News & Brews May 9, 2024

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Pa. House passes controversial bill on social media monitoring for kids

Yesterday, the House voted 105-95 for legislation, sponsored by Democrat state Rep. Brian Munroe (Bucks County), that requires social media platforms to “provide reporting mechanisms for ‘hateful conduct’ and respond to users with details of how the report is being resolved, with hateful conduct defined as social media use in order to ‘vilify, humiliate or incite violence against a group’ based on race, religion, disability, gender, etc.,” PennLive reports. An earlier version of the bill required companies to monitor the accounts of minors under the age of 16 to identify “sensitive or graphic” content and report it to parents or guardians. This drew fierce opposition from groups including the ACLU (on understandable free speech grounds) and Planned Parenthood (presumably on ‘we love to help kids hide things from their parents’ grounds). Ultimately, the revised bill passed with the support of 10 Republicans, while seven Democrats opposed it.

Number of rejected mail-in ballots dropped in primary

The AP reports, “Pennsylvania election officials said Wednesday that the number of mail-in ballots rejected for technicalities, like a missing date, saw a significant drop in last month’s primary election after state officials tried anew to help voters avoid mistakes that might get their ballots thrown out.” Per Pa. Secretary of State Al Schmidt, counties reported a 13.5% decrease in ballots rejected because of reasons the state tried to prevent, as compared with the 2023 primary election.

Two tales of Pittsburgh’s finances

A recent story reported that Pittsburgh brought in record revenues last year, reaching $840.3 million, or an approximate 8% increase over the previous year. But that’s only half the story. A story last week in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review noted that spending increased by more than 10%, leading the city controller to warn it’s “unrealistic” to continue the current rate of spending at the current rate of revenue.

Pa. poised to become 27th state to ban handheld cell use while driving 

Legislation that would ban the use of handheld cell phones while driving is heading to the desk of Gov. Shapiro, who has indicated he will sign it. The House voted 126-74 yesterday to concur with the Senate version that passed earlier this week. PennLive reports, “The bill allows a law enforcement officer to cite a driver for using a handheld device without any other traffic offense taking place…. Exceptions to the ban include when a device is used only for navigation purposes, for emergency notification, for commercial drivers who use a device within the scope of their employment, and when the device is affixed to a mass transit or school bus.” There’s also an exception for ham radio operators.

Dems’ favorite Republican has a Dem challenger

Democrats and unions love GOP state Rep. Tom Mehaffie (Dauphin County). So much so that there’s talk they tried to spare him from having a Democrat challenger in November. It’s easy to see why. After all, last year Mehaffie gave Dems the House majority “weeks before they earned it” and blocked voter ID. Well, it looks like Mehaffie will have an opponent after all. Democrat Anju Singh, an ophthalmologist from South Hanover Township, secured enough write-in votes to win the Democrat nomination, and now she’ll appear on the November ballot.

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