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Pa. loses U.S. House seat, Electoral College vote


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
April 27, 2021
Census shrink, vaccine demand, mind the gap, MOVE victims, bait-and-switch, PPE pile-on, and a big brother off to a very strong start. It's Tuesday.
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The U.S. Census Bureau confirmed Monday what political observers and data crunchers have long expected: Pennsylvania will soon lose one of its congressional seats, Spotlight PA reports.

When the 2022 midterm elections arrive, Pennsylvania will have 17 congressional districts, as opposed to the 18 currently represented evenly by Democratic and Republican lawmakers. The state will also lose one of its 20 Electoral College votes, further decreasing its clout during presidential contests.

Political observers expect a contentious debate between Wolf and Republican leadership, who are still at odds over the 2020 election and the administration’s pandemic response.

"The first question is: Is anyone planning on retiring?" said Democratic political strategist Mustafa Rashed, president and CEO of the Philadelphia-based firm Bellevue Strategies. "Because if someone’s retiring, usually that’s the easiest thing to do — to reapportion their seat."

THE CONTEXT: Pennsylvania's population didn't decline over the past decade, but it grew by just 2.4% — lagging far behind southern states like Florida and Texas. 

The state’s congressional map is drawn by the 253-member General Assembly and must be approved by the governor, in this case, Democrat Tom Wolf. If the two branches can't agree, the job goes to the state Supreme Court. 

That's an outcome already anticipated by Khalif Ali, executive director of the good-government group Common Cause Pennsylvania. That's why he's continuing to advocate for an independent commission to draw the maps.

"I think a lot of what we do is eating away at the integrity of democracy," he said, "and if we continue doing it, I don’t think we can expect people to participate."

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"I was a 14-year-old kid. I was upset, I was angry. Everyone, every 14-year-old kid speaks like that at one point."

—Mahonoy City student Brandi Levy on a profane Snapchat message now the basis for a free speech case before the U.S. Supreme Court
VACCINE UPDATE: Pennsylvania public health officials say they will not follow in New York’s footsteps and adopt so-called vaccine passports, choosing instead to focus on overcoming vaccine hesitancy in those yet to get the shot. For vaccine providers, check Spotlight PA's map and county-by-county listing.
» A LIVE GUIDE TO THE MAY 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
» BE PREPARED: Everyone — regardless of political affiliation — can vote May 18 on four ballot questions. Here's a breakdown of each one. Plus, WHYY has a great primer on the appellate court judge candidates. We'll have more resources in the days and weeks ahead.
Some snowdrops and silver dollar plants seen in Havertown. Thanks, Suzanne S.Send us your hidden gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us at @spotlightpennsylvania.
VACCINE DEMAND: COVID-19 cases are dropping in Pennsylvania, along with vaccinations. The state is now averaging about 3,800 new COVID-19 cases a day, according to an Inquirer analysis, a 23% drop from last week. But daily vaccinations are also down by more than 103,000 a day. The trend is reflective of a national one.

SAFETY NET: Pennsylvania human services providers want a multi-million-dollar, one-time payment and additional Medicaid funds to help them cover increased costs from the COVID-19 pandemic, telling WESA the safety net is "nearly disintegrated." Billions in federal relief dollars will soon flow to states, but lawmakers say there are conditions.

PUBLIC APOLOGY: The Penn Museum and the University of Pennsylvania are apologizing for failing to return what is believed to be the remains of two children recovered from the site of the 1985 MOVE bombing to the family, The Daily Pennsylvanian reports. The apology comes a week after reports the remains of some of the 11 people killed in the city-orchestrated bombing were missing. 

DREAM HOME: A rent-to-own project in Chambersburg was touted as a pathway to homeownership for low-income residents, but tenants say they're being surrounded by red tape and "set up to fail," WHYY reports. The Pretlow family relocated from Baltimore and members say they're worried about a bait-and-switch.

PPE STOCKPILE: State lawmakers want large amounts of COVID-19 protective gear relocated from the Pa. Farm Show Complex so the venue can start hosting events and making tax revenue again, per FOX43. Gov. Tom Wolf's administration says the PPE is being shipped out as it's needed. The stockpile remains a mostly partisan flashpoint.
OH BROTHER: A Carnegie sixth-grader helped deliver his baby brother before paramedics could arrive, then hopped the bus to school. "On Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday of this week we had a baseball game. So a very busy week," Christopher McGough told WTAE.

TREE TIME: Meet Joseph Rothrock, the "father of Pennsylvania forestry" who spent a chunk of the 19th century traveling Pennsylvania in a horse-drawn wagon to teach about the effect lumbering was having on the landscape, per TribLIVE. This week is "Rothrock Week" in Pennsylvania.

NUMBERS GAME: A Pennsylvania mathematician developed a math formula for predicting Oscar winners, and it correctly predicted the Best Picture winner on Sunday and a bunch of others. Here's the final tally. Ben Zauzmer says his formula is normally 77% accurate.

MOVE OVER: Changes to Pennsylvania's Move Over Law take effect today. They mean steeper penalties for drivers who don't merge away from roadside emergency responders or slow down if merging isn't an option. FOX43 explains in a piece from April 6

MAGIC HOUR: Join WHYY for a family-friendly (and virtual) magic show and a conversation on equity in the illusion industry. The talk will include discussions on the lack of diversity in magic and how to change that.
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: Boulevard

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Susan D., Bill C., Neal W., Ben S., Dixie S., Mary Ellen T., Karen W., Becky C., Elaine C., Elizabeth W., Meg M., Richard D., Mary Kay M., Kim C., Chris M., Dennis M., David W., George S., Dianne K., James B., Irene R., Michelle T., Patricia R., Janet W., Heidi B., Sandy M., Joel S., Paul H., Carol D., Myles M., Kevin H., Chris R., and Elvino M.
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