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Frustrated GOP eyes new redistricting controls

Plus, some tipped workers scoff at new Pa. minimum wage rule.


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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
March 29, 2022
Redistricting control, dangerous conditions, 'meaningless' raise, calls for help, MAGA push, police reform, and Gen Xers aging. It's Tuesday.
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Unhappy with Pennsylvania's latest round of political redistricting and related court rulings, GOP lawmakers are pushing to limit the judiciary's role in the process in a move critics say would simply elevate their own influence.

Spotlight PA rounds up the pending proposals here.

One from state Rep. Seth Grove (R., York) would scrap the bipartisan commission that draws Pennsylvania's legislative districts and replace it with a new, hand-picked commission whose decisions could be overturned by the legislature, which is currently controlled by Republicans.

Another pitch, this one from state Sen. Dave Argall (R., Schuylkill), would keep the existing bipartisan commission in place but force the state Supreme Court to select a chair, at random, from active senior judges in lower appellate courts. Argall believes this would depoliticize the selection process.  

He said the same of his connected push to limit the shelf life of court-ordered maps to only the two-year election cycle in which they are chosen.

THE CONTEXT: All of the above measures are being pursued as constitutional amendments, which need two rounds of legislative approval before seeking final approval from voters. It's become an increasingly common strategy for Republicans looking to avoid Gov. Tom Wolf's veto pen.

The changes have something else in common: All contradict the goals of advocates who have pushed for removing elected officials from the redistricting process to give more power to average Pennsylvanians.

While Grove says his plan to replace the Legislative Reapportionment Commission with a panel of eight civilian appointees would do just that, advocates say it would empower partisans, not the public.

"It's a sham reform," said Carol Kuniholm, director of Fair Districts PA, a nonpartisan redistricting advocacy group. "The specifics of how the commission is appointed puts a lot of power in partisan hands."

Similarly, critics worry Argall's plans would sow confusion and lessen the number of qualified candidates available for a key redistricting role.

The proposals come as the GOP's efforts to reverse the outcomes of this redistricting round have reached unsuccessful conclusions in court.

Republicans dropped their lawsuit against Pennsylvania's court-ordered congressional map Monday following a U.S. Supreme Court snub.

"I don't think about it much. I understand the significance of it, but to me personally it's part of the same thing I've run into a lot of times in my life."

—John Mahn Jr., the first Black board member of the state Fish and Boat Commission in the agency's 156-year history
Chester County's Marsh Creek sparkling in the sun. Thanks, @mar_sees_life! Have a PA Gem you'd like to share with the whole state? Send it by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
I-81 CRASH: At least three people were killed in Monday morning's pileup on I-81 in Schuylkill County, near Pottsville, where snow squalls created dangerous road conditions. According to the Associated Press, more than 40 vehicles were involved and more than a dozen people were taken to area hospitals. On Monday afternoon, Schuylkill County Coroner David J. Moylan predicted the death toll may rise.

WAGE DEBATE: Tipped employees, like restaurant workers, will soon need to collect more than four times as much tip money before employers can pay them less than the state's $7.25-an-hour minimum wage. WHYY reports restaurant workers say the change, touted by Gov. Tom Wolf and others, won't make much difference, and a Pennsylvania Food Workers organizer called it "totally meaningless."

GAMBLING CALLS: Calls to Pennsylvania's gambling addiction help line have surged during the COVID-19 pandemic and with the advent of new forms of legal betting, TribLIVE reports. Last year, 2,090 people called for help statewide, almost double the number (1,100) seen a year prior. The number has continued to increase since the legalization of internet gambling and sports betting, one expert said.

MAGA MOVES: Pennsylvania's largest pension invested billions through the hedge fund formerly run by U.S. Senate candidate David McCormick. But while McCormick calls it a "very successful relationship," The Inquirer found the success wasn't always mutual. In related news: New York magazine explains why McCormick's MAGA bid is raising questions around his wife, Goldman Sachs' Dina Powell.

POLICE FORCE: The death of Jim Rogers in Pittsburgh police custody has spurred the firings of five officers and disciplinary action against three others. The Post-Gazette reports activists applauded the terminations but expressed frustration with what they deem a lack of transparency from the administration of Mayor Ed Gainey, who won with police reform as a major plank of his campaign.
THE VILLAGE: Kathy O'Kane of Lancaster Township is 51 and part of a movement of Gen X volunteers who are linking neighbors, mostly people nearing retirement age, who want to help each other age in place.

TRASHED OUT: Philadelphia Councilor Cindy Bass tells Billy Penn there's so much illegal dumping in the city that even "hardcore Philadelphians" are shocked. The amounts are massive. The arrests? Few and far between.

DEPARTURE TIME: A model train exhibit at Allentown's Merchant Square Mall, one of the area's "last hidden treasures for young kids," is closing for good due to a lack of patronage during COVID-19. Everything is for sale.

BOSS BIRD: A wild turkey in Clearfield County is the oldest ever recorded in Pennsylvania at 12.5 years of age. For reference, the Game Commission says the average lifespan of a female turkey is 1 to 3 years. 

GOOD LISTEN: WESA's Good Question! podcast will answer some of the most vexing questions about how Pittsburgh looks, moves, talks, and more. 
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: Grammar
Yesterday's answer: Prepositional

Congrats to our daily winners: Michelle T., Marisa B., Pat B., Bonnie R., Becky C., Don H., Eddy Z., Kate S., Patricia M., Ed M., Judith D., Susan D., David S., Elaine C., Susan N.-Z., Beth T., Deb N., Ted W., Starr B., Debbie S., Kim C., Judy M., George S., Kimberly S., Craig W., Elizabeth W., Georgann J., Doris T., Michael S., Francine C., Karen W., Johnny C., Irene R., James B., Keith F., Al M., Bill S., David W., Kyle C., Mark C., Chris M., Vicki U., Ann E., Kevin H., Carol D., Jill A.-S., Sharon H., William S., Dianne K., and Lance L.
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