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Pa. House has a new definition of 'majority'

Plus, Pa. allegations against a 'dangerous' employer.

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Tuesday, April 11, 2023
Newly defined, straight-party, curing policy, Senate launch, 'severe violator,' official contradictions, and Pennsylvania's fastest-growing county.

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There are two state House special elections scheduled for primary day, May 16, and more possibly looming, with several state representatives running for local office in this election and setting up fresh vacancies if they win.

None of those seats are likely to flip parties if they open up, but even a temporary vacancy or two could see the Democratic caucus dip below the mathematical definition of majority. But the math doesn’t matter anymore. 

That’s due to a new definition of “majority party” in the state House rules that Democrats adopted last month without any Republican support.

Find Spotlight PA's full report and answers to other Harrisburg questions in the latest installment of our How Harrisburg Works series.

THE CONTEXT: While "majority party" was undefined in past sessions' rules, the state House’s operating rules now say that the majority party is the one that "won the greater number of elections for the 203 seats in the House of Representatives in the general election preceding the term of service that began on the first day of December next after the general election."

Should a vacancy occur during the term, the definition continues, "the political party that won that seat at the last election shall remain the party that won that seat until any subsequent special election is held to fill that seat." 

Control would only be reshuffled if a seat flips, the definition concludes.

Spotlight PA answers more of your questions about Harrisburg, including lawmakers paying for Twitter and rule changes vs. laws here.


"This, I think, arguably is the worst type of coordination, where the candidate is directing donors directly to the outside spending group and getting money to the spending group directly — in this case to a dark money group so the public doesn’t even know it’s happening."

—Shane Creamer of Philadelphia's Board of Ethics, which sued a super PAC and nonprofit backing Jeff Brown's mayoral bid Monday, citing an "elaborate scheme to circumvent the city’s campaign contribution limits"
» How Spotlight PA will cover Pa.'s 2023 primary election

» A guide to Commonwealth, Superior Court candidates

» Los candidatos a la Corte de la Commonwealth y Cortes Superiores

» A guide to the Pa. Supreme Court candidates

» High court candidates with party backing show fundraising edge

» Guía completa de los candidatos a la Corte Suprema del Estado

» Court decision does little to clear up ballot curing confusion

» Supporters hope Pa.’s new legislature will embrace open primaries

» 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. Become a sustaining monthly donor and get your gift matched 12X! 
PRIMARY PRIMER: Join us Thursday, April 13 from 6-7 p.m. ET via Zoom for a free panel on Pa.’s Supreme Court candidates and why the 2023 election matters. Register here and submit questions to events@spotlightpa.org
A wood duck in the Wissahickon Creek near Philadelphia. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on IG, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
A brightly colored duck floats on water.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.PARTY LINES: More Pennsylvania voters are opting for straight-party tickets, according to a 2022 midterm analysis. F&M College pollster Berwood Yost found that only one in seven state legislative districts had winners from both major parties in November. Close to half of the state's districts had split results 30 years ago. Some observers say national politics are drowning out local issues at the polls.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.BALLOT CURES: The Lancaster County Board of Elections will vote Wednesday on a measure that would allow voters there to fix disqualifying errors on a mail ballot envelope, an option it did not offer in November. The board's two staunch ballot curing opponents temporarily gave up their seats to run for reelection, LNP (paywall) reports. It's unclear how their interim replacements will vote on the issue.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.CASEY'S IN: The longest-serving Democratic U.S. senator in Pennsylvania history is running again. U.S. Sen. Bob Casey confirmed Monday that he is running for reelection in 2024
The Washington Post reports that state senator and failed gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano is expected to announce a run for Casey's seat soon as Dave McCormick eyes another GOP primary.
Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.UNSAFE JOBS: The U.S. Department of Labor has labeled Dollar General a "severe" workplace safety violator, with 111 violations documented in its stores since 2017 and more than $15.5 million in penalties imposed. In Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania, violations included blocked emergency exit routes. OSHA says the company, which saw $37.84 billion in sales in 2022, is jeopardizing worker safety.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.AT ODDS: Richard A. Carter, 63, died at Dauphin County Prison on Christmas Eve, but documents detailing what happened just before he died contradict each other. PennLive (paywall) reports a federal form indicates that jail staff immediately provided medical help when Carter said he was short of breath, but a coroner's report indicates no help was provided until he was unconscious and pulseless.

WIDE OPEN: Polling in the Democratic primary for Allegheny County executive has County Treasurer John Weinstein in the lead (28%), followed by City Controller Michael Lamb (24%), and state Rep. Sara Innamorato (17%). More than a quarter of voters were undecided. WESA reports the poll predated media reports about Weinstein's alleged secret deals

TAG TROUBLE: Streetsblog and New Jersey Monitor looked into the temporary license plates from other states that are being linked to crimes in New York City. The Inquirer (paywall) detailed in November of last year how fake tags are used to evade Philly police.

LUNCH IDEAS: The National School Lunch Program recently approved prepackaged meal kits or Lunchables to be served in cafeterias across the U.S. The Philadelphia School District is not entertaining the idea, a spokesperson told Billy Penn, but some parents wish it would.

FOR RENT: The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is also a landlord. The agency is renting out a home it bought in Plum. TribLIVE reports it's one of eight rentals the commission owns near Pittsburgh.

GROW UP: Cumberland is still Pennsylvania's fastest-growing county, per census data. Its population increased 3.5% (or by 9,115 people) between 2020 and 2022. The midstate county is bucking a downward statewide trend.

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: Equilibrium

Congrats to our daily winners: Tracy S., John H., James L., Judy M., Daniel M., Eric F., Justin C., Elaine C., Kim C., Mike B., Kimberly D., Patricia R., Bob C., Susan R., Bruce B., Theresa T., Barbara F., Rick L., James B., John A., James B., Dianne K., Dennis M., William Z., Tish M., Eddy Z., Tom M., Johnny C., Bill S., Rick A., Mark C., Ada M., Jill M., Don H., Ted W., Jodi R., Becky C., Carol S., Jon W., Tom P., Irene R., Julie K., Al M., Jane R., Karen W., Susan N.-Z., Craig W., Starr B., Donna D., Susan D ., Vicki U., Beth T., Kathy W., John F., Nancy S., Leslie B., Mary Jo J., Sarah B., James G., David W., Ben P., Judith D., Art Z., Richard B., Sherri A., Michelle T., Virginia P., Stanley J., 
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