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Guides to the big court races on Pa. primary ballots

Plus, Fetterman plans April return to U.S. Senate.

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A daily newsletter by The logo of Spotlight PA, an independent, nonpartisan newsroom producing investigative journalism for Pennsylvania.

Your Postmaster: Spotlight PA Staff
Thursday, March 30, 2023
Election prep, false reports, partial credit, approved exams, explosion theories, eviction violence, and Reading > Philly by rail. Thanks for stopping by.
It's primary season in Pennsylvania, with Democrats and Republicans set to choose their candidates for seats on appellate courts that set down highly consequential decisions about elections, school funding, and more.

In May, voters will choose their parties' candidates for three vacant seats on Commonwealth and Superior Courts, and the winners will compete in the November general election. Read Spotlight PA's candidate guide

Voters will also choose a candidate for a vacant seat on Pennsylvania's Supreme Court, which issues rulings that can have a major impact on Pennsylvania politics and policy. Meet those candidates.

Read more: How Spotlight PA plans to cover the 2023 primary.

THE CONTEXT: More judicial contests, along with municipal races for local offices and school board seats, will also be on ballots. 

The state's primaries are closed, meaning only registered Democrats and Republicans can vote for candidates during these spring contests. (Unaffiliated and third-party voters can, however, vote on ballot questions, other referendums, and special elections during a primary.)

Pennsylvania's November 2022 election saw confusion and a patchwork of policies around mail voting, as some counties allowed voters to fix technical errors on their mail ballots and other counties did not.
Spotlight PA and Votebeat report a Commonwealth Court judge last week dismissed a GOP challenge against allowing voters to fix such errors, meaning the policy patchwork remains in place for now.

Read more: See how your county ranks on voter friendliness.

Find info on registering to vote and requesting a mail ballot below.

"I feel fine to do anything because I'm not impaired." 

—State Rep. Chris Rabb (D., Philadelphia), a medical cannabis user who took a drug test to make a point about state DUI laws being unfair
» UNEQUAL ELECTIONS: Join us and a panel of election experts TODAY from 6-7 p.m. on Zoom for a free discussion on unequal voting policies in the state, how they impact voters, and possible solutions. Register for the event here and submit questions to events@spotlightpa.org.
» How Spotlight PA will cover Pa.'s 2023 primary election

» A guide to Commonwealth, Superior Court candidates

» A guide to the Pa. Supreme Court candidates

» Why independents can't vote in Pa. primaries (Spotlight PA archives)

» How unequal policies disenfranchised Pa. voters in 2022

» Register to vote in the May 16 primary here; deadline May 1

» Request your mail ballot for the May 16 primary; deadline May 9

Support Spotlight PA's public-service election and voting coverage now.
Glimpse of spring, via Kathy B. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
Purple crocus flowers in grass.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.SWAT CALLS: False reports of active shooters or bomb threats shook schools statewide on Wednesday, days after a mass shooting at a Nashville school killed six. Police described the reports as "computer-generated" swatting calls and said all were similar. The calls were reported in Allegheny, Beaver, Cambria, Centre, Fayette, Lawrence Counties, and beyond. The source is under investigation.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.TAX BILLS: Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro wants a three-year tax credit of up to $2,500 a year to address Pennsylvania's share of a nationwide shortage of cops, nurses, and teachers. But the AP reports the size of a tax credit depends on how much a newly certified officer, nurse, or teacher pays in state income tax, and many of them likely pay well below $2,500, meaning they wouldn't reap the full benefits.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.PATIENT PERMISSION: Pennsylvania health care providers would need a patient's explicit permission before letting medical students perform pelvic, rectal, or prostate exams while the patient is anesthetized or unconscious under a bill passed 20-1 out of the state House Health Committee on Wednesday. Capital-Star explains what prompted the legislation and the built-in exceptions.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.OFFICIAL FOCUS: The National Transportation Safety Board is calling Friday's explosion at the R.M. Palmer Co. chocolate plant in West Reading a "natural gas" explosion and fire. The agency has preliminary information from local authorities and a natural gas utility that a gas pipeline was involved, an NTSB spokesperson told The Associated Press. Officials have identified several of the victims.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.EVICTION SHOOTING: A Philadelphia landlord-tenant officer shot a woman in the head while trying to enforce an eviction on Wednesday morning, The Inquirer (paywall) reports. Landlord-tenant officers are not sworn law enforcement personnel and the paper reports Philadelphia utilizes them, via a private law office appointed by the courts, to execute evictions in exchange for millions in related eviction fees.

FETTERMAN'S RETURN: U.S. Sen. John Fetterman (D., Pa.) plans to return to the Senate the week of April 17 after more than a month of inpatient treatment for depression, Politico reports.

OVER-THE-COUNTER: The FDA has approved the first over-the-counter naloxone nasal spray. Sales of the so-called overdose antidote are expected to start this summer, but some are worried about the price.

RAIL TIME: An effort to restore passenger rail service between Reading and Philadelphia is asking for $500,000 in federal money to study the scope of the project as well as ridership and revenue forecasts, per WITF.

RITA'S BEER: Rita's Italian Ice is joining forces with The Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company. The result? A mango flavored fruit brew and maybe, just maybe lines at your local beer vendor as long as this.

MUSEUM MOVE: Allentown's Liberty Bell Museum, where the icon was hidden from the British in 1777, could soon be on the move after failing to reach a deal with its new landlord, Morning Call (paywall) reports.

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 6 p.m. on issue date will be counted.

Yesterday's answer: Parenthetical

Congrats to our daily winners: Becky C., Myles M., Tracy S., Vicki U., Don H., Barbara F., Susan N.-Z., Elaine C., Sarah B., Kimberly D., Dianne K., Kim C., Bill S., Jon W., William Z., and Tom M.
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