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How you can weigh in on Pa.'s new political maps

Plus, clergy abuse reform in doubt again as Senate returns.


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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
January 4, 2022
Legal relief, redistricting rounds, congressional subpoenas, the underinsured, 30 tons of TNT, a 'major announcement,' and soda vs. pop. It's Tuesday. 
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The Pennsylvania senator who decides which bills get a vote before the chamber says she remains opposed to stalled legislation that would open up new avenues of legal remedy to survivors of childhood sexual abuse. 

Instead, Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward (R., Westmoreland) is convinced that a push to expand the time frames governing civil suits against abusers is best handled via a voter-led ballot referendum — the same effort derailed by a Wolf administration blunder last year, Capital-Star reports. 

In a Dec. 22 letter to Senate GOP leaders, Gov. Tom Wolf acknowledged the setback and called for an immediate vote on a bill that would work more quickly to open a window for claims considered too old under current law.

That bill, which includes statute-of-limitation reforms recommended in 2018's sprawling grand jury report on sex abuse in Pennsylvania's Catholic church, passed the state House and advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee in April, but it has yet to see a Senate floor vote.

Comments from Ward's office to the Capital-Star indicate it likely won't be voted on this time either, with the Pennsylvania Senate returning for another legislative session this morning.

THE CONTEXT: In 2019, Gov. Tom Wolf signed a bill that gives victims of childhood sexual abuse until they are 55 to file a civil suit, but the law wasn't retroactive.

The push to open a two-year window for victims not covered by the law came tantalizingly close to being decided by voters in 2021, but Pennsylvania's Department of State failed to advertise the ballot question as legally required.

Since then, the GOP-controlled legislature has restarted the process, putting the issue on the ballot no sooner than 2023. Seeking faster legal relief, abuse survivors and their advocates have urged legislative action that would bring about the desired changes more quickly.

But Ward continues to express concerns over the constitutionality of a legislative solution, an argument state Attorney General Josh Shapiro has previously dismissed as "pathetically weak."


"How in the hell is it accidental? How do you call it accidental to tase someone eight or 10 times?"

—Dr. Cyril Wecht, Allegheny County's former medical examiner, questioning the manner-of-death ruling for a man who died in Pittsburgh police custody
» AGE GROUPS: The FDA is now recommending Pfizer booster shots for children ages 12 to 15. The agency has also shortened the waiting period to five months after a second dose was received, the AP reports.

» SHOW TIME: State Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding says masks and vaccines will not be mandated at the 2022 Pennsylvania Farm Show, per Fox43. The week-long event opens on Saturday.

» VAX CHECKS: Philadelphia's newly enacted vaccine mandate applies to indoor restaurants, bars, sports venues, movie theaters, and other locales. Proof of vaccination will be required. The Inquirer explains.

» PLAN CHANGE: At least 17 schools in Pittsburgh will be closed for in-person learning today due to a coronavirus-related staff shortage, while similar challenges have led at least 81 Philadelphia schools to go remote

» NO SUBS: A weeks-old state law aims to ease Pennsylvania's school staffing crisis by temporarily expanding the pool of available substitutes and allowing retired teachers to fill in on an emergency basis, per PennLive.

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).
» MAPPING POWER: Join us Thursday, Jan. 6 at noon EST for a free panel on the proposed state House and Senate maps, how they could shift political power, and their potential impact on Pennsylvanians. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org.
A snowy path in Mechanicsburg. Thanks for the photo, Cris F.! We hope you had your snow boots on. Send us your gems, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
PUBLIC FORUMS: A Pennsylvania redistricting panel wants to hear from the public about its proposed state House and Senate maps. Spotlight PA has a guide to giving feedback online or at meetings slated for this month. Once public input is gathered, the panel in charge of the state legislative redistricting process will have 30 days to consider the comments before voting on a final map.

PERRY PRESSURE: The congressional committee investigating last year's breach of the U.S. Capitol could issue subpoenas to Republican lawmakers to force their cooperation, Reuters reports. That includes U.S. Rep. Scott Perry (R., Pa.), who has refused to comply with the Democrat-led committee's requests and whose ties to Trump's election meddling have come under increased scrutiny.

HEALTH GAPS: A third of U.S. children had unreliable or insufficient health insurance in the years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, including nearly 1.5 million in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, a University of Pittsburgh study has found. The Inquirer reports families insured through high-deductible employer plans and who earned too much to qualify for Medicaid often had the most trouble affording care.

BOOM TIMES: NASA confirms that an exploding meteor was the "likely culprit" behind a sonic boom heard in the Pittsburgh region and beyond on New Year's Day, TribLIVE reports. The fireball is estimated to have weighed 1,000 pounds, with an explosion equivalent to that of roughly 30 tons of TNT. Experts say the meteor would have also been blindingly bright had it not been for that day's cloud cover.

LAUNCH DAY: State Rep. Austin Davis (D., Allegheny) is expected to confirm his bid for lieutenant governor with a "major announcement" this morning in McKeesport. Davis will be joined by Democratic candidate for governor and state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who backed Davis for the post last month. LGs have their own election and state Rep. Brian Sims (D., Philadelphia) is also running.
FOOD FIGHT: The Inquirer reports roughly $1 million worth of raw pet food is idling in a Dauphin County warehouse as a strange legal case between two pet food companies winds on, part of an ongoing dispute that has seen heated testimony, claims of trade-secret violations, and smear campaigns.

STOPPED PRESSES: The former headquarters of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette newspaper are the subject of a photo essay by "Abandoned America" documentarian and podcaster Matthew Christopher, who chronicled what was left behind after the paper upgraded to newer digs.

VIDEO STARS: Central Bucks School District students will soon be able to get a varsity letter for playing video games. WLVR reports the district is set to launch its first esports team next semester and compete in Pennsylvania's Interscholastic Esports Association, which I didn't know was a thing. 

LINGO WARS: Pennsylvania's linguistic divide is on full display in the replies to this officially sanctioned tweet about the state's "soda" vs. "pop" dilemma. For what it's worth, "Pop" had the edge in a 2018 survey answered by more than 25,000 people, but "Santorum" also got three votes, so...

#WINNING: When Tyler, the Creator recently asked Twitter users to share their personal wins from 2021, Pittsburgh poet Treble NLS shared a shot of his Emmy for a PublicSource collaboration titled "Don't Clip Our Tails." And he did it with a nod to an especially memorable Kobe Bryant photo.
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.
Yesterday's answer: Infantilization

Congrats to our daily winners: Susan F., Bonnie R., George S., Beth T., Susan N.-Z., Michelle T., Kimberly S., Judith D., Kim C., Susan D., Don H., Lynne E., Alan V., Elaine C., James B., Joel S., Bill S., David W., Elizabeth W., Irene R., Craig E., and Myles M.
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