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Court could clear way for local gun laws in Pa.

Plus, U.S. Steel cuts costs, ducks unions in the south.

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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
June 2, 2022
Gun laws, no evidence, southern steel, energy bills, the 'worst' of Wayne County, and 🌷 challenge extended until Sunday. It's Thursday.
Three lawsuits being appealed to the state's highest court, each arguing that Pennsylvania municipalities should be allowed to pass their own gun laws, could determine the direction of firearms policies here.

While Pennsylvania voters might be looking to the General Assembly to take action on gun laws after last month's massacre of 19 school children in Texas, the Republican-led General Assembly is unlikely to do so. 

But Pennsylvania's Supreme Court could move the needle by weighing in on a decades-old precedent — Pennsylvania's preemption law — that gives the legislature the sole authority to regulate gun ownership. 

The cases stem from attempts by officials in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to tighten local gun rules in the name of public safety. 

Advocates for and against stricter gun policies in Pennsylvania say court action could have broad consequences, Spotlight PA reports.

THE CONTEXT: Officials in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have repeatedly found their attempts to adopt new local-level firearm rules blocked by the state's preemption law — including Pittsburgh's attempt to ban AR-15s after one was used to massacre congregants at a Squirrel Hill synagogue in 2018. 

Philadelphia has argued, so far unsuccessfully, that the preemption law hamstrings local officials and violates the state constitution.

Pittsburgh has argued, also unsuccessfully, that the legislature has not preempted all firearms regulations at the local level. 

The high court could decide not to take on two of the cases, but Mimi McKenzie, of the Public Interest Law Center in Philadelphia, says it won't have a choice on the third because it originated at the appellate level. 

McKenzie said that means the majority Democrat court will have to weigh in on the issue of state preemption "one way or another." 

Decisions could happen in the coming months.

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"Today, I'll sit in a classroom and wonder, 'Am I going to be next?'" 

Umme Orthy of Philadelphia on the anxiety felt by students like her in the wake of last week's mass shooting at a Texas elementary school
As seen in Boalsburg on Memorial Day, via PA Poster Charlie D. Send us your gems, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
RECOUNT REQUESTS: Petitioners claiming without evidence that Republican primaries in two Lancaster County legislative districts were marred by fraud or other irregularities want a court-ordered hand recount, LNP reports. An attorney representing Audit the Vote PA, the 2020 election denial group that's driving this recount push, did not say how many precincts in the two districts are being targeted.

SHIFTING STEEL: Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel is looking to the south and a new technology to cut costs, Bloomberg News reports. So-called mini mills are popping up in Arkansas and Alabama capable of producing more metal with fewer workers and fewer unions. "This could be the beginning of the end of Mon Valley," United Steelworkers President Tom Conway said, referring to the company's larger Pennsylvania mills.

TRAVEL HAZARDS: The redesign of Roosevelt Boulevard, Philadelphia's "corridor of death," could be gaining traction as federal officials take note of a sharp rise in traffic deaths nationwide. Many of the city's ideas for improving the thoroughfare are championed under new federal strategies aimed at road safety, per the AP. Nearly 43,000 people were killed on U.S. roads last year, the highest total in 16 years.

BUYER BEWARE: Before you switch utility companies over rising electricity prices, consumer advocates have tips to offer, via WHYY. Prices are up because natural gas is up and used to generate about half of the state's electricity. Consumers can use this price comparison tool, but experts say you'll need to do additional homework. It might also be best to just stay with your current provider.

'IMPOSSIBLY LOW': The number of new HIV cases in Pennsylvania is way down and experts are worried. In 2020, the state's total was the lowest it's been since the 1980s, and experts fear reductions in the number of people being tested for HIV during the pandemic could be why, the Morning Call reports. Early diagnosis is crucial for limiting the spread of the virus and the health of people who are living with it.

CONTRACT REVISION: Contested language has been removed from Pennsylvania Medicaid contracts. It would have barred providers who had work stoppages in the past five years from being included in Medicaid networks, unless they had signed a collective bargaining agreement, The Center Square reports. Pennsylvania's Department of Human Services linked the removal to concerns about "misinformation" and "confusion."

FLOOD STORY: To commemorate the 133rd anniversary of the cataclysmic Johnstown Flood, park ranger Doug Bosley role-played as his great-great-grandfather, who survived the disaster, the Tribune-Democrat reports. In 2014, the paper looked at the role of a hunting and fishing club — frequented by Pittsburgh's wealthy elite — in the dam failure that started it all.

HUNT DOWN: As the number of recreational deer hunters in Pennsylvania continues to decline, state wildlife agencies will need to find new ways to manage deer populations and pay for wildlife conservation, a deer researcher at Penn State says, via PennLive. Hunters numbered 1.3 million in the early 1980s. General hunting license sales were down to 887,221 in 2020.

FLY FINDINGS: Spotted lanternflies are hatching again (in very big ways) and The Inquirer reports that while they're clumsy fliers, they're gifted hitchhikers capable of covering vast distances on cars and trains. Researchers say those types of long-distance jumps appear to be increasing. They also warn against homemade pesticides that can harm other species.

CRAZY COUNTRY: If you're looking for the worst food in Wayne County, look no further than the Crazy Country Club in Hawley, which proudly boasts of its "warm beer" and "lousy food" on a big sign outside the building. The place was opened by Scott Burdo, whose dad opened a raucous Brooklyn bar of the same name that some call the first comedy club in the U.S.

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: Amusement parks
Yesterday's answer: Paddleboat

Congrats to our daily winners: Doris T., Bonnie R., Barbara F., Susan D., Wendy A., Lynne E., Susan L., Elaine C., Susan N.-Z., John A., Bruce B., Kevin M., Becky C., Elizabeth W., Bette G., Craig W., Karen W., Vicki U., George S., Heidi B., Don H., Daniel M., Kimberly S., David W., Kimberly D., Steve H., James B., Dianne K., Bill S., Nancy S., Starr B., Eddy Z., Michelle T., Jill A.-S., and Pat B.
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