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|Sworn in, toxic testing, midterm postmortem, Medicaid notice, foreclosure aid, Halcovage settlement, Kenyatta plans, city curfews, and A Man Called Otto.|
Democrat Josh Shapiro was sworn in as governor on Tuesday, ushering in a new era in Pennsylvania politics.
Shapiro, 49, vowed to deliver on campaign promises of growing the economy, decreasing gun violence, and ending the opioid epidemic.
He must now navigate Pennsylvania's divided legislature — with the state House of Representatives teetering on deadlock — and decide which deals he's willing to cut in order to make headway on his priorities.
Read Spotlight PA's full report: Shapiro sworn in as Pa.'s 48th governor.
THE CONTEXT: In his first moments as governor, Shapiro touted his election as a rebuke of extremism and hyper-partisanship.
He inherits a split legislature: Despite three current vacancies, Democrats are expected to soon control the state House, and Republicans will control the state Senate. Passing legislation will require bipartisan collaboration.
Republican Tom Corbett, one of three former governors on hand at Tuesday's inauguration, said Shapiro's first term will only get harder from here: "This is the first day and this will be the best day being governor."
|NOTABLE / QUOTABLE|
"Name another job, where you get convicted of a crime and can remain in that job for years? I don't know any."
—State Rep. Jared Solomon (D., Philadelphia) on a proposed constitutional amendment that would expel Pa. lawmakers convicted of a felony
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The Delaware Water Gap in Monroe County, as seen by Leo K. Send us your pictures by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
|'FOREVER' LIMITS: Pennsylvania has set new limits on two types of the toxic "forever chemicals" known as PFAS. There are thousands of varieties and no enforceable federal limits in place. Per StateImpact: All drinking water facilities in Pennsylvania, along with bottled water plants, and school and health care facilities will have to test for the contaminants now, report findings, and treat water if necessary.|
MIDTERM REVIEW: The Pennsylvania GOP is paying a Washington, D.C., firm up to $100,000 to find out why Republican candidates fared so poorly here in last year's pivotal midterms. Politico reports thousands of voters are being interviewed in hopes of getting to the bottom of key losses, while GOP officials look to persuade more supporters to vote by mail after years of the party vilifying the option.
MEDICAID DEADLINE: A pandemic-era rule that automatically kept most people enrolled in Medicaid will end in April, and thousands across Pennsylvania could be affected, The Inquirer (paywall) reports. State officials say no one will lose Medicaid without a chance to reapply, but advocates worry that the addresses on file with the state may be outdated and that notifications will go unreceived.
MORTGAGE RELIEF: Pandemic-era foreclosure protections are over and the number of filings — while still mostly below pre-COVID-19 levels — is creeping up, WESA reports. Pennsylvania received $350 million in federal assistance to aid homeowners, and funds have been disbursed for more than 9,000 of the 23,000-plus applications received. A "major bottleneck" is easing. See if you qualify here.
NO DEAL: Four Schuylkill County employees who sued Commissioner George F. Halcovage Jr. over alleged sexual misconduct have declined a $850,000 settlement offer in part because it could have limited their ability to publicly discuss the underlying claims, WFMZ reports. Halcovage has refused to resign. State lawmakers began weighing his impeachment last year but that work was put on hold.
NEXT STEPS: State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D., Philadelphia) is seriously considering a run for state auditor, The Inquirer (paywall) reports. Kenyatta, who ran unsuccessfully in last year's Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, attended a fundraiser in Allegheny County over the weekend.
TEACHER PROTEST: Central Bucks teachers walked out of class on Tuesday to protest the district's new ban on teacher "advocacy" and displays of inclusive symbols like Pride flags in classrooms. WHYY reports the new policy is part of a federal investigation of the school district.
FINAL TERM: Republican Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin won't seek reelection, meaning his current term in office will be his last. Martin is the longest serving DA in Lehigh County history, with more than 25 years in office. His current term ends in January of 2024, per Lehigh Valley Live.
CITY CURFEW: Pittsburgh has a youth curfew in place, but City Council President Theresa Kail-Smith wants to ramp up enforcement in hopes of reducing violence. Philly has seen a similar push, though experts say there's no evidence that curfews actually do what they're intended to.
TOWN JEWEL: Tom Hanks' new film A Man Called Otto was filmed in the Pittsburgh area and delivered a retro makeover for an Ambridge bakery that the owner can't believe, Pittsburgh Union Progress reports.
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