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Ex-Pitt chancellor to be redistricting tiebreaker


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
May 4, 2021
Lobbying reform, redistricting chair, herd immunity, bad air, check to check, police pursuit, and a Philly-bound Picasso goes missing. It's Tuesday.

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Top leaders in Pennsylvania's legislature are expected to throw their weight behind efforts to limit the influence of lobbyists who moonlight as political consultants, blurring the lines between politics and policy in the Capitol, Spotlight PA and The Caucus report. 

House Speaker Bryan Cutler (R., Lancaster) and Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman (R., Centre) plan to unveil a proposed ban on the practice as part of a lobbying reform package meant to restore public faith in government.

But with details of the plan still being hashed out, Corman is jetting off to a ritzy Arizona fundraiser organized by a company that has cornered the market on the very practice his reform legislation aims to stop

THE CONTEXT: Over the past year, Corman has come under scrutiny for his close ties to Ray Zaborney, an influential Harrisburg political operative and lobbyist who says he shed the latter role "in an effort to comply" with the lobbying reform bill Corman is set to introduce.

At the same time, one of Zaborney's own companies is organizing Corman’s $5,000-per-person campaign fundraiser this week at a luxury resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. 

Corman spokesperson Jason Thompson said he could not comment on campaign matters but did say lobbying reform is one of the Republican senator’s "highest legislative priorities" this session. 

Still, Barry Kauffman, former executive director of the good-government group Common Cause Pennsylvania, says close ties like these could undercut the seriousness of that message and any resulting legislation. 

"They [Corman and Cutler] deserve credit for recognizing the problem, but it is going to take some effort to make it work with any degree of credibility," Kauffman explained.

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"We deeply regret this happened and are committed to restoring the trust of any residents of Pennsylvania who may have been impacted."

—A statement from Insight Global, the company whose contact tracing work for Pennsylvania jeopardized the personal information of 72,000 people. GOP lawmakers want Gov. Tom Wolf to fire the vendor immediately.

VACCINE UPDATE: Walgreens and CVS wasted 182,874 COVID-19 doses as of late March, more than most states combined, KHN reports. Gov. Tom Wolf's administration declined to release details of vaccine waste in Pennsylvania following a Spotlight PA records request. For vaccine providers, check Spotlight PA's map and county-by-county listing.
» A LIVE GUIDE TO THE MAY PRIMARY: Today 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.
Thanks, Ingrid R., for this amazing shot from the Bogert Covered Bridge over Little Lehigh Creek in Allentown. Send us your hidden gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us at @spotlightpennsylvania.
KEY ROLE: Pennsylvania's Supreme Court has picked a former Pitt chancellor to chair the state's powerful redistricting commission, days after lawmakers deadlocked on filling the post, Spotlight PA and Votebeat report. The court named Mark Nordenberg, a former Pitt law school dean, to the Legislative Reapportionment Commission yesterday.

ELUSIVE GOAL: New variants and lingering vaccine hesitancy mean the U.S. likely won't reach COVID-19 herd immunity any time soon — if ever, The New York Times reports. Gov. Tom Wolf says Pennsylvania is forging ahead with efforts to address vaccine hesitancy here, with an eye on reopening "as fast as we can," KDKA-TV reports. 

IN THE AIR: The mostly Black residents of Chester are urging officials not to renew a contract with the operator of a trash incinerator they say is fouling up their air, WHYY reports. The operator insists the emissions are clean, but research found high levels of pollution in a community already coping with a disproportionate share of environmental harms.

LOW WAGES: Pennsylvania is home to 90,000 workers earning minimum wage or less and about 700,000 who earn just above it. Most of these low-wage workers are older than 20, and 30% are older than 25. USA Today reporters spoke to five such workers across the state about the hard choices they must make every day on limited incomes.

POLICE ENCOUNTER: A Pittsburgh protester who lost an eye after a police officer shot him with a rubber bullet says the same officer accosted him during a court hearing last month. City Paper reports the officer, Sean Stumpf, accused Alex Horell of taking photos of police on his phone, but no such pictures were found there.

WIDE NET: New York passed a law requiring internet service providers to offer $15-per-month broadband plans to low-income households and promptly got sued, Ars Technica reports. In Pennsylvania, Kutztown found a workaround and built its own broadband network, per The Inquirer.

LOST ART: An original charcoal drawing by Pablo Picasso has gone missing en route to Philadelphia, per Billy Penn. The piece, a family heirloom purchased directly from the artist, was shipped to Philadelphia two weeks ago but was nowhere to be found when the truck finally arrived.

VICIOUS CYCLE: Twenty-five people rode their bikes from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia over the weekend for the annual 380-mile Crush the Commonwealth ride. WHYY has their "nervous," "stunned," and Sheetz-starved dispatches from the road.

SKATER BOI: Sixty-year-old Lancastrian Dean Wenrich's smooth-as-ice moves at the roller rink have made him a TikTok star. "[My daughter] tells me it's got two million views. And I’m like, 'What does that mean?'" Wenrich told LancasterOnline.

SING SONG: If you're looking for a bluegrassy, one-mic cover of a Madonna classic to start your Tuesday, Pittsburgh's own Buffalo Rose has a "Borderline" that checks all the boxes

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: Adjacent

Congrats to our daily winners: Mary Ellen T., Bob R., Tom L., Becky C., Maureen G., Irene R., Michelle T., David I., Craig W., Mike B., Neal W., Susan D., Theodore W., Patricia M., Janet T., Elaine C., Christine M., Bette G., Al M., Bruce B., Elizabeth W., Chris R., Beth T., Meg M., Mark O., Parker B., Dixie S., Kim C., Guy M., Bruce B., Adrien M., Jill A., Dennis M., Mike B., Donald H., Brian B., Heidi B., Karen W., Suzanne S., Luke E., Fred O., Nichole H., Diane P., George S., Patricia R., Gail H., Steve D., Jimmy N., Paul H., Janet C., Dianne K., Anne G., James B., David W., Mary Kay M., John A., Tish M., Bruce F., Rick D., Carol D., Bill C., Joel S., Scott R., Christine M., Lance L., Barbara F., Lex M., and Clarence B. 
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