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43-cent felony renews Pa. criminal justice concern

Plus, Pa. lawmakers return for pivotal fall session


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
September 21, 2021
Fall forward, felony theft,'self-defense,' eviction bill, jail check, siege suspects, and a comeback for Pennsylvania bats. It's Tuesday, thanks for checking in.
Pennsylvania lawmakers are back in Harrisburg and the GOP majority is telegraphing its priorities for a fall session that's expected to address, among other things, key issues behind a summer of political discontent. 

House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R., Centre) on Monday said he wants to focus on figuring out what to do in lieu of disaster declarations and emergency orders that GOP legislators failed to renew and which Gov. Tom Wolf can't continue following successful GOP-led ballots questions.

The orders and declarations involve the opioid epidemic, COVID-19 regulatory waivers, and Tropical Storm Ida cleanup.

But USA Today's Capital Bureau says Benninghoff largely sidestepped questions about what is sure to dominate coverage of the fall session — namely GOP-led challenges of the state's school mask rule, a contested and partisan election review, and a resurrected "voting rights" bill.

UNFINISHED BUSINESS: House members were greeted at the Capitol Monday by protesters renewing calls to give victims of childhood sexual abuse a new opportunity to sue.

Recent efforts to make the change collapsed, and advocates want House Bill 951 — a remnant of 2018's clergy abuse grand jury report — to get a Senate vote. It's unclear if it will. 

There's also the lingering issue of what to do with billions in federal coronavirus relief funding set aside in this year's budget. House Minority Leader Joanna McClinton (D., Philadelphia) wants a spending plan.

And the monumental and equally consequential process of redrawing Pennsylvania's political maps is underway and especially urgent.

"Our current law lets some charter schools perform poorly at the expense of students enrolled in traditional district schools.”

—Gov. Tom Wolf proposing new regulations for Pennsylvania charter schools that face pushback in the GOP-controlled legislature

COVID-19 UPDATE: Pfizer says a clinical trial has shown its vaccine is safe and effective for children ages 5 to 11; the U.S. is set to drop a travel ban for vaccinated international visitors; and the COVID-19 death toll in the U.S. has surpassed that of the 1918 flu pandemic. To find the vaccine, use the federal government's online tool, call 1-800-232-0233, or text your ZIP code to 438829 (GETVAX).
A vivid sunrise over a foggy West Branch Susquehanna River at Clearfield, captured by PA Poster Don H. The shot was taken 1,500 feet up on Rockton Mountain and with no filters. Thanks for sharing, Don! Send us your gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
PETTY THEFT: A man is facing seven years in prison for shorting a Perry County convenience store of 43 cents for a bottle of Mountain Dew. PennLive reports Joseph Sobolewski misunderstood a sale price and was tracked down by police and charged with a felony. Advocates say the case highlights serious problems with Pennsylvania's penal code.

NO CHARGES: Washington County’s district attorney says a landlord’s fatal shooting of an unarmed tenant during an eviction dispute was justified and won't lead to criminal charges. KDKA-TV reports District Attorney Jason Walsh's decision drew a small group of protesters to the county courthouse on Monday.

EVICTION BANS: Two federal lawmakers — U.S. Rep. Cori Bush (D., Mo) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass) — will introduce legislation this week that would give the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services the authority to ban evictions. The move comes after a targeted ban was overturned, and with thousands of Pennsylvanians in limbo

JURY CASE: A Philadelphia grand jury is investigating the city's Department of Prisons, adding scrutiny of what "staff and incarcerated people have for months described as human-rights and public-safety crisis" in the city's jails, The Inquirer reports. A subpoena has been issued seeking documents related to a "major disturbance" on Aug. 20.

NEW CHARGES: Two midstate men are facing felony counts in connection with the U.S. Capitol siege, one later writing of the officers who fought back, "If I had it my way [they] would be lined up and put down," the FBI alleges. YDR reports Marshall Neefe, of Newville, and Charles Bradford Smith, of Shippensburg, are among 57 state siege suspects.
TEAM EFFORT: Congrats to the Delco-set "Mare of Easttown" for big Emmy wins at Sunday's award show, and congrats to all of you (youse?) whose accents and Wawa-trip outfits inspired the show

BOTTLE UP: More congrats (!!), this time for the man who returned century-old beer bottles to a Honesdale brewery and received not only the deposit money but 108 years of interest, Centre Daily Times reports. 

JAZZ BAND: A group led by Pittsburgh Steelers legend Franco Harris wants to rehab and expand the former site of the Crawford Grill, the epicenter of the city's jazz scene from the 1930s through the 1950s, Post-Gazette reports.

PLAY BALL: Pennsylvania lawmakers will take the field next Tuesday for the fifth annual Capitol All-Stars charity softball game. Admission is free. The game will also be carried live on the Pennsylvania Cable Network.

BATS BACK: Bats appear to be making a comeback in Pennsylvania and adapting to a disease that wiped many of them out. And that rebound is a good thing, unless you're a mosquito, the Courier Times reports. 
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Yesterday's answer: Mnemonic

Congrats to our daily winners: Susan F., Irene R., Michelle T., Don H., Suzanne S., Neal W., Susan D., Craig W., Heidi B., Doris T., Kim C., George S., James B., Kimberly S., Tracy K., Bruce T., Beth T., Ronnee G., Dianne K., David I., Bruce B., Bill S., Rick D., Elizabeth W., John P., David W., RJ L., Jill A., Susan N., Tim B., Debbie S., John H., Craig E., and John A.
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