US Senate Rejects Background Checks Amendment

54-senators voted in favor of the bipartisan background check amendment; 46 opposed it.  That’s short of the 60-vote threshold required to advance the measure, which was the work of Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey and West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin.

You can read the entire statements released by Sen. Toomey and the NRA’s Chris W. Cox below: 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) issued the following statement after the Senate voted down the Manchin-Toomey amendment that would have made it harder for criminals and the dangerously mentally ill to obtain guns while preserving the rights of law-abiding people to do so.

“I did what I thought was the right thing for our country. I sought out a compromise position that I thought could move the ball forward on an important matter of public safety. My only regret is that our amendment did not pass. It’s not the outcome I hoped for, but the Senate has spoken on the subject, and it’s time to move on. We have a lot of other very important issues to deal with such as getting the economy back on track, dealing with the debt ceiling and creating more jobs for Pennsylvanians.” 

Today, the misguided Manchin-Toomey-Schumer proposal failed in the U.S. Senate. This amendment would have criminalized certain private transfers of firearms between honest citizens, requiring lifelong friends, neighbors and some family members to get federal government permission to exercise a fundamental right or face prosecution. As we have noted previously, expanding background checks, at gun shows or elsewhere, will not reduce violent crime or keep our kids safe in their schools.

The NRA will continue to work with Republicans and Democrats who are committed to protecting our children in schools, prosecuting violent criminals to the fullest extent of the law, and fixing our broken mental health system. We are grateful for the hard work and leadership of those Senators who chose to pursue meaningful solutions to our nation’s most pressing problems.

PA Senate Passes Three Good Government Bills

A trio of good government bills went before the state Senate, Wednesday, and all three were approved unanimously.  The highest-profile measure would allow for online voter registration, making Pennsylvania the 17th state to offer the option.  “For the health of democracy, elections should be run as smoothly as possible,” ACLU of Pennsylvania legislative director Andy Hoover said in a statement.  “Online registration can make the process more precise.  That leads to less delay and fewer problems on Election Day.” 

The other two bills are designed to promote government transparency by requiring lobbying disclosure information and campaign finance data to be filed electronically.  Senate Republican leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware), the prime sponsor of the campaign finance bill, says the move is designed to increase timeliness, accuracy and transparency.    

State Senator Rob Teplitz (R-Dauphin), who co-chairs the bipartisan, bicameral Reform Caucus, spoke out in favor of all three bills.  “That’s what all of our constituents I believe want to see us doing – is creating openness, transparency, more accountability in government, more access to be able to vote,” Teplitz said on the Senate floor. 

All three measures require House approval before they can be sent to the governor’s desk.

The Eastern Sports & Outdoors Show: Brought to You by….the NRA?

The National Rifle Association was selected from more than a dozen other bidders to run the next incarnation of the Eastern Sports and Outdoors Show in Harrisburg starting in 2014. The three-year deal comes after organizers cancelled the event in February following a decision by the England-based former organizers to ban the display of military-style assault rifles.

The cancellation of the 2013 outdoors show had an $80 million impact on the local Harrisburg area economy and further rankled gun owners and dealers who had announced a boycott after the ban was implemented.

NRA President David Keene says the event will now be known as the “Great American Outdoor Show,” and it will appeal to a bigger nationwide audience. The show previously averaged about a quarter-million visitors each year.

The 2014 Great American Outdoor Show will run from February 1st through 9th, 2014 in the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center in Harrisburg.


Transportation Chair Unveils New Funding Plan

A newly proposed transportation funding package uses Governor Tom Corbett’s plan as a baseline, then goes even further.  In February, Governor Corbett outlined a plan that would raise $1.8-billion dollars annually by year five.  Tuesday, Senate Transportation Chairman John Rafferty unveiled legislation that would generate $2.5-billion by year three

Both proposals would uncap the Oil Company Franchise Tax that gas stations pay, but Rafferty also wants to add a $100-dollar surcharge to traffic violations and hike the state’s vehicle & registration fees that have gone unchanged since 1997.

“We aren’t just going to resurface roads and pave bridges,” Rafferty says, “we’re actually going to add capacity to our transportation infrastructure, which is something that is critically needed.  New lanes on roads, new intersections, new bridges.”

The substantial new investment in Pennsylvania’s transportation infrastructure is designed to improve public safety, create new construction jobs and attract new businesses to the area.  The estimated cost would be $2.50, per week, for the average motorist in Pennsylvania. 

PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch was among the many stakeholders to join Rafferty for Tuesday’s announcement.  Schoch praised the leadership of Sen. Rafferty, but stopped short of fully endorsing his proposal.  “The governor and I have always said we’re open to a dialog… obviously there are balances between the cost to consumers and the benefit,” Schoch says.  “This is a great beginning point of that debate and discussion.”

President Issues Proclamation on Boston Terror Attack

The following was released by the White House Tuesday…


For Immediate Release April 16, 2013


– – – – – – –



As a mark of respect for the victims of the senseless acts of violence perpetrated on April 15, 2013, in Boston, Massachusetts, by the authority vested in me as President of the United States by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, I hereby order that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset, April 20, 2013. I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same length of time at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this

sixteenth day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.



Shock and Horror in Boston

Pennsylvania was well represented at Monday’s Boston Marathon, and Keystone Staters were among those ducking for cover and fleeing the finish line area when two bombs were detonated. At least three people have been killed, more than 140 injured.

