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Cracking down on a ‘revolving door’ of lobbyists

Plus, a struggling hospital turns to GoFundMe.

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Thursday, September 21, 2023
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Current state law bars elected officials and employees who leave those jobs from lobbying in Harrisburg for one year after. A new bill would make it two, aiming to crack down on the Capitol's "revolving door."

The bill, introduced by state Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill (R., York) and backed by members of both major parties, passed a state Senate panel this week and is headed to the full chamber for consideration.

Michael Pollack, executive director of the good-government group March on Harrisburg, would prefer to see a five-year pause, saying, "There needs to be a firewall between public service and private gain."

Read Spotlight Pa's full report: A bipartisan bill seeks to crack down on Harrisburg’s ‘revolving door’ of lobbyists.

THE CONTEXT: From Spotlight PA's reporting: Among the hundreds of registered lobbyists who roam the Pennsylvania Capitol are former Wolf administration officials and top lawmakers from both major parties.

Four former legislators — including Republicans Jake Corman, who led the state Senate, and Stan Saylor, who chaired the state House’s powerful budget committee — were hired by Ray Zaborney's One+ Strategies, which has dozens of clients, including Norfolk Southern, natural gas driller EQT, numerous health care providers, and the city of Philadelphia.

Joe Scarnati, another Republican who held the top position in the state Senate, founded his own lobbying shop in 2021. It recently hired a former state House lawmaker and represents a number of big-name clients including Amazon, SEPTA, CONSOL Energy, and several water and gas utilities.

"The defendant diverted millions of dollars that should’ve gone to the IRS and used it to build a 51,000 square foot mansion in the Pittsburgh suburbs."
—U.S. Attorney Eric G. Olshan on Joseph Nocito, 81, of Sewickley, who was sentenced to one year and one day in prison for tax fraud this week
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At Spotlight PA, we put voters front and center in our nonpartisan election coverage. Get all the information you need to make an informed vote this September by visiting our Election Center website

» Complete guide to the candidates for Pennsylvania Supreme Court

» Complete guide to the candidates for Commonwealth, Superior Courts

» What to know about the judicial retention questions on Pa. ballots

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» 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.

» PATH TO EQUITY: Join Spotlight PA for its first in-person summit on Wednesday, Oct. 11, from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Whitaker Center in Harrisburg. Spotlight PA is co-presenting this event with Color & Culture, a Pennsylvania marketing firm. Tickets are on sale at this link until sold out.

» ELECTION 101: Join Spotlight PA’s government reporters Kate Huangpu and Stephen Caruso on Thursday, Oct. 12 from 6-7 p.m. ET on Zoom for a free panel on Pa.’s 2023 judicial candidates. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org
Sunrise at the M. Harvey Taylor Bridge in Harrisburg, via @yatsko. Have a Pennsylvania photo to share? Send it to us by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
Harrisburg's skyline as seen from across the Susquehanna River, with a bridge framing the photo on the left.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.THIRD PARTY: U.S. Sen. John Fetterman (Pa.) is the latest Democratic official to buck local party leadership and endorse a progressive third-party candidate in Philadelphia's City Council race. He's joined Gov. Josh Shapiro in delivering a high-profile nod to Working Families Party member Kendra Brooks, via Philly Voice, who's running for one of several council seats essentially reserved for non-Democrats. 

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.GOP CRITICS: Brooks' Working Families Party promises to also hold Democrats to account, noting the resistance it's facing from that party's local honchos, but The Inquirer (paywall) reports GOP critics question WFP's independence and warn of one-party rule. The paper says the concern "demonstrates how seriously the GOP is taking the threat from progressives, who are trying to oust them from city government."
  • RELATED: Philly mayoral hopefuls — Cherelle Parker (D) and David Oh (R) — agree to debate on Oct. 26, via PoliticsPA
Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.AUTO MEDICAID: U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) has introduced a bill that would automatically enroll every child in Medicaid at birth, regardless of income, and continue coverage until they turn 18. Those with other insurance can opt out. The bill from Casey, who is running for reelection, comes amid a Medicaid purge that has seen 184,000 Pennsylvanians cut from the program, often due to clerical errors.
  • RELATED: Casey 2024 GOP challenger, David McCormick, expected to launch campaign in Pittsburgh today, via NBC News
Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.
VOTER TURNOUT: Pennsylvania has changed DMV forms to now require that people opt out of registering to vote instead of opting in. But will it make a difference? A 2019 Brennan Center for Justice report found similar systems raised the number of registered voters in other states. And FiveThirtyEight reported on the comparable-but-lower turnout rates for those voters and California's bureaucratic blunder
Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.SCHOOL SUIT: Several school districts and the Pennsylvania School Boards Association are suing the state over a new, lawsuit-inspired rule that allows students receiving special education services to remain enrolled until they turn 22, one year longer than before, per WESA. The PSBA and the districts — Pittsburgh Public Schools, Central Bucks, Upper Darby — say the rule was improperly imposed.
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DRESS DOWN: U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.V.) is not a fan of the chamber dress code change purportedly inspired by U.S. Sen. John Fetterman's (D., Pa.) unconventional wardrobe and told him as much. The New York Times (paywall) has a write-through on the sartorial standoff.

PRO/CON: Ink is being spilled over the Senate's relaxing of its dress code, and conservative media is blaming Fetterman. He's embraced it with this T-shirt launch, while opinion writers and editorial boards respond with pieces on the subject perhaps best filed under favorable, against, and who cares?

TIKTOK BOOM: Wall Street Journal (paywall) reports on how Pennsylvania's richest man and one of its largest political donors, Jeffrey Yass, is backing lawmakers who support the China-based social media app TikTok. Why? Yass owns a sizable share of TikTok's parent company.

HOSPITAL RESCUE: The Inquirer (paywall) reports on a struggling hospital in rural Pennsylvania that's launched a $1.5 million GoFundMe to stay afloat. The South Renovo hospital has been losing up to $150,000 monthly.

DEMO DAY: Another implosion at the site of the former Cheswick power plant in Allegheny County is on hold as residents argue they're still cleaning up the mess left behind by the last one in June, per KDKA-TV.

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: Photocopy
Congrats to our daily winners: Marty M., Vicki U., Jill M., Beth H., Barbara F., Susan N.-Z., Jodi R., Colleen N., Jennifer C., Jody A., Bruce B., Kim N., Carol S., Eric F., Theresa T., Ted W., Don H., David I., Marianne A., DC Patel, Bob C., Beth T., Jon W., David T., Judith D., Michael K., Richard A., John P., Stacy S., Daniel S., Wendy A., Dan A., Jane R., Susan R., Nancy S., Ann W., Kelly S., Elaine C., Vanessa J., Mike B., Daniel M., Doug W., John F., Susan D., Patty R., Marla C., Karen W., William Z., David W., Cameron T., Jessica Z., Ben P., Tish M., Hallie W., Joseph W., Mary S., Craig E., Tom M., Leslie B., James B., Frederick H., Michael T., Starr B., and Joel S.


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