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How the Pa. GOP plans to avoid Wolf's veto


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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
June 15, 2021
Workaround measures, dissident block, vaccine protests, election vacancies, dangerous schools, and Pennsylvania's prized Pekingese. It's Tuesday.
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Looking for ways around Gov. Tom Wolf's veto pen, Pennsylvania Republicans are turning to voters in an effort to advance veto-proof policy on key issues like voting reform.

The Associated Press says after the GOP's successful bid to rein in Wolf's emergency powers via constitutional amendment-based ballot questions in May, Republicans are now considering similar pushes around voter ID and mail voting.

On Friday, they unveiled a proposed constitutional amendment to expand Pennsylvania's existing voter identification requirements and another to repeal a 2019 mail voting expansion that became law with Republican support. 

Both measures were introduced as legislation, and both were opposed by the governor, who vetoed roughly a dozen bills passed by the Republican-controlled legislature during the pandemic alone. But if the constitutional amendments are approved by future voters, the governor would have no say.

THE CONTEXT: It is extremely rare for Pennsylvania voters to reject a ballot question, something the architects of the GOP's strategy surely know.

According to Ballotpedia's archive, commonwealth voters have approved more than 90% of ballot questions going back to the 1960s. 

NBC10 says factors like timing can make a difference — a question can be posed in a low-turnout primary or a higher-turnout general election, regardless of whether it deals with an issue at the forefront of voters' minds.

Wording also plays a role, as Spotlight PA detailed in the run-up to May's pandemic-inspired referenda

But the largest factor remains the overwhelming tendency of the electorate to answer in the affirmative, experts say.

"I think they're teeing these things up to be ready go to on the ballot in 2023," J.J. Abbott, Wolf's former press secretary who now runs a progressive advocacy group, said of the GOP's ballot question push.

"And I think there is this concern more broadly that it's difficult to get people away from voting yes."
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"The industry is paying a lot of money to keep the status quo. I became concerned about the amount of money spreading around and returned it."

—Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman (R., Centre), who joined other Pa. lawmakers in giving back tens of thousands of dollars to the unregulated skill games industry amid a fight over its financial impact

VACCINE UPDATE: A study of a new COVID-19 vaccine from manufacturer Novavax says it's 100% effective against the original strain of the coronavirus and 93% effective against newer variants. The company says it intends to file for authorization from regulators in the U.S., Europe, and the United Kingdom later this summer. For vaccine providers, use the federal government's online tool, call 1-800-232-0233, or text your ZIP code to 438829 (GETVAX).
» CONGRESSIONAL REDISTRICTING: Join Spotlight PA for a live interview and reader Q&A with Sen. David Argall at 1 p.m. June 18. RSVP for FREE »
Hector Falls in Warren County as captured by PA Poster @johnmcculloughphotographySend us your hidden gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
BOARD REBELLION: Six dissident members of the PSERS pension fund, including State Treasurer Stacy Garrity, are backing away from their push to fire the plan's top leaders amid legal issues and a cascade of management mistakes. The trustees urged other members of the 15-person Public School Employees' Retirement System board to back the ouster but failed to get majority support, per The Inquirer.

MUST-HAVES: More than 100 people holding signs reading "My body my choice," "Stop medical tyranny," and "Coercion is not consent" marched around Penn Medicine Lancaster General Hospital on Sunday in protest of the health system's vaccine requirement for staff, LancasterOnline reports. Courts and federal agencies have sided with employers requiring the shots, but challenges are mounting.

POST PURGE: About a third of Pennsylvania’s county-level election officials left their posts in the past year and a half, many citing heavy workloads and the strain of the 2020 race. The Associated Press says the same is happening in other states, too, where some fear the vacuum left behind will be filled by partisan actors, as election-denying politicians seek spots higher up the food chain.

UNSAFE SCHOOLS: Criminal charges have been greatly reduced against Scranton schools' former superintendent, who authorities said knew about lead and asbestos dangers in district buildings but did nothing. Thirty-eight felony charges and 21 of 24 misdemeanor charges against Alexis Kirijan were withdrawn by the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General, nine months after it promised accountability, per WNEP.

LOW IMPACT: Slowdowns in Marcellus Shale drilling and slumping natural gas prices will translate to lowest-level payments of industry fees to Pennsylvania counties and local governments, the Public Utility Commission said Monday. Spotlight PA reported on what waning collections of the impact fees have already meant for Greene County, which is nearly broke after a shale gas-related windfall.
TOP DOG: A Pekingese named Wasabi, whose handler and breeder lives in Adams County, outlasted thousands of competitors to win "Best in Show" at this year's Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. "He has that little extra something, that sparkle, that sets a dog apart," Wasabi's handler told the AP.

WHY ROBOT: Delivery robots are legal in Pennsylvania with last year's quiet adoption of a new state law — backed by the likes of FedEx — that allows automated "personal delivery devices," or PDDs, on commonwealth sidewalks. But Grid Magazine says all that convenience comes at a price.

GAMETIME DECISION: A Pennsylvania court decision barring a Bucks County school district from using Native American symbols and imagery for its sports teams has been reversed. WHYY says the new decision could reignite a long-running and taxpayer-subsidized conflict.

MADE IT: Justin Bieber and Lil Baby will headline this year's return of Philadelphia's Made in America Festival, Billboard reports. Megan Thee Stallion, Doja Cat, Roddy Ricch, Bobby Shmurda, and many more have also signed on for the two-day Labor Day weekend event.

SLIDEWAYS: Mammoth Park's mammoth slides in Westmoreland County have reopened after injuries saw them closed in August. The 100-foot-long slides at the Mt. Pleasant Township complex have new warnings posted and about $30,000 worth of safety measures added, TribLIVE reports.
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: Energetic

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