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High-stakes Pa. redistricting race begins now

Plus, Pa. Senate to unveil millions in hidden spending.


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
August 13, 2021
Redistricting time, spending see, vaccine incentives, hometown fraud, Pennie saved, water works, and a chance to join the embattled PSERS board. TGIF. 
After a months-long delay, the U.S. Census Bureau data is in and the clock is officially ticking for those in charge of redrawing Pennsylvania's political maps — a process that will help determine the balance of power in Harrisburg and Washington for years to come, Spotlight PA reports.

The data delivery means legislators will soon have the granular population numbers they need to begin the once-a-decade rendering of new political boundaries, and with no time to waste after pandemic-related postponements.

The state's Legislative Reapportionment Commission will have 90 days to file a preliminary redistricting plan after it deems the data usable, and the public has 30 days after that to challenge the maps.

There is no mandated deadline to complete the congressional map, though lawmakers are facing fast-approaching deadlines to accommodate the 2022 primary.

THE CONTEXT: Pennsylvania's population topped 13 million people in 2020, but because it did not grow as much as other states over the last decade, Pennsylvania will lose one of its 18 congressional seats.

More than 40 counties in the west, central, and northern parts of the state saw declines in population, while the southeast continued to grow. (Here's a list of the Pa. counties that lost and gained the most population in the last 10 years, ranked.)

The share of Pennsylvanians who identify as white alone declined to 75% between 2010 and 2020, as the Hispanic population grew and the number of Black residents remained roughly the same. Similar trends were seen at the national level.

Experts believe the numbers likely represent an undercount of people of color, though census officials said Thursday it's too early to speculate about the quality of the data.
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.

And Spotlight PA is answering the call in a bold new way.

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If you value our vital investigative journalism, make a contribution of any amount and become a member now. 

"I think it was totally outrageous, it was illegal and I think it was treasonous." 

—Kane business owner Joe Lanich on local restaurateur Pauline Bauer's arrest in the U.S. Capitol siege, where authorities say she called for hangings
VACCINE UPDATE: The FDA has approved booster shots for some immunocompromised people, marking the first authorization of an additional COVID-19 vaccine dose in the U.S. For vaccine providers, use the federal government's online tool, call 1-800-232-0233, or text your ZIP code to 438829 (GETVAX).
» CLIMBING COVID: Join us Wednesday, Aug. 25 at noon via Zoom for a free Q&A on what we know about rising COVID-19 cases and the state's vaccine distribution efforts. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org
A massive white oak seen on Swamp Oak Trail in Bald Eagle State Park. Thanks for another photo, Don. H.! Send us your hidden gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
LEGISLATIVE LEDGER: Millions of taxpayer dollars spent by Pennsylvania senators and their staffs on travel, meals, per diems, and other expenses will be posted online for the first time starting next month. It's unclear how easy the information will be for the public to parse, but the move was cheered by transparency advocates and follows extensive reporting by Spotlight PA and The Caucus on the subject.

CARROT AND STICK: Gov. Tom Wolf is now open to using incentives to get more Pennsylvanians vaccinated, all as lawmakers debate how best to spend $370 million in federal aid, the Capital-Star reports. In related news: The state wants 80% of staff in nursing homes vaccinated by Oct. 1 — 12.5% of homes meet that threshold currently, and state prison guards want to sue over a vaccinate mandate issued Tuesday.

CRYPTO SCHEME: Two Pennsylvania brothers defrauded friends and neighbors of more than $30 million in an alleged cryptocurrency scheme, federal authorities allege. The Bradford Era reports a 65-count federal indictment against Shane Hvizdzak, of Bradford, and Sean Hvizdzak, of St. Marys, says the pair diverted investments, lied about returns, and left a trail of financial ruin in their wake.

REMINDER: Pennsylvanians have until Sunday to sign up for a reduced-cost health plan through Pennie, the state's Affordable Care Act marketplace. The Inquirer reports eligibility and financial aid options are expanded due to the pandemic, and some plans have premiums of $1 or less a month. Anyone who submits an online application before 11:59 p.m. Aug. 15 will have until Sept. 15 to choose a plan. Get started here.

WATER WAIT: Nearly a month after firefighting foam containing toxic "forever chemicals" known as PFAS contaminated a portion of McKeesport's water supply, leaving residents unable to drink or shower at home, the all-clear has been given. One exasperated official told TribLIVE related water testing alone cost more than $100,000
PSERS POST: Are you a public school staffer who wants to join the board of Pennsylvania's largest and most embattled pension fund? Now's your chance. Inquirer reporter Joseph N. DiStefano says there will be lots of meetings, some travel, possible lawsuits, and $70 billion of "the people's money."

RAW DEAL: Not only did Brood X cicadas pick 2021 as the year to emerge from their burrows after nearly two decades underground, now they're being blamed for itch-causing mites and hunted by killer wasps in Pittsburgh. Better luck in 2038.

HEAT ISLANDS: It's hot out there, and the number of relief-supplying trees in a given Philadelphia neighborhood depends on its wealth, The Inquirer reports. An analysis found income, not necessarily race, predicts how many trees a neighborhood has — and the disparity can be vast.

WILD WATCH: Pennsylvania's Elk Cam is officially livestreaming from Benezette, and while the soothing sounds of crickets and peepers are worth it alone, the action is expected to pick up ahead of next month's rut peak. In the meantime, here's a little history on the state's imported herd.

ALL ABOARD: Two-thousand model trains will be auctioned off in Harrisburg starting Monday, each collected by a Palmyra man over 65 years. According to ABC27, it's the largest model train auction Pennsylvania has seen in a decade, with some of the trains predating World War II.
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.

This week's theme:
Pennsylvania town names

Yesterday's answer: Aliquippa

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Maureen G., Michelle T., Bruce T., Kevin H., Becky C., Doris T., Neal W., Donna D., Don H., Mike B., Jackie H., Guy M., Tom L., Theresa T., Jill M., Barbara F., Judith D., Kim C., Susan N., Fred O., Kenneth J., Marty M., Jeff M., Mark O., John H., Ronnee G., Patricia M., Jessica K., Wendy A., Al M., Adrien M., Christine M., Marguerite B., James B., Susan D., Bruce B., Patricia R., Elaine C., Jodi R., Diane P., Bruce B., George S., Tish M., Christine F., Greg K., Jill A., Judy M., Myles M., Karen W., Brandie K., Beth T., Claire K., Dennis M., Teresa I., Sandra S., Daniel M., Sherri A., Mary Kay M., John P., Bill C., Mark C., Craig E., David W., Dan H., Geoff M., Kevin M., Alana G., Johnny C., Mary Ann M., Bob R., Carol D., Ron P., Doris B., Eddy Z., Cathy S., Sue B., Ron K., and John A.


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