Health - March 22, 2013

PA Legislative Update

This week the House unanimously approved a bill that would prevent “triple dipping” by some state retirees.  Retirees are permitted to collect their pension while working up to 95 days a year to help out on a temporary basis.  Some of those employees, after maxing out on the 95 days, have filed for and received unemployment benefits.  Rep. Adam Harris, R—Juniata, introduced the measure; he noted that in 2011, 239 state retirees collected over $1.1 million in benefits by “triple dipping.”  Senator Pat Vance has also introduced this legislation in sessions past who has said “Unemployment was not meant to be paid to those who limit their work days in order to keep their pension.”

The House also passed an unprecedented measure to privatize the liquor business in Pennsylvania on Thursday night.  The bill, HB 790, sponsored by House Majority Leader Mike Turazi, R—Allegheny, passed 105-90.  Only five Republicans voted against the bill and all Democrats voted against it.  The debate on the bill began at about 1:15 PM yesterday and continued for over seven hours until the final vote was taken.  The bill creates 1,200 licenses for the sale of wine and spirits with the possibility of additional licenses as state stores are gradually phased out.  Grocery stores would be able to buy a license to sell wine but not beer; beer distributors will be allowed to purchase additional license to sell wine and liquor with first go at the available licenses.

The Senate may not be so keen on taking up the bill right away though.  Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R—Delaware, relayed that liquor privatization has not “been an item of active interest and discussion in the Senate.”  The Senate may also favor a modernization plan over ditching the system all together.  Either way the bill will not make it through the Senate unscathed.

Amtrak service to continue west from Harrisburg

On Thursday, the Governor’s office announced that a deal had been reached to continue daily rail service between Pittsburg and Harrisburg.  The deal with Amtrak lowers the annual state contribution which was set to rise to $6.8 million in October.  The state will now only have to pay $3.8 million per year and the line, the Pennsylvanian, will run once each day in each direction.  A spokesman from the Department of Transportation, Steve Chizmar, said that the money is contained in Gov. Corbett’s transportation infrastructure funding plan.  The governor praised Amtrak for working with the state to preserve the rail line and Amtrak was pleased to be able to come to an agreement as well.  Amtrak has not said if the agreement would mean an increase in the ticket price for travel on the Pennsylvanian.