WEATHER: Philadelphia: partly cloudy/windy, high of 49; Harrisburg: partly cloudy/windy, high of 48; Pittsburgh: cloudy, high of 39.
NEW THIS MORNING:
* A divided Pennsylvania House voted Wednesday to ban the use of handheld phones for all drivers to make calls, although police would not be allowed to stop motorists for that reason alone, the AP reports.
* PA AG Josh Shapiro announced that he will be running for reelection, the Patriot-News writes.
* The Capital-Star has an essential primer on how the 2020 Census can help – or hinder – Pennsylvania.
* In the state House’s first session week of the new year, the chamber took two different votes that Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) quickly ordered to be struck from the record — an unusual move that prompted vocal concern from Democrats, the PA Post writes.
* Anne Bovaird Nevins has been tapped to lead the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation, one of the city’s largest economic development agencies. She replaces outgoing president John Grady, who announced his departure last year, WHYY reports.
* The head of a SEPTA division that is currently the subject of a federal corruption probe has been promoted to one of the highest-ranking positions in the transit agency, WHYY reports.
* The PA House is voting to force public agencies to post agendas on their websites a day before meetings when they’ll be voted on, the AP reports.
* Michael Bloomberg is rapidly building a nearly 100-person campaign staff in Pennsylvania, an early indicator of the amount of money he can personally pour into the 2020 presidential race and his unusual strategy of betting on later states in the Democratic nominating contest, the Inquirer reports.
* The race for PA Auditor General ramped up Wednesday, as Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, endorsed Pittsburgh Controller Michael Lamb for the row office position, the Capital-Star reports.
* After a hot mic incident, two heated community meetings, and months of debate, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections moved Wednesday to close State Correctional Institute Retreat, a 1,200-bed facility in Luzerne County, WHYY reports.
* Students of color in Pennsylvania are far less likely than their white peers to have access to small classes, certified teachers and advanced coursework, according to a pair of new studies. This so-called “access gap” is among the nation’s largest, both studies claim, distinguishing the Keystone state as one of America’s worst when it comes to educational equity for poor and non-white students, WHYY writes.
* The Capital-Star has an op-ed by PA House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody, who lays out just what is at stake in the latest GOP-led efforts to gut the Affordable Care Act and eliminate coverage of pre-existing conditions.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: … PA Rep. Mark Longietti … Want to wish someone a happy birthday in our newsletter? Email us their name, job title and upcoming birthday to email@example.com
9 a.m. - Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney will speak with students about career paths in public service during Career Week. John B. Kelly School, 5116 Pulaski Ave., Philadelphia.
11 a.m. - Mayor Kenney will deliver remarks at a press conference, hosted by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, to announce the theme for this year's flower show. The Logan Philadelphia, 1 Logan Square, Philadelphia.
3 p.m. - the PA House Democratic Policy Committee will meet. Community Behavioral Health, 801 Market Street, Philadelphia.
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KICKER: “This advances nothing, this makes things worse.” – PA Rep. Mike Carroll. From the AP.