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Congressional map advances as court cases loom

Plus, GOP Senate hopefuls panned as 'carpetbaggers.'


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January 13, 2022
Dear reader,

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Redistricting route, paper trailed, carpetbagger clapbacks, 'equal fault,' crisis watch, and Pennsylvania's weird and wonderful roadways. It's Thursday.
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With a court-mandated deadline weeks away, the Pennsylvania House has advanced a new congressional map that will shape the balance of power in Washington for years to come, and which nonpartisan analysts say gives Republicans a clear advantage in the commonwealth.

But the map — passed Wednesday with support from all but two of the chamber's Republicans and none of its Democrats — is not a done deal yet.

It still needs to go to the state Senate for consideration. It would also need Gov. Tom Wolf's approval, which might be a longshot, given the fact that Wolf has said the map falls short on basic measures of partisan fairness. 

THE CONTEXT: While the map fulfills baseline fairness criteria set by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, it has a partisan bias that Wolf has already objected to. If the legislature and he are unable to agree on a final plan by Jan. 30, Commonwealth Court is set to intervene under an ongoing lawsuit.

Unlike the state House and Senate maps being redrawn in a separate redistricting process, the current congressional map is unusable because the state lost one of its 18 seats due to sluggish population growth. 

"I don't believe that Gov. Wolf is going to end up signing," Adam Podowitz-Thomas of the Princeton Gerrymandering Project, a nonpartisan organization that analyzes district maps across the country, told Spotlight PA and Votebeat. "I think that the partisan bias is too clearly in favor of the Republicans."

Read more of Spotlight PA's redistricting coverage here.


"I don't know what percent are wearing masks, but it's not many."

—Mary Batt of Ridley on this year's Pennsylvania Farm Show, where masks and COVID-19 vaccines are recommended, not required
» HELP NEEDED: With COVID-19 cases surging, Allegheny County's 911 center is facing a "critical staffing" situation as hiring issues meet a wave of pandemic-related absences, union reps tell PublicSource.

» HOW TO MASK: N95 and KN95 masks are considered the best bet against the omicron variant and the CDC is considering new guidance to reflect that. Here's how you know when to replace one, per the Post-Gazette.

» TEST SUPPLY: The White House says it's earmarking 5 million rapid tests and 5 million lab-based PCR tests for schools starting this month to ease supply shortages and keep school buildings open, the AP 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).
Thanks, Karen A., for this shot of the beautiful downtown Palmerton in Carbon County. Send us your gems, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
CRIMINAL RECORD: Wes Artis was convicted of misdemeanor indecent assault in 2012 and sentenced to three to 23 months in Franklin County Jail — a sentence he says he deserved. But PennLive reports Artis spent another five years in and out of prison for failing to comply with a Megan's Law registry requirement that Pennsylvania's Supreme Court said he shouldn't have been subjected to in the first place.

HOME SLATE: The AP reports "carpetbagger" is the "go-to weapon" for GOP candidates in Pennsylvania's crowded U.S. Senate primary, as actual residents look to ding the transplants and boomerangers running for having shallow ties to the state. One of the latter, CEO David McCormick, is also accused by Democrats of failing to formally register as a candidate despite spending millions on ads.

DRUG DEATH: A father can't sue a Scranton pharmacy that dispensed the drugs that killed his son because the drugs were obtained illegally, Pennsylvania's Supreme Court has ruled. Cody Albert was 21 when he died after consuming fentanyl that was prescribed to a friend's mother. Two dissenting justices said the ruling overexpanded the legal doctrine while ignoring the implications amid an opioid epidemic.

BACKUP PLAN: U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) hopes aspects of President Joe Biden's Build Back Better agenda can be salvaged amid uncertainty about the future of the historic social safety net expansion, per WESA. On the line are billions of dollars for home and community-based services, money that could ease a dire staffing shortage that's impacting people with disabilities across Pennsylvania.

EVICTION LAND: PublicSource reports the while the "tidal wave" of eviction filings expected after the end of a federal moratorium hasn’t come, the options for people facing displacement are narrowing, and some in Allegheny County worry a slower-moving crisis is unfolding there. Meanwhile, across the state in Philadelphia, The Inquirer reports eviction court is packed as omicron rages and rent relief ends.

TV BREAK: A conservative Norwin School Board member wants the district to stop showing a CNN-made news program to middle schoolers. TribLIVE reports the board member, Alex Detschelt, says while the broadcasts "seem innocuous," removing them was a motivating force in recent board elections.

END OF AN ERA: Philly news legend Jim Gardner anchored his last 11 p.m. broadcast on Tuesday, ending a 45-year run. He'll continue in the 6 o'clock hour before retiring at the end of 2022. The parting wish Gardner shared with his late-night fans? "To see this pandemic retire before I do.

RAIDERS REWIND: A marathon school board meeting in Bellefonte ended on Tuesday with board members reversing a decision to rid the district of the "Red" Raiders moniker and related Native American imagery. The about-face follows a backlash that led to an electoral changing of the guard.

NO DEAL: A labor dispute at a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Bethlehem continues, with striking workers rejecting a company offer and picket line tensions around the company's use of "scabs" leading to a visible and lasting city police presence, per Lehigh Valley Live. 

LONG ROAD: Pennsylvania's roads are a wondrous place where billboards need no context, time has no meaning, and the laws of gravity don't always apply. But one traveler is taking issue with something else about this great state (er, commonwealth) of ours — it's simply too wide.

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:
Words that are fun to say.
Yesterday's answer: Flabbergasted

Congrats to our daily winners: Becky C., Briann M., Vicki U., Barbara F., Bonnie R., Craig W., Don H., Beth T., Lynne E., Craig E., Susan D., Kimberly S., Susan N.-Z., Alan V., Elaine C., Elizabeth W., Suzanne S., Deb N., Al M., Daniel M., George S., James B., David W., William S., Judith D., Bob S., Doris T., Carol D., Bill S., Kim C., Janet C., and Irene R.
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