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How redistricting could alter Pa.'s power balance, where ballot questions loom, and 'troubling' tests

Plus, track your local share of federal stimulus funding.


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA

Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
October 26, 2022
Redistricting results, stimulus tracking, ballot questions, independent review, lost ground, good gigs, and no jinxsies. It's Wednesday. Welcome.

This general election will be the first under Pennsylvania's new legislative maps, the product of the state's latest round of redistricting.

The revamped state House and Senate lines have already reshaped the 253-member General Assembly by spawning a wave of retirements.

How they shape the balance of power in Harrisburg will soon be evident. 

Spotlight PA has three things to watch for in our full report: How redistricting will impact the Nov. 8 legislative races in Pennsylvania.

THE CONTEXT: Operatives in both major parties agree that Democrats are likely to shrink Republicans' 111-92 advantage in the state House because of the new lines. Less movement is expected in the state Senate.

Under the old state House map, 80 seats favored Republicans and 78 favored Democrats. The rest were classified as competitive, with the electoral margin between the parties typically less than 10 percentage points.

Under the new state House map, 81 seats favor Republicans and 95 favor Democrats. There are fewer competitive seats overall.

The GOP has acknowledged that the new lines will likely cut into their margin, but it's unclear whether Democrats can flip the chamber.

Democrats see their best opportunity in a decade.


"For too long, the Commonwealth has been derelict in this fundamental duty. The City, in good faith, pleaded with state officials to fulfill their obligations and avoid the crisis we are now seeing."

—Vanessa Garrett Harley, Philadelphia's deputy mayor for the Office of Children and Families, on a lawsuit looking to force the state to alleviate dangerous overcrowding at a city juvenile detention facility
Read our complete coverage, plus key dates, campaign finance data, sample ballots & more at our Election Center 2022 website.

Spotlight on the Issues: Where Mastriano and Shapiro stand on:

»  College Funding & Student Debt
»  Energy & Environment
»  Crime & Justice
»  LGTBQ Rights
»  Abortion, Medicaid, & Opioids
»  Rural Health Care & Broadband
»  Taxes & Business Regulations

More issue analyses will be published in the coming weeks. 

A complete listing of Spotlight PA voter guides:  

»  Your complete guide to voting in the Nov. 8 election
»  Everything you need to know about mail ballots
»  Your complete guide to the candidates for governor
»  How to vet the candidates on your midterm ballot
»  No constitutional amendments on the ballot, but big ones loom
»  How to serve as a poll worker on Nov. 8
»  These Pa. voters haven't missed a Nov. election in 50+ years
»  How Spotlight PA will cover Pennsylvania's 2022 election

En Español:

»  Una guía básica para investigar a los candidatos
»  Cómo trabajar como trabajador electoral el 8 de noviembre
»  Todo lo que necesita saber para votar por correo
»  Su guía completa de los candidatos a gobernador
»  Una guía completa para las elecciones del 8 de noviembre

Support Spotlight PA's vital election coverage by making a gift now.
» @EVERETTSTERN1: Indy candidate ends Senate bid, backs Fetterman
» AXIOS: Democrats deploy Biden, Obama to lock down Pennsylvania
» GUARDIAN: Abortion rights take center stage in Fetterman, Oz debate
» TRIBLIVE: Recap of the first and only Fetterman, Oz debate
» WITF: Fact-checking last night's Fetterman, Oz debate
The hills of Fulton County in autumn, via Don N. Have an image to share? Email your PA Gems (including Halloween and voting pics) to us here, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania
RESCUE FUNDS: The American Rescue Plan Act set aside $350 billion to help local governments nationwide offset the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Spotlight PA explains how to track the money in your municipality and the eligible uses for the funding. Some $6.15 billion has been allocated to counties, cities, and local governments in Pennsylvania, according to state officials.

BALLOT Q&A: There are no statewide ballot questions in this election, but there are local ones. For example: Allegheny County voters will weigh in on county council's "resign to run" rule, the League of Women Voters explains, and Philly voters will decide on giving career and vocational school grads preference for city jobs and creating the city's own aviation department, via Billy Penn.

POLICE REVIEW: How many police is too many for an independent police review board tasked with monitoring misconduct? Allegheny County's new Independent Police Review Board has eight members, and three are former law enforcement officers. PublicSource reports that's raising questions from observers about whether their expertise in policing matters also brings bias into the oversight role.

TEST SCORES: Reading and math assessment scores dropped nationwide during the pandemic, and Pennsylvania schools were no exception. The Inquirer (paywall) reports the declines seen here were steeper than the national average. Pennsylvania eighth-grade math scores fell 11 points since 2019. Two to three point swings are normal. One expert called the large drops "stark" and "troubling."

PLCB NOD: Former GOP state Sen. Randy Vulakovich of Allegheny County is one step closer to becoming the newest member of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board following a favorable committee vote in the state Senate on Tuesday. The Capital-Star reported in 2021 on how lawmakers tap retired or ousted colleagues, along with former staffers, relatives, and allies for lucrative oversight seats.

GAME TIME: Game One of the World Series between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Houston Astros (*) will take place at 8 p.m. on Friday. What's the mood like in Philly in the runup? Author R. Eric Thomas describes it as "whatever the spiritual opposite of a disaster movie is."

DOUBLE JINX: Morning Brew reports that the surest sign of an oncoming financial crisis over the past 100 years has been a Philadelphia baseball team winning the World Series. No pressure.

ID MADE: The Pennsylvania National Guard has identified the soldier killed in a military vehicle crash at Fort Indiantown Gap over the weekend as 20-year-old Spc. Mackenzie Shay of New Castle, per New Castle News.

ALL ALONE: PennLive has the story of William Wilson, known as the Pennsylvania Hermit, who lived in Indian Echo Caverns near Harrisburg for 19 years, from 1802-21, following a devastating and heartbreaking loss.

SHOE HOUSE: The Haines Shoe House in York — 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths — is once again available for short-term vacation rentals. Book it here.

YOU'RE INVITED: Join us for an in-person "Meet the Reporters" event at 6:30 p.m. today at 3 Dots Downtown in State College! We'll share how we find, report, and write stories. We'd also love to hear your questions and coverage ideas. RSVP for free here.
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: Cassette

Congrats to our daily winners: Irene R., Becky C., Michelle T., Bruce B., Kim C., Craig W., Barbara F., Joel S., Jody A., Starr B., Susan D., Patricia M., Don H., Kimberly D., Elaine C., Ted W., Daniel M., Susan N.-Z., George S., Tish M., Wendy A., Cameron T., James B., Dianne K., Alissa H., John H., Mike B., Nancy S., Al M., Brandie K., Bill S., Stanley J., Karen W., Cynthia P., and John H.
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