Episode 40: Unconstitutional maps, uncertain future


Today’s podcast was recorded live as an episode of Smart Talk, WITF’s morning show. That means it’s twice as long, and features listener calls and emails.

It features Keystone Crossroads’ Emily Previti and Marc Levy of the Associated Press, who help us break down the biggest issue in Pennsylvania (and one of the biggest issues in the country) this week: the PA Supreme Court’s decision to rule the commonwealth’s congressional maps unconstitutional.

The ruling stunned many lawmakers, who now have just a few weeks to draw and pass totally new maps. A number of them have said they don’t think they’ll make the February 9th deadline, in which case the court says it will choose a new map.

A group of republicans has already filed with the US Supreme Court for a stay on the decision. And meanwhile, the state court still hasn’t provided its full opinion, explaining why exactly the maps aren’t constitutional.

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Episode 39: Redistricting, races, and the return of the legislature

Lawmakers have been on vacation from Harrisburg for over a month, but next week they’ll return to start off their 2018 session. Jason Gottesman of the PLS Reporter and City and State PA joins us to run down a list of their top priorities—from overhauling the tax code to shrinking the state House.

But before we can talk too much about what’s to come, we also have to note that a bunch of important things happened this week too. For one, the state Supreme Court heard and is now deliberating on a prominent gerrymandering case; if they rule the state’s congressional maps unconstitutional, the legislature could be forced to totally redraw the lines in the coming weeks.

Donald Trump also paid PA a visit in support of GOP congressional candidate and state representative Rick Saccone. Plus, Amazon put two Keystone State cities (Philadelphia and Pittsburgh) on a short list of possible locations for its highly sought-after second headquarters.

Episode 38: Farm Show fever

The Pennsylvania Farm Show is in full swing, and we had planned to do a very Farm Show-centric episode. But as someone probably once said, state politics operates on its own mystical schedule, so lots of other unexpected stuff happened this week as well.

Therefore, Philadelphia Daily News and Inquirer columnist John Baer and Paula Knudsen, a reporter for L&P’s The Caucus, join us to discuss it all. We’ll recap the governor’s state of emergency declaration over the opioid epidemic, and break down a major federal court decision saying Pennsylvania’s congressional maps are legal, despite their partisan qualities.

We’ll also discuss some prominent lawmakers who may be running for higher office, Lieutenant Governor Mike Stack’s contribution to the gerrymandering discussion, general palace intrigue, and yes, the Farm Show—including some of John Baer’s best anecdotes from his many years accompanying politicians to the event.

Episode 37: Frozen pipe(line construction)

This week, Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection made an unexpected decision to halt construction on the Mariner East 2 pipeline, a massive $2.5 billion Sunoco project that’s intended to eventually link the Marcellus Shale gas formation in Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania to an export terminal near Philadelphia—a distance of 350 miles.

Over the course of construction, a number of spills have taken place, and homeowners have seen their well water contaminated with mud. Sunoco was also discovered to be drilling in some areas without appropriate permits.

In a departure from our usual podcast format, StateImpact Pennsylvania energy reporter Susan Phillips, who’s based in Philadelphia, joins us on the phone to explain the background of the pipeline situation, and talk through what might happen next.