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Why are Pa. lawmakers 3rd highest paid in US?

Plus, top election official says agency is ramping up training to prevent errors.

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Thursday, December 28, 2023
In today's edition: Lawmaker salaries, election training, energy goals, EV ennui, endangered species, eagle eye, and Hatboro wine. Welcome to Thursday.
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Pennsylvania lawmakers’ base salary recently rose to more than $106,000, giving them the third-highest legislative pay in the country, and prompting a fresh round of criticism about the annual automatic bump. 

Critics argue the increases are unconstitutional and allow legislators to up their pay without accountability, while legislators counter that higher pay encourages working-class individuals to become lawmakers — a claim not borne out by research.

Read Spotlight PA's full report: Pa. lawmakers’ base salary now tops $106K. Here’s what you need to know about their automatic pay raises.

THE CONTEXT: The Pennsylvania Constitution says that legislators “shall receive such salary and mileage for regular and special sessions as shall be fixed by law.” 

Since 1995, state law has given all 253 legislators — plus the governor, lieutenant governor, cabinet heads, the row officers, and all judges — an annual cost-of-living adjustment based on the rate of inflation in the greater Philadelphia region.

The raises vary each year but typically represent a 1% to 3% bump in pay, cracking six figures last year.

Lawmakers can return their annual adjustments, but very few do so. 

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"It just seems to be clogging up our justice system and being an excessive punishment for something that’s legal in other states."

—State Sen. Camera Bartolotta (R., Washington) explaining her support for a reintroduced bill that would lower penalties for marijuana possession

A witness tree captured atop the Devil's Den at Gettysburg National Military Park, via Don N. Have a Pennsylvania photo to share? Send us photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.

Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.ELECTION RESPONSE: Secretary of the Commonwealth Al Schmidt tells LehighValleyNews.com that his department is ramping up training for county election officials to prevent a repeat of the voting machine issue that plagued Northampton County in the 2023 election. 

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.ELECTRIC BILL: Legislation introduced in the Pennsylvania House would increase the amount of energy that the commonwealth gets from renewable resources, StateImpact reports. The proposal aims to have 30% of the energy produced in the state come from renewables by 2030, up from the current goal of 8%.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.
SLOW ADOPTION: Pennsylvania's market share of electric vehicles is growing very slowly, the Center Square reports, a pace that leaves the state far behind the Biden administration's plan to have EVs account for half of all new automobile sales by 2030. Obstacles to EV adoption, in Pennsylvania and nationwide, include concerns about cost and charging station access.
Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.RESIDENCE RECEIPTS: The Shapiro administration spent more than $92,000 in public funds to update the decor at the Governor's Residence, part of $1.8 million in taxpayer money used this year to maintain the 28,600-square-foot mansion, LNP (paywall) reports. The updates included a reclining sofa from a Sunbury furniture store and big-screen TVs.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.LAW LOOKBACK: As the federal Endangered Species Act turns 50 today, the Erie Times-News reflects on how the law helped reverse the fortunes of Pennsylvania wildlife such as bald eagles, ospreys, and peregrine falcons. Many species remain threatened.
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AM ACCESS: As more car manufacturers phase out AM radio, state and federal lawmakers are rallying to keep the long-range frequency available, citing public safety and community service concerns, TribLIVE reports.

LOUSY LOTS: Readers at PennLive weighed in on the commonwealth's most frustrating parking lots, citing poor designs and circuitous traffic flows. Pictures of the nightmarish lots corroborate the gripes.

EAGLE CAM: A successful crowdsourcing effort has resuscitated a beloved livestream of a bald eagle nest near Hanover, LNP (paywall) reports.  

DYE-ORAMA: Science History Institute exhibit "BOLD: Color from Test Tube to Textile" explores the history of synthetic dyes and Philly's industrial and cultural heyday as a textile hub.

MICRO-WINERY: Hatboro winemaker Shakia Williams, owner of Cyrenity Sips, talks to WHYY about how she got into the business and her global and domestic grape sources.
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