News & Brews February 28, 2024

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Which Pa. House seats are competitive this year?  

Spotlight PA gives its take on the Pa. House races to watch this year as Democrats seek to defend their one-vote majority while Republicans seek to retake control of the chamber. “Political insiders and campaign operatives say there are more than a dozen districts across the commonwealth — including in suburban Philadelphia, Johnstown, and the Lehigh Valley — that could be won by either major party,” the story notes. Separately, PennLive takes a look at outside money that’s starting to come into Pa.’s House races.

Elections front & center during budget hearing

Yesterday, Commonwealth Secretary Al Schmidt—the state’s chief elections official—faced intense questioning at a House budget hearing over statewide election administration. One topic that drew heated exchanges was uniformity in election administration across all Pennsylvania counties—a requirement of the state constitution. Responding to questioning from GOP Rep. John Lawrence (Chester County), Schmidt said, “I don’t know your mind but I’m confident that you would not want the Department of State telling every county exactly what it should do when it comes to administering elections.” Lawrence responded, “That’s exactly what you should be doing. We should have uniformity in elections across all 67 counties.”

Game Commission under scrutiny for lobbyist hiring

At a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing yesterday, lawmakers questioned the Pennsylvania Game Commission over its $10,000-per-month hiring of a lobbying firm headed by former Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati. The Game Commission’s executive director said it’s “to help us build capacity,” but several lawmakers weren’t convinced. “He’s supposed to be your liaison to us. In the House and Senate — the people that I’ve talked to — nobody has had any contact with him,” said Sen. Cris Dush, whose district covers a swath of north-central Pa. “None of us were even aware that you had a lobbyist until a couple weeks ago.”

Op-Ed: GOP & Dems ignore growing Latino vote

Israel Ortega of The Libre Initiative writes that “Hispanics constitute a growing share of the population in” key swing states, including Pennsylvania. “According to voter data compiled by Televisa/Univision, close to 200,000 Latinos voted [in Pennsylvania] in the 2020 presidential election. Biden won the Keystone State by 80,555 votes.” Ortega outlines how both parties should communicate with Latinos if they hope to win in November—based on a recent Libre Initiative memo offering “a warning to Democrat and Republican leaders.”

Watch today’s budget hearings

The Senate Appropriations Committee will hear from the Pennsylvania Department of Education this morning at 9:30 a.m. (watch here) and continue with the Department of Ed at 1:00 p.m. (watch here). The House Appropriations Committee will hear from Community Colleges at 10:00 a.m. (watch here) and from the Department of Environmental Protection & Department of Conservation & Natural Resources at 1:00 p.m. (watch here).

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