Yes, today is Friday the 13th. If you see any co-workers wearing a hockey mask, don't automatically assume they are getting ready to watch the Flyers take on the Penguins. Check for large knives.
This week marked the end of the line for the long, strange trip that was Rick Santorum’s Presidential candidacy. It was a ride that was as improbable as it was compelling. Say what you want about Rick (and we know you will), the fact that he was essentially the last man standing between Mitt Romney and November shocked just about everyone who follows politics.
It seems as though some justices on the U.S. Supreme Court have a, shall we say, less than complete grasp on what is really contained in the guts of the individual mandate section of Obamacare, even as they deliberate over whether or not to scrap it. No matter where you might be on that particular question, this kind of news tends to make us a little nervous. We always thought the Supremes were kinda dialed-in. Not so much, apparently. Efforts to reach Diana Ross for comment were unsuccessful.
Tongues wagged in Harrisburg this week (that happens a lot around here) over a new Corbett Administration plan to privatize the management of the Pennsylvania Lottery. The Lottery, as we all know, supports programs for Pennsylvania’s senior citizens. The logic here is that those programs are in a bit of jeopardy because lottery revenues will not keep pace with our rapidly aging population. We do have us quite a few seniors in this state, and it is usually wise to keep them happy. They can un-elect you in very short order if they get grumpy.
The debate over whether or not to abolish property taxes has re-emerged, you’ll all be glad to know. Lawmakers have for years been wrestling with how to replace the billions in revenue the property tax generates for our schools, and we have a news flash: ain’t nothing new under the sun. Abolish one, raise another, rinse, repeat.
Pennsylvania apparently has way too much gas, a malady that will not be solved with an over-the-counter pill of some sort. Natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale coupled with a mild winter has caused a gas glut, pushing prices to historic lows. Drillers are now scaling back operations across the nation. Looks like we better step up the pace on converting our cars to natural gas power.
For if we do not, you will soon need a second mortgage to fill up your gas tank, as gasoline prices are heading in the exact opposite direction of natural gas prices, blowing past the four buck a gallon mark in most areas this week. The silver lining is that Pennsylvania tourism is expected to get a boost, as more and more PA residents will be staying a lot closer to home this summer. No one wants to sell a kidney in order to buy enough gas to get to Ocean City.
Governor Corbett this week indicated it is precisely these gas prices that are making him wary of lifting the cap on the state’s Oil Franchise Tax to generate revenue to fix our crumbling infrastructure. This was the same logic used by former Governor Ed Rendell when he balked at a gas tax increase, preferring instead to toll Interstate 80 (we see how well that worked). We have a bit of sobering news; you may all wanna sit down. Comfy? Good. The days of cheap gas are gone, baby, gone (despite what Newt Gingrich might tell you). If you want to fix our infrastructure, somebody is going to have to bite that bullet eventually. Ain’t no rest for the wicked and money don’t grow on trees.
Referencing the above paragraph, we give you Auditor General Jack Wagner, ladies and gentlemen. He understands. Bravo.
Lawmakers this week were shocked to learn that new newly-minted Voter ID law may present a bit of a problem to a group of people who were completely overlooked during House and Senate debates on the bill: the Amish, who were apparently too busy planting and plowing and building and generally minding their own business. They will, however, likely have a tough time getting a non-photo ID, due to the fact that the questionnaire they need to fill out at PennDOT is about the size of the hardcover version of Atlas Shrugged.
All of this could end up being much ado about nothing, however, as the ACLU and the NAACP have announced they will file a lawsuit to get the entire law overturned. And you probably shouldn’t be too shocked if you see the U.S. Justice Department follow suit, as it has done in other states. The Obama DOJ gets a little squeamish about Voter ID bills. We can’t imagine why.
The Commonwealth Court this week granted a 120-day injunction on the zoning section of the state’s new shale impact fee law. We guess the argument that the state can override local zoning “because we said so” wasn’t quite compelling enough for the courts. Lightheartedness aside, this may scramble the eggs for the state as it tries to establish some uniform rules to govern zoning.
Hey, remember a few weeks back when we told you that a recently-passed Senate bill that legalized direct wine shipments could face a rocky road in the House? As we recall, we said something about shenanigans. Well, shenanigans are, indeed, afoot. The House this week indicated that instead of taking up that bill, it will seek to amend it with language to privatize the state store system (try to contain your shock). Selling the state stores is now officially the Rasputin of state government.
The Legislative Reapportionment Commission on Thursday finally produced another set of maps for the state’s 203 House and 50 Senate seats. Because the first set of maps went the way of all flesh, these newly-proposed lines won’t take effect until the 2014 elections. If you are planning on weighing in or perhaps designing maps of your own, the 30-day clock is ticking, so go here and have at it.
Before leaving town for the Primary Elections last week, the House passed a bill that will for the first time set up a framework for public/private partnerships for transportation projects. A big shout-out goes to House Transportation Committee Chairman Rick Geist for finally pushing it across the House goal line (which seemed to always be moving, for some reason). If you want to know more about P-3s, head over to our clearinghouse for information.
Wanna know why Russell Crowe and Tom Cruise and Viggo Mortensen hang out in western Pennsylvania? It’s not for the Primanti’s sandwiches, folks. It is because Pennsylvania’s Film Tax Credit has become a serious economic generator for the Pittsburgh area, with filmmakers flocking there every month and major production facilities being built. Since the FTC was hatched, it has doled out $240 million, which has generated $1.8 billion in economic activity. Oh, and it has also created 14,500 jobs. Remember when some lawmakers railed against this tax credit during the Rendell years? Seems like forever ago, doesn’t it?
Governor Corbett this week had a frank observation for folks who are concerned about rising school property taxes: take it up with your school board. The governor is continuing, sometimes rather bluntly, to make the case that the state is holding up its end of the school funding deal, but teacher pensions and profligate school board spending are the real problems. There are classic battle lines shaping up over this one, and November may provide us with the first clue on who is winning.
Over in the hive of activity that is the Triad Strategies Network studio, we found ourselves (well, Tony may found himself) face-to-face with the inimitable Megan Healey, ABC 27 News weekend anchor and social media practitioner extraordinaire. Come and watch the antics!
Then later this week, Triad’s Crisis Communications guru Rick Kelly weighed in on the ongoing Ozzie Guillen saga surrounding his secret love of, or perhaps hatred of, Fidel Castro. Rick will help us all figure this out, trust us.
That’s the ballgame from sunny Harrisburg! Make sure you tell all your friends and co-workers to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter, if you haven’t already heard us the first 5,498 times we said it!
We’ll be back next week as we run up to the all-of-the-sudden not-so-interesting Primary Elections. Until then, from all your friends at Triad, have a great weekend!