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Contested Voter ID push clears first ballot hurdle


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
June 24, 2021
Budget crunch, free speech, charter revival, criminal counts, Toomey's rationale, radar love, and Beverly Hills, Pennsylvania. It's Thursday.
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Pennsylvania's budget is due ... really soon. But the legislature has spent its most recent session days debating controversial measures, most of which are destined to meet Gov. Tom Wolf's veto pen. 

That includes a measure to ban so-called "vaccine passports" and prevent the health secretary from ordering business closures, the Associated Press reports. The bill passed the House on Wednesday and was sent back to the Senate for a concurrence vote. 

Wolf has vowed to veto it, as well as legislation that would limit access to abortion and a major election overhaul that includes stricter voter ID requirements

THE CONTEXT: Lawmakers are required to pass a budget by the end of June and appear on track to do so, although exactly what it will contain has yet to be made public.

Wolf and Republican leadership in recent years have been able to come to timely agreements (as opposed to 2015), and doing so should be slightly easier this year thanks to a projected $3 billion surplus and $7.3 billion in federal relief dollars.

Compromise between the executive and legislative branches is necessary for much of what Harrisburg does — but not everything. The Senate on Wednesday advanced a constitutional amendment to require voter ID, with support from all Republicans and one Democrat. It now goes to the House for a vote, and will then need to pass again in the session that begins in 2023 in order to be sent to voters.

The tactic has a major upside for GOP supporters: It doesn't require Wolf's approval. 
Huge issues are being debated in Harrisburg, from voting changes to redistricting, that could have ramifications on our state for years to come. Now more than ever, we need unflinching investigative journalism in Pennsylvania.

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"In the wake of recent legislation that would aim to erase our history from being taught, all of our students deserve to receive instruction that includes all of our stories."
—Democratic Pa. lawmakers introducing a bill that would require schools in the state to "offer instruction in African American and Latino history" amid a roiling partisan debate on curriculums that emphasize systemic racism

VACCINE UPDATE: A greater share of women are getting vaccinated, with 9.5 million more U.S. women than men getting the shot. The gender gap varies but has hovered just below 10 percentage points on average over the past month. FiveThirtyEight looks at possible factors, including early access, masculinity, and politics. For vaccine providers, use the federal government's online tool, call 1-800-232-0233, or text your ZIP code to 438829 (GETVAX).
The early bird gets the worm or, in this case, the peachy sunrise photo. Thanks, @swataracoffee, for sharing. Send us your hidden gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
FREE SPEECH: The U.S. Supreme Court has sided with a Pennsylvania teenager in a major free speech case about schools enforcing conduct standards on social media. Brandi Levy and her parents sued Mahanoy Area High School because she was punished for posting profanity on Snapchat after failing to make the varsity cheerleading squad. The Supreme Court ruled 8-1 that the district overstepped its bounds, Insider reports. 

APPEALS BOARD: Gov. Tom Wolf and Republican lawmakers have reached a deal to revive a powerful arbitrator of local decisions on charter schools. The Charter Appeals Board, disbanded by Wolf in April, can overturn charter school rejections by local boards. The Inquirer notes its return isn't without challenges: some new, some not.

NEW CHARGES: Three Western Pennsylvania men have been charged in the Jan. 6 Capitol siege, bringing the total number of defendants to 48 statewide. WESA reports related charges will be filed against Mitchell Vukich of New Brighton, Nicholas Perretta of Baden, and Samuel Fox of Mt. Pleasant, who reportedly bragged about his involvement on Facebook.

VOTING RIGHTS: Outgoing U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) voted against debating the Democrats' federal voting rights bill, explaining on Twitter that he thought it was "a power grab." Tuesday's party-line stalemate means the bill is stalled as Democrats warn of the need to balance restrictive voting measures being rolled out in red states, per NPR.

ON RADAR: Local police would be able to use radar to enforce speed limits under a bill that passed the Pennsylvania Senate this week. The legislation, now headed back to the House, would limit revenue from speeding tickets to 10% of a municipality's budget. For the first three months, only warnings would be issued, via the Associated Press.
CREDIT DUE: The IRS has two new portals to help families track expanded child tax credit payments. Use the Child Tax Credit Eligibility Assistant to find out if you qualify for advance credit payments beginning next month and the Child Tax Credit Update Portal to manage payment preferences.

WASTED: Trash is piling up in Philadelphia amid a garbage truck driver shortage and an increase in trash volume, 6ABC reports, so residents are being asked to consider hauling their own to one of six drop-off sites called Citizen Convenience Centers for Recycling and Trash. Not everyone is sold.

ROCK FALL: Eighty-three years ago today a 625-ton meteor exploded about 12 miles over Butler County. In a 2013 lookback piece, the Oil City Derrick said no one was hurt, except maybe a solitary cow. Local papers didn't even mention it, focusing instead on pre-WWII tensions and a big boxing match.

PEN PALS: Nearly 30 Beirutis and Pittsburghers are connecting via letters sent over 5,000 miles for an art project called "The Birth of Paper." The Beirutis will also receive Pittsburgh-made goods, which they'll open in "live, virtual shows centering on the mutual transmission of goods and goodwill." 

OLD HOUSE: Joan Rivers built a Beverly Hills-style mansion in Bucks County but never moved in. The palatial estate was later sold for around $1 million and is back on the market now, looking a little worse for wear. The price tag this time? That would be a cool $2.3 million.
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: Abstention

Congrats to our daily winners: Mary Ellen T., Becky C., Susan D., Elaine C., Mike B., Yvette R., Michelle T., Al M., Don H., Elizabeth W., Neal W., Christine M., Irene R., Diane P., James B., Brandie K., Dianne K., Heidi B., Karen W., Parker B., George S., Barbara O., Tish M., Barbara A., Johnny C., Suzanne S., Dennis M., David W., and Myles M.
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