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December 22: Goodbye 2023

🍾  It’s Friday. And we say goodbye to 2023 here at the Playbook. We’re taking a well-deserved break and will be back on January 2. From all of us to you and yours, best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a safe, happy and healthy New Year.

PA Weather
🌥️ Winterstown | Partly Sunny, 40
🌥️ Saint Nicholas | Partly Sunny, 37
🌥️ Bethlehem | Partly Sunny, 40

PA Sports
🏈 Steelers (7-7) | Sat vs. Cincinnati
🏈 Eagles (10-4) | Mon vs. NY Giants
🏀 Sixers (19-8) | Fri vs. Toronto
🏒 Flyers (18-11-3) | Nashville 2-4 | Fri vs. Detroit
🏒 Penguins (15-13-3) | Carolina 2-1 (SO) | Sat vs. Ottawa

Happy Birthday
Cake and candles for Rep. Patrick Harkins. Early wishes for Rep. Brandon Markosek (Mon.).

Start Your Day Smart
Subscribe to the PoliticsPA Playbook. It’s free and gives you all today’s PA political headlines in an easy-to-read format. All by 8 AM.


Top Story

1. Biden Believes U.S. Steel Sale To Japanese Company Warrants ‘Serious Scrutiny,’ White House Says

U.S. Steel plant

President Joe Biden believes “serious scrutiny” is warranted for the planned acquisition of U.S. Steel by Japan’s Nippon Steel, the White House said Thursday after days of silence on a transaction that has drawn alarm from the steelworkers union.

Lael Brainard, the director of the National Economic Council, said in a statement that Biden “believes the purchase of this iconic American-owned company by a foreign entity — even one from a close ally — appears to deserve serious scrutiny in terms of its potential impact on national security and supply chain reliability.” (AP)


With Potential U.S. Steel Sale, A Reckoning Is Coming For The Way Steel Is Made In Mon Valley. “Those who fail to learn from history, we’re told, are condemned to repeat it. But those who do learn from the past risk a different fate: fighting the last war. And as political leaders grapple with the potential sale of U.S. Steel, it’s not hard to see both of those dangers.” (WESA Politics)

Chris Deluzio Is Rated A Slight Favorite In Western PA’s Only Competitive Congressional Race. “Inside Elections, which tracks congressional races, just released its latest House overview and rates freshman U.S. Rep. Chris Deluzio a slight favorite over state Rep. Rob Mercuri.” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

‘AIPAC An Existential Threat To All Democracies’: US PA Rep. “Amid escalating tensions surrounding the brutal Israeli aggression on Gaza, Representative Summer Lee accused the pro-Israeli group AIPAC of “textbook racism” and being “a significant threat to the Black community” in private Facebook posts last month, Politico reported.” (Al Mayadeen)

Reader Poll: What Should The U.S. Supreme Court Do On Colorado’s Decision To Ban Donald Trump From Its Presidential Primary Ballot. “What do you think the United States Supreme Court will do? We’d like to know. Vote in our poll that runs through Friday, December 29.” (PoliticsPA)

How A New Way To Vote Is Gaining Traction In States — And Could Transform US Politics. “With U.S. democracy plagued by extremism, polarization, and a growing disconnect between voters and lawmakers, a set of reforms that could dramatically upend how Americans vote is gaining momentum at surprising speed in Western states.” (Penn Capital-Star)



2. Despite Ethics Concerns, Shapiro Will Keep Accepting Tickets From A Group That Gets State Money

Governor Shapiro throws first pitch of Phillies NLDS home opener | ABC27

Gov. Josh Shapiro plans to continue accepting perks like tickets to sporting events from a nonprofit that receives state money despite concerns he may be violating his own gift ban.

The nonprofit in question is Team Pennsylvania, a public-private partnership that says it works to improve the commonwealth’s “competitiveness and economic prosperity.” This year it paid for tickets and lodgings for Shapiro, a Democrat, to attend the Super Bowl in Arizona, and funded his tickets to a Philadelphia Phillies playoff game and a Penn State football game.” (Spotlight PA)


While Many States Hike Minimum Wage On Jan. 1, Partisan Divide In Harrisburg Obstructs Increase In Pennsylvania. “On Jan. 1, states all around Pennsylvania will increase their minimum wage, but once again, Pennsylvania is still stuck at a minimum wage that hasn’t gone up since 2009.” (CBS Pittsburgh)

PA’s Gas Tax Is Set To Drop For The First Time Since 2018. Will Drivers Benefit? “Pennsylvania’s gas tax is based on the average wholesale price of gasoline, and is only going down because of declining wholesale prices. But a drop in the gas tax doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll all pay less at the pump.” (

PA Lawmakers Say Cursive Handwriting Instruction Should Be Required. “For Joe Adams, penmanship matters. For (many) reasons, he is sponsoring legislation to require the teaching of cursive in public schools.” (WITF)


Around The Commonwealth

3. His Shock Win Flipped a Pennsylvania County. Now He Vows to Raise Hell Over Its Lethal Jail

Dauphin County is on the brink of election history | WHP

“There are many paths to elected office, Justin Douglas quips, “but fired pastor is not one.”

A year ago, he says, he could not have named the three men who serve on the county commission of Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, his home since 2015. This powerful body, with control of a $222 million budget and a county government workforce of 1,700, meets Wednesdays in downtown Harrisburg, in a building that Douglas had never entered.

By any standard measure, his campaign seemed doomed from the start: He had no paid staff or office. His team of volunteers, a few friends of his with zero combined campaign experience, met in the corner of a Starbucks in Hershey. ” (Bolts)


Penn Donors Are Hosting A Fundraiser For The Representative Who Called On Magill To Testify. “Two prominent University of Pennsylvania donors, both vocal critics of former president Liz Magill over her response to allegations of campus antisemitism, are hosting a fundraiser for the House Republican who summoned Magill before a congressional committee this month, the Daily Pennsylvanian reported.” (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Longtime WITF Radio Show Producer, Host Announces Retirement Plans. “Scott LaMar, host and executive producer of “The Spark,” formerly called “Smart Talk,” on WITF-FM in Harrisburg since 2008, dropped the news in a Facebook post on Thursday that he would be retiring in 2024.” (PennLive)



4. What They’re Saying


1 Thing

5. Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus

Auditions upcoming for W.H.A.T.'s rendition of 'Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus' - The Observer Online

A line from an editorial by Francis Pharcellus Church that was written in response to a letter by eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon asking whether Santa Claus was real. The editorial was first published in the New York newspaper The Sun on September 21, 1897.

“Is There a Santa Claus?” was initially published uncredited and Church’s authorship was not disclosed until after his death in 1906. The editorial is widely reprinted during the holiday season, and is the most reprinted newspaper editorial in the English language.

Here is a segment and a link to the entire editorial. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from PoliticsPA.

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.”


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