First of 15 Immigration Bills Passes Committee

It took an hour for the House State Government Committee to advance the first piece of the National Security Begins at Home legislative package, via a party line vote.  The legislation (HB 439) would revoke the professional license of an employer who knowingly hires illegal immigrants.  “If you can hold somebody who has a professional license accountable to not employing illegal aliens,” State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe said after the meeting, “Then you start to shutdown some of that attractiveness of a professional licensee to undercut his competitor by hiring an illegal alien workforce.” 

Metcalfe, the committee’s Republican chair, tells us he doesn’t expect all 15 bills to move this fall, but he is working with the Senate in efforts to get as many as possible to the governor’s desk.  “This package of legislation seeks to shut down any attraction that might be in Pennsylvania for an illegal alien to reside here; access to jobs, access to public benefits,” Metcalfe explains.   

Metcalfe may appear to have the Republican votes to pass the bills, but the committee’s Democrats aren’t rolling over.  Minority chair Babette Josephs has been extremely vocal about the bills that she calls anti-immigrant.  “We’re in the position of scaring away the fastest growing minority in this country, which is Latino voters,” Josephs says.  “This is wrong.”

Another committee meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, when another of the 15-bills may be brought up for a vote.  For now, Metcalfe says he’s taking the process one step at a time.

Capitol Rotunda Light Fixture

National Popular Vote Proponents Seize on PA Debate

Pennsylvania allocates its Electoral College votes based on a winner-take-all model.  Critics say it disenfranchises the millions of Pennsylvanians who vote for the losing candidate, every four years.  “The integrity and weight of an individual’s vote is something that must be preserved and protected,” says Luke Bernstein, Deputy Chief of Staff to Governor Tom Corbett. 

Bernstein appeared before the Senate State Government Committee to discuss the Corbett administration’s support of the “Congressional District Method” of allocating electoral votes.  Under this system, a presidential candidate would get one vote for winning each of Pennsylvania’s 18 congressional districts in 2012.  The two remaining electoral votes would be awarded to the winner of the statewide popular vote. 

State Senator Anthony Williams (D-Philadelphia) told Bernstein his arguments illustrated the imperfections of the Electoral College, but would not correct the problem.  “Frankly if [Governor Corbett] wants to be a part of fixing it, then he probably should join Fred Thompson and others who are here today to talk about a national mass voter participation process,” said Williams, the minority chair of the State Government Committee. 

Williams was alluding to a separate event promoting the National Popular Vote (NPV) initiative.  NPV seeks to ensure that every vote, in every state, is counted equally by awarding electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes nationwide.  “They would just be ratifying what the majority of the people in the rest of the nation have done,” says Jim Edgar, the former Governor of Illinois and co-champion of the National Popular Vote initiative. 

“I don’t think America can afford anymore to have the potential divisiveness of a President who’s not elected by the majority of the people,” says the other NPV co-champion, Fred Thompson, a former Tennessee Senator, actor and one-time marginal presidential candidate himself. 

Eight states and the District of Columbia have already passed NPV legislation, which would only take effect if it’s enacted by states representing a majority of the nation’s 538 electoral votes.  With states representing 132 electoral votes on-board, NPV supporters are nearly half-way toward their goal.  In Pennsylvania, NPV legislation has been introduced in both the House (HB 1270) and Senate (SB 1116), but the bills have not seen any action.

Governor Corbett Announces Marcellus Shale Proposal

Governor Corbett has released his plan for the Marcellus Shale industry, calling for some stronger regulations, an impact fee and the development of green corridors for natural gas vehicles.  He made the announcement after weeks of reviewing the recommendations of his Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission.

The Governor’s proposed impact fee on Marcellus Shale wells would be adopted by counties. He says 75% would be shared among each county and its municipalities. Twenty-five percent would go to the state, with the largest share to PennDOT and the rest split among the Department of Environmental Protection, Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, and the State Fire Commissioner.

The Governor is also calling for enhanced environmental standards for drilling operations, and higher penalties for violations. He wants to increase the gas well setback distance from water wells and  public water supplies. He would also increase the well setback distance from streams, rivers, ponds and other bodies of water. He wants to increase the well bonding fee.

The Governor’s plan would allow DEP to take quicker action to revoke or withhold permits for operators who consistently violate the rules.

The impact fee would be up to $40,000 per well in the first year, $30,000 in the second, $20,000 in the third and no more than $10,000 in years four through ten.  He says that’s a total of $160,000 per well. Governor Corbett says estimates show that the fee would bring in about $120 million dollars in the first year and $200 million within six years.

Of the 75% that would stay at the county collecting the fee, Governor Corbett says 36% would be retained by the county, 37% would be distributed to municipalities that host the drilling pads and the remaining 27% would be distributed to all municipalities in a county that is impacted by Marcellus using a formula based on population and highway miles.

Governor Corbett says the money could be used for things such as road maintenance and repair, water and sewer system construction and repair, projects to increase affordable housing for low income residents, social services and municipal planning.

The Governor says he will seek to develop green corridors in the state for natural gas vehicles. He says we have all this gas; we need to have a market for it.

Governor Corbett says the energy under our feet is going to be fueling the state’s economy, heating the homes, lighting houses and businesses for generations to come. He says it’s cleaner and it creates much fewer emissions. He says energy means jobs. The Governor made his announcement at a carpenters’ training facility in Pittsburgh Monday morning.

Black Bear Attacks Perry County Couple in Their Home

    In what Pennsylvania Game Commission officials are calling a very rare occurrence, a black bear crashed into a Perry County home and attacked a couple early Monday morning.

    It happened around 4am, as the couple was letting their dog back inside the home. The bear was in pursuit of the canine, which is understandable according to Jerry Feaser at the Game Commission. He says dogs and bears “don’t get along at all,” and it’s not unusual for them to get into confrontations outside. Feaser says it is very unusual for a bear to then attack humans. The man was bitten and scratched, and the woman was also attacked. Both were taken to a hospital for treatment.

    A Wildlife Conservation Officer was dispatched to look for the bear, but it remained in the wild as of daybreak. Feaser says if they find the bear responsible for the attack, it will likely be put down, but because this occurred in a rural area, there could be several bears in the vicinity.