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Business registry 'black hole' followed Pa. update

Plus, LGBTQ anti-discrimination bill clears Pa. House panel.

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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
Tuesday, April 25, 2023
Rocky rollout, LGBTQ law, county nod, PFA denied, failing grades, policy forces, and Johnstown's Act 47 exit. Thanks for checking in. 

Pennsylvania's launch of a new business registration filing system late last year created a chaotic backlog of thousands of applications.

The Department of State said the new system will ultimately reduce wait times, but the rollout proved rocky, with a logjam of roughly 10,000 applications adding to the usual workload of roughly 1,300 new filings daily.

The delays — fed in part by staffing shortages being faced by many state agencies — caused problems for new businesses, which need the paperwork to open a bank account, enter into contracts, and more. 

"Depending on what kind of business you want to operate, you could be losing out on client contracts and vendor relationships," said Julie Lathia, who owns a Chester County law firm with small to mid-sized business clients.

Read Spotlight PA's full report: Switch to Pa.'s corporate filing system led to backlog and longer waits for business owners.

THE CONTEXT: The problems began in late October, when the Department of State changed the way it handles corporate filings.

By early December, wait times had increased to about six weeks and state employees were working mandatory overtime to catch up. Before the change, wait times were typically between one and two weeks

Sukari Fuller-Bey submitted the paperwork to register a new company in early November and waited almost eight weeks, saying, "It was like putting it into a black hole and not knowing when you were gonna get it back."

Asked about the delays during a budget hearing in March, Acting Secretary of State Al Schmidt said increased wait times led to more business owners calling for updates, which gave clerks less time to work on applications — a situation Schmidt described as "a performance death spiral."


"Hate crimes are mostly hoaxes, and they're overblown by the media."

—A prospective juror during jury selection for the federal death penalty trial of accused Tree of Life gunman Robert Bowers in Pittsburgh on Monday
» How Spotlight PA will cover Pa.'s 2023 primary election

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» LEGISLATIVE AGENDA: Join us Thursday, April 27 from 6-7 p.m. on Zoom for a free panel on what issues and policies are on the state legislature's 2023 docket. Register here and submit questions to events@spotlightpa.org

Norristown tulips, via David G. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
A closeup of pink and yellow tulips.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.LGBTQ BILL: A long-delayed bill that would enshrine LGBTQ housing and employment protections in state law is headed for a floor vote in the Democrat-controlled Pennsylvania House after passing the chamber's Judiciary Committee in a party-line vote Monday, Capital-Star reports. Pennsylvania is the only state in the Northeast without such an anti-discrimination law, and one of 27 nationwide.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.EXEC. ENDORSEMENT: Outgoing Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald has endorsed Pittsburgh Controller Michael Lamb to be his successor, as former rivals rally around John Weinstein in the pivotal Democratic primary, WESA reports. Fitzgerald didn't mention Weinstein by name amid ethics-focused coverage of the latter's political career, but he warned against a return to "pay-to-play patronage politics."

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.PFA DENIED: A judge has denied a final protection-from-abuse order that a woman sought against Erie County's top lawmaker, Republican Executive Brenton Davis. Retired Common Pleas Judge Robert Boyer of Venango County said the woman failed to meet the burden of proof. Erie Times-News (paywall) reports Boyer took the case because all Erie County Court of Common Pleas judges recused themselves.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.FAILING GRADES: Pennsylvania continues to have one of the highest state shares of children in charter schools, but an advocacy group's new report says over half of Black, Hispanic, and economically-disadvantaged students in charter schools here are failing English and three-quarters are failing math, LehighValleyNews.com reports. Charter school proponents dispute the study's conclusion.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.GUN GEOGRAPHY: Politico Magazine reports gun violence is worse in red states and deploys this analogy: "If you grew up in the coal mining region of eastern Pennsylvania your chance of dying of a gunshot is about half that if you grew up in the coalfields of West Virginia." The outlet cites regional, cultural, and historical forces that have shaped everything "from gun control to COVID-19 responses."

VIRTUAL REALITY: Shippensburg University will use virtual reality headsets to immerse viewers in travel restrictions faced by Black Americans. Learn more and sign up here. Find a non-VR preview of the show here.

ACT 47 EXIT: Johnstown will exit the state's Act 47 program for financially distressed municipalities this week after 30 years, The Tribune-Democrat reports. Here's why one state official wants to overhaul the program.

SENATE RETURN: U.S. Sen. John Fetterman (D., Pa.)'s first week back on Capitol Hill after inpatient treatment for depression included well-wishes and a hoodie from the band R.E.M., WaPo (paywall) reports.

WAR ON BUGS: Officials are once again asking you to squish spotted lanternfly eggs as the invasive species begins to emerge from a winter respite. Pennsylvania winemakers are ready for war, Fast Company reports.

TITLE RUNS: The 76ers are headed to the second round of the NBA playoffs after sweeping the Nets. Philly Mag has an oral history on the team's 1983 title run and the perils of telling Philly fans "We owe you one."

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: Retrospective

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Lynne E., Susan N.-Z., Elaine C., Stacy S., Kimberly B., Kimberly D., Suzanne S., Barbara F., Bob C., Vicki U., Jon W., Don H., Bruce B., Jane R., Kim C., Mary Jo J., Dennis M., James B., David W., Dianne K., William Z., Wendy A., Bill S., Adrien M., Amy Z., Elizabeth W., and Stanley J.
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