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A sliver of voters decide most legislative races

Plus, PA standardized tests to go digital.

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A daily newsletter by The logo of Spotlight PA, an independent, nonpartisan newsroom producing investigative journalism for Pennsylvania.
Your Postmaster: Tanisha Thomas

Friday, April 19, 2024
Today: Minority rule, Boyle update, endless waits, online tests, contraceptive change, and the Voter Hall of Fame. Thanks for checking in.
A vast majority of contests for seats in Pennsylvania’s House and Senate will be effectively decided by next week’s primary elections, leaving control of the legislature and its policy agenda in the hands of a small minority of voters.
The state’s closed primary system only allows Democrats and Republicans to participate in their party’s spring election, leaving out the state’s 1.3 million unaffiliated and third-party voters. Additionally, the races for just 14% of the 228 seats on the ballot this year are expected to be competitive. Only 1.9 million of Pennsylvania’s 8.7 million voters live in these districts.

Read Spotlight PA's full report: The vast majority of Pa. legislative races will effectively be decided during the primary.
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"I hear some of my family will be endorsing President Biden today. I am pleased they are politically active — it’s a family tradition."
Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on his family endorsing President Joe Biden, instead of him, in Philadelphia Thursday.


BROKEN PRIMARIES: Join us TODAY from 6-7 p.m. ET on Zoom for a Spotlight PA members-only event with Nick Troiano, author of The Primary Solution, a new book on how our partisan primaries are fueling the political divide in America and what we can do about it. Sponsored by Ballot PA.

Become a Spotlight PA member here and you'll be automatically registered for the event.
A black rat snake sunning itself in a tree at Swatara State Park, Lebanon County, via Dan E. Have a Pennsylvania photo to share? Send it to us by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania
a snake wrapped around a branch in the tree
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.
EXPULSION EYED: State Rep. Kevin Boyle (D., Philadelphia) is facing a warrant for his arrest and now possible expulsion from the House. In response to Boyle's situation, the AP reports Majority Leader Matt Bradford (D., Montgomery) has proposed a new process for determining if state representatives are “incapacitated” and to sanction or expel them. Boyle has been open about his mental health struggles.
Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.
ONLINE EXAMS: Pennsylvania standardized tests are going fully online by 2026, Gov. Shapiro said Thursday. Capital-Star reports the change aims to speed up Keystone Exams and the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, saving time and money. Some 32% of districts have already shifted to online testing. Shapiro wants to do away with the tests completely but says federal funding would be cut.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.
WAITING LIST: The Shapiro administration this week announced a plan to eventually end long waits faced by thousands of Pennsylvania families seeking state-subsidized support services for an intellectually disabled relative, the AP reports. An estimated 4,500 families are on the emergency waitlist now amid an industry-wide staffing shortage. Shapiro is calling for several years of funding hikes to end the backlog.
Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.
AT-LARGE LAWSUIT: The Hazleton Area School District wants a lawsuit against its at-large voting system dismissed. Two Latino parents brought the suit, alleging the election method diminishes the power of Hispanic votes, in violation of the Voting Rights Act. The district countered, saying Republicans are blocking Hispanic candidates from winning, not white voters, Standard-Speaker (paywall) reports. 

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.
ROE REACTION: More young Americans sought permanent contraceptive procedures after the overturning of Roe v. Wade, according to a new study by the University of Pittsburgh and Boston University. Sterilization procedure rates were already rising among patients ages 18 to 30, but they jumped significantly in June 2022 after a draft of the U.S. Supreme Court decision was leaked.
🗞️ THINK YOU'RE PRETTY SMART? Prove it with this week's PA News Quiz: 2024 primary questions, January 6 charges, and Biden tariffs.
VOTER RECOGNITION: A Montgomery County commissioner held the county’s first Voter Hall of Fame event this month to encourage turnout. Meet some of Pennsylvania's Hall of Fame voters here.
CANCEL CRITICS: Some Cumberland Valley School District parents want to salvage a 30 Rock actor’s canceled appearance, calling the school board’s decision an attempt to stop a positive message, per PennLive (paywall). 
HELL-SPOTTERS: Environmentalists want Pennsylvanians to report hellbender sightings so we can collectively learn how to improve conditions for the official state amphibian, whose survivability is threatened
MIRACLE MOMENT: A Pennsylvania woman found her guardian angel at a Taco Bell in Bucks County last week when an employee ran out to perform CPR on her baby, who was struggling to breathe. 
NAME IDEAS: The Philadelphia Menace and Philadelphia Freedom were a couple of names pitched by Axios readers as Philly looks to land a WNBA expansion team. Philly is one of the cities the league is eyeing.
Unscramble and send your answer to 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: Expressive

Congrats to our daily winners: Ted W., Beth H., Mike B., Vicki U., Jill M., Rosemary C., John C., Kevin M., Jane R., Ada M., Eric F., Elaine C., Eddy Z., Jon W., Susan N., Richard A., Don H., Bob C., Stacy S., Bruce B., Alan B., Cynthia B., Jody A., Keith F., Gloria W., Joyce C., Daniel M., Gabrielle G., Barbara F., Judith D., Nan S., Marty M., Daniel S., Millie M., Beth T., Betty S., Susan R., Michael K., Julie K., Craig E., Christina M., Leslie B., David M., Malachy M., Karyl S,, Karen W., Rena Z., Kimberly D., Anthony W., Deb W., Tom M., Mark C., Amelia M., John H., Ernest R., Elizabeth R., Marie B., Jeffrey F., Wendy A., Frederick H., John P., Adrien M., Carol S,, Tish M., Joel S., Sharon B., Ellen G., Stanley J., Richard P., Steve D., Ronnee G., and Starr B.
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