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|Redistricting costs, striking workers, black lung funding, abortion barriers, new name, Jan. 6 suit, and Labor Day celebrations. It's Tuesday.|
Pennsylvania state lawmakers spent at least $3 million in taxpayer money on outside law firms and experts as they lobbied for their preferred political maps during the recent redistricting cycle, according to invoices obtained by Spotlight PA.
The new districts have the potential to change the balance of power in both Harrisburg and Washington, with one Republican-held congressional seat eliminated and the updated state House map giving Democrats the potential to win back the chamber.
According to the invoices, Democrats in the state House and Senate paid six private law firms $1.4 million over the last year beginning in June 2021. State House and Senate Republicans paid two private law firms over $1.6 million.
Read the complete story: Pa. lawmakers spent at least $3 million on private lawyers, experts during redistricting battle, invoices show
THE CONTEXT: To understand how much money Democrats and Republicans spent to convince Pennsylvanians and the court system to support their maps, Spotlight PA asked the four caucuses for invoices from January 2021 to June 2022. They returned bills for work beginning in May 2021 and ending in April 2022.
The invoices show leadership employed eight different law firms throughout the process. Some details — like descriptions of legal strategy and personal finance information — were redacted due to attorney-client privilege and limits in Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law.
Redistricting lawyers for all four caucuses paid “professional experts” $527,980 for their testimony, according to invoices. They gave testimony at public hearings and in court, created “expert reports” to submit to courts, and in some cases drew maps.
Justin Villere, executive director of Draw the Lines PA — a project of the good-government group Committee of Seventy that seeks to engage people in the redistricting process — said using expert witnesses in court was a useful tool, as the cases often became a “battle of the experts.”
But he argued these experts didn't fully understand the nuances of the state.
|NOTABLE / QUOTABLE|
"Before it was a threat. Now it’s actually happening."
—Britney Preston, a 22-year-old from Pennsylvania who registered to vote in order to protect abortion access in the state
|A scarlet rose mallow flower at Longwood Gardens, courtesy of Don N. Send us your photos and art, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania. |
|ON STRIKE: Roughly 700 unionized workers at 14 nursing homes went on strike Friday, seeking better pay and benefits, the AP reports. As Spotlight PA previously reported, Gov. Tom Wolf and state lawmakers recently agreed to send $600 million to long-term care providers but how that money will be used is a source of contention. “We’re out here fighting for our residents and fighting for our rights,” Liz Wright, a certified nursing assistant at the Gardens at West Shore near Camp Hill, told PennLive.|
FOREVER FUNDING: The Inflation Reduction Act provides permanent funding for miners with black lung disease, including 2,000 here in Pennsylvania. The Allegheny Front reports that Congress has at times let the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund lapse, cutting off money for food, inhalers, and over medical treatments.
ABORTION BARRIERS: Pregnant people in Ohio seeking an abortion in Pennsylvania face several barriers, including a lack of available appointments and the state's 24-hour waiting rule. David Hackney, chair of the Ohio section of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, described the rule as a "gray zone" that requires patients to spend more time and money seeking the procedure.
NAME GAME: The rebranding of recently merged state universities — "from billboards and TV commercials to bookstore merchandise like sweatshirts, ball caps and mugs" — is expected to cost more than $1 million, the Post-Gazette reports. At the California, Clarion, and Edinboro campuses, PennWest leaders are on a quest to remove the word "university" from existing markers, both physical and online.
MASTRIANO SUES: GOP nominee for governor, state Sen. Doug Mastriano, is suing the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, Politico reports. Mastriano, who was subpoenaed by the panel and met with them in August but left without answering questions, is claiming the committee doesn't have the power to compel witnesses to sit for depositions.
LABOR DAY: Union workers marked Labor Day in NEPA, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh, as new faces join the movement.
POSTINDUSTRIAL PERKS: Rural communities in Pennsylvania and West Virginia are luring remote workers to relocate with perks including cash.
TIME AFTER TIME: National Geographic spoke to Theron Jeffery, a New Freedom horologist, about his trade, its history, and how time is "flawed."
FREE DAY: The Smithsonian's free Museum Day is Sept. 17. Check out the 17 participating museums here in Pennsylvania.
NEW LEASH ON LIFE: A 15-year-old dog who was dropped off at a Philadelphia shelter to be euthanized now has a new family and future.
Unscramble and send your answer to email@example.com. 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
E R C A M B G I N LFriday's answer: Decorative
*Note: We're going back to basics for the next week, so no theme or "guess the theme" feature, but they will return.
Congrats to our weekly winner: George G.
Congrats to our daily winners: Elaine C., Susan N.-Z., Don H., Kimberly D., Beth T., Starr B., Ed R., Craig W., James B., George S., Chuck M., Bill S., Susan D., Michelle T., Doris T., and Dianne K.