Energy - January 27, 2017

PA Auto Show kicks off in Harrisburg

The Pennsylvania Auto Show has arrived in Harrisburg. The annual show started Thursday at the Farm Show Complex. The show features cars and new technology from automakers. As the automotive industry changes with new technology, the show offers an opportunity to see how that technology is being utilized by different manufacturers. Along with slick new looks for cars, trucks and crossover/sport utility vehicles and the latest in luxury vehicles, you’ll also find electric cars, increased driver safety and self-controlling features and even self-driving cars. While those some of those things aren’t exactly new, as technology advances they’re becoming more and more common. Electric charging stations can be seen at gas stations and vehicles are coming equipped with sensors, backup cameras, etc. as standard features rather than upgrades.  

Self-controlling features and self-driving cars may seem like something out of futuristic movie but automakers have put the concept into reality. Pennsylvania has recently applied to be part of a federal project to test such vehicles. PennDOT has applied to allow several facilities, including Pocono Raceway, to be used as a testing facility for self-driving cars. Those in the field say that the current technology we’re seeing to make driving safer will be the “stepping stone” to allowing drivers to give up more control over physically driving their vehicles. Up for debate, though, is how lawmakers will handle all the new technology and what types of regulations will be necessary in the future.

State Senator proposes 2-year budget cycle

State Senator Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster) is sponsoring legislation that would lengthen Pennsylvania’s budget process from one year to two. Pennsylvania’s fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30 each year. And many years, the legislature misses that June 30 deadline. In the last 10 years, the legislature has missed that deadline seven times. After the Governor’s budget address in February, the legislature holds budget hearings, gathering testimony from legislators, state agencies, and others who receive budget funding. Then the remainder of the spring session is spent working on budget negotiations; with the month of June generally becoming crunch time. As the deadline comes and goes without a budget, the consequences impact state employees, school districts, county and human services. And with a mounting deficit, some think there should be more time to negotiate the details of the budget. Senator Aument has introduced his bill for the second session in a row. Aument noted that he’s not sure how much support he’ll get from his fellow lawmakers but it remains a top priority for him. Such a change would require a constitutional amendment, with passage in two consecutive sessions and then a referendum on the ballot.