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Major shakeup unlikely with new congressional map

Plus, trial starts seven years after deadly Pa. Amtrak crash.


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February 24, 2022

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Redistricting pick, police pushback, trainwreck trial, conflicting forecasts, rival request, CRT fixation, and Wordle extreme. It's Thursday. Welcome.
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Pennsylvania's highest court has chosen the state's new congressional map, landing on a version that is unlikely to dramatically change the partisan makeup of the state's congressional delegation

Spotlight PA and Votebeat report the state Supreme Court voted 4-3 Wednesday in favor of a proposal submitted by a group of voters that closely resembles the current map the court was tasked with replacing. 

The Democrat-controlled court's order did not elaborate on the decision, but it did note dissents by Justice Debra Todd, a Democrat, and the court's two Republicans — Justices Sallie Updyke Mundy and Kevin Brobson.

The court also announced it will not move the date of the May 17 primary, opting instead to adjust some of the earlier deadlines for candidates.

The map fulfills four traditional redistricting criteria and has a slight Republican bias. Sluggish population growth detailed in new census data led to Pennsylvania losing one of its 18 congressional seats this year.

THE CONTEXT: Jonathan Rodden, a political science professor at Stanford University who drew the chosen map, said it produces eight districts "where Democrats are expected to win," eight "where Republicans are quite likely to win," and one district "that is a toss-up with a very slight Democratic lean."

PlanScore, a nonpartisan analysis tool, produced similar findings. Using past election data, it categorized six of the seats as Democratic and six as Republican, with two leaning Democrat and three leaning GOP.

Gov. Tom Wolf — whose veto of a GOP-backed congressional map proposal led to the high court's involvement — and former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder were among the Democrats applauding the selection.

State Rep. and congressional candidate Summer Lee (D., Allegheny) was not, saying a carve out in the map pushes her into a toss-up district.

Meanwhile, Republicans were already challenging the court's role in the redistricting process, and with Wednesday's map decision, GOP lawmakers are eyeing a constitutional amendment with an identical focus.

Search to see your old and new congressional districts here.

For all of February, we at Spotlight PA are giving you the chance to share a message of love, gratitude, or appreciation with the entire state. 

Here's how it works: Make a donation of $25 or more to Spotlight PA using this special link, put your shoutout in the "I am contributing because..." box, and we’ll include it in a special section of our PA Post newsletter. 
Show some love to a Pennsylvania business, a person, an animal, an animal that reminds you of a person, or your favorite reporters (👋). Make someone feel good, brighten a day, and support Spotlight PA at the same time.

"They think you are irredeemably stained and need to be broken asunder. And once you're gone ... they can rebuild America with their toxic ideology."

—U.S. Senate candidate Mehmet Oz speaking in Washington County as his outsider campaign tries to make inroads in deep-red corners of the state
» VACCINE MILESTONE: Gov. Tom Wolf says 95% of Pennsylvanians ages 18 and older have received at least one COVID-19 vaccination shot.

» BANKRUPTCY DROP: COVID-19 aid and pandemic savings are being linked to a precipitous drop in Pennsylvania bankruptcy filings, per WESA.

» ICYMI: Few schools have taken Pennsylvania up on its offer of free COVID-19 testing, some saying the program is better in theory than practice. 

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).
» THE FINAL STRETCH: Join us Thursday, March 3 at 5:00 p.m. ET via Zoom for a free Q&A on the court challenges to Pa.'s electoral maps and how they could affect your community. Register for the event here. Have questions for our panelists? Send them to events@spotlightpa.org.
A witch hazel plant in Phoenixville. Thanks, @niccilynnphotography. Send us your gems, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
UNION GRIEVANCE: A law that aims to curb low-level traffic stops that disproportionately ensnare motorists of color has drawn a lawsuit from Philadelphia's police union, NBC10 reports. The lawsuit says the local law illegally preempts the state's Motor Vehicle Code. A similar restriction on traffic stops was adopted by Pittsburgh's city council in December but isn't set to take effect until later this year.

AMTRAK TRIAL: The Amtrak engineer charged in a 2015 train crash that killed 8 people outside Philadelphia goes on trial in that city today after lengthy case delays. Pennsylvania's attorney general is prosecuting the case against engineer Brandon Bostian, 38, on charges including involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment. A jury will decide if the crash was a tragic mistake or criminal, WHYY reports.

BUDGET LOOK: Hearings began in the state Senate this week for Gov. Wolf's record-setting, $44 billion budget proposal, the last of his tenure. In a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing held Tuesday, CNHI reports lawmakers quickly homed in on discrepancies between Wolf's revenue projections and those from the state's Independent Fiscal Office, the latter forecast being $5 billion lower over five years.

RIVAL RUNS: GOP gubernatorial hopeful Jake Corman says rival candidate (and fellow state senator) Doug Mastriano's campaign has "clearly and flagrantly ignored" campaign finance laws and should be investigated. The announcement comes one day after reports that Mastriano has almost 15 times more cash than he initially stated, making him among the highest-grossing candidates in a crowded primary.

MEDIA MENTIONS: A Norwin school board member says a New York Times-produced story on inequality in five areas of American life is "political indoctrination" and an example of critical race theory being taught to students, the pushback coming days after the same board banned CNN programming in district classrooms, TribLIVE reports. The school board's president says there is no "CRT curriculum."

BOOTLEGGED: Listen as City Cast Pittsburgh unpacks the debate around an imperiled 138-year-old house with connections to Pittsburgh's Black history, prohibition, Rolling Rock beer's secrets, and the immigrant experience.

BEE THIEVES: Beekeepers are using tracking devices to protect their hives from thieves, according to an AP report than mentions last month's theft of 60,000 bees from grocery chain Giant's Carlisle headquarters. 

ONE AND ONLY: Meet (or reacquaint yourself) with K. Leroy Irvis, Pennsylvania’s first and so far only Black Speaker of the House. Capital-Star has a charming remembrance of "The Lion of Pennsylvania."

STRAIGHT TRASH: Pittsburgh's data-driven anti-litter work gets a shoutout in a Bloomberg CityLab piece on "The Futility of Picking Up the Trash." The piece says data helped mount the city's paused push for a plastic bag ban.

EXTREME WORDLE-ING: What's better than one round of Wordle? Two rounds of Wordle at the exact same time. What's better than that? Our homemade word game, The Scrambler, found below. 

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.

*This week's theme: Literary devices, terms

Yesterday's answer: Enjambment 

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Bonnie R., Michelle T., Doris T., Susan N.-Z., Kim C., Mark O., Kimberly S., Don H., Judith D., George S., David W., Elaine C., James B., Suzanne S., Elizabeth W., Vicki U., Dianne K., Bill S., Pat B., Ann E., and Starr B.
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