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Pa. House returns after month-long stalemate

Plus, activists want operations halted at Pa. Shell plant.

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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
Tuesday, February 21, 2023
House returns, record-setting, borderline concerns, flaring fight, Fetterman divide, ban blocks, and why Delco is mailing condoms to residents.

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The Pennsylvania House returns today and heads straight into another try at a special session on legal relief for survivors of childhood sex abuse.

A special session called in January on the subject dissolved in a stalemate, with both parties in the lower chamber unable to agree to operating rules that are needed before any legislation can pass the House. 

This time, with the winners of three special elections scheduled to be sworn in today, Democrats are set to hold enough of an edge to pass the temporary rules needed to move forward with the special session.

Spotlight PA viewed a draft of the proposed rules that came out of a bipartisan working group. Read the full report: The Pa. House is coming back with a Democratic majority. Will it finally be able to move forward?

THE CONTEXT: The rules draft viewed by Spotlight PA includes a requirement of two-thirds support to amend a bill, rather than a simple majority, in hopes of streamlining passage of legal relief for abuse survivors.

Should the special session move forward now, Speaker Mark Rozzi (D., Berks) said he hopes to hold votes on two measures this week, including a proposed constitutional amendment to enact a two-year window for abuse survivors to file lawsuits against the perpetrators on otherwise outdated claims.

Any measure would also need to pass the GOP-controlled state Senate, which advanced an abuse amendment coupled with more controversial GOP priorities last month, prompting criticism from Rozzi and others.

"I will not allow victims to be used for political gain," he said.


"I think for years, there has been this sense that this is not all coincidence. That local groups are popping up in different places, saying the same things, using the same online campaign materials."

—Michael Burger, executive director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University, on an activist group spreading misinformation to stop solar projects in Pennsylvania and several other states
A LOST NEIGHBORHOOD: Join us Thursday, Feb. 23 at 6 p.m. EST on Zoom for a free panel on the history of Harrisburg’s 8th Ward, the residents who once called it home, and the groups making sure it's remembered. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org.
Support Spotlight PA's vital journalism and for a limited time, all new monthly gifts will be matched 12X!
Navel-gazing swans at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge, via Don N. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
A pair of swans is seen preening in water.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.THON TRACK: Penn State students stayed on their feet for 46 hours over the weekend, raising a record $15 million for pediatric cancer research and support. In case you missed it last week, Spotlight PA looked into the annual THON fundraiser to see where the money actually goes. Roughly a fifth has gone to aiding patients and families. Most has gone to funding research and related endowments.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.FORGOTTEN FEELING: Pennsylvanians who live near the site of a toxic train crash just over the Ohio border say the state line now represents an informational and assistance divide. "We hear all kinds of stuff going on with attorneys and people in Ohio getting information," Lee Hostetter of Beaver County told WESA. "But here, I'm right here and don't hear nothin’. Nobody comes to see me or anything."

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.AIR QUALITY: Shell's massive petrochemical plant in Beaver County has received seven violation notices related to air quality since September, Beaver County Times (paywall) reports. In response, two environmental nonprofit organizations are calling for operations to be temporarily halted there "until the company can demonstrate it can operate in compliance with pollution control laws."

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.PARTISAN DIVIDE: Studies have shown Republicans and Democrats think differently about mental health, and Grid News reports the response to last week's hospitalization of U.S. Sen. John Fetterman (D., Pa.) only affirms it. Fetterman is being treated for depression less than a year after suffering a near-fatal stroke. He could remain in the hospital for more than a month. The Senate is in recess this week. 

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.COOKING WITH GAS: State Rep. Martin Causer (R., McKean) is drumming up support for a bill that would prohibit the state and municipalities from banning gas stoves or any appliances based on the type of energy they use, the Times Observer reports. Last year, then-Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, vetoed GOP-penned legislation that sought to ban towns from regulating utility hookups locally.

TENTATIVE DEAL: Striking grad students and Temple University have reached a tentative agreement that could end a weeks-old walkout there, via NBC10. A few miles away, The Inquirer (paywall) reports Penn Medicine residents and fellows want a union, citing grueling workloads.

RENT INCENTIVES: Homelessness is high in Pittsburgh, and with shelters at capacity, local officials are offering landlords money to rent apartments to people transitioning out of them, PublicSource reports.

BOOK BANS: A right-wing group born in Florida two years ago now has chapters in 27 Pennsylvania counties and is driving efforts to ban LGBTQ-friendly books in schools statewide, via Philadelphia Gay News.

DELCO SAFE: U.S. syphilis rates are at a 20-year high and Delaware County is mailing free condoms to residents and offering free testing in response. The condom program, Doing Delco Safely, launched last week.

ROOTS PICNIC: The Roots Picnic returns to Philadelphia in June, this time for three days. Performers include Diddy, Lauryn Hill, Lil Uzi Vert, the Isley Brothers, and, more controversially, comedian Dave Chappelle.

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: Scrupulous

Congrats to our daily winners: Eddy Z., Beth T., Eric F., John P., Gigi L., Michelle T., Kimberly D., Joel S., Tara M., Susan D., Bruce B., Kim C., Becky C., Starr B., Burnetta S., Dan A., Laura T., Marty M., Mike B., Donna G., Kate S., Pamela M., Mark O., Jon W., Tricia M., Daniel M., Al M., Brandie K., Kim R., Jane R., Wendy A., Marla C., Judy M., Kathee M., Jodi R., Karen W., Jane M., Richard A., Rick L., Don H., Larry B., Justin C., Marsha B., Irene R., Ronnee G., John F., Kimberly B., Carla W., Jerry G., Elaine C., Susan N.-Z., Stanley J., Dennis M., Donna D., Craig W., Beverly F., Bill M., Susan M., Tish M., Moon M., Sandie W., Nancy S., Dianne K., David B., Ada M., Chuck M., Bill S., Kevin M., Ginny M., Keith W., Joshua V., Myles M., James B., Judith D., Margaret D., John H., and Patty R.


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