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Pa. House control will likely be decided this week

Plus, takeaways from Speaker Rozzi’s listening tour.


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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
Monday, February 6, 2023
Special Tuesday, status trick, jail settlements, odd dynamic, legal notice, SCOPA pick, dangerous derailment, and Slippery Rock's parting shot.

A month-long deadlock in Pennsylvania's state House could end this week, with three Allegheny County special elections set for Tuesday. 

Find more info on who can vote here, via WESA.

The contests in three Democrat-favoring districts are expected to give that party its first state House majority in a decade.

But questions remain around the speakership of state Rep. Mark Rozzi (D., Berks) and what the divided chamber might manage to accomplish.

Read Spotlight PA's full report: Pennsylvania House control will likely be decided by special elections this week.

THE CONTEXT: A statewide listening tour organized by Rozzi to solicit feedback about the state House's operating rules, which still have not been put in place for this session, revealed broad frustration with the chamber.

Commenters called for rule changes meant to improve lawmaker accountability in cases of misconduct and force votes on popular legislation that often languishes in committees under partisan chairs. 

Other testimony focused on issues like the state's closed primaries that exclude unaffiliated voters, and a growing reliance on constitutional amendments to advance one-sided policy goals.

Read Spotlight PA's listening tour recap: Pennsylvanians are clear: They want less partisan gridlock in the state House.


"If this all stands, we have to reinvent ourselves."

—Rob Malley, of the Bushy Run Battlefield Heritage Society, on Pennsylvania banning simulated warfare in war reenactments at 23 state-owned sites
» HOW SPECIAL ELECTIONS WORK: Join us Thursday, Feb. 9 from 6-7 p.m. on Zoom for a free panel on the results of the Feb. 7 special elections, how they work, and why they matter. This event is the first in our "How Harrisburg Works" series. Register here and submit your questions to 
A vibrant sky, via @debarcjenks. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
A multi-colored sky of yellow, orange, purple, and blue.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.MISIDENTIFIED: Democrats in Harrisburg want to crack down on businesses that mislabel workers as independent contractors to avoid paying for benefits. A task force said the misclassifications cost the state tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue annually and recommended stiffer penalties and a single test for determining contractor status. Critics warn of adverse consequences, per WESA.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.LEGAL BILLS: Lawsuits alleging abuse and neglect that led to significant harm and even deaths of incarcerated people have cost Dauphin County more than $1.4 million since 2019, PennLive (paywall) reports. Dauphin County settled more than a dozen jail lawsuits in that time, significantly more than some of its peers. York County, which jails more people, settled only two lawsuits in the same time period.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.SHERIFF SCRUTINY: Philadelphia Sheriff Rochelle Bilal's undersheriff is moonlighting as a criminal defense attorney, representing some of the same people arrested by the sheriff's office, The Inquirer (paywall) reports. It's an unusual dynamic and one rife with potential conflicts of interest, experts say. In other news, Bilal doesn't want to talk about a $6,662 party she threw at Chickie's & Pete's.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.SHELL SUIT: Two environmental groups plan to sue Shell over air-quality violations at its massive new Beaver County petrochemical plant. PublicSource reports the groups — The Environmental Integrity Group and the Clean Air Council company — have given Shell 60 days to respond, saying it's run afoul of the federal Clean Air Act and emission caps set by the state, which heavily subsidized the plant.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.SCOPA SEAT: Pennsylvania Republican Party officials have endorsed Montgomery County Judge Carolyn Carluccio to be the party's nominee in this year's election for Pennsylvania's open state Supreme Court seat, via AP. Democrats endorsed state Superior Court Judge Daniel McCaffery last week. The primary is May 16. The winner in November will serve a 10-year term on the state's highest court.

STATE OF EMERGENCY: A freight train headed to Beaver County derailed late Friday in Ohio, not far from the Pennsylvania state line. A massive and hazardous fire followed, as did an evacuation order and state of emergency declaration. Here's the latest update from KDKA-TV.

PUBLIC HOUSING: State Rep. Frank Burns (D., Cambria) says Johnstown has too many public housing units, a holdover from the days when the city's population was ten times higher. WTAJ reports Burns is proposing tearing down excess units and rebuilding them in Philadelphia or elsewhere.

NOT RUNNING: Lawrence County Commissioner Morgan Boyd isn't running for re-election and hasn't made any future plans public yet, New Castle News reports. The 24-year-old Republican endorsed Democrat Josh Shapiro for governor last year, calling the GOP nominee "too extreme."

THE ROCK: Dr. Phil's show is going off the air after 21 years, and his mortal enemies at Slippery Rock University — which Phil famously dissed in 2019 — offered this reaction on Twitter Friday. Phil apologized for his comments about the school, saying he didn't realize it was a real place.

'REST IN PEEPS': Candy pioneer Ira "Bob" Born, who helped bring Bethlehem-made Peeps to the masses, died last month at the age of 98. The Guardian reports that Born served in World War II and went on to lead the family company that his father started for more than three decades.

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.

Friday's answer: Pertinent

Congrats to our weekly winner: Trudy W.

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Becky C., Elaine C., Barbara F., Michelle T., Susan N.-Z., Don H., Jon W., Kevin M., Jane R., Ted W., Judith D., Hugh M., Susan D., Wendy A., Alexander R., John B., Mike T., Kim C., Elizabeth W., James B., Patricia R., Ben P., William Z., Dennis M., Dan D., Stanley J., Myles M., Dianne K., Bill S., Kimberly D., Vicki U., Mary H., Joel S., and Keith W.
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