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What Tom Wolf will be remembered for as governor

Plus, Shapiro to take oath on Bible found at massacre site.


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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
Friday, January 13, 2023
Eight years, Krasner case, bipartisan picks, financial constraints, swearing in, water foul, and Philadelphia 'courtesy tows' spur another lawsuit.

A new gubernatorial administration will begin Tuesday with the swearing in of Democrat Josh Shapiro and the handoff from outgoing Democrat Tom Wolf. 

As he prepares to do so, Wolf leaves behind a long list of policy wins, from boosting education funding to legalizing medical marijuana. 

But complicating his legacy is the sense that policymaking in the Capitol often teetered on the edge of political brinkmanship.

Read Spotlight PA's full report: Tom Wolf’s time as Pa. governor is almost over. Here’s what he’ll be remembered for.

THE CONTEXT: Wolf issued the second most vetoes of any governor since the 1970s, rejecting attempts to restrict abortion and LGBTQ rights and protecting his executive actions on issues like climate change.

Wolf’s background as a successful businessman used to calling the shots, particularly early in his tenure, clashed with the reality that he had to negotiate with a legislature dominated by Republicans with opposing views.

That dynamic only intensified as he tried to steer the state through life-or-death decisions during a once-in-generations pandemic.

Former Republican state Senate leader and President Pro Tempore Jake Corman conceded that the GOP has gotten more partisan in the past decade, but insisted Wolf was also “a little more ideological” than previous governors, adding: “One thing I’ll say about Gov. Wolf, in my time with him, he was an honest broker. If he said he would do something, he did it. That’s fair."

Watch: A 1-on-1 exit interview with outgoing Pa. Gov. Tom Wolf.


"I remain steadfast in my commitment that the only question on the primary ballot be statute of limitations reform, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to make that happen."

—Pa. House Speaker Mark Rozzi (D., Berks) on an amendment package that passed the state Senate this week despite Dem opposition; he also named his picks for a working group of lawmakers tapped to break House gridlock
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» BROKEN BOROUGHS: Join us Thursday, Jan. 26 at 6 p.m. EST on Zoom for a free panel on Pennsylvania’s local governments and how their oversight — or lack thereof — impacts residents and governance. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org

The Lazaretto in Tinicum, Delaware County, via Don N. The building is the oldest surviving quarantine station in the Western Hemisphere and was built in 1799 after a series of yellow fever epidemics. Send us your pictures by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.

Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.LEGAL OPINION: Commonwealth Court judges disagreed on the legal questions surrounding a GOP-led push to impeach progressive Philly DA Larry Krasner, but an opinion billed as the majority opinion and released on Thursday was clear: lawmakers have legally insufficient grounds for trying to remove him from office. Krasner's state Senate impeachment trial is on hold and lawmakers are weighing their options.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.NEW APPOINTEES: Former state Sen. Pat Browne (R., Lehigh), a prominent budget negotiator during his time in office, has been nominated for secretary of revenue under incoming Gov. Josh Shapiro, Capital-Star reports. Former state Rep. Michael Carroll (D., Luzerne) has been tapped for transportation secretary, part of a crop of four bipartisan nominees added to Shapiro's list of cabinet picks.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.PROFESSIONAL ADVICE: A former head of Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection has a message for the agency's potential next secretary, Rich Negrin: Be prepared for a challenge. StateImpact reports that Patrick McDonnell says the new leader — who needs state Senate confirmation — will have his management skills tested at an agency that’s been constrained by a decade of underfunding.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.OATH OF OFFICE: Josh Shapiro will take office as governor next week, and he'll be sworn in on a Hebrew Bible that was rescued after the mass shooting at Pittsburgh's Tree of Life synagogue in 2018. According to Forward: The Bible was located on the bimah, the prayer platform, of Or L’Simcha Congregation in Squirrel Hill. Eleven people were killed in the attack and several others were wounded.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.WATER WATCHERS: Citizen scientists report a tenfold increase in the amount of microplastics found in the Ohio River, a Pennsylvania-born waterway and source of drinking water for millions, Environmental Health News reports. The surge started before Shell's new microplastics plant opened on the river's banks in Beaver County, near Pittsburgh, and researchers think they've traced it to a different factory. 
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SEARCH TOOL: Propublica has a searchable database of universities, museums, and other institutions that have the remains of Native American people decades after legislation sought to curb the practice.

TOW SUIT: Victims of "courtesy tows" in Philadelphia — the misnomered process of relocating legally parked vehicles — are filing another class-action lawsuit against the city, The Inquirer (paywall) reports. 

TOTAL LOSS: The Hershey Farm Restaurant is a total loss after fire swept through the Strasburg Township eatery — popular with locals and tourists alike — earlier this week. Police have ruled it an accident.

IT'S SHOWTIME: Somehow New York City didn't have a permanent museum dedicated to Broadway. A Hershey native changed that, via Philly Voice.

PARK STAR: Everyone, meet Castor, a beaver who moved into Pittsburgh's Frick Park last week and made itself right at home.

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: Duplicative

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Barbara F., Vicki U., Dave C., Jon W., Becky C., Ted W., Susan N.-Z., John F., Karen W., Jodi R., Don H., Jane R., Susan D., Starr B., Elaine C., Kim C., Kimberly D., Dianne K., James B., Judi R., Suzanne S., Dennis M., Wendy A., Bill S., Myles M., Tish M., Kimberly B., and Stanley J.
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