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|House rules, pay gaps, yes votes, police export, failure to launch, test results, gavel-breaker, message in a bottle, and unseasonal allergies.|
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Speaker Mark Rozzi (D., Berks) is ready to introduce his plan for rules that will guide the state House this legislative session.
But some in his own party are expressing doubts about the leverage he would extend to the Republican minority for the next two years.
Rozzi's plan would give the minority party more power to set the legislative agenda, something his fellow Democrats have supported before, along with good-government advocates.
Now, some Democrats, after spending 12 years in the minority before flipping the chamber last year, worry Rozzi's plan could imperil a chance to advance their agenda without obstruction from the opposing party.
Read Spotlight PA's full report: The Pa. House is getting ready to consider critical chamber rules. Here’s what you need to know.
THE CONTEXT: Under rules in previous sessions, the majority party has held near-total control over which bills advance in the chamber and which die without consideration. That has blocked Democratic priorities like raising the minimum wage and expanding anti-discrimination protections.
Rozzi's rules, which he's set to introduce for chamber approval this week, include provisions that would make it easier to force votes on legislation in highly influential committees, where contested bills often languish, and give the minority party more representation on those committees.
State Rep. Greg Vitali (D., Delaware), who has criticized how the chamber operates and backed a change that would let every lawmaker pick one bill a session that is guaranteed a floor vote, now says he would not support significant changes to last session's majority-favoring rules.
"... 30 years have seasoned me, and I understand that this is about governing," he told Spotlight PA. Party leaders, meanwhile, have declined to elaborate on the kind of rules they will support.
|NOTABLE / QUOTABLE|
"The entire premise of Rep. Perry's claim for privilege over these communications would turn the Clause's foundational purpose on its head."
—Chief Judge Beryl Howell ordering U.S. Rep. Scott Perry (R., Pa.) to turn over 2,000-plus phone records he's withheld from Jan. 6 investigators
|A square of Lancaster County sky, via Pete B. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.|
|PROBLEM PAY: A group of teaching faculty in Penn State's Department of English say they are the lowest-paid teaching unit at the university and that the state-related school isn't providing a living wage. PSU President Neeli Bendapudi has pledged to address the issue, but Spotlight PA reports the university has already broken a promise to deliver merit-based raises due to "financial challenges."|
ABUSE BILLS: The Pennsylvania House on Friday advanced two measures that would provide a temporary rollback of the statute of limitations for lawsuits by survivors of childhood sex abuse. Both are headed to the GOP-controlled state Senate, where Majority Leader Joe Pittman (R., Indiana) — referring to this contested omnibus bill — said their work on the issue was already done.
DRIVEN OUT: Officials in Ashtabula, Ohio are "livid" at Pennsylvania State Police who they say left a disabled homeless man from Erie at a local hospital and drove away. The Star Beacon was told the man has no connection to Ashtabula and that his caretaker, checks, and services are all in Erie. A Pennsylvania State Police spokesperson said they thought they were doing the 52-year-old a favor.
CRISIS RESPONDERS: Three years and $5 million later, Pittsburgh still hasn't launched a team of social workers promised as an alternative to armed police handling calls involving people in crisis. "We've had this unit up and running, at least funded, for three years now but they've failed to launch," city Controller Michael Lamb said, via KDKA-TV. Officials say the program is still in the development phase.
WATER TESTS: Residents and workers near the site of a toxic train crash at the Pennsylvania-Ohio border are reporting chemical bronchitis, rashes, and other potentially linked conditions, via NBC News. Pennsylvania officials say they have independently tested 13 of 16 private water wells within a mile and more tests are coming. Results will be posted here starting around the first of March.
SATAN STOPPERS: A Northampton County school district has rescinded its approval of the state's first "after-school Satan club," citing threats and the new club's violation of district policy. The Satanic Temple, which pushed for the club on constitutional grounds, is weighing its options.
DEBT RELIEF: Betty Ann of suburban Philadelphia borrowed $29,000 to attend college in 1983 and wound up owing $329,309.69. After a New Yorker profile garnered national attention, all the debt has been cleared. The magazine (paywall) asks: Could relief be that simple?
POWER HITTER: Pennsylvania House Speaker Mark Rozzi (D., Berks) has developed a reputation for forceful swings of the gavel. On Friday, he broke a brand new one and the chamber burst into applause. "It was just a matter of time," state Rep. Maureen Madden (D., Monroe) tweeted.
BOTTLED UP: Joe Fresetta recently found a 50-year-old message in a bottle at Fowlers Hollow State Park in Perry County. The bottle held notes from four people who stayed at the park in 1973. Now, Fresetta and WGAL are trying to track down the family with the last name Moore and ties to York.
SWING STATE: January was the second-warmest on record in Pennsylvania. February was balmy as well. But the springtime allergy symptoms you may be experiencing are actually something else, WESA reports.
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