Here's this week's State Capitol Roundup courtesy of state Rep. Bob Mensch:
Time to End Pay-to-Play, Republican Lawmakers Say
Government contracting procedures must be cleaned up, and House Republicans introduced a bill this week aimed at effectively ending pay-to-play politics in Pennsylvania. The pay-to-play remedy is part of the much larger "Pennsylvania's Agenda for Trust in Harrisburg" (PATH) plan. Specific proposals include: creating a seven-member board to oversee how the state awards contracts; prohibiting the use of sole-source, emergency, legal and insurance work from campaign contributors; requiring a competitive bidding process for legal contracts; expanding open record requirements; and prohibiting the executive and legislative branches from hiring lobbyists as consultants. House Republicans are responding to numerous allegations of pay-to-play relationships between the Rendell administration and several campaign donors who later received lucrative, no-bid contracts. For additional information, visit PAHouseGOP.com
Governor Rendell Joins Republicans' Gaming Reform Effort
With the support of the governor, Attorney General Tom Corbett, other members of the law enforcement community, and gaming industry experts, House Republican Gaming Oversight Committee Chairman Curt Schroder (R-Chester) this week urged House Democrats to immediately take up gaming reform measures. The impending departure of Gaming Board Chairman Mary DiGiacomo Colins offers the best opportunity to push the board in a new direction. Republicans want to ensure law enforcement agencies' involvement in gaming investigations, ban felons from operating or working at casinos, and open the licensing process up to the public. The state's 5-year-old gaming law has been the subject of persistent debate, during which glaring deficiencies have come to light. The proposals offered by House Republicans are the product of several years' worth of hearings and public input.
Lawmakers Rally to Protect Right to Keep and Bear Arms
Dozens of lawmakers gathered this week to present a united front against any infringement on the rights of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms in the protection of themselves, their families and their homes. The rally comes on the heels of Gov. Ed Rendell's announcement that additional gun restrictions are needed, including allowing municipalities to adopt their own regulations and requiring owners to report any lost or stolen handguns. House Republicans have already taken strong action to punish those who commit violent crimes through the adoption of Act 131 of 2008. Any further legislation, House Republicans say, must address the criminal element while continuing to uphold the rights of law-abiding citizens.
House Acts to Discourage Distracted Drivers
An amendment to penalize distracted driving resulting from activities such as using a cell phone, eating, drinking or putting on makeup was approved by the House this week. The amendment, which was sponsored by Rep. Chris Ross (R-Chester), was approved by a vote of 179-16. A similar amendment that contained an outright ban on motorists' use of hand-held cell phones was defeated; opponents argued it did not cover all distractions, would have been difficult to enforce, and it could have made it illegal to use a cell phone even if the vehicle was not in motion. House Bill 67, which also makes changes to the state's graduated licensing system, must now be voted upon in its entirety by the House. If passed, distracted drivers could face a $50 dollar fine in addition to penalties relating to the primary traffic offense for which they were stopped.