Health - November 22, 2013

Legislative update

This week the state legislature managed to pass a transportation funding bill and expanded gambling to include small games of chance in bars and taverns.  Currently small games of chance are limited to private clubs and civic organizations; the bill will allow bars and taverns to apply for a license to provide pull tab games and raffles.  The bill includes prize limits, a 60% tax on the proceeds, and it also relaxes reporting requirements for private clubs and organizations which will allow them to keep more of their profit for operating costs.  The tax revenue the legislation is expected to generate is estimated at between $150 to $200 million annually.  The bill passed the Senate on Monday and is now on the Governor’s Desk.

The legislature also managed to pass a transportation funding package by week’s end.  The House had sent a transportation package to the Senate; which the Senate then amended.  Some of the things the Senate amendment provide for include lifting the cap on the Oil Franchise Tax and eliminating the Gas Tax, providing for increases in registration fees and motor license fees, provides funding for multimodal transportation, and increases the speed limit to 70 mph.  The House then heavily debated the bill; there was significant pushback on the gasoline taxes.  With the elimination of the Gas Tax and the gradual lifting of the cap, Pennsylvania is expected to eventually have one of the highest gas taxes in the nation as wholesalers pass increasing costs onto consumers.  At one point a motion was made to table the bill until early December; that motion failed and the bill eventually passed with a vote of 113-85.

Gettysburg celebrates 150th Anniversary of President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address

Tuesday morning was the commemoration ceremony for the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Crowds gathered on the historic site as a series of speakers attempted to vocalize the importance of Lincoln’s message for Americans of the past, present, and future. Facing frigid weather, people stood in Gettysburg’s National Cemetery to listen to prominent political figures such as Senator Pat Toomey, Congressman Scott Perry, Senator Bob Casey Jr., and President Obama’s proxy, Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell. Reading for President Obama, she said, "it falls to each generation to preserve and advance the principles outlined in Lincoln's speech.” In addition to the speakers, Governor Corbett was quoted saying Lincoln’s, “genius was so profound” and he “sought to heal the nation’s wounds by defining what the nation should be…He spoke of equality for all- for all people.” Towards the end of the ceremony, 16 people from countries ranging from Canada to Kuwait renounced their allegiance to the sovereignties they had once been citizens of, to become citizens of the United States of America. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia made a few remarks before administering the oath amongst a crowd of cheering people waving American flags.