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2020 census could shrink Pa.’s power in US House

Political notebook

Pennsylvania will likely lose a House seat after this year’s census, according to a new analysis of population estimates.

The state’s slow-growing population is set to deprive it of a congressional seat, reducing the number from 18 to 17, a Cleveland.com analysis showed. Pennsylvania would be one of several Rust Belt states to lose representation in favor of faster-growing Southern and Western states.

Pennsylvania remained the nation’s fifth-largest state as of this summer, with an estimated 12,801,989 residents as of July 1, according to data released last week by the U.S. Census Bureau.

While its population is growing, it is doing so at a snail’s pace compared with states like Texas, which could gain as many as three House seats during this decade.

Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans — the result of a court-mandated redrawing of lines that ended a disproportionately large GOP contingent.

A new census will mean new boundaries, and that could mean a bitter fight for control of the General Assembly.

The Legislature still controls the map-making process, despite repeated efforts to reform the system and place it under the control of a nonpartisan commission.

Reps praise Iran official’s killing

Local representatives responded enthusiastically to the assassination of prominent Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, whose death Thursday in a U.S. drone strike could spur further violence across the Middle East.

The killing of Soleimani — commander of Iran’s overseas special forces and a key figure in the fight against the Islamic State group — drew immediate threats of reprisal from Iran and its allies.

It has already prompted unrest in neighboring Iraq, where the killing took place.

For GOP officials, however, his death marked a victory for “deterrence” against the Iranian government.

“Qasem Soleimani was responsible for the murder of hundreds of Americans,” Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said, referring to the battlefield deaths of U.S. troops during the occupation of Iraq. “The world is a better place now that he is dead. … The Trump administration was right to restore deterrence against Iran.”

In the House, U.S. Rep. John Joyce, R-13th District, echoed the sentiment, praising President Donald Trump for the killing.

“From day one, President Trump has been committed to achieving peace through strength, protecting Americans at home and abroad,” Joyce said on Twitter.

With the situation unclear — and further killings of Iraqi militia leaders already reported on Friday — some congressional Democrats pushed back against the administration.

Presidential hopefuls questioned both the attack itself and the planning that went into it, and resolutions have already been filed to stop Trump from launching a war without congressional approval.

Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., expressed concerns about retaliation and asked for more information in a series of Twitter posts.

“The Trump Administration must provide a full briefing to Congress next week regarding the following: The intelligence used to authorize the strike; the legal basis for the strike (and) the nature of the threat articulated by the Pentagon in its statement last night,” he said Friday.

Wolf presses overtime change

With a minimum wage hike stalled in the state House, Gov. Tom Wolf is reportedly moving forward with plans to expand overtime pay instead.

Wolf is set to propose a regulatory change — one that doesn’t require approval from lawmakers — to guarantee time-and-a-half pay for salaried workers’ overtime, according to WITF.

Under the change, salaried employees making up to $45,000 a year would get the extra pay when they work over 40 hours a week.

Wolf’s proposal expands on federal rules that guarantee overtime for those at lower salaries.

The governor framed the move as a backup to a hoped-for minimum wage hike, WITF reported.

Early this year, Wolf called for a gradual wage hike to $12 per hour — up from the current $7.25, a level that has remained unchanged since 2009.

Senate Republicans eventually agreed to a $9.50 compromise, but their House counterparts haven’t acted.

“I had some conversations, but there’s no commitments,” Wolf said. “I think there’s a recognition that we’ve got to do something.”

Pennsylvania’s minimum wage has fallen behind its neighbors, all of which have surpassed the federal $7.25 rate.

Many states and municipalities are moving beyond the federal rate: This year, a record 24 states and 48 cities and counties nationwide hiked their rates.

Langerholc seeks emissions reprieve

State Sen. Wayne Langerholc, R-Cambria, continued his crusade to eliminate car emissions-test requirements for Cambria County residents last week, testifying Friday that the rule should no longer apply there.

In a news release, Langerholc said he intended to tell state Department of Environmental Protection officials that Cambria County can be freed from the requirement.

Counties that fail to meet certain air quality standards are subject to car emissions tests, which accompany annual inspections and typically cost about $40.

Langerholc has long argued that Cambria and other counties should not be subject to the rule, as their air quality has improved in recent decades.

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