State Capitol Roundup
6/21/2013

House Concludes Series of Public Hearings on Senate Transportation Funding Plan

The House Transportation Committee completed a series of public hearings on Senate Bill 1, a multi-year, comprehensive transportation funding plan.  The committee received testimony from various stakeholders and industry representatives, including Pennsylvania Transportation Secretary Barry Schoch, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale and representatives from public transportation systems, construction and engineering interests, agriculture, trucking, rail freight and others.  Senate Bill 1 aims to raise an additional $2.5 billion a year for transportation funding, with an additional $11 billion overall over five years, by proposing to do the following: remove the cap on the Oil Company Franchise Tax, which is charged at the wholesale level, over a period of five years; reduce the State Liquid Fuels Tax over a period of four years; make vehicle registrations valid for two years instead of one and increasing the net cost by $32; and make driver’s licenses valid for six years instead of four and increasing the net cost by $6.25.  The House Transportation Committee expects to vote on the bill next week.  Pennsylvania has some of the oldest transportation infrastructure in the country.  The governor’s Transportation Funding Advisory Commission has identified the need for an additional $3.5 billion annually to support maintenance and repair of the state’s roads and bridges, as well as public transportation systems.

Senate Unveils Liquor Modernization Plan

Legislation was unveiled in the Senate this week that seeks to modernize the retail sale of wine and spirits in the Commonwealth.  Senate Bill 100 would create additional permits to allow existing liquor licensees, such as restaurants, hotels and beer distributors, to sell wine and/or spirits. A license to sell both would cost $8,000 annually, while a license to sell either wine or spirits would cost $4,000 annually.  Specialty permits would also be available for retailers who wish to sell only a specific category of spirits, such as whiskeys or vodkas.  Those permits would cost $2,000 annually.   Senate Bill 100 allows for the phase-out of state-owned wine and spirits stores over an undetermined period of time and maintains state control of the wine and spirits wholesale operation.  The proposal also calls for a study by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee two years after implementation to assess the viability of the wholesale/retail system.  Conversely, House Bill 790, which was adopted by the state House in March, outlines a process for closing the state-owned liquor stores and immediately divests the state of the wholesale operation.  House Bill 790 offers beer distributors the exclusive ability to be a one-stop shop for beer, wine and spirits but opens the sales of wine and spirits to private retailers as well. It also is designed to allow the PLCB to focus on control and enforcement, rather than sales, of alcoholic beverages.

Bill to Protect Animals Passes House

The House passed legislation this week to protect animals by addressing an aspect of animal fighting.  House Bill 164 would create the offense of possession of animal fighting paraphernalia, which would be defined by any device, implement, object, facility, space or drug used, or intended to be used, for animal fighting or to train an animal for fighting.  Possession of animal fighting paraphernalia would be graded as a third-degree misdemeanor, with a penalty of up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,500.  If enacted, the law would aid in the prosecution of animal fighters since investigators often find the tools of the trade rather than an animal fight in progress.  The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.

Beware of a New Medical Alert Scam

A new medical alert scam is targeting seniors nationwide.  The unsolicited calls are pre-recorded messages stating that the senior qualifies for a free medical alert system or that someone has already paid for it.  The message instructs seniors to press a number on their keypad to connect with a live person, or to press a different number to disconnect the call or be removed from their list.  If seniors receive a call like this, they should not press any buttons.  Instead, they should just hang up the phone.  These calls are not from a legitimate company.  They are attempts to scam seniors by enticing them with a free device and then asking for personal information.  For information from the attorney general’s office on this scam, visit www.AttorneyGeneral.gov/press.aspx?id=6993.
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