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Why the Pa. House GOP is fighting for power

Plus, Pa.'s medical marijuana oversight has been "sloppy," board says, echoing Spotlight PA reports.


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Monday, December 19, 2022
House battles, too many emissions, TikTok campaigning, power abuses, weed oversight, leaky wells, drug safety, PSU diversity, and rats in need.
Amendment agenda

As Democrats and Republicans fight over who controls the Pa. House of Representatives, Republicans are already making plans for the functional majority they may hold when the new sessions starts.

They want to pass some far-reaching constitutional amendments.

Democrats won more seats in the midterms, but they'll have three vacancies until at least mid-February. That means there's a good chance Republicans will have more votes in the first weeks of the session. 

GOP sources in the legislature tell Spotlight PA the party is seriously considering passing at least two changes to the state constitution. One would impose voter ID requirements, the other would make it easier for the legislature to override regulations. The measures would then go before voters.

“It just makes sense,” said one House Republican who asked for anonymity to talk about internal discussions. “We have to run them early because Democrats wouldn’t.”

Read Spotlight PA's full report: Pa. Republicans fight to prolong House majority and pass far-reaching constitutional amendments.

THE CONTEXT: Republicans have increasingly turned to passing their priorities via amendment in recent years because they're often stymied by the Democratic governor's veto pen, and an amendment lets them bypass him. Historically, amendments put before voters are likely to be approved.

But the current turmoil in the House is also about more than just constitutional amendments.  

As part of the disagreement over who controls the chamber, both parties' leaders believe they have the authority to schedule three special elections in heavily Democratic districts. 

Democratic House Leader Joanna McClinton wants to schedule them for Feb. 7. GOP leader Bryan Cutler wants to schedule one for February, and two more for mid-May — the latest possible date. That'll allow the GOP to keep chamber control tied 100 - 100, essentially delaying Democrats from taking full control. 

A court will decide who is right. 

Read more about the House conflict here: With majority at stake, Pa. House Republicans sue to block Democratic-scheduled special elections


"It’s not lost on us we are asking individuals to go on the internet who may or may not have internet."

— Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority consultant Kalie Snyder, noting the contradictions inherent in using an online program to collect feedback about internet dead spots
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Holiday marchers at Wellsboro's annual Dickens of a Christmas celebration. Thanks Don H! Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.

Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.ABOUT FACE: Penn State's new administration is distancing itself from the faculty and staff it turned to just two years ago for recommendations on addressing racism and bias on campus. Admin are canceling a planned Center for Racial Justice, and the university has declined to release a report on another diversity proposal. It has also discounted faculty subcommittees set up by the school's former president.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.'SLOPPY' OVERSIGHT: During their most recent meeting, members of Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Advisory Board scrutinized the Wolf administration's management of the commonwealth's medical marijuana program, questioning the rigor of telemedicine appointments for medical marijuana cards and medical marijuana businesses' advertising practices. Those questions echo findings of recent Spotlight PA reports.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.ORPHAN WELLS: Ten decaying, long-abandoned oil and gas wells in Allegheny County will be sealed and cleaned beginning early next year. Pittsburgh Union Progress — the publication run by striking members of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette — reports that this is one of the first well-plugging projects in Pennsylvania funded by a 2021 federal infrastructure law that promises landmark spending to clean up hazardous, polluting wells.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.SUSPECT DETECTIVE: Philadelphia homicide detective Philip Nordo was a rising star in his department, helping to convict more than 100 people. But all the while, he was abusing his power — coercing and sexually abusing people accused of crimes. Complaints against Nordo only recently became public. Now, Philadelphia Inquirer reporters who have been following the case have teamed up with Reveal for a new podcast.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.DRUG SAFETY: Gov. Tom Wolf has signed a law designed to make it much easier for Pennsylvanians to access free drug testing kits. The kits can reduce overdoses, but they used to be considered drug paraphernalia under state statute. That limited their use. WVIA Public Media reports, drug and alcohol programs across the state plan to offer free drug testing kits when the law takes effect in January.
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FLARING AWAY: Shell's ethane cracker plant in Beaver County is smashing through state air pollution limits. In its first month prepping for operation, it emitted almost all its allowed volatile organic compounds for a full year.  

GOV DAD: Incoming Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro's daughter, Sophia Shapiro, spoke to Teen Vogue about her campaign work — which included getting her dad to play "slay or nay" on TikTok. 

RAT ADOPTION: In October, someone dumped more than 100 tame rats around Dauphin County. One volunteer says they're trainable and "awesome." This weekend, people had a chance to adopt them in Harrisburg for $10. 

CHICKEN MAN: Artist Bob Dix painted his 40th chicken in 40 days at Ray's Happy Birthday Bar in Philly this weekend. “I am not gonna try and be too philosophical,” Dix told Billy Penn, “but there is something about chickens.”

BEST SHOW: For the fifth year in a row, Pa. has the best holiday light display in the country, per a USA Today poll. The top display was at Kennett Square's Longwood Gardens, which features more than 500,000 bulbs. 

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.
E C I E T D S C A 

Friday's answer: Heuristic

Congrats to our weekly winner: Kimberly D.

Congrats to our daily winners: John B., John P., George S., Bill S., Averi B., Wendy A., Elaine C., Susan Z., Dianne K., Myles M., Susan D., John F., Don H., Diane B., John W., Kimberly D., btfoos., Chuck M., and Craig W.
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