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Pa.'s presidential primary date could be moving up

Plus, more opioid windfall spending debates.

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Wednesday, August 30, 2023
New dates, drug police, school blocks, house hoarding, competency check, high taxes, and The Office looms large. Thanks for checking in. 

State legislators are set to consider bills that would move Pennsylvania's 2024 presidential primary to an earlier date, the proposals coming amid a Passover scheduling conflict and ambitions for greater national political relevance.

The state Senate returns today for budget-related work and its State Government Committee is set to consider a bill that would move the primary election from April 23 (the first day of Passover) to March 26, per the AP's Marc Levy. That's before New York and Wisconsin but "behind practically every other major state," Levy adds. 

The chair of the Pennsylvania House's State Government Committee, Rep. Scott Conklin (D., Centre), is open to considering the aforementioned bill, if it reaches him, and says his panel will consider another from state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D., Philadelphia) with an alternate date of April 2.

Kenyatta's bill, Conklin says, "gives Pennsylvanians a greater voice in national politics" and offers a "more family-friendly and inclusive [post-holiday season] timeline" for petition gathering. 

THE CONTEXT: The notion of a primary date change isn't new in Pennsylvania, but support has grown in the Capitol as the current date would make in-person voting impossible next year for many observant Jews who don't work, drive, use electronics, or write during Passover. 

Lawmakers in two other states with primaries set for the first day of the holiday — Maryland and Rhode Island — have already changed theirs. 

Secretary of the Commonwealth Al Schmidt last month urged Pennsylvania's Senate to act quickly on the issue to avoid county-level repercussions. It's unclear what the final product will look like.

Timing could also be an issue. While the Senate is in session today, it’s the only day the chamber is scheduled to be in Harrisburg until September. The House isn’t due back in the Capitol until Sept. 26.

Both of the proposals being floated would keep Pennsylvania’s primary after the start of former President Donald Trump's March 4 election interference trial. Both would also apply only in presidential election years, according to their current wording. And, as The Inquirer notes, if all else fails, Jewish voters would still be able to cast ballots by mail.


“You will not get truth quickly on social media, if at all.”

—Matthew Jordan, director of Penn State’s News Literacy Initiative, in an interview with WITF on spotting misinformation during political turmoil
Support Spotlight PA's investigative journalism for Pennsylvania.
» Pa.-owned universities offering Google Career Certificates, via TribLIVE
» Guide to Pa. resignations, retirements, special elections, via Capital-Star
» Pa. schools struggle with free breakfast participation, via Inky (paywall)
» State public education funding’s teachable moment, via City & State
» DOC clarifies policy after Amish discrimination claim, via LNP / WITF
» MISSED CONDUCT: Join us Thursday, Aug. 31 from 6-7 p.m. on Zoom for a free panel discussion on Penn State’s post-Sandusky misconduct policies, transparency in higher education, and how universities can keep students and employees safe. Register here. Submit questions to events@spotlightpa.org.

» CRIMINAL SOLUTION: Join Spotlight PA, the Pittsburgh Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and experts on Thursday, Sept. 14, 6-7:30 p.m. ET at Point Park University for a live discussion on how a Pennsylvania law traps those with mental health issues in jail. RSVP now; seating is limited. 

» STORY FEST: Spotlight PA is participating in Philly Story Fest, a first-of-its-kind festival that brings together storytellers from across the city on one stage. Join us Thursday, Oct. 5 from 7-10 p.m. at the Bok building in South Philadelphia (1901 South 9th St.). Tickets are $25 and available here.
The view from one of Pennsylvania's newest state parks, the Susquehanna Riverlands, courtesy of Don H. Have a photo to share? Send it to us by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
A cliffside shot of the Susquehanna River and a bridge surrounded by a verdant landscape.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.OPIOID MONEY: Lancaster County commissioners are set to vote today on a plan to use $193,000 from a historic opioid settlement to hire drug-focused law enforcement agents, including a "community prosecutor." LNP (paywall) says an oversight board has given tentative approval to such hires, though it's unclear they comport with the terms of the legal settlement. Other initiatives already approved by the county align more clearly with the guidelines and what harm-reductionists say is needed.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.THE UNENROLLED: The federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act guarantees equal educational opportunities to children without stable housing. But Chalkbeat and the Center for Public Integrity found tension around the law in Pennsylvania, where some families have been suspected of residency fraud and some districts have deployed private investigators or school police to rebut their claims.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.
CORPORATE BUYERS: WESA reports corporate buyers are shaping Pittsburgh's housing market by snapping up affordable units and tightening the supply. A Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group study found corporate buyers accounted for a quarter of home sales in Pittsburgh in 2021 and 18% in Allegheny County. While that’s lower than the rates seen elsewhere in the U.S., advocates say it's still too high.
Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.COMPETENCY CASE: Accused Philadelphia mass shooter Kimbrady Carriker has been deemed incompetent to stand trial. Carriker is charged with killing five people during a shooting spree in Kingsessing over the July Fourth holiday weekend. The Inquirer (paywall) says Carriker has been ordered to receive inpatient mental health treatment before the case can proceed, putting the proceedings on hold.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.
TAX BURDENS: The highest property tax burdens in Pennsylvania belong to northeastern counties like Monroe (4.73%) and Pike (3.81%), the Center Square reports. The article, citing Independent Fiscal Office reporting, continues: Though sometimes overlooked, rural counties generally had higher property tax burdens — a result of having "relatively larger elderly populations and lower per capita income levels."
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REMOTE-WORK STATS: The Inquirer's Jake Blumgart offers a few fact-checks and counterpoints to that Wall Street Journal story, shared here last week, on Philadelphia's slow return to the office and in-person work.

OFFICE SPACE: A large The Office mural has been unveiled in Scranton, Billy Penn reports. Organizers told our PA Local newsletter last year about how the city is embracing the once-awkward fame the show delivered.

DEER HUNTERS: Pittsburgh is mulling a culling, specifically a bow hunting program to control deer in its parks, per WESA. It's not as strange as it may sound: Pittsburgh Quarterly profiled the city's urban hunters in 2019.

AYAT OPENING: A popular Palestinian restaurant with locations in New York City is set to open its first store in Pennsylvania next month. The Ayat branch will serve kebabs and kibbeh on West Tilghman St. in Allentown.

HOCKEY STARS: Pennsylvania didn't get a team in the new Professional Women’s Hockey League, but Pittsburgh can still claim the women who broke the sport's glass ceiling and Philly has the trans-inclusive Freeze

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 5:30 p.m. on issue date will be counted.
Yesterday's answer: Insidious

Congrats to our daily winners: Bruce Ba., Judith D., Mark O., Bob C., John E., Barbara F., Susan N.-Z., Don H., David T., John W., Kimberly D., Lori B., Elaine C., Jon W., Stephanie J., Dan A., Jane R., Mary S., Marisa B., Stacy S., Julie K., Johnny C., Jodi R., Carol S., Pamela M., Eric F., Bruce Bi., Vicki U., Victoria F., Kim C., Michael S., Beth T., Stanley J., Ted W., James B., William Z., Karen W., Michael K., Daniel S., Dennis M., John F., Mike B., Tom M., Ben P., Marla C., Nancy S., Chuck M., Karen B., Doug W., Tish M., Michael T., Rena Z., Keith F., Starr B., Wendy A., Linda T., Craig E., John P., Daniel M., Eddy Z., Marcia G.E.


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