Pa. fall foliage reports to debut Sept. 30 | Five for the Weekend

Pennsylvanians can see a ‘symphony of colors’ this fall, DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said

By: - September 18, 2021 6:30 am

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Happy weekend, all.

Leaf peepers, rejoice!

Beginning Sept. 30, the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources will begin publishing weekly fall foliage reports on DCNR’s website. 

The reports will be updated every Thursday, a statement from the department confirmed.

“Pennsylvania is a large state with more than 130 native tree species, which gives residents and tourists plentiful opportunities to see a symphony of colors this fall,” DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said in a statement. “Visitors can check out one of our 121 state parks and more than 2.2 million acres of state forestland for some of the best views, recreation trails and park experiences. Our dedicated state foresters and park personnel look forward to recommending both the best times and locations to experience the beautiful vistas of the season.”

According to the department, fall foliage in Pennsylvania usually peaks near the beginning of October.

For those interested, the Pennsylvania Tourism Office also offers some suggestions on where to view the changing colors across Pennsylvania.

As always, the top 5 stories from this week are below. 

Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel, right, discusses results of an internal review of parole cases that involved recent homicides or attempted homicides, as Deputy Secretary of Reentry Kelly Evans, left, and Chief Counsel Theron Perez, center, listen during a press conference in Mechanicsburg on Wednesday, August 28, 2019.

1. Pa.’s long-serving prisons chief, John E. Wetzel, is leaving, Wolf admin says

Pennsylvania Corrections Secretary John E. Wetzel, whose career spanned Republican and Democratic administrations, will leave his post on Oct. 1, Gov. Tom Wolf’s office said Monday.

Wetzel, whose work to reform the state’s sprawling and expensive prison system, won him plaudits, told the Capital-Star that he plans to open a criminal justice nonprofit in February.

“I’m super excited,” Wetzel told the Capital-Star on Monday. “Government is not where change is at right now — for real. I’m in the change business.”

Wetzel thanked Wolf for the “honor and opportunity of a lifetime,” and added that he’s leaving “the best team in the business to the right person for the job, and I’m grateful for that. It’s been an honor to serve Pennsylvania.”

State Sen. Anthony Williams, D-Philadelphia, speaks at a Sept. 15, 2021 Senate hearing to approve subpoenas for a legislative investigation of the 2020 election as panel chair Sen. Cris Dush, R-Jefferson, listens. (Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

2. To kick off election investigation, Pa. Senate GOP subpoenas voters’ social security numbers

With the 2021 general election now closer than 2020’s, Senate Republicans voted Wednesday to request identifying information on Pennsylvania’s roughly 9 million registered voters as part of a legislative investigation of former President Donald Trump’s loss.

The legal requests are the opening salvo in what could be a long, messy fight over the investigation, which was spurred by unverified claims of voter fraud that have been repeatedly rejected by federal judges, county elections officials, and even Trump’s former attorney general.

The 17 subpoenas were approved in a party-line vote by the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee, a seldom-used panel that Republican leadership has turned into a vehicle for conducting their investigation.

The “Citizens’ Map” from Draw the Lines PA.

3. ‘It’s a Rubik’s Cube’: Pa. grapples with competing redistricting priorities

Pennsylvania politicians must redraw 17 congressional districts, and 253 legislative seats by the end of the coming fall to match population shifts.

This process, known as redistricting, can dictate who holds political power for the next decade. It’s abuse to cement that power unfairly for one party or another is known as gerrymandering.

But differing priorities, from as simple a goal as compact districts to as vague as keeping communities together, show the complexity inherent to evenly fitting Pennsylvania’s 67 counties and 13 million residents into thoughtful and representative districts.

Some advocates organized a coalition of dozens of academic and civic groups known as Draw the Lines PA, which is led by the Committee of Seventy, a Philadelphia-based good government organization, have already released their own map as a starting point.

State Rep. Kathy Rapp, R-Warren, takes questions from reporters after a House Health Committee meeting on September 14th, 2021. (Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

4. To block school mask order, House GOP appeals to arcane committee

Majority House Republicans have asked an obscure state regulatory oversight committee to review the Wolf administration’s school mask mandate.

In a 15-5 vote on Tuesday, the GOP-controlled House Health Committee’s lawmakers approved a six-page letter laying out their legal objections to the order.

It goes on to request that the Commonwealth Joint Committee on Documents rule that the mask order issued by acting Secretary of Health Allison Beam is unlawful.

The efficacy of the move is unclear. The review board’s membership will skew to Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s appointees and allies. At best, the panel could order the administration to issue the order through a process taking a few months, if not longer. Either way, the committee’s eventual ruling could spark legal action.

But the move still gave legislative Republicans a chance to sound off against Wolf, his handling of the pandemic, and masks.

Then-state Rep. Cris Dush, R-Jefferson. Dush now chairs the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee, which is probing the 2020 election (Capital-Star file)

5. GOP-controlled Pa. Senate panel to vote Wednesday on subpoenas in election probe | Monday Coffee

A Republican-controlled state Senate panel looking into alleged irregularities in the commonwealth’s elections will meet on Wednesday morning in Harrisburg to vote on whether to slap the Pennsylvania Department of State with subpoenas after the agency took a pass on the panel’s opening meeting last week.

The Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee, chaired by Sen. Cris Dush, R-Jefferson, will meet at 9:30 a.m. in Room 8-EB in the Capitol’s East Wing, according to a statement issued late last Friday night. by a spokesman for Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre.

“The subpoenas are expected to include communications and other election records from the Pennsylvania Department of State. The meeting follows a hearing [last week] in which Department of State officials refused to testify,” the statement, which is attributed to Dush, reads.

The Department of State declined the invitation, citing pending litigation, the Capital-Star’s Marley Parish reported last week.

And that’s the week. See you back here next weekend. 

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Cassie Miller
Cassie Miller

A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry.