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Pa. high court rejects legislative map challenges

Plus, impact of COVID-19 strike team questioned.

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A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA

Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
March 17, 2022
Maps upheld, rejected votes, strike force, attack ads, and a grieving son's Woodstock memento. It's Thursday and St. Patrick's Day.
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Pennsylvania's Supreme Court has nixed challenges against the state's new legislative maps, clearing the way for their use in the May primary.

The high court rejected nine challenges in all, upholding the constitutionality of the state House and state Senate maps drawn by the Legislative Reapportionment Commission, a five-member panel composed of Pennsylvania's top legislative leaders and an independent chair.

The justices also set a final primary calendar for legislative races, allowing preparations by candidates and county offices to begin in earnest.

THE CONTEXT: Spotlight PA and Votebeat report that the state Senate map is unlikely to radically alter the chamber's makeup, while the state House map creates several additional seats that could be won by Democrats.

Advocates for the House map say it undoes decades of partisan gerrymandering and reflects changes in Pennsylvania's population.

House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R., Centre) was the only member of the Legislative Reapportionment Commission to vote against the maps. 

Benninghoff also launched one of the challenges denied by the justices on Wednesday. The court's ruling did not include a detailed explanation. Nor did it note a dissent from any of the court's seven justices.

See how your state House and Senate districts will change this spring here.
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"We need a full investigation to understand whether this latest financial mishap is the result of malfeasance or just monumental stupidity." 

—Philadelphia Councilor Helen Gym on new reporting that found the city's parking authority sank millions into a now-vacant operations base
Spring is days away and this crocus knows it. Thanks, Don H. Send us your gems, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
VOID BALLOTS: Pennsylvania's requirement that mail ballot envelopes be dated in order for those votes to be counted is not an undue burden on the right to vote under the First and Fourteenth Amendments, a federal judge has ruled. The decision means undated mail ballots at the center of a months-long stalemate in Lehigh County will remain rejected. It's unclear if the plaintiffs plan to appeal the ruling.

STRIKE TEAM: LNP reports a federal strike team sent to relieve regional hospital strain in and around York during the omicron wave may not have had much impact. The team spent two months at York's WellSpan hospital, which saw less than one patient transfer a day in that time. The head of Lancaster's EMS service said the regional impact was "low," while state officials say the numbers don't give the full picture.

DIVERSION PLAN: A juvenile justice reform plan floated by a pair of state lawmakers acts on the nearly year-old recommendations of a statewide panel that found involvement with the system actually increases the risk of youth committing future crimes. Capital-Star explains what the reform plan from state Sens. Camera Bartolotta (R., Washington) and Anthony Williams (D., Philadelphia) would do.

DUAL DONORS: Several big-money donors now aiding David McCormick's U.S. Senate campaign with ads criticizing GOP primary rival Mehmet Oz have also given to Hillary Clinton and some of the most liberal Democrats in Congress, the Inquirer reports. Meanwhile, Oz now says he will renounce his Turkish citizenship if elected after McCormick sought to make Oz's dual citizenship a wedge issue.

'FAMILY FEUD': A GOP state lawmaker with a key role in the budget process is being targeted by a conservative group with attack ads citing "bloated budgets" and votes that jacked up Pennsylvania's gas tax. State Rep. Stan Saylor (R., York) disputes the claims, while the director of the group behind the ads says there are few incumbents, in his mind, that haven't earned similar treatment, per Capital-Star.
SWIM MEET: UPenn swimmer Lia Thomas could become the first trans woman to win a D1 national title in Atlanta this week, where the NCAA women's swimming and diving championships are now underway. The Inquirer's Ellie Rushing explains why it almost didn't happen.

TRANSIT TRAPS: SEPTA's attempt to keep unhoused people out of its train stations is trapping or blocking other riders, especially those with mobility challenges, Billy Penn reports. One straphanger put it this way: "Getting into Jefferson or suburban station is like solving an escape room."   

PHOTO FIND: A Lancaster man's 15-year search for a photo of his late mother at Woodstock has ended in success. After scanning countless photos from the 1969 happening, a clickbait headline delivered what Colin Cook had spent almost half of his life looking for, LNP reports.

CLOCKERS: U.S. lawmakers are on the verge of getting rid of Daylight Saving Time for good. If successful, they would erase a 1930s-era Pittsburgh councilman's crowning legislative achievement in one fell swoop.

OFF DUTY: York County says jury summonses instructing residents to report for jury duty on or before March 1 were sent in error, which reminded us of the time Luzerne County summoned a four-year-old for the civic duty.
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: Math words
Yesterday's answer: Quadratic

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Kevin M., Bonnie R., Michael H., Fred O., Doris T., Michelle T., Vicki U., Ashley W., Kyle C., Judith D., Becky C., Elaine C., Starr B., Mike B., Don H., Beth T., Heidi B., Deb N., Dan W., Brian B., Susan D., Kimberly S., Kim C., Susan N.-Z., George S., John A., Ted W., Daniel M., David W., James B., David S., Eddy Z., Edward G., Dianne K., Bill S., Joel S., Jude M., Kevin H., Tish M., Sue C., Elizabeth W., Cathy S., and Terri H.
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