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Pa. Dem lawmaker quietly sidelined by own party

Plus, panel rolls back Pa.’s prison gerrymander rule.


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
September 22, 2021
Prison rules, Dem dispute, lifted ban, no contract, violent arrest, abrupt exit, and Pittsburgh's sinkhole bus lawsuit. It's Wednesday, and the first day of fall.
In a significant shift, the commission leading the redrawing of Pennsylvania's state legislative maps has pared back a policy approved in August and meant to largely eradicate the practice known as prison gerrymandering. 

Under a resolution introduced by Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward (R., Westmoreland) and narrowly approved by the state's Legislative Reapportionment Commission on Tuesday, the rule change will now apply to 3,000 fewer imprisoned people than initially intended.

The original policy, which requires mapmakers drawing political boundaries based on population to count people held in state prisons where they're from, not where they're imprisoned, excluded nearly 4,000 with life sentences. 

With Ward's resolution approved, the number excluded will increase to 7,000 out of 37,000 state prisoners total.

THE CONTEXT: Ward's revision excludes state prisoners with sentences lasting until 2030. The reasoning? They will still be incarcerated by the next census and thus be using the resources of their facilities' districts.

The original update was hailed by advocates who said counting prisoners in places where state prisons are located often benefits rural, predominantly white areas at the expense of communities of color.

One such advocate was "deeply disappointed" by Tuesday's decision.

"This resolution is nothing more than an attempt to leverage the bodies of incarcerated individuals, who are disproportionately Black and Brown, in order to bolster the population and political power of Pennsylvania's rural, disproportionately white districts," said Khalif Ali, executive director of the good-government group Common Cause Pennsylvania.

"This is saying to courts, you can’t really control these proceedings now in a manner you see fit." 

—Justice Christine Donohue on the legal impacts of the Marsy's Law ballot question, the outcome of which is being weighed by Pa.'s Supreme Court

COVID-19 UPDATE: State officials say more than 2,000 vaccine providers are ready to give booster shots to eligible Pennsylvanians as soon as federal authorities sign off. Johnson & Johnson, meanwhile, says a two-dose version of its one-dose vaccine provides 94% protection. To find the vaccine, use the federal government's online tool, call 1-800-232-0233, or text your ZIP code to 438829 (GETVAX).

>> CRISIS OF CARE: Join us Friday, Oct. 8 at noon ET via Zoom for a free Q&A on rising rates of Alzheimer's disease in Pennsylvania, the barriers to care, and the solutions urged by advocates. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org

Currently wishing I was spending the first official day of fall at this sunflower field at Lesher Farm near Chambersburg. Thanks for the submission, Neal W.!  Send us your gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
LIMITED ACCESS: State Rep. Kevin Boyle (D., Philadelphia) has been stripped of his committee chairmanship and had his access to the Capitol limited in a rare move by state House leaders from his own party, Spotlight PA reports. A reason for the move wasn't immediately given. Boyle said he believes leadership was given "incorrect information" about him over the summer, but he refused to elaborate.

OPEN BOOKS: Central York's school board has voted unanimously to rescind a ban on certain books by or about people of color one week after its refusal to do so drew national media attention and scrutiny. York Daily Record reports a statement by the board said the episode was a misunderstanding and the ban actually a poorly executed "freeze."

NO DEAL: Allegheny County's Jail Oversight Board has voted to cancel a $300,000 deal with an embattled prison contractor whose military-style trainings and personal background piqued concerns, TribLIVE reports. Warden Orlando Harper responded Tuesday, saying the vote effectively bans any training of jail staff, but others disagree. 

UNDER REVIEW: Local officials say they're looking into a teenager's arrest by Chester police, which was captured on bystander video that shows a pummeling and violent takedown. CBS3 reports Delaware County's district attorney will review 16-year-old Bahir Green's arrest, how it started, and the amount of force responding officers used

VACANCY: The new director of Lebanon County's Bureau of Elections and Voter Registration has quit days before he was due to start, and weeks before November's general election. Jason Todd says he found another job and would not start on Monday as scheduled, Lebanon Daily News reports. Local officials will take a fresh look at other applicants.
PRIDE PLAN: A Pride event is slated for the Bloomsburg Fair Grounds on Oct. 16. But the organizers' attempt to get nearby Danville's council to recognize the day with a Pride proclamation was stymied by a member citing Christian beliefs, per The Danville News. Proclamations will be sought elsewhere.

LEGAL FORUM: All eight candidates running to fill open seats on Pennsylvania's Supreme Court, Commonwealth Court, and Superior Court made their pitches to voters in an online forum Monday, per Capital-Star. 

URGENT ASK: A retired NYPD sergeant living in Lititz, who helped families of fallen firefighters after the 9/11 attacks, needs a new kidney. LancasterOnline says Leopold Poje Jr. has Stage 4 kidney failure and no matching relatives.

HOLE STORY: The sole passenger on a Pittsburgh bus that was swallowed up by a downtown sinkhole in 2019 is suing the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, alleging it should have known about the risk, TribLIVE reports.

BATTER UP: Let WHYY's Avi Wolfman-Arent regale you with a tale about Philly sports fanaticism and that time the city dispatched 200 cops "so fans wouldn't maim" baseball legend Ty Cobb
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.
Yesterday's answer: Complications

Congrats to our daily winners: Becky C., Craig W., Neal W., Susan F., Ann E., Michelle T., Craig E., Susan N., Elaine C., Don H., George S., Doris T., Kimberly S., Dianne K., Beth T., James B., Bill S., Suzanne S., Joel S., Kyle C., David W., and Elizabeth W.
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