIVE FROM THE FARM SHOW: ... it's a bunch of affordable ducklings! Seriously, I can't stop watching the live feed of those little yellow creatures sleeping and cuddling and sleeping some more. If bees are more your speed, the Farm Show also has you covered.

SHELF AWARENESS: A new novel from University of Pennsylvania doctoral student Maritza Moulite, who writes young adult fiction with her sister, is getting rave reviews. An earlier work, "Dear Haiti, Love Alaine," was one of NPR's best books of 2019.

REPPING THE WIENER: Looking to change careers? Applications are open to serve on Oscar Mayer's Wienermobile. The lucky few selected as "hotdoggers" will be part of an on-the-road marketing team.
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: Crepuscular

Congrats to our daily winners: Jessica K., Jill G., Susan D., Mary Ellen T., Dan C., George S., David I., Bill C., John C., and Ron P. 
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