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Constitutional amendments loom, judges rack up per diems, and how to become a poll worker

Plus, Pa. anti-abortion activist arrested by FBI for Planned Parenthood assault.


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA

Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
September 27, 2022
Amendment tracking, poll power, judicial pay, under arrest, official count, LGBTQ limits, and a 19-century coal miner's Airbnb. It's Tuesday.
There won't be any proposed state constitutional amendments on ballots in Pennsylvania this November, but 2023 could be a different story.

Six proposed amendments could reach commonwealth voters, in the form of ballot questions, as soon as next May's primary. 

One covers the temporary lifting of the statute of limitations for lawsuits by survivors of childhood sexual abuse. The others deal with voter ID rules, new checks on executive power, abortion access — opponents fear approval could lead to a total ban of the procedure here — and more.

The statute of limitations-focused amendment is fairly uncontroversial, while the other five — a bundled slate of GOP-advanced measures — are at the center of an ongoing lawsuit brought by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.

Read Spotlight PA's full report: There will be no constitutional amendments on the Nov. 8 ballot, but big ones are looming.

THE CONTEXT: Gov. Wolf has sued to stop the GOP-advanced amendments on voter ID, executive power, and abortion access from reaching voters, arguing the proposals were unconstitutionally combined into a single piece of legislation spanning several disparate topics.

The state Supreme Court declined to take up the case directly and Wolf has now taken his challenge to the lower Commonwealth Court.

Before voters can have a say, the proposals would need to be approved again by the legislature in its 2023-24 session, which begins in January.

Whether lawmakers will take up the measures again is unclear: Wolf's term ends in January, and a new governor will take office. The legislature could try to negotiate with the new governor on all of the proposals.

"We don't want to lose sight that she was just a little girl who lost her life. She was innocent in all of this, and my family, we're all still hurting." 

—Siddiq Kamara in August discussing the death of his cousin Fanta Bility; on Monday, a judge upheld manslaughter charges against three former Sharon Hill police officers who are charged in the eight-year-old's death
» 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
A quick guide to all of Spotlight PA's 2022 election coverage:

»  Spotlight PA launches 2022 Election Center website
»  Your complete guide to the candidates for governor
»  Where Mastriano, Shapiro stand on LGBTQ rights
»  How to vet the candidates on your midterm ballot
»  How Spotlight PA will cover Pennsylvania's 2022 election
»  Tell us what election coverage matters to you
»  How to serve as a poll worker on Nov. 8

En Español:

»  Su guía completa de los candidatos a gobernador

Support Spotlight PA's vital election coverage by making a gift now.
» ABC: GOP US Rep. Liz Cheney plans to campaign against Mastriano
» AP: Shapiro's low-key style a test for Dems looking to energize base
» NYT: Mastriano's campaign: No TV ads, tiny crowds, little money 
» PENNLIVE: Checking in with Pa.'s 2022 youth vote (paywall)
» POLITICSPA: Philly police union splits ticket with Oz-Shapiro nods
Fall is falling in Pennsylvania, via Robert N. Send us your photos, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
GOOD WORK: Pennsylvania counties need poll workers for the Nov. 8 election, and you could be one of them. There are more than 9,000 voting locations statewide and state election officials have voiced concerns over the lack of poll workers, a problem worsened by the pandemic, for years. Spotlight PA has a would-be poll worker's guide to the rules, the training, the duties, and the pay.

PAY SCALES: Senior judges in Pennsylvania are collecting large sums of money in the form of per diems, often on top of lucrative state pensions, The Caucus (paywall) reports. The judges collect $611 per day for "services" provided when they step in for other judges as needed across the state. And that adds up. The Caucus found per diem totals as high as $795,450 over the course of several years.

FBI ARREST: An anti-abortion activist is federally charged for allegedly assaulting and injuring a 72-year-old man who was working as a patient escort at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Philadelphia, the Courier Times (paywall) reports. Authorities say Mark Houck, 48, shoved the man to the ground on two occasions. Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano called the arrest "an outrage." 

JAIL DEATHS: Anthony Talotta, a 57-year-old with with autism and intellectual disabilities, died at Allegheny County Jail last week, the 17th death there since March of 2020 and the sixth this year, the Pittsburgh Institute for Nonprofit Journalism reports. An official review of the deaths is looming, but concerns remain about the jail's accounting. PINJ says jail staffers are among those raising the alarm.

LESSON LIMITS: State Rep. Stephanie Borowicz (R., Clinton) has introduced a bill that would limit how Pennsylvania public schools teach gender identity and sexual orientation, per WITF, saying the measure is patterned on and "goes further" than the Florida law dubbed "Don't Say Gay" by its critics. A similar bill is already pending in the state Senate here. Gov. Wolf has vowed to veto both. 

BOOK BANS: Among the backers of the Borowicz LGBTQ curriculum bill referenced above? Moms for Liberty, which The Guardian reports successfully lobbied for Central York School District's ban on Girls Who Code books.

COSTUME SHOP: I have found my Halloween costume inspiration, courtesy of PPG Place architect Philip Johnson. If you have a Pennsylvania-themed costume idea, let me know here. If not, this idea is worth stealing

'BLACK VOICES': The Adams County Historical Society's new museum, Beyond the Battle, is set to open early next year with a locally curated exhibit on the county's Black heritage, the Gettysburg Times reports.

TWICE BAKED: Uptown Harrisburg's Alvaro Bread and Pastry Shoppe is branching out: A second, larger location is set to open on Front Street in Susquehanna Township by next year, per PennLive.

MINE CRAFT: Changes are being eyed for the 90-acre Eckley Miners' Village historic site in Luzerne County, including "an interdisciplinary research center" and "overnight lodging in several 19th-century miners' homes."

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: Momentum

Congrats to our daily winners: Becky C., Michelle T., Susan N.-Z., John P., James S., Theresa T., Beth T., Janice H., Don H., Kevin M., Mark O., Susan R., Judy M., Judith D., Jill M., Al M., Nickolina J., Karen W., Steve D., Ted W., Jim A., Bette G., Patricia M., Eddy Z., Ann E., Marty M., George S., Kim C., Irene R., Kathy F., Larry B., Jane R., Deb N., Bruce B., Kimberly D., Ron H., Craig W., Elaine C., James B., Tish M., John H., Jessica C., Dianne K., Daniel M., Joel S., Mike B., Samantha S., Susan D., Nancy S., Michael B., Ed M., Steve H., David P., Doris T., David W., Eugene M., Bill S., Starr B., John H., and Antoinette F.
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