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Election probe court battle pits power vs. privacy

Plus, House GOP amends proposed congressional map before public can analyze it.


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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
December 16, 2021
No look, opening arguments, foster fleeced, wrongful death, hate crimes, Outlaw decision, and the holiday water heater has landed. It's Thursday.
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A key House panel on Wednesday approved an amended version of its proposal for Pennsylvania's new U.S. congressional map — but it did so without first letting the public analyze the updated version, a move that quickly earned criticism from Democrats and at least one Republican.

Spotlight PA and Votebeat report state Rep. Seth Grove (R., York), who chairs the panel in question, said the new draft was very similar to the original, which was made by a GOP redistricting advocate named Amanda Holt. Holt's map was one of 19 citizen submissions considered.

Republicans also countered that the process is far from over, with layers of approval and competing proposals still to come. (Here's how you can get involved as the redistricting work continues.) 

But it wasn't immediately clear if or how the changes alter what would likely be the primary sticking point of their first draft: That it clearly favors the GOP.

MORE MAPS: The commission tasked with separately redrawing maps for Pennsylvania's state Senate and state House districts will meet today to vote on their preliminary proposals, the Associated Press reports. 

You can follow along with a livestream starting at 1 p.m. hearing here.

If the preliminary state legislative maps are passed, that would trigger deadlines for public input and legal challenges.

The AP adds that time is tight, with about two months left before candidates are set to begin circulating nominating petitions for the May 17 primary. A delay of that election remains a possibility.


"Why does America choose what [terms] are being used, especially when it comes to Spanish-speaking countries?"

—Valentina Rosario of the queer social justice organization Galaei on the various and changing ways Pennsylvania Latinos describe themselves
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» BACKUP CALL: Pennsylvania is asking the federal government to send health care workers to help overwhelmed hospitals here, per the AP.

» FLU SEASON: Pennsylvania's flu season is off to its worst start in nine years, ABC27 reports, with cases roaring back after last year's record low.

» NO PLANS: Gov. Tom Wolf tells USA Today's Capital Bureau he has no plans to reissue mask mandates for schools and other public places.

» SCHOOL RULE: Days after the overturning of Pennsylvania's school mask rule, all but two York County districts have made masks optional, per YDR.

To find a COVID-19 vaccine, use the federal government's online tool, call 1-800-232-0233, or text your zip code to 438829 (GETVAX).
» LAWFUL VS. AWFUL: Join us today at 7 p.m. EST via Zoom for a free panel discussion on why killings by police often are ruled justified and who oversees the process. Register here and submit questions to events@spotlightpa.org
The beauty of Middlecreek. Thanks, Daniel D.Send us your gems, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
POWER VS. PRIVACY: An appellate court leveled sharp questions Wednesday in the opening round of a closely watched court case over an ongoing partisan inquiry into Pennsylvania's 2020 election. Spotlight PA reports the hearing largely focused on lingering questions around voter privacy and legislative authority. The judges will now weigh whether to issue a fast-tracked decision or call another hearing.

SWEPT UP: Between 2016 and 2020, Philadelphia pocketed $5 million in Social Security payments sent to children in the foster care system, records obtained by Resolve Philly and The Inquirer show. The children were never consulted and the money was ultimately "swept into the city's general fund." It's a legal but controversial practice that's been raising alarm in cities and states nationwide.

FATAL HOLD: A federal lawsuit alleges Schuylkill County Prison and its for-profit medical services provider failed to give proper attention to an incarcerated 19-year-old with a heart condition who died while in custody. According to PennLive, Jonathan Merced's death bears similarities to another case seen earlier this year at the Dauphin County Prison, where the same for-profit medical provider is used.

HATE LAW: The push to update Pennsylvania's hate crimes law to cover members of the LGBTQ+ community has taken on added urgency in "the deadliest year on record for trans people" in the U.S. Pennsylvania state Rep. Dan Frankel (D., Allegheny) plans to introduce related legislation this coming spring, telling the USA Today Network, "I find it hard to believe that we can't come together around this issue."

STAYING PUT: Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw won't be moving on to New York. Outlaw was reportedly in the running for New York City's top-cop role, but mayor-elect Eric Adams went with Nassau County Chief of Detectives Keechant Sewell instead, per 6ABC. "It's quite flattering, quite frankly, but I will tell you I’m still continuing to focus on my work here," Outlaw said of the rumors last week.
HIGH POINT: A tree with one of the best views in Philadelphia is coming down after falling ill. The Belmont Plateau sugar maple was deemed a safety hazard and brought down yesterday after 90-plus years.

'MISSION FROM DOG': Accompanied by a GPS unit and his dog, Porter, Pittsburgh city staffer Matt Jacob began mapping local parks to create an open data portal residents can use to find trails, GovTech reports.

DOLL HOUSE: Bestselling author Anne Rice died on Saturday at the age of 80. The Daily American reports her antique doll collection is the basis for a new and not-at-all-terrifying museum in Somerset County.

PRIMARY POSITION: No longer content to let other states do the presidential primary picking, Pennsylvania's state Senate on Tuesday unanimously approved a bill to move ours to the third Tuesday in March, per NBC10.

IT'S OFFICIAL: The "Kingston Holiday Water Heater" has touched down in Luzerne County and the holiday season can officially begin. If you're unfamiliar, like I was, the Times Leader reports it's exactly what it sounds like.
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.
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