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A look back at Pa. lawmakers' divided 2023

Plus, U.S. Steel is sold to Japanese company Nippon Steel

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Tuesday, December 19, 2023
Bills blocked, storied steel, Philly precedents, court conspiracy, local secrecy, uninsured children, and Eagles land a playoff spot. It's Tuesday.

In 2023, the Pennsylvania legislature got off to a slow start, weathered a long budget impasse, and saw deep partisan divides.

The legislature sent just under 80 bills to Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro this year, about half the annual output of recent years.

Dozens of measures advanced by the state House and state Senate alike didn't even get consideration by the other chamber. 

But with the budget deadlock broken in mid-December, lawmakers said they saw the deal as a victory for bipartisanship. And they predict a smoother 2024.

Read Spotlight PA’s full report: A long budget impasse and partisan standoffs dominated the Pa. legislature in 2023.

THE CONTEXT: Democrats controlled the state House for the first time in more than a decade and had the power to decide which bills to advance and which to ignore.

Republican critics of the new majority said the caucus eschews compromise to play politically driven games with key legislation that appeals to its base to ensure Democrats maintain their slim majority next year. 

Democrats countered that their entrenched GOP counterparts in the state Senate are intransigent and have refused to work with them.

But there were breakthroughs, and legislative leaders hope that a year's worth of frustrations laid the groundwork for a more productive future. 

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Hooded mergansers at Middle Creek in Lancaster County, via Elliott C. Have a Pennsylvania photo to share? Send us photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.

Hooded mergansers at Middle Creek in Lancaster County
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.LOCKED OUT: Secrecy in local government is increasing, according to a report from CHNI News and the Associated Press. Data analysis by a freedom of information expert at the University of Florida found that local governments' compliance with open records requests decreased from 63% to 42% between 2010 and 2021. "High fees, delays and outright refusals from local governments to release information are among the common complaints," the news organizations report.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.MEDICAL DEPORTATIONS: Philadelphia is the first U.S. city to ban "medical deportation." WHYY reports "the new bill amends the city code to make it illegal to deport immigrants while in health care settings without their consent." Advocates applaud the decision but acknowledge that it's just the beginning, WHYY reports, saying hospitals and medical facilities now need to implement the law into their policies, which will take time.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.
STORIED STEEL: Nippon Steel, a Japanese company, is acquiring U.S. Steel in a cash deal valued at about $14.1 billion, the AP reports. Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel "played a key role in the nation's industrialization," the AP details. U.S. Steel's name and Pittsburgh headquarters will remain, and it will become a subsidiary of Nippon.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.NOT COVERED: More than 145,000 children in Pennsylvania don't have health insurance, according to a report from the Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children. WESA reports that Pennsylvania is one of only three states in which the percentage of uninsured children increased in 2022. Studies show that uninsured children are at greater risk for preventable hospitalizations and have higher mortality rates, according to WESA.
Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.DEADLY BLAST: One person was killed in an explosion and fire at the Bird-in-Hand Family Inn in Lancaster County early Monday morning. The AP reports that the preliminary investigation suggests "a propane explosion." The inn was closed at the time of the explosion due to yearly maintenance and repairs, according to LNP.
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MAKING HISTORY: The Pennsylvania Democratic Party's endorsement of state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta of Philadelphia for auditor general marks the first time it has endorsed an openly gay Black man for statewide office, the Philadelphia Inquirer (paywall) reports. 

AIR QUALITY: CNX Resources Corp., a natural gas company based in Pittsburgh, began publishing real-time air quality data at two sites, the Capital-Star reports. The Shapiro administration calls the self-reporting "a new standard," but environmental advocates argue the policy is not the same as oversight.

COURT CONSPIRACY: Election denial group Audit the Vote PA is circulating conspiracy theories that a "simple formatting error" on election night in Cambria County purportedly shows that the state Supreme Court race was rigged for Democrat Dan McCaffery, who won, LNP reports.

FRAUD CASE: TribLIVE reports that a federal grand jury found two Comprehensive Healthcare Management Services' nursing homes guilty of health care fraud. But the five company executives charged in the scheme were exonerated.

BIRDS WIN: The Philadelphia Eagles are going to the postseason for the third year in a row. The Birds clinched a playoff spot thanks to losses by the Packers and Falcons, as well as wins by the Lions and 49ers.
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