State house agrees to expand gambling
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – Pennsylvania House members have given approval to a bill that would allow thousands of bars to profit from gambling contests called small games of chance and flush some of the money into state coffers. The Republican-controlled House voted 102-96 to send the bill to the Senate, where approval was expected next week. It would represent Pennsylvania’s largest expansion of gambling since 2010, when table games were legalized in slot-machine casinos.
Under the bill, thousands of bars and taverns could seek licenses to hold pull-tab games, daily drawings and tavern raffles. The state would take 60 percent of the gambling profits, bar owners would get 35 percent and municipalities would get 5 percent. Individual prize limits would be $2,000 for a single game and $35,000 over seven days.
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – A bill that would shift final decisions on designating Pennsylvania’s endangered species to a panel of five political appointees is advancing in the state House of Representatives. The sponsor, Rep. Jeff Pyle, said after Wednesday’s 16-8 Game and Fisheries Committee vote that the bill has no assurances yet of a floor vote. Pyle accuses the Pennsylvania Game Commission and Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission of flouting the law in some endangered species designations.
He says the accompanying protections are hurting businesses and environmental improvement efforts. Opponents, including conservation and sportsmen’s groups and the wildlife and fish agencies, say it would take the final decision away from biologists and give it to a regulatory panel that’s vulnerable to political influences and lobbying. Developers and the natural gas industry support the bill.
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – Supporters of a bill to require public schools to post “In God We Trust” are pushing for passage of the proposal. The sponsor, Allegheny County Republican Rep. Rick Saccone, said at a rally in the Capitol on Wednesday that the bill would instruct schoolchildren in the national motto.
Saccone says public opinion is behind his plan to require the phrase be posted somewhere in every school building. The measure passed out of a state House committee last month, with nearly all Republicans in favor and nearly all Democrats opposed. “In God We Trust,” which is printed on U.S. currency, has been the national motto for about 50 years. The rally drew about 150 people, including some opposed to the legislation.
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – A former congressman from central Pennsylvania is the newest member of the state Liquor Control Board. The state Senate voted unanimously Wednesday to confirm the appointment of former U.S. Rep. Tim Holden. He served for 20 years as a Democratic member of Congress and is also a previous Schuylkill County sheriff.
Republican Gov. Tom Corbett picked Holden to be the minority party representative to the three-member board. Holden is taking the position held most recently by P.J. Stapleton. The Liquor Control Board oversees the state’s 600 wine and liquor stores. Corbett supports privatizing the liquor system, but that idea has been stalled in the Legislature.
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – The leader of the Republican majority in the Pennsylvania House says it’s possible there may be a vote next week on a bill to fund highways, bridges and mass transit systems. House Majority Leader Mike Turzai of Allegheny County told reporters on Wednesday that many state lawmakers think it’s time to deal with the issue, one way or another.
Turzai says he’s already postponed votes three times at the request of Gov. Tom Corbett. The Senate passed a $2.5 billion-a-year bill this summer, but it’s been stalled in the House, partly over objections to the gas tax increase the bill would require and how much money would go to mass transit agencies. Another major issue is whether to roll back a law setting minimum wages on some state-funded transportation projects.