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Key senator opposes Pa. open primary push

Plus, Pitt names its first female chancellor.

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Your Postmaster: Spotlight PA Staff
Tuesday, April 4, 2023
Primary push, a first for Pitt, mail maneuver, unilluminating, conflict numbers, legal appeal, and the show goes on in East Palestine. This is PA Post.
At least one key senator stands in the way of efforts to open Pennsylvania's primaries to over a million independent voters.

State Sen. Cris Dush (R., Centre) is the new chair of his chamber’s State Government Committee, which any open primary legislation would need to move through, and he's opposed to the idea: "It's like having the Baltimore Ravens be involved with the draft of the Pittsburgh Steelers."

Dush is an influential obstacle, but any of the open primary bills that lawmakers plan to introduce this year would also need to be called up by the leaders of each legislative chamber and ultimately earn the governor's support. None of them has been conclusive on the subject.

Read Spotlight PA's full report: Supporters hope Pa.'s new legislature will embrace open primaries, but at least one big hurdle remains.

THE CONTEXT: Advocates for open Pennsylvania primaries say unaffiliated and third-party voters pay taxes too, noting that races in municipalities with a strong partisan bent can be effectively decided in the primary phase. Opponents argue that allowing voters from outside a party to participate dilutes the platform and muddies the waters.

State Sen. Dan Laughlin (R., Erie), a longtime supporter of opening Pennsylvania's primaries, sponsored a bill that would have done so last session and says he plans to try again this year. Laughlin said he has spoken with Dush about the bill. While Dush doesn’t currently support open primaries, Laughlin said he thinks popular opinion could sway the chair.

"I don't believe it's a live or die bill for him," Laughlin said of Dush. "This is not a politically dangerous vote for a legislator to put up. No one’s going to get voted out of their district for open primaries."

Important note: While unaffiliated and third-party voters can't currently vote for candidates in a primary, they can participate in special elections, ballot referendums, and other local initiatives that coincide.

Read more, via City & State: A guide to the gatekeepers: Here's who's running the most powerful committees in Harrisburg.

"It is an incredible organizing tactic too, so we want to make sure that we’re protecting it — keeping it safe — but protecting it."

—U.S. Rep. Summer Lee (D., Pa.) defending TikTok amid a federal effort to crack down on the site over national security and data privacy concerns
» How Spotlight PA will cover Pa.'s 2023 primary election

» A guide to Commonwealth, Superior Court candidates

» A guide to the Pa. Supreme Court candidates

» Guía completa de los candidatos a la Corte Suprema del Estado

» Court decision does little to clear up ballot curing confusion

» Why independents can't vote in Pa. primaries (Spotlight PA archives)

» How unequal policies disenfranchised Pa. voters in 2022

» Register to vote in the May 16 primary here; deadline May 1

» Request your mail ballot for the May 16 primary; deadline May 9

Support Spotlight PA's public-service election and voting coverage now. Become a sustaining monthly donor and get your gift matched 12X! 
As seen by Carl K. at the John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove in Montgomery County. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
Small white flowers in a bed of leaves.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.HIGHER ED: Pitt has named Joan Gabel its first female chancellor and she's set to take over on July 1. Gabel comes to Pittsburgh by way of the University of Minnesota system. In other news: The search is underway for a new Temple University president following Jason Wingard's resignation less than two years into a tenure marked by problems that didn't go unnoticed in Harrisburg.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.GOP EPIPHANY: PennLive (paywall) reports there's a new political action committee with a message for Pennsylvania Republicans: consider voting by mail. November's midterm losses prompted a reevaluation of the party's vilification of the option. The Win Again PAC said of the GOP's reliance on in-person votes: "Democrats are collecting ballots while Republicans are collecting promises."

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.BALLOT BLUNDER: A congressional hearing last week on the paper ballot shortage that marred Luzerne County's 2022 midterm election saw bipartisan agreement on the seriousness of the problem but little else. Votebeat reports lawmakers debated whether the failures actually constituted "voter suppression" and failed to glean new information about precisely how the paper shortages happened

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.POLICE REPORT: PublicSource reports that complaints against Pittsburgh police dropped last year to their second-lowest level in a decade, calling it "one of several metrics suggesting that police interactions with residents were less conflictual than usual during the first year of Mayor Ed Gainey’s tenure." Gainey ran on a pro-police reform platform, but there's no consensus on what's driving the trend.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.PREEMPTION LAW: After two consecutive years of 500-plus gun-related homicides, Philadelphia's city council has approved a longshot resolution calling on the state legislature to temporarily suspend its gun law preemption for Philly and other big cities, The Philadelphia Tribune reports. City voters are also set to decide a contested push to create a new chief public safety director on May 16.

STORM DAMAGE: A dangerous wave of tornadoes seen from Arkansas to Delaware over the weekend included one in Bucks County that "blew off a roof facade of a strip mall in Newtown, with a continuous path of damage that ended near Newtown Cemetery," The Inquirer (paywall) reports. 

PA JOBS: Pennsylvania's Office of Open Records is looking for a summer intern. Pay is $16/hour and the "experience is priceless," former executive director Erik Arneson tweets. Elsewhere: The PA Historical & Museum Commission is looking for an archivist to join its team.

STOP MOTION: The Inquirer's video team joins Amanda Parezo, who was paralyzed 18 months ago by a stray bullet, as she struggles to navigate Philly sidewalks in a wheelchair on her one-mile daily commute.

PARK PAY: Unionized PNC Park ushers are pushing for higher wages, saying they're well behind their counterparts both locally in Pittsburgh and nationwide. The union said a strike is "not off the table." 

SHOWTIME: The show went on for drama students in East Palestine, Ohio, after February's toxic train derailment upended preparations for this year's school play. WESA reports even the state's governor came to watch.

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: Ameliorate

Congrats to our daily winners: Becky C., Starr B., Diane B., Tracy S., Kevin M., Wendy A., Eric F., Barbara F., Irene R., Don H., Dan E., Judy M., Jon W., James B., Susan N.-Z., Craig W., Kim C., Lynne E., John F., Bob C., Karen W., Susan D., Bill S., Dennis M., Vicki U., Diane S., Dianne K., Tom M., Marty M., John P., David W., Ada M., Jane R., and Richard A.
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