Health - July 27, 2012

PA Turnpike moving towards all electronic tolls

Last week the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission announced it would raise tolls in January 2013.  But the commission is also taking steps toward converting the toll road to entirely electronic transactions; meaning no more cash tolls.  It has been a long term goal of the commission to eliminate cash transactions.  The Harrisburg Patriot News reports that the commission has inked a $6 million agreement with a Missouri company who would be responsible for changeover to an all-electronic tolling system.

The transition could take as long as five years; though the cost to run the toll booths continues to rise.  E-ZPass would still be available and the most convenient for drivers that want to pay the toll immediately, not to mention the cheapest option.  All other drivers would have a photo of their license plate taken and would then receive a toll bill in the mail.  The technology necessary still needs some work and the access to vehicle registration information from other states may require federal legislation.  As the plan moves forward, the elimination of those jobs may be a source of contention for unionized turnpike toll workers, though the turnpike has acknowledged that it has an obligation to its employees.

Voter ID debated in court

The Voter ID law continues to be front page news.  This week the debate over the legislation began in Commonwealth Court.  The number of people that do not have an acceptable form of ID was heavily debated and a number of experts testified about the demographics of those lacking proper identification.  Among those mentioned it was noted that the young, old, women, those with lower incomes, and those living in urban areas were the most likely to lack an acceptable ID to vote.  The American Civil Liberties Union testified, as did Rebecca Oyler, Director of Policy at the Department of State—which overseas elections in PA.  Voters without the proper ID will be able to cast a provisional ballot on Election Day but must provide an acceptable ID to election officials within six days.

Commonwealth Court rules against part of Marcellus Shale law

This week the Commonwealth Court ruled that part of the Marcellus Shale drilling law that was passed in February 2012 be thrown out.  The law had required that local municipalities “allow gas drilling in areas that would conflict with their zoning rules.”  After the law was passed, which also included a drilling impact fee, a number of municipalities sued on the issue.  They stood to lose money from the impact fee if they did not comply.  The court has now ruled in favor of the municipalities and the state will most likely appeal the decision.  Drilling companies had been in favor of the provision in order to have uniformity in zoning provisions across the state.  The municipalities had argued that the law would prevent them from being able to protect the health and safety of their residents.