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Proposed Pa. congressional map draws mixed reviews

Plus, how a pipeline project polluted one man's 'sanctuary.'


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
December 9, 2021
Negative feedback, natural disaster, alternative medicine, Senate stance, top donor, and Pa. lawmaker floats a 'Santa tax credit.' It's Thursday, aka Friday Jr.
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House Republicans unveiled their long-awaited draft of Pennsylvania's new U.S. congressional map on Wednesday, going with a citizen-made submission that's drawing mixed reviews from redistricting observers.

While the map does not split voting precincts, fair district advocates have concerns about the way it divides some areas of the state — notably the city of Philadelphia and the Harrisburg metropolitan area.

"There are some areas that just are really, really troubling and would quickly make it on to the most ugly, ugly districts list," Carol Kuniholm of Fair Districts PA told Spotlight PA and Votebeat.

The new map emphasizes equal population among the districts above all else and appears fairly balanced along partisan lines, according to Adam Podowitz-Thomas of the Princeton Gerrymandering Project. Seven districts lean Republican, five lean Democrat, and five will be competitive.

THE CONTEXT: The map was chosen from 19 citizen submissions and was drawn by former Lehigh County Republican Commissioner Amanda Holt. Holt became a well-known redistricting activist a decade ago and was a plaintiff in a successful case against previous state House and Senate maps.

State Rep. Seth Grove (R., York), chair of the House State Government Committee in charge of the process, said an informational hearing will be held today, with a vote on the draft map expected Monday. 

A map must be approved by both the GOP-controlled House and Senate before it goes to Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf for consideration, and the Senate is planning to release its own proposal.

That means this first map is unlikely to reflect the final outcome.

State legislative boundaries are being redrawn separately. 


"We're not saying anyone has to wear a mask. You can't enter a school without wearing a mask."

—Senior Deputy Attorney General Sean Kirkpatrick, defending the Wolf administration's school mask rule before the state's Supreme Court 
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» MASK DODGE: The Norwin School Board plans to dodge the state mask mandate for school buildings by conducting future board meetings inside the school district but off school property, TribLIVE reports.

» THREE SHOTS: Pfizer says protection against the omicron variant is much higher with three doses of its COVID-19 vaccine, per CNN. The company says two doses may still ward off severe disease.

» PAST CAPACITY: Geisinger, one of Pennsylvania's largest health systems, is running at 110% capacity across nine state hospitals, overrun with largely unvaccinated COVID-19 patients, per the AP.

» HIGH POINT: Pennsylvania had the highest daily average number of coronavirus hospitalizations in the country on Wednesday, The Inquirer reports.

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 Thursday, Dec. 16 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 for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org
A groundhog amidst the gravestones in Allegheny Cemetery. Looks like a new friend to us. Thanks, Robert N.Send us your gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
SNITZ CREEK: Natural disasters linked to the Mariner East pipeline project have prompted millions in fines and settlements and even criminal charges against the builders. But StateImpact conveys the real costs with a story of one man and one polluted creek

'RIGHT TO TRY': The GOP chair of Pennsylvania's House Health Committee says a UPMC legal saga highlights the need for a bill giving COVID-19 patients the legal right to try unproven remedies such as ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine, per The Morning Call.

ON CHOICE: In 2019, Mehmet Oz — fka Dr. Oz — took a "common pro-choice position" while defending Roe v. Wade in an interview, The Daily Beast reports. Two years later, he's a Republican running for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania and open to Roe v. Wade being overturned.

OPEN CASE: A Pittsburgh-area man is asking to be released from jail, where he's spent four years without a trial after a 2017 police encounter that started with a parking ticket and ended with him being shot twice, the Pittsburgh Institute for Nonprofit Journalism reports.

BIG MONEY: The top donor from November's very expensive Pennsylvania Supreme Court election is now eyeing next year's governor's race. Linked to Pennsylvania's richest man, the group has a "transformative" endorsement to give and $20 million in the bank.

NO DEAL: Kellogg's says it will replace 1,400 striking workers, including several hundred in Lancaster County, after a proposed five-year contract was rejected by a majority of those employees.

SLEIGH PAY: One Pennsylvania lawmaker is floating a Santa tax credit meant to encourage more people to play the part. But the Capital-Star reports that with three session days left before Christmas, it's gonna take a miracle.

GATOR GOT: Christina Obrecht, of Christina’s Reptile and Animal Sanctuary in Palmerton, doesn't know how to swim. But that didn't stop her from rescuing a three-foot alligator from the Lehigh River, per WFMZ. 

SHAKE UP: The official milkshake flavor of the 2022 Pennsylvania Farm Show is ... black raspberry. PennWatch says sales start at noon on Friday, Jan. 7.

BUSMAN'S HOLIDAY: Which Pennsylvania city has better holiday-themed buses: Pittsburgh or Philadelphia? You be the judge.

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.
Yesterday's answer: Deciduous

Congrats to our daily winners: Susan F., Michelle T., Becky C., Bonnie R., Bruce T., Barbara F., Vicki U., Irene R., Susan N., Doris T., Neal W., Kevin H., Lex M., Elaine C., Elizabeth W., Kimberly S., Bill C., Heidi B., Mike B., Al M., Craig W., Ted W., Starr C., Kerry O., Kimberly B., Tish M., John A., George S., Jessica K., Ronnee G., Dianne K., Don H., Beth T., Joel S., Donna D., Jodi R., Brian B., Bill S., Daniel M., James B., John P., Alan V., David W., Bruce B., Steve D., Craig E., Jennifer R., John H., Ann E., and Kim C.
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