January 16, 2020
Judicial-districts bill advances despite broad opposition

The General Assembly’s GOP leadership brought up House Bill 38 and sent it to the Judiciary Committee, where it passed 13-12 despite dozens of groups expressing strong opposition. The proposed Constitutional amendment would have legislators carve PA into nine districts for Commonwealth Court, 15 for Superior Court and seven for Supreme Court, and judicial candidates would run in their district rather than statewide. Reps. Todd Stephens (Montgomery) and Natalie Mihalek (Allegheny) were the only two Republicans to vote against it in committee. This change would be “a disturbing breach of democratic constitutional design that cannot be interpreted as anything other than a power grab,” C70 David Thornburgh told legislators in a letter to lawmakers. “To advance this amendment would only further damage Pennsylvanians’ faith in our politics and governance at a time when faith in both is in short supply.”
The insurrection’s aftermath

The PA officeholders who supported the dangerous challenges to the presidential election are facing not only condemnation and calls for their resignations but also (for U.S. senators and representatives only---so far) a suspension of campaign contributions from some major corporations and business associations. But not everyone is seeing the same crisis: many in right-wing media are doubling down on conspiracy theories around the election or around the insurrection itself. And unfortunately, an Axios-Ipsos poll released Thursday found that Republicans and Democrats do agree on one thing: America is “falling apart.”
  • How to fix American democracy: Yale historian Beverly Gage and New York Times Magazine staff writer Emily Bazelon list eight suggestions in a New York Times op-ed. “Establish national best practices for voting and election security” is one of them.
Misinformation continues to upend American politics

Big tech firms have taken action against Donald Trump's social media accounts and other channels for far-right extremism, but pulling the plug on a few online platforms will be insufficient. “You have almost an impermeable bubble for right-wing content,” University of North Carolina journalism professor Deen Freelon told The Inquirer. “What that leads to is an audience that is overwhelmingly accepting of and believing of mis- and disinformation so it creates a market for new entrants. Even though something like Parler may be shut down, other folks can pick up the slack because there’s a market out there for it.” As another academic noted, de-radicalization efforts like family interventions and more elected officials publicly separating fact from fiction will help, but it’ll be a long road.
On our radar
Redistricting needs transparency: "This is a process that has been weaponized in the past by political parties, and now the playing field is much more level because citizens have the ability to literally take the process into their own hands," C70 CEO David Thornburgh writes in a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette op-ed.
Old rules: Both chambers of the General Assembly sidestepped proposals that would have diminished the power of majority-party leaders to control the legislative agenda, Pittsburgh’s WESA reports.
Stepping down: Republican City Commissioner Al Schmidt announced that he won’t seek reelection when his term expires in 2023.
Census count deadline moves…again: The new date for the Census Bureau to report population counts is now March 6, according to the PA Capital-Star.
How to reform the City Charter: Drexel students offer suggestions to The Philadelphia Citizen.
Another amendment: Republicans in a PA House committee also advanced a Constitutional amendment that would enable the legislature to terminate a gubernatorial emergency order.
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