First Read

First Read PA – Sept. 22, 2023

Biden stops short of declaring disaster in East Palestine … Delaware County ordered to accept in-person votes from residents whose flawed mail ballots were rejected … Philly sheriff disputes controller report on lost guns … and more

WEATHER: Philadelphia: mostly sunny, high of 73; Harrisburg: partly sunny, high of 72; Pittsburgh: mostly sunny, high of 76.


* The University of Pennsylvania’s community is being roiled by an upcoming conference on Palestinian culture featuring a number of speakers accused of antisemitism – which has been scheduled during Yom Kippur, the holiest day in Judaism, on a campus with a significant Jewish population. 

* This week, a special election, an unexpected endorsement and a candidate’s formal entrance have us all talking. City & State has your Five for Friday, reviewing the expected – and unexpected – election-related news this week. 

* In an op-ed, Aminah Arshad, field organizer with the Asian Pacific Islander Political Alliance, writes that there remains a pressing need for further development of mental health services in Pennsylvania. 


* President Joe Biden ordered federal agencies to continue holding Norfolk Southern accountable for its February derailment near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border and appoint a FEMA official to oversee East Palestine’s recovery, but he still stopped short of declaring a disaster, The Associated Press reports.

* A judge has told Delaware County to count ballots cast in person by voters whose mail ballots were rejected during the primary, a ruling the county, even though it lost the case, says it welcomes, Votebeat Pennsylvania reports. 

* Philadelphia Sheriff Rochelle Bilal yesterday disputed a city controller report that determined that the sheriff’s office couldn’t account for 185 guns that the controller’s office says are missing, the AP reports.

* David McCormick launched his long-anticipated campaign for U.S. Senate yesterday evening, telling a crowd gathered at Pittsburgh's Heinz History Center that he would be "a leader to rekindle the American spirit,” WESA reports. 

* Local and national advocates plan to charge Norristown officials with human rights violations of people experiencing homelessness during a meeting at the United Nations next month, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports. 

* The Perkiomen Valley School District dismissed early yesterday after receiving a bomb threat that cited the district’s policy of letting transgender students use bathrooms aligned with their gender identities, the Inquirer reports. 

* The executive director of the Pennsylvania House Democratic Campaign Committee was dismissed this week after it was discovered during audits that proper financial procedures had not been followed, PennLive reports. 

* Philadelphia City Council will investigate 911 dispatch times in the city after authorities botched a response to a call that preceded a July mass shooting in Kingsessing that left four people dead, the Inquirer reports. 

* The political arm of reproductive rights organization Planned Parenthood is ramping up its ad campaign focused on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court election, making its largest investment ever in a state Supreme Court race, the Pennsylvania Capital-Star reports.

* State grants issued this week will help counties feed some of the 1.5 million residents facing food insecurity every day. On Tuesday, Gov. Josh Shapiro announced that $1.6 million will go to 40 food banks, pantries, shelters and soup kitchens to make emergency meals easier to get in 26 counties, The Center Square reports. 


* The Inquirer has an op-ed from Jeremy Jones, a pediatric resident physician in Philadelphia, who writes that on multiple occasions, he’s had families come to appointments who weren’t aware that they had lost coverage until they were already in the office with their sick child.

* The Saucon Source has an op-ed from state Reps. Chris Rabb and Jared Solomon, who write that archaic way of running closed primary elections disenfranchises over 1 million voters in Pennsylvania.


* The Republican-led legislatures of Georgia, Louisiana and Alabama find themselves backed against courtroom walls this month in strikingly similar circumstances, defending congressional maps that federal judges have said appear to discriminate against Black voters, The New York Times reports.

* House Republicans for the second week in a row failed to move forward on any legislation related to funding the government, stunning many in their ranks as a government shutdown looms next week, The Washington Post reports. 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: To state Rep. Robert Matzie … and to former state Rep. Todd Stephens … and on Sunday, to Katherine Kelton, general counsel at Vault Health …  to Scott Wallace, founder of the Wallace Global Fund and co-founder of Kennedy Democrats … and to Commonwealth Court Judge Michael WojcikWant to wish someone a happy birthday in our newsletter? Email their name, job title and upcoming birthday to


10 a.m. – The Joint State Government Commission meets, Room 60, East Wing, Harrisburg. 

11:30 a.m. – Secretaries from the Departments of Revenue and Aging will visit a Senior Health Fair to speak with older Pennsylvanians about the Shapiro administration’s major expansion of the Property Tax/Rent Rebate program, PNC Field - Geisinger Champions Club, 235 Montage Mountain Road, Moosic. 

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“Eligible voters should have every option under the law to make their voice heard, and access to provisional ballots is a crucial part of making this a reality in our commonwealth.” – Ben Geffen, senior attorney at the Public Interest Law Center, via Votebeat Pennsylvania

NEXT STORY: First Read PA – Sept. 21, 2023