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Why Pa. legislature is off to a slow start in 2024

Plus, powerful posts set for swearing-in today.

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Tuesday, January 2, 2024
In today's edition: Legislative hibernation, Inauguration Day, new laws for the new year, and a $2,450 taxpayer-funded dog door. Welcome to 2024.
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The Pennsylvania House is about to enter an extended post-holiday hibernation.

In a calendar released in December, state House Speaker Joanna McClinton (D., Philadelphia) told her colleagues the body would not meet to vote on bills until March 18 to allow for a water leak above the chamber’s ceiling to be repaired. 

Traditionally, state lawmakers break for Christmas and return to Harrisburg by mid-January to hold votes. That’s what the state Senate plans to do this year.

Read Spotlight PA's full report: Why the Pennsylvania legislature is off to a slow start in 2024.

THE CONTEXT: The nearly three-month recess will coincide with a Democratic vacancy in the closely divided chamber. 

Only bills that have already passed the state House, then are approved by the state Senate without changes, can reach Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro’s desk during the extended break.

This means the legislature will be temporarily unable to grapple with major issues such as a far-reaching court ruling on how the state funds public education or its outdated Election Code.
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"We are in pursuit of one common goal — a stronger, more unified Coaldale." 

—Mayor Eric Ramirez, of Coaldale, Schuylkill County, who the Republican Herald says may be Pennsylvania's first Republican Hispanic mayor

St. Joseph Hall at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia, via Don N. Have a Pennsylvania photo to share? Send it to us by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.

A stately building seen in the distance on a college campus.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.PHILLY FIRST: Philadelphia's first female mayor, Democrat Cherelle Parker, takes office today. NBC10 will livestream the inauguration at 10 a.m. Outgoing Mayor Jim Kenney had these parting words for the city he's led for the past 8 years.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.NEW EXECUTIVE: Democrat Sara Innamorato will be sworn in as Allegheny County executive today. WESA reports on the picks populating her transition team and the different story they tell from the one spun by her rivals during the big-money campaign.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.
NEW LAWS: WTAE lists the state laws taking effect in 2024. They include increased penalties for so-called porch pirates, lower fitness requirements for new police, limits on solitary confinement for pregnant and postpartum people in prisons, and more.
Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.REFORM ACTS: More than a dozen changes to Pennsylvania’s criminal justice system are now law, among them updates to the state’s notoriously burdensome probation laws and a long-sought bill expanding a record expungement program, per Spotlight PA.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.CLOSING THE DOOR: A spokesperson for Josh Shapiro now tells LNP (paywall) that the Democrat returned a $2,450 dog door purchased with taxpayer money for the Governor’s Residence. “They wanted a basic dog door," the spokesperson said of Shapiro and his wife, Lori.
SOLAR NEW YEAR: Parts of Pennsylvania will be prime viewing locations for this April's total solar eclipse. Erie is in the path of totality and expecting a surreal, primeval show — unless it's cloudy.

FROWNY FACE: A Florida woman is suing the Hershey Company for $5 million because some seasonal Reese's products didn't look like the packaging. For example, a Halloween-themed Reese's candy depicted with a Jack-o'-Lantern face on the wrapper didn't actually have one.

FARM SHOW: The Pennsylvania Farm Show — aka our secret state fair — returns to Harrisburg on Saturday, Jan. 6. The Farm Show is marking its 108th year with a first-ever mullet competition on Monday, Jan. 8.

NEW ARRIVALS: Say hello to some New Year's babies born at Penn Medicine hospitals in Philadelphia yesterday. 

BFF BIRTHDAY: 7-year-old Layla Leuthy Peck of Bucks County made sure her best friend Joe Gagliardi's 100th birthday was extra special with 100 handmade cards and a visit from a fire truck
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.
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Congrats to our weekly winner: Perry H.

Congrats to our daily winners: Barbara F., Don H., Stacy S., Tracy S., Jon W., Becky C., Bob C., Kimberly D., Kim C., Elaine C., James B., Alan B., David W., Rick W., Wendy A., William Z., Dennis M., Susan N.-Z., Richard A., Tom M., and Vicki U.
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