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Pa. House gets first female speaker with Rozzi exit

Plus, a jail's 'shockingly substandard' mental health care. 

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Your Postmaster: Spotlight PA Staff
Wednesday, March 1, 2023
Speaker switch, bird flu outbreaks, chemical cling, big backing, 'shockingly substandard,' cannabis laws, and the northern lights as seen from Pa.

State Rep. Mark Rozzi (D., Berks) resigned as speaker of the House on Tuesday to clear the way for the first female speaker in state history. 

Before backing state Rep. Joanna McClinton to replace him, Rozzi criticized his own coronation and the GOP-engineered deal that secured it: "They tried to manipulate, hoodwink, and snooker the members of this General Assembly by electing me, thinking that I would do their bidding."

McClinton was backed for speaker on Tuesday by all 102 House Democrats and none of the lower chamber's Republicans.

Read Spotlight PA's full report: Joanna McClinton elected first female speaker of the Pa. House as Mark Rozzi steps down.

THE CONTEXT: McClinton, a Philadelphia Democrat, was her party's first choice over Rozzi. But several vacancies left them lacking the votes to install her at the start of the session. That changed last month, with special elections delivering the party a narrow majority in the chamber.

"I'm grateful for all who fought before me … so that this day was possible,” McClinton said upon being sworn in as speaker on Tuesday.

Democrats unveiled their new leadership team soon after.

Rozzi told Spotlight PA he hopes his legacy will be a rules package that would give rank-and-file lawmakers from both major parties more say in the chamber's agenda. A vote on chamber rules is expected today.


"There's no real news to report except that John is doing well, working with the wonderful doctors, and remains on a path to recovery."

—Joe Calvello, spokesperson for U.S. Sen. John Fetterman (D., Pa.), who continues to receive inpatient treatment for clinical depression

Support Spotlight PA's vital journalism and for a limited time, all new monthly gifts will be matched 12X!

A great horned owl on a nest in Lancaster County, via Elliott C. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on IG, or tag @spotlightpennsylvania.

An owl curled up in a tree trunk.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.AVIAN INFLUENZA: Active bird flu outbreaks continue in Pennsylvania, with eight ongoing at commercial farms and backyard flocks in Lancaster, Chester, Tioga, and Allegheny Counties, per federal data. Live markets have been ordered to sell down inventory to slow the spread. A confirmed human case of the virus in Cambodia is not the same strain impacting flocks of birds worldwide, per Nature.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.CHEMICAL VILLAGE: Scientists from Texas A&M and Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh say chemical levels remain elevated near the site of last month's train crash at the Pennsylvania-Ohio border, via CNN. Levels were highest — though not necessarily an imminent danger — for a chemical called acrolein, which can cause inflammation and irritation of the skin, respiratory tract, and mucous membranes.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.RUNNING AGAIN: Former hedge fund CEO Dave McCormick is eyeing a run for Democrat Bob Casey's U.S. Senate seat after losing in last year's GOP primary for former U.S. Senator Pat Toomey's. Two sources told the AP that McCormick has been promised support from a super PAC linked to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell that spends millions of dollars on TV ads; that edge might prove pivotal.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.'SHOCKING' CARE: Expert reports commissioned for a federal lawsuit over the treatment of mentally ill people at Allegheny County Jail say the facility's care is "shockingly substandard," TribLIVE reports. The reports blame staff shortages, poor training, and the overuse of solitary confinement, which Allegheny County voters banned in 2021, among other factors. Poor care in county jails is a statewide crisis.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.POT PREDICAMENTS: On the heels of a federal ruling that says cannabis users can't be denied access to a gun, state Sen. Dan Laughlin (R., Erie) is calling on police to take steps to protect the gun rights of consumers, particularly medical cannabis patients, in Pennsylvania. State Sen. Camera Bartolotta (R., Washington) also wants police to stop treating medical marijuana cards as reasonable suspicion.

UPMC SETTLEMENT: UPMC will pay the federal government $8.5 million in restitution to settle a whistleblower lawsuit involving allegations of fraudulent claims by a star surgeon, WESA reports. 

REDUCTION PLAN: The CEO of western Pennsylvania's newly merged Excela and Butler health systems says they're struggling financially and a "significant expense reduction plan" is looming, per TribLIVE. 

SALARY CAPS: A bill introduced by Democratic state senators would bar Pennsylvania employers from requiring job applicants to disclose their salary histories, saying it perpetuates pay gaps, via KDKA-TV.

NORTHERN LIGHTS: The northern lights made a rare appearance in Pennsylvania this week. Here's photographic proof from Emporium in Cameron County and Ringtown Valley in Schuylkill County.

PROBLEM CHILD: Corbin Millet of Erie County covered his parents' kitchen in peanut butter and went viral on TikTok. Corbin has also peanut-buttered their bathroom and tin-foiled their living room

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Yesterday's answer: Overarching

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