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Photo ID, signature matching in Pa. GOP's sights


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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
April 20, 2021
Election laws, PSERS pileup, SCOTUS case, open court, steel trap, Barletta's PAC, and calling all Samanthas. It's Tuesday, thanks for checking in.
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Framed by Republicans as a necessary endeavor following the 2020 election — and a cover for voter suppression by Democrats — 10 election oversight hearings were wrapped by the House last week, yielding moments of consensus but only the vaguest hint of an actual roadmap. 

Among the GOP priorities taking shape are broader photo ID laws and signature matching for mail-in ballots, Spotlight PA and Votebeat report. Less clear is whether lawmakers will finally deliver the fixes county officials have long requested.  

Those same officials hope any related proposals are bipartisan in nature, but tensions are high and the subject remains a sore one months after November's election produced a torrent of unproven fraud claims.

"At some point, we’re all going to have to start working together to figure out the path forward," said Lisa Schaefer, executive director of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania. "None of this happens without 26 votes in the Senate, 102 votes in the House, and the governor’s signature."

THE CONTEXT: House State Government Committee Chairman Seth Grove (R., York) told Spotlight PA and Votebeat at the end of the hearings that resulting legislation likely won't be considered until the end of May or early June. 

Any reform measures will need the approval of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, all but requiring compromise in the interest of getting something real and lasting on the books. 

The state Senate is also part of the equation, and it's hosting a similar slate of hearings on the 2020 election, with public comments accepted until April 30.

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"All the mask-wearing and hand-washing in the world will not keep the virus from spreading in a congregate care setting like a prison."

—Claire Shubik-Richards, of the Pennsylvania Prison Society, on the Johnson & Johnson setback dealt to the state's prison vaccination push
VACCINE UPDATE: Adults in every U.S. state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, with 50% having received at least one shot. Gov. Tom Wolf joined the crowd on Monday. For vaccine providers, check Spotlight PA's map and county-by-county listing.
» THE PRIMARY: On Tuesday, May 4 at 5 p.m., join Spotlight PA as we break down the judicial candidates and four questions you’ll see on the primary ballot. RSVP FOR FREE

POST IT: Looking a lot like spring in this western Derry Township neighborhood. Thanks for another one, Robert N.Send us your hidden gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us at @spotlightpennsylvania.
PSERS PROBE: Federal authorities are looking at $14 million in Harrisburg real estate purchases by Pennsylvania's largest pension fund, including the former Patriot-News building on Market Street, per PennLive. The news, first reported by The Inquirer, comes amid intense scrutiny of the PSERS fund and its operations.

MOOT POINT: The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected the last remaining legal case against Pennsylvania's 2020 election results, the AP reports. Meanwhile, GOP voters are pressing their party's state Supreme Court candidates on lingering electoral suspicions.

GUN COURT: The Philadelphia district attorney’s office is bringing back "gun court" to move through a massive backlog of cases and, per WHYY, help prevent future crimes. Philadelphia is also suing the state for the right to enact its own gun reform laws, a case that got new backing from Scranton just yesterday.

STEEL SCHEME: One of the "first money laundering investigations involving the U.S. steel industry" is detailed in a new deep-dive from the Post-Gazette that spans an oligarch, a rash of U.S. steel mill buys, and the theft of hundreds of millions of dollars from a Ukraine bank — an amount "large enough to cripple the country’s economy."

BARLETTA'S BID: Former U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, an immigration hardliner and Trump progenitor, is raising money with a new PAC and an eye on running for Pennsylvania governor, The Inquirer reports. Barletta is the early preference among Republican voters for the job, according to February polling.

ROLE PLAY: "Sex and the City" creator Candace Bushnell will debut her one-woman show at Bucks County Playhouse this June, WHYY reports. Bushnell said the performance is like going to her apartment and "sitting around talking about the things that women talk about for 80 minutes."

TAKE FIVE: Google Earth's new time-lapse feature combines 40 years of satellite imagery to show how landscapes evolve and sports stadiums disappear and reappear in Pittsburgh. Of equal note: the massive, visible-from-space sprawl in State Game Lands 75.

AMERICAN ART: Meet Alba "Gigi" Perez, a Hazleton artist and businesswoman whose short PBS "American Portrait" is being broadcast to viewers nationwide this month. 

HANDS FREE: A new bill would make holding a cellphone while driving in Pennsylvania illegal and violations a "primary offense," aka grounds for a traffic stop, The Morning Call reports.

BIRD'S EYE: There's an unusual visitor in Pennsylvania's Amish Country — a Scott's oriole typically found in the southwestern United States and Mexico. And the birders went wild, per PhillyVoice.

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