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Abuse amendment, add-ons clear divided Pa. Senate

Plus, Krasner impeachment trial postponed indefinitely.

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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
Thursday, January 12, 2023
Omnibus amendments, impeachment pause, Shapiro's roster, empty Berks, Pride bans, Thomas trial, and Pennsylvania's 'garb statute.'
SENATE BUNDLE

Pennsylvania's state Senate has passed a constitutional amendment package that would ratchet up voter ID requirements, make it easier for lawmakers to override a governor's regulations, and create a two-year lookback window for lawsuits involving childhood sex abuse.

The AP says the package — passed Wednesday with support from one Democrat, state Sen. Lisa Boscola of Lehigh County — could pose a veto-proof challenge for Democratic Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro, especially the provision that would give lawmakers more leverage to axe regulations written by the executive branch agencies he oversees.

The proposed amendments could go before voters — who have the final say — as soon as May, but the omnibus bill that contains them faces an uphill climb in the narrowly divided state House, where members of both parties oppose combining the abuse amendment with controversial GOP priorities, like tougher voter ID, and where operations are at a standstill.

The amendments must pass by Jan. 27 to reach voters this spring. 

THE CONTEXT: Wednesday's Senate vote comes days after the start of a special legislative session convened by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf in hopes of seeing the proposed abuse amendment passed.

That amendment would temporarily lift the statute of limitations on lawsuits brought by victims of childhood sex abuse against the perpetrators. 

But the session quickly stalled in the state House, with Democratic and Republican leaders unable to agree on ground rules that need to be adopted before any legislation can pass through the chamber

House members were sent home without taking a single vote Monday and the chamber recessed indefinitely amid a vow by Speaker Mark Rozzi (D., Berks) to convene a working group to chart a path forward.

NOTABLE / QUOTABLE
 

"Did you just call me a prick?"

—Judge Elliot Howsie to Allegheny County Councilor Bethany Hallam; a vote to consider censuring Hallam failed Tuesday but could come up again

GETTING RESULTS
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📅 UPCOMING EVENT
» BROKEN BOROUGHS: Join us Thursday, Jan. 26 at 6 p.m. EST on Zoom for a free panel on Pennsylvania’s local governments and how their oversight — or lack thereof — impacts residents and governance. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org
 
📷 POST IT

Big butter, as seen by my father (Larry D.) at the Pennsylvania Farm Show on Wednesday. Send us your Pennsylvania pictures by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.

Butter sculpted into the shapes of people, animals, and plants.
DAILY RUNDOWN
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.ON HOLD: The state Senate impeachment trial of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner was set to start next week but has been postponed indefinitely. Senators unanimously voted for the delay on Wednesday on the heels of a Commonwealth Court ruling that said the articles of impeachment filed against the progressive DA fail to pass state constitutional muster. An appeal is possible.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.NEW NODS: Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro has added two more names to his growing list of cabinet picks. Val Arkoosh, a Montgomery County doctor and commissioner who ran for U.S. Senate in last year's Democratic primary, will head the Department of Human Services, while Allegheny County's top doctor, Debra Bogen, will lead the Department of Health. Here's the running list of his selections.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.SHUT DOWN: Advocates say all remaining detainees have left a contested Berks County migrant detention facility ahead of its planned closure, per Al Día. Federal authorities previously announced that a related contract with the county would not be renewed and that the center would close this month. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has yet to confirm the final departures.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.SCHOOL CENSORS: Pride symbols are gone at Pennridge High School in Bucks County following a ban on teachers "advocating" to students about religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or social and political matters, WHYY reports. Neighboring Central Bucks School District — no stranger to controversial LGBTQ policies — passed a similar ban on Tuesday, drawing immediate criticism.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.JURY SELECTED: The jury that will hear the sexual assault case against Jeffrey Thomas — Somerset County's suspended district attorney — has been seated, the Tribune-Democrat reports. The trial won't start before March. Police say Thomas sexually assaulted a Windber woman inside her home in 2021. He has pleaded not guilty and is expected to take the stand in his own defense.
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IN OTHER NEWS

CAPITOL CALL: The Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents' Association is taking applications for the 2023 summer reporting internship at the state Capitol. Email a resume, cover letter, and five work samples in one PDF or word doc to internship co-chair Stephen Caruso (scaruso@spotlightpa.org) by Feb. 12, or reach out with any questions.

FUNERAL SERVICE: More than 1,000 police officers from around the state gathered in New Kensington on Wednesday for the funeral of slain Brackenridge police Chief Justin McIntire, TribLIVE reports. A "final call" on emergency dispatch for McIntire went out that afternoon.

'GARB STATUTE': Pennsylvania's decades-old garb statute, which bans the wearing of religious emblems by teachers and some other public school workers, is getting another look from state lawmakers who will try to get rid of the law for the third time, the Morning Call (paywall) reports.

PIPES DOWN: Miles of pipes visible along Front Street in Harrisburg are carrying sewage and storm water away to enable underground infrastructure fixes and prevent more pollution of the Susquehanna River.

BIG WHOOPS: What makes a whoopie pie an award-winning whoopie pie? Guest Pennsylvania Farm Show judge Stephanie Speiche of Lancaster Farming says it's taste, texture, appearance, and creativity.

THE SCRAMBLER
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. Answers submitted by 6 p.m. on issue date will be counted.
 
I D U C A E T V I L P

Yesterday's answer: Capricious

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., John P., Susan D., Don H., Samantha S., Barbara F., Kimberly D., Joel S., Irene R., Vicki U., Becky C., Starr B., Al M., Ronnee G., Chuck M., Ted W., Susan N.-Z., Elaine C., Bill S., Jodi R., Jane R., Jody A., Georgann J., Jon W., Judith D., Sherri A., Patricia M., James B., Bill M., Dan W., Elayne B., Michelle T., Marty M., David W., Dennis M., John B., Stanley J., Dianne K., Tish M., Kim C., Elizabeth W., Judi R., Kathy W., Wendy A., Daniel M., and Karen W.
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