News & Politics

Where 2023 storylines stand going into the New Year

City & State revisits ‘What’s in and What’s out in 2023’ to see where the issues stand at the end of December

Gov. Josh Shapiro speaks at his inauguration on Jan. 17, 2023

Gov. Josh Shapiro speaks at his inauguration on Jan. 17, 2023 Mark Makela: Getty Images

To begin this year, we boldly predicted what political trends you’d see in the commonwealth in 2023 and what ones were being left behind. Now, nearly 12 months later, we decided to take a look back at what we labeled in and out for 2023 – not only to see how our prognostications played out but to determine if any of the trending issues will find themselves atop the headlines as we head into 2024. 

Here’s a look back at what was politically hot – and not – in 2023, and where the trends stand heading into the New Year. 

What’s out

Claiming the state House is yours

In some cases, what’s out immediately comes back in style. One year removed from a messy state House situation where special elections were set to determine control of the chamber, legislators find themselves in the same situation. The thin Democratic majority was maintained at this time last year, but the House will go into 2024 with a 101-101 split following former Rep. John Galloway’s resignation to take the district judge position to which he was elected in November. A special election has been set for Feb. 13 to fill the newly vacant seat. 

Impeaching a duly elected official

Not unlike the sticky state House situation, ongoing efforts by Republicans in Harrisburg to oust Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner haven’t subsided. But this time, they’ve taken a new form. Included in a package of bipartisan bills passed late this year was Senate Bill 140, legislation requiring a special prosecutor be appointed to oversee SEPTA crimes. Despite a number of House Democrats approving the measure, other Democratic leaders have spoken out against the bill, calling it another attempt to supplant Krasner’s authority to oversee criminal activity within the City of Philadelphia. 

Four-year degrees

One of Gov. Josh Shapiro’s first moves in office was to remove the four-year degree requirement for a majority of state government jobs, along with similar requirements to apply for the Pennsylvania State Police. Early returns have proven to be successful for the commonwealth, with police cadet applications increasing by 240% this fall. 


Entering 2023, many lamented a pandemic silver lining in expanded outdoor dining spaces getting kicked to the curb in many cities. In the state’s largest city, where outdoor spaces dwindled following public safety and accessibility regulations taking effect in 2023, Philadelphia restaurant owners continue to call for relaxed restrictions for outdoor dining. Now, with Mayor-elect Cherelle Parker taking office next week, the conversation surrounding business-friendly reforms is bound to be on the menu. 

What’s in

Constitutional amendments

It was yet another frustrating year for those following the yearslong effort in Harrisburg to retroactively provide a legal window for adults who were abused as children to file lawsuits against their abusers. Then-Gov. Tom Wolf, in one of his final acts in office, called on the General Assembly to hold the second round of constitutionally required votes to pass a long-awaited constitutional amendment. However, as Republican leaders attempted to attach voter identification and other election-related regulations to the amendment, a partisan debate ensued and the legislation remains stuck in limbo. 

2020 recounts

Since the 2020 presidential election, it’s hard to recount a year during which election results were not disputed or out-and-out denied by losing candidates. While talks of 2020 have begun to subside, election recounts were still popular in the year 2023. This fall, after Democrats swept key school board races in Bucks County, Republicans challenged the results and claimed there was “fraud or error” that warranted a recount. The petitions filed, which sought a hand recount, didn’t specify what fraud or errors occurred and the election results since have been affirmed by official recounts. 

Book bans

National politics – and the so-called parental rights movement – have been at the center of school board races in Bucks County and elsewhere in the commonwealth. But efforts to limit access to books and certain subjects in schools became a statewide flashpoint. State lawmakers are in agreement that the issue needs to be addressed – but not on how best to do so. While the state House has refused to consider a GOP-led bill that would require school districts to assemble a list of library books and course readings with “sexually explicit” content and allow parents to opt their child out of accessing the materials, the Democrats’ proposal to require intermediate units to compose book review panels also hasn’t seen any movement. 

Bump in alcohol prices

The oft-maligned Pennsylvania Liquor Control system was a prime example of inflation woes hitting in the beginning of 2023, as PLCB raised prices on more than 3,500 of its products by 4% to start the year. Throughout the course of the year, PLCB endured a rocky transition to a modernized licensing portal and criticism over markups that small businesses say are hurting their bottom line. It doesn’t take a crystal ball to project that the debate over the state-controlled liquor system isn’t going away anytime soon – not to mention the possible appointment of outgoing Philadelphia City Council President Darrell Clarke to the board.