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Pa. House gets new speaker in surprise compromise

Plus, the new state laws ushered in with the new year.


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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
Wednesday, January 4, 2023
Chamber choice, lifesavers, top cop, Fetterman in D.C., Congress clash, in effect, extradition waived, tax hike, and the return of Jim's Steaks.

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives got a new speaker on Tuesday — but not the one most people expected.

State Rep. Mark Rozzi of Berks County, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse who has pushed for the creation of a civil window to bring lawsuits against abusers, was named as the chamber's next presiding officer.

All House Democrats voted for Rozzi, as did 16 Republicans, including those in leadership, netting him 115 votes and the required majority.

Rozzi, a veteran Democratic lawmaker, said he would no longer caucus with the party as speaker and would become an independent.

Read Spotlight PA's full report: Democrats and a handful of Republicans picked the Pennsylvania House's new speaker.

THE CONTEXT: Speaker is a key position with the power to moderate floor debate, call up bills for votes, and seat committee chairs.

Democrats had publicly maintained that Rep. Joanna McClinton (D., Philadelphia), who had served as caucus leader, was their only pick for the role. She would have been the first woman to hold the gavel.

In a preview of Tuesday's speaker vote, Spotlight PA reported that a compromise candidate was possible, as Democrats lacked the clear majority needed to confirm a speaker due to several lingering vacancies.


"I am literally broken. I just want someone to tell me this nightmare is over."

—Ashley McIntire, wife of slain Brackenridge police Chief Justin McIntire, who was fatally shot Monday while pursuing a suspected probation violator
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Early morning in Gwynedd, via Jessica T. Send us your pictures by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.

A gray and cloudy sky over bare trees in Gwynedd, Pennsylvania.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.SAFETY SITES: Just over a year after New York became the first American city to open supervised injection sites for consumers of street drugs like heroin, there have been no recorded deaths at the centers and nearly 700 overdoses reversed, The Inquirer (paywall) reports. Philadelphia's attempt to open such a facility, meanwhile, remains bogged down in a bureaucratic and legal morass

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.HOUSEHOLD NAME: Hundreds of state lawmakers were sworn in at the Capitol on Tuesday, and Democratic Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro and his running mate, Lt. Gov.-elect Austin Davis, will follow suit on Jan. 17. Shapiro won the seat thanks to a big cash advantage and a struggling opponent. But he told CNN that his six-year and often high-profile tenure as Pennsylvania's top cop didn't hurt either.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.SENATE STARTER: For the first time since the 1940s, Pennsylvania has two U.S. Senators who were elected as Democrats. John Fetterman took the oath of office on Tuesday, sticking close to his veteran counterpart, Bob Casey, on the Senate floor. Fetterman also resigned as Pennsylvania lieutenant governor. Ranking state Sen. Kim Ward (R., Westmoreland) is temporarily filling the role.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.GOP IN DISARRAY: It was a messy start for the U.S. House's new slim GOP majority on Tuesday, with hardline Freedom Caucus members like U.S. Rep. Scott Perry (R., Pa.) mounting a rare effort to thwart a bid for speaker by ranking Republican U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R., California). The result? McCarthy failing to secure necessary support through several rounds of voting — and a speaker yet to be named.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.NEW LAWS: The new year has brought a slate of new Pennsylvania laws into effect, easing rules around the testing of driverless vehicles, legalizing fentanyl test strips, and amending the Child Labor Act to lower the age limit for junior firefighters amid a shortage of new recruits. That dearth is just one hurdle in a crisis facing Pennsylvania's volunteer fire companies, as Spotlight PA has reported.
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GOOD CAUSE: Donations have poured into a years-old holiday fundraiser set up by Damar Hamlin, the Buffalo Bills safety whose scary on-field injury halted Monday's NFL game. Millions of dollars were donated in a matter of hours. Family members of the McKees Rocks native and former Pitt Panther gave this update on his condition Tuesday.

IDAHO KILLINGS: Bryan Kohberger on Tuesday waived extradition from his home state of Pennsylvania to face murder charges in the killings of four university students in Idaho. Kohberger was arrested at his parents' Monroe County home Friday after a cross-country manhunt.

GAS TAXED: Pennsylvania's gas tax — one of the nation's highest — just got higher. The new year brought an automatic hike that has raised the levy by $0.03 per gallon, bringing the total to $0.61 per gallon.

RETURN DATE: Jim's Steaks plans to reopen this year with a second-story addition that matches the Philly cheesesteak icon's well-known art deco style, Philly Voice reports. The shop has been closed since a fire in July.

CLIFFHANGERS: Yes, people climb frozen waterfalls in Pennsylvania. In an opinion piece for The New York Times, climber Michael Wejchert says the pastime is popular and good fun — at least while it lasts.

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: Gadgetry

Congrats to our daily winners: Beth T., Jodi R., Craig W., Starr B., Michael P., Judy M., Wayne H., Chuck M., Mike B., Kim C., Myles M., Ted W., Jon W., Brian B., Mark O., James H., Kimberly D., Ronnee G., Bruce B., John P., Elaine C., Jody A., Alice B., Don H., John A., Barbara F., Al M., Bette G., Ana S. G., Fred and Jane M., Vicki U., Daniel M., Jane R., Bruce B., Tish M., Eddy Z., John F., Martha D., Stanley J., Susan N.-Z., Dennis M., Sass M., Irene R., Dianne K., Greg V., Elizabeth W., David W., James B., Bill S., John B., Frederick H., Susan D., Keith F., Wendy A., Lynne E., John H., Sherri A., and Karen W.
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