Jo Rupp is a former Millersville University runner from York County. The now-Pittsburgh resident was separated from friends after finishing the race and experienced some tense hours as cell phone service was down and chaos interrupted attempts to connect with her group. Rupp did eventually find out that her friends were okay. She is due to return to PA today.

Mark Sullivan is a member of the Selinsgrove-based Susquehanna Ridge Runners Club, which sent 9 runners to Boston. Sullivan had crossed the finish line before the blasts, but his wife had lingered around the finish line area, leaving just minutes before the deadly explosions.

She had been sitting right across the street from it…she would have been about 50 feet away from where the first explosion took place had she not left when she did. We’re very thankful and we thank God that she wasn’t there,” Sullivan told WITF news.

The FBI is leading the investigation in Boston. President Obama pledged to bring the perpetrators to justice Monday

Auditor General Says Business Owe Millions In Corporate Taxes

In rolling audits of the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale says they’ve found that Pennsylvania is owed more than 40 million in underpaid corporate taxes. At the same time, the state owes businesses over 5 million from over payments.

DePasquale says it’s not a new problem. The audits have been finding a 6-7% error rate for the last four years.  The latest review found more than 12 hundred returns with errors.

He’s calling on the department to step up its efforts to collect the underpayments as well as return the over-payments and forward the difference to the Treasury. He says the net amount of 35.4 million could be factored in to the ongoing budget debate

He says the 35.4 million dollars should be part of the state budget to offset some of the cuts made over the last year. He says it could be used for variety of needs from environmental to education and health programs.

DePasquale could not name the companies that had underpaid, but said two of them were responsible for nearly half of the money owed. He says we should be doing everything we can to collect that revenue to offset tough budget cuts.

He says there are working families all over the state paying their taxes,  who are probably asking why corporations did not pay what they fully owed.

The audit results were announced on Tax Day.

Knowles: Transportation is Smartest Place to Invest Liquor Privatization Dollars

With a public hearing on liquor privatization now scheduled in the state Senate, a group of state House members is calling for the upfront windfall from the sale of private wine and liquor licenses to be invested in transportation infrastructure. 

State Rep. Jerry Knowles (R-Berks/Schuylkill)

State Rep. Jerry Knowles (R-Berks/Schuylkill)

“It takes each and every dollar from privatization of the wine & spirits shops, and those dollars would be spent on roads and bridges,” state Rep. Jerry Knowles (R-Berks/Schuylkill) said of the legislation he sponsored

The governor wants to see liquor privatization revenue used for education block grants, but the bill that passed the House never designated a specific use for the revenue; it simply created a restricted account to hold the money. 

“I would like to see it be a billion, but it doesn’t matter if it’s $750-million, it doesn’t matter if it’s half a billion,” Knowles said at a capitol news conference.  “That’s still big money where I come from.” 

Knowles and his supporters are wary of being blamed for school funding cuts when the four-year block grant program, envisioned by the governor, expires.  “I want to make it perfectly clear,” Knowles said, “the governor has a good idea, it’s just that I have a better idea.”

Rep. Knowles recognizes that his plan would not raise enough revenue to solve PA’s near $3-billion dollar annual transportation funding shortfall, but he suggests that any legislative solution should start with HB 220. 

Meanwhile Senate Transportation Chair John Rafferty is scheduled to unveil a new funding plan on Tuesday, and the as-of-yet unrelated liquor privatization bill faces an uncertain fate in the chamber.

Table Games Revenue Sets New Monthly Record in March at Pennsylvania Casinos

Although slot machine revenue declined last month at Pennsylvania’s casinos, table games posted a healthy month.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board says table games generated the highest monthly amount to date in March, 9% higher than the same month last year. Last March had set the previous record for table games revenue.

The increase helped balance the drop in slots revenue, pushing overall gross revenue from gaming 1% higher than March of 2012. The numbers were boosted by the Valley Forge Casino, which was only operating a few days during the same month last year as it opened in late March.

Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem had the highest amount of table games play and the biggest increase.

health care, prescription

Report: Fewer Pennsylvanians Getting Health Insurance via Employer

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has been tracking a decade-long decline in the number of Pennsylvania residents who receive health insurance through their jobs.  Back in 2001 78% of Pennsylvania residents received health insurance via their employers.  In 2011; 67%. 

A new report indicates the reduction is due to a combination of fewer employers offering insurance and fewer employees selecting insurance.  “And we think that part of this has to do with the costs,” RWJF senior vice president John Lumpkin tells Radio PA.  “Over the last ten years we’ve seen that the cost of buying insurance in Pennsylvania has more than doubled, and this makes it difficult for companies to try to purchase insurance for their employees.” 

Pennsylvania’s average employer-sponsored insurance premium for individuals now stands at $5,100.  Family premiums increased from $6,400 – $14,300 over the time period covered in the study.

In all, 47-states saw a statistically significant decline in employer-sponsored insurance over the past decade.  Pennsylvania was one of 22-states to see a drop-off of ten percentage points or more, but Lumpkin says it still ranks in the middle of the pack.

Starting in 2014, Lumpkin believes the health insurance exchange, offered via the Affordable Care Act, will provide alternatives for the 33% of Pennsylvanians who do not receive health insurance through their employers. 

But will states like Pennsylvania experience a further decline in employer-sponsored insurance once the federal health care overhaul is fully implemented?  According to Lumpkin, no.  “Seven years ago Massachusetts passed a law that was very similar to what we see with the ACA, and in their experience employer-sponsored insurance – insurance through the job – has stayed exactly flat.” 

Pennsylvania has elected to allow the federal government to operate its health insurance exchange, or marketplace, but could still opt to assume control at a later date.