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Democrats again have Pa. House vote advantage

Plus, lawmakers can't agree on new primary date.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2023
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The AP has called Tuesday's special election in Allegheny County for Democrat Lindsay Powell, who beat Republican Erin Connolly Autenreith and cemented Democrats' one-seat majority in the state House.

Powell, a former mayoral and congressional staffer from Pittsburgh, will be the first Black woman to represent the 21st House District, replacing Democrat Sara Innamorato who stepped down in July to seek another office.

Read Spotlight PA's full report: Democrats again secure one-vote Pa. House majority after special election win.

THE CONTEXT: Democrats flipped the state House in 2022 for the first time in 12 years, but a trio of legislative vacancies — and a connected debate about which party actually controlled the chamber — soon followed.   

Tuesday's was the fourth Allegheny County special election won by Democrats this year, continuing the party's hold on the lower chamber and, in turn, the caucus' power to pursue policy priorities.

The summertime campaign to replace Innamorato drew relatively little media attention, but Democrats held sizable leads in the number of mail ballots requested and the amount of money raised by their nominee.

"Temple University will survive it. I’m not sure I will emotionally survive it.”
—Temple University Trustee Mitch Morgan on Acting President JoAnne Epps, who died after collapsing on stage at a university event Tuesday
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At Spotlight PA, we put voters front and center in our nonpartisan election coverage. Get all the information you need to make an informed vote this September by visiting our Election Center website

» Complete guide to the candidates for Pennsylvania Supreme Court

» Complete guide to the candidates for Commonwealth, Superior Courts

» What to know about the judicial retention questions on Pa. ballots

» Una guía de los candidatos a la Corte Suprema del estado

» Una guía de los candidatos a la Commonwealth y las Cortes Superiores

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» STORY FEST: Spotlight PA is participating in Philly Story Fest, a first-of-its-kind festival that brings together storytellers from across the city on one stage. Join us Thursday, Oct. 5 from 7-10 p.m. at the Bok building in South Philadelphia (1901 South 9th St.). Tickets are $25 and available here.

» PATH TO EQUITY: Join Spotlight PA for its first in-person summit on Wednesday, Oct. 11, from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Whitaker Center in Harrisburg. Spotlight PA is co-presenting this event with Color & Culture, a Pennsylvania marketing firm. Tickets are on sale at this link until sold out.

» ELECTION 101: Join Spotlight PA’s government reporters Kate Huangpu and Stephen Caruso on Thursday, Oct. 12 from 6-7 p.m. ET on Zoom for a free panel on Pa.’s 2023 judicial candidates. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org
A photo of flooding in Scranton earlier this month, via Samantha B. The cleanup continues as local officials weigh a request for a federal buyout of flood-prone properties there. Send us your Pennsylvania photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
Water runs across sidewalks and a roadway in a residential neighborhood.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.VOTER PROMPTS: Pennsylvania has made it easier to register to vote when renewing or obtaining your driver's license. According to the AP: Prompts on the computer screens in driver’s license centers will automatically take the user to a template to register to vote, meaning they'll have to opt out now instead of opting in. Republican lawmakers quickly took issue with the change being made by executive action.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.PRIMARY DAY: State lawmakers still can't agree on a new, earlier date for Pennsylvania's presidential primary with next year's contest fast approaching and counties already issuing logistical warnings about the length of the runway, The Inquirer (paywall) reports. As of Monday, the outlet said lawmakers were tied between March 19 and April 2. The uncertainty isn't helpful for voters either, one official noted.
  • RELATED: Pa. House Minority Leader Bryan Cutler (R., Lancaster) isn't backing Trump in 2024 GOP primary, via @Owens_abc27
Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.POLICE REGISTRY: The Lehigh County DA’s Office wants private citizens to give police access to their home surveillance cameras to aid and speed up criminal investigations, Lehigh Valley Live reports. Such "registries" are being launched by law enforcement entities across North America, prompting warnings from a privacy and civil rights watchdog in British Columbia that called it a "dystopian" overreach.
Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.
DOCS SUBPOENAED: Federal agents probing March's fatal explosion at a West Reading chocolate plant say Pennsylvania officials are refusing to provide unredacted inspection and investigation reports for the natural gas utility at the center of the inquiry. The National Transportation Safety Board issued a subpoena to Pennsylvania’s Public Utility Commission for the documents earlier this week. 
Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.WATER SOURCE: Oil and gas driller PennEnergy is asking the state for permission to pull 1.5 million gallons of water daily from Big Sewickley Creek in Beaver County for use in a nearby fracking well. Inside Climate News reports advocates worry that doing so would cripple the creek’s delicate ecosystem, harm the land, and could amount to a local extinction-level event for one critically imperiled species.
Join Spotlight PA for an exclusive event on equity and voting. Get your tickets now.

DUTCH DEARTH: Pennsylvania's court system has no Pennsylvania Dutch interpreters and it's looking for a few speakers of the language to change that. WITF reports: An interpreter with a solid grasp of the language and the cultural aspects of the community becomes crucial in court settings.

EMAIL TRAIL: Progressive outlet The Keystone obtained emails showing coordination on the private school voucher issue and related legislation between the conservative, Jeffrey Yass-linked Commonwealth Foundation and the office of Republican state Treasurer Stacy Garrity.

MINK CHASE: Vet tech Erin Bourinski offers this description (and these photos) of loose minks after a suspected act of fur farm sabotage in Northumberland County: "Everywhere you look, there's minks- running through the fields, standing in the roads, trying to find shelter..."

PAYING THE PRICE: The Inquirer's video team went to 45th Street in West Philly, "where a developer has been slowly taking over the block and residents are paying the price." Watch the six-minute video dispatch here.

GHOST TOILET: One of Pittsburgh's new public toilets — naturally named Pittsburgh Potties — is officially live. But WESA reports the pilot program should learn from the lessons of a ghost toilet on the city's south side.

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 5:30 p.m. on issue date will be counted.
Yesterday's answer: Wheelhouse 
Congrats to our daily winners: Tracy S., Beth T., Dan A., Don H., Barbara F., Richard A., Susan R., Jody A., Jon W., Kimberly D., Bruce B., Wendy A., Stacy S., Susan N.-Z., Jane R., Susan D., Judith D., Hallie W., Daniel M., Kim C., Bill E., Carol S., Vicki U., James N., Craig E., Michael T., William Z., John F., Tom M., Tish M., and James B.
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