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What to watch for as Pa.'s legislature returns

Plus, where Mastriano, Shapiro stand on LGBTQ rights.


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA

Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
September 13, 2022
Fall agenda, LGBTQ divide, hiring process, ballot boxes, judicial power, Bedford Dwellings, and a solar-powered Turnpike. It's Tuesday.
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The stakes this election are so high. As part of our new series — called “One Vote, Two Pennsylvanias” — we'll clearly articulate through policy proposals and issue-based reporting the vastly different visions the candidates for governor have for the future of our state.

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— Colin D., PA Post editor

Pennsylvania lawmakers are returning from summer recess with a fall agenda to tackle in the smattering of session days that are left this year.

The docket includes election-related bills, several of which were advanced by the House State Government Committee on Monday, but none of which are likely to impact the upcoming election on Nov. 8.

Those three GOP-proffered pieces of legislation — covering ballot handling, voter roll cleanings, and another extending financial disclosure requirements to write-in candidates — are en route to the full state House.

CBS21 reports the measures are not expected to be in place in time for the upcoming general election, which is weeks away. 

AGENDA ITEMS: WITF reports lawmakers may also take another step this fall toward fully legalizing driverless vehicles and making permanent a state home repair grant program initiated in the latest budget. 

The outlet reports the Whole Home Repairs program is set to run out of money by 2026 but could be continued under an ongoing bipartisan effort.

Homeowners and landlords haven't been able to apply for the inaugural grants yet. Guidelines are expected by the end of this year.

On the driverless car front, two proposals are pending in the state Senate that would allow autonomous vehicle testing here without a safety driver.

And while advocates for a ban on gifts from lobbyists and special interests to state lawmakers hoped to see a vote forced on the issue Monday, Capital-Star reports that did not happen. Supporters say there's still time.


"While we are hopeful that parties will reach a resolution, Amtrak has now begun phased adjustments to our service in preparation for a possible freight rail service interruption later this week."

—Amtrak on the pausing of several long-distance routes, effective today, because of a potential freight rail strike; more disruptions could follow
The upcoming fall election will be pivotal to the future of Pennsylvania, and Spotlight PA is delivering trusted, nonpartisan reporting, guides, events, and more to empower voters to make an informed choice at the polls. But this vital public-service journalism depends on your support.

We need to reach 500 gifts by Sept. 24, and as a special bonus, all donations will be DOUBLED. Help us reach this goal by making a contribution now.

Thank you to the 71 people who have given so far, including Nicole O., who said, "I want to help you save democracy." Join Nicole and give now »
» THE STATE OF PA ELECTIONS: Join us Thursday, Sept. 29 at 6 p.m. ET via Zoom for a free Q&A with Acting Secretary of State Leigh M. Chapman, who oversees elections in Pennsylvania. Chapman will discuss how her agency secures and runs elections, explain the state's voting policies, and answer all of your pressing questions ahead of Nov. 8. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org
» AP: Mastriano's disputed WWI dissertation made public
» NYT: The polling warning signs are flashing again (paywall)
» REUTERS: Some Dem officials worry about Fetterman's health
» SPOTLIGHT PA: Your complete guide to the governor's race
» YDR: Activists file complaint against U.S. Rep. Perry (paywall)

Support Spotlight PA's vital election coverage by making a gift now.
A steam locomotive filling up with water by the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg, Lancaster County, via Don N. Send us your photos, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag @spotlightpennsylvania.
GUV GUIDE: The top two candidates for Pennsylvania governor — Democrat Josh Shapiro and Republican Doug Mastriano — have extremely different views on LGBTQ discrimination protections, inclusive curricula, and same-sex marriage. Spotlight PA breaks down the divergence in our latest 2022 election guide. The outcome of the race could determine if related legislation passes or gets blocked.

NEW HIRE: Days after announcing a hiring freeze that would last until at least the summer of 2023, Penn State created a new office and hired a new vice president of enrollment who made $205,000 at his last job. Spotlight PA's State College Bureau had questions about the move. You can follow along on the back-and-forth with PSU officials in the first run of the Penn State Transparency Tracker series.

DROPBOX SUIT: An advocacy group created by former Trump administration officials is suing Lehigh County on behalf of four residents who want new restrictions on mail-ballot drop boxes there. Armchair Lehigh Valley reports that all but one county dropbox is closed while the case awaits a court date. The suit wants drop boxes surveilled and limited to business hours. A hearing is set for Oct. 7.

KING'S BENCH: Pennsylvania's high court has rejected a Wolf administration request to use its extraordinary King's Bench powers to fast-track a lawsuit involving a group of GOP-led constitutional amendments that Wolf wants kept off statewide ballots, per the AP. Wolf has slower options at his disposal. The amendments covering abortion, voter ID, and more could reach voters by next year. 

TOTAL OVERHAUL: Pittsburgh officials are seeking a $50 million federal grant to completely redevelop the oldest public housing project in the city. All 411 units of Bedford Dwellings would be replaced with around 700 to 800 mixed-income units, PublicSource reports. The plan also includes the addition of a private company to manage the properties, but some residents worry that could lead to worse services. 

FREE MEALS: School breakfasts will be available for free to all public and private school students in Pennsylvania starting next month, per ABC27. The universal free breakfast program, backed by $21.5 million in state funds, will begin on Oct. 1 and last through the end of the school year.

FLIPPED OUT: Dozens of former employees of Philadelphia restaurateur Jon Myerow told Eater that while he publicly championed progressive change in the industry, he created a work environment defined by angry outbursts, sexualized comments, and problematic relationships.

WATCH NEXT: Approximately six million Black people moved from the South to other parts of the U.S. in the Great Migration. Watch our discussion with Dr. Armendia Dixon, an educator who left Laurel, Missippi, during the Jim Crow Era for a new start in Erie.

POWER UP: The Pennsylvania Turnpike plans to open solar fields along the route to power portions of the toll road and give electric vehicles new places to charge, the Post-Gazette reports, via Tribune News Service.

BUG FIGHT: Satire site The Onion reports the U.S. has escalated the fight against spotted lanternflies "by arming praying mantises."

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.

*Bonus: Guess this week's theme on Friday for an extra chance at winning a shipment of Spotlight PA swag.

Yesterday's answer: Enchanted

Congrats to our daily winners: Barbara F., Mike B., Craig W., Irene R., Pamela M., Theresa T., David S., John P., Starr B., Keith F., Patricia M., Susan D., Michelle T., George S., Kimberly D., Ed M., Karen W., Bette G., Dan W., Judy M., Judith D., Ted W., Marty M., Don H., Eddy Z., Greg V., Carol M., Elaine C., Ed R., Nancy S., Margaret Mary H., Dianne K., Wendy A., Kevin M., Kim C., James B., Stanley J., Daniel M., Marla C., fitch387, Rick A., Ann E., Beth T., Moon M., Kathy F., Bill S., Tanya W., Mary Jo J., Susan N.-Z., David W., Marvin S., Joel S., Becky C., Tish M., Al M., and David H.
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