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Pa. midterm losses unlikely to soften GOP's agenda

Plus, another early oath in Pa. House power struggle.

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The logo of PA Post, a free daily newsletter delivering the top news from across Pennsylvania every day.

A daily newsletter by The logo of Spotlight PA, an independent, nonpartisan newsroom producing investigative journalism for Pennsylvania.

Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
Tuesday, December 13, 2022
GOP agenda, early oath, voter numbers, work exit, Roe ripples, repair funds, Columbus uncovered, The Village closes, and "The Big Leplowski."   

Following a disastrous midterm election for the GOP, insiders say Pennsylvania Republicans are unlikely to soften their legislative agenda — and that has some worried about the party's future prospects.

After losing marquee races for governor and U.S. Senate, as well as control of the state House — though that remains contested — the more conservative members of the state House have drawn different lessons from the electoral outcomes: namely that they have not been aggressive enough.

Insiders, however, worry that a hardline approach could cost the party support in vote-rich areas of the state and, in turn, more elections. 

Read Spotlight PA's full report: Despite midterm losses, Pa. Republicans appear unlikely to abandon combative agenda.

THE CONTEXT: Since the midterms, Republicans in Harrisburg, particularly in the state House, have showed little appetite for moderation. 

They've formed a state House chapter of the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus, advanced a contested impeachment effort involving Philly's progressive DA, and re-floated stringent abortion restrictions

"I don't think it’s a good sign for us," said one Republican Party insider who spoke on condition of anonymity.

But state Rep. Aaron Bernstine (R., Lawrence), a member of the new Freedom Caucus chapter, said voters are "tired of the status quo" and that the caucus needs to do a better job of putting words into action.


"We got played."

—Ray Kemble of Dimock on Pennsylvania's quiet lifting of a 12-year-old ban on gas production imposed after fracking polluted the village's water
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» THE EXIT: Join us Thursday, Dec. 15 from 3-3:30 p.m. ET via Zoom for a free Q&A with Pennsylvania’s 47th governor, Tom Wolf, on his two terms, his legacy, and what comes next for the state. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org

An abandoned pool on the grounds of the Hunting Hill Mansion at Ridley Creek State Park in Delaware County, via Don N. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania

An abandoned swimming pool filled with vegetation and surrounded by trees.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.BACK-AND-FORTH: State Rep. Bryan Cutler (R., Lancaster) had himself sworn in as Republican leader of the Pennsylvania House on Monday and says several vacant seats mean he's majority leader of the chamber, a mantle claimed by Democrats last week. Several vacancies in the House are at the center of the dispute, and the special elections to fill them are caught in the middle, as Spotlight PA reported.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.LATINO TURNOUT: The Inquirer (paywall) reports that parts of Pennsylvania with higher populations of Hispanic and Latino voters saw the greatest turnout drops in last month's elections. The gap seen this year was larger than usual. In Allentown, where Latinos are in the majority, turnout drops from 2020 topped 60% in some districts. Observers want more and better targeted outreach.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.LABOR SHIFT: Workers under the age of 35 left Pennsylvania's workforce at the highest rate of any group since the COVID-19 pandemic began, accounting for more than half of the state’s total decline, according to Pennsylvania's Independent Fiscal Office. WESA reports that "the findings are consistent with national trends believed to reflect a rise in burnout, childcare needs, and self-employment."

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.SCHOOL CHOICE: TribLIVE reports that the end of Roe v. Wade is influencing where some Pennsylvania students are going to college as they look to avoid states with heightened restrictions. In Pittsburgh, PublicSource reported last month that local universities were quietly protecting access to abortions as Allegheny County officials weigh a buffer against any potential new state or federal limits

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.WHOLE HOMES: Pennsylvania counties and eligible nonprofits can now apply for Pennsylvania's new, $120 million Whole-Home Repairs Program. The program — a budget season win for progressives — will ultimately offer landlords and homeowners repair and upgrade grants of up to $50,000. While it will take time for the grant money to reach them, Capital-Star breaks down what you need to know.
Support Spotlight PA's investigative journalism for Pennsylvania and for a limited time, your gift will be DOUBLED.

UNBOXED: The box has come off Philadelphia's contested Marconi Plaza Christopher Columbus statue following a court ruling, via Axios. Plaintiffs say the ruling could impact a similar case in Pittsburgh.

GAS BREAKS: Spotlight PA's Stephen Caruso talked with The Allegheny Front about a multibillion, fossil fuel-focused tax package — signed into law by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf — and who likes it, who doesn't, and why.

HALF STAFF: Gov. Tom Wolf has ordered commonwealth flags flown at half staff to honor three firefighters — Kurt KeilhoferMarvin Gruber, and Zachary Paris — who died in the line of duty last week.

LAST CALL: The Village nightclub — a staple of Lancaster nightlife for nearly 70 years — closed for good on Saturday, via LNP. A hotbed of celebrity sightings in the '80s, the club was sold but plans are unclear.

PLOWFACE: PennDOT's Paint the Plow program is cool and all, but Ohio has a "name the plow" contest that drew entries like "Ctrl-Salt-Delete," "The Big Leplowski," "Plow Chicka Plow Wow," and more.

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.

Yesterday's answer: Truncate

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Irene R., Kimberly D., Susan D., Don H., Kim C., Jon W., Becky C., Susan N.-Z., Lynne E., Elaine C., Brian B., George S., Jane R., Barbara F., Bruce B., Dianne K., James B., David W., Bill S., Marty M., Vicki U., Judy M., and Wendy A.
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