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Pa. police charged in fatal shooting of 8-year-old

Plus, lawmakers prep for redistricting court battle.


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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
January 19, 2022
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Clockwatchers, line of fire, venue change, poll results, toxic tracts, and Sheetz and The Battle of Cedar Creek. Guess what? It's Wednesday. 
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A rewrite of Pennsylvania's congressional map cleared another hurdle Tuesday when a Senate panel voted to advance the proposal with court battles and key deadlines looming, Spotlight PA and Votebeat report.

The panel's Democratic chair, state Sen. Sharif Street of Philadelphia, said he would not vote for the map in its current form but appreciated "the spirit in which we're moving forward." Experts say the map, which was first proposed by House Republicans, has a clear GOP advantage.

And with the clock ticking and disagreements remaining, it has become increasingly likely that the final map will be determined by the state courts.

THE CONTEXT: There are two major deadlines facing lawmakers and Gov. Tom Wolf — who has final say over the map, and who has expressed displeasure with the current pitch while offering up one of his own.

The first is Jan. 24, a date by which the state's top election official said her department would need a final map in order to meet a spring primary deadline.

The second is Jan. 30, the point at which Commonwealth Court is set to take over the process if Wolf and lawmakers can't agree

While redistricting reform groups said the GOP-advanced map does not reflect the state's partisan makeup, Wolf's proposal does, per nonpartisan metrics.


"I do not propose to have a shotgun wedding with Wilkinsburg. I intend to court her, to listen to her, and to find common ground."

—Pittsburgh Councilor Ricky Burgess on a proposed merger with neighboring Wilkinsburg, a plan the city council appears poised to reject, per TribLIVE
» HOME DELIVERY: Applications are now open to have up to four at-home COVID-19 test kits mailed to you by the federal government for free. CNN reports tests are expected to ship within 7-12 days of being ordered.

» TEST COSTS: If you can't wait for those test kits to arrive, private insurers are now required to cover the costs of up to 8 at-home COVID-19 tests per month, if you can find them. Here's what you need to know.

» MASKS UP: A federal judge has issued a temporary restraining order sought by pro-mask parents in North Allegheny School District, TribLIVE reports. Masks are no longer optional there as a lawsuit proceeds.
» VIRAL LOADS: Oregon researchers say cannabis compounds could keep the coronavirus from entering and infecting human cells. But Motherboard reports outdated federal cannabis rules are slowing related research.

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).
A deer crossing the road, presumably to get to the other side, in the Pocono Mountains. Thanks for the photo, @youbetkevSend us your gems, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
OFFICERS CHARGED: Three Delaware County police officers have been charged with manslaughter in the Aug. 27 death of Fanta Bility, an 8-year-old who was killed when police opened fired outside a high school football game in Sharon Hill, NBC10 reports. Prosecutors have withdrawn murder charges against two teenagers accused of contributing to the death by engaging in a gunfight that drew the officers' fire.

ESCAPE PLAN: Security training inspired by a 2018 massacre inside a Pittsburgh synagogue is credited with saving the victims of an armed siege at a Texas synagogue on Saturday. In related news, WESA reports the man charged in the mass shooting at Pittsburgh's Tree of Life synagogue is asking that his trial be moved, saying local media coverage ensures a fair trial can't be held in Western Pennsylvania.

NEW NODS: A weekend straw poll of central Pennsylvania Republican leaders brought a Turzai surprise and good news for Philly-area candidates gunning to replace U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.), PennLive reports. In the Democratic primary for Toomey's open seat, meanwhile, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney is backing Pittsburgh-area U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb (D., Pa.), adding of the pick, "I wanna win." 

TOXIC TURF: People in the mostly Black and working-class neighborhoods near the South Philly refinery feel betrayed after learning the site's new owner is seeking permits to continue storing potentially hundreds of millions of gallons of petroleum there, WHYY reports. The news comes amid promises of a greener future for the site, which kept releasing toxins even after a 2019 explosion closed it.

CLEAN START: Needle-exchange programs would be legalized statewide under a new proposal from state Rep. Jim Struzzi (R., Indiana) and state Rep. Sara Innamorato (D., Allegheny), the Morning Call reports. The programs currently only operate in select cities here. Neighboring New Jersey is already expanding access, which research shows is proven to reduce the spread of disease.
BUILDING PLANS: Sheetz wants to build a gas station at the site of a key Civil War battle in Virginia, prompting opponents to wage a mass mailer campaign in the company's hometown of Altoona, PennLive reports. It's all part of an effort to ratchet up the pressure and rein in the project.

BUCK TALES: Ex-Elk County game warden Dick Bodenhorn recounts the most "bizarre" tales from his career in a new book that includes chapter titles like "The $1,050 Beer Can," "Murderers on the Game Lands," and "The Foxes Are in the Hen House," the latter about police poachers.

BANNED BOOKS: The first meeting of the Kutztown Banned Book Club drew several teens for a show of solidarity as books about race, gender identity, and sexuality are limited or debated in schools and libraries nationwide and those closer to home, Reading Eagle reports. 

GAS PRICES: Pennsylvania is home to the highest point on I-80 east of the Mississippi River and the highest gas prices east of the Rockies. Pump prices are down from last week but 80 cents higher than this time last year.

SUPER FANS: Just how "super" is the radioactive "superload" slowly making its way across Pennsylvania? The New York Times says it's "longer than five fire trucks" and "weighs as much as two blue whales." 
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:
The weather
Yesterday's answer: Bombogenesis

Congrats to our daily winners: Kevin M., Don H., Susan R., Elaine C., James B., Vicki U., Bill S., and Lynne E.
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