Hardly a rea­son to toast in Pa.

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - OPINION -

Be­fore we raise a glass to the no­tion of be­ing able to buy a six-pack of beer at our lo­cal beer dis­trib­u­tor, maybe we should tem­per the cel­e­bra­tion just a bit when you con­sider what else hap­pened in Har­ris­burg this week.

Ac­tu­ally, that might be bet­ter phrased what did not hap­pen.

So while we wel­come the slow, drip-drip-drip of chang­ing the Key­stone State’s ar­chaic rules when it comes to sales of al­co­hol, we re­main flum­moxed as to how lit­tle else ac­tu­ally gets done in the state Capi­tol. But first, a toast. Gov. Tom Wolf says he will sign the bill cur­rently sit­ting on his desk that marks an­other big change to the way beer is sold in the state. It will clear the way for beer dis­trib­u­tors to sell six-packs. We know, if you hap­pen to be vis­it­ing from an­other state you are won­der­ing what all the fuss is about. Take our word for it. It’s a big deal.

You can now buy a six-pack at your lo­cal beer dis­trib­u­tor, where for decades they have been lim­ited to sell­ing beer only by the case. Back in the sum­mer, the laws were re­laxed to give them the same free­dom that many su­per­mar­kets were en­joy­ing in sell­ing 12-packs. Now the same will ap­ply for six-packs. It’s cer­tainly wor­thy of a toast. Less so is the stag­nant, snail’s pace of so much other crit­i­cal work that was left un­done in Har­ris­burg. It might be a good time to re­view just what we are get­ting for one of the big­gest, most ex­pen­sive leg­isla­tive bod­ies in the na­tion.

First and fore­most is the crit­i­cal fund­ing that mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties de­rive from their host agree­ments with those new, le­gal casi­nos the Leg­is­la­ture cre­ated.

The state Supreme Court knocked down those formulas, agree­ing with one of the smaller, bou­tique-style casi­nos that they were in ef­fect be­ing taxed at an un­even rate.

Af­ter an early in­di­ca­tion that Har­ris­burg was go­ing to OK a tem­po­rary fix, that so­lu­tion veered off the tracks in the usual back-and­forth horse trad­ing that is the defin­ing qual­ity of how our state cap­i­tal op­er­ates.

The Se­nate signed off on the deal, but the House then de­cided to toss in a move to usher in even more le­gal gam­ing, clear­ing the way for in­ter­net gam­bling and fan­tasy sports reg­u­la­tion. The Se­nate balked at those changes.

The Leg­is­la­ture did what it rou­tinely does when an im­passe brings progress to a stand­still. They hit the road, leav­ing town to go home to cam­paign for the jobs they hold so dear. In the mean­time, host com­mu­ni­ties such as Delaware County and Ch­ester are look­ing at huge holes in their bud­gets. The tim­ing could not be worse for the county, which is in the pro­cess of putting to­gether their spend­ing plan, due to be un­veiled next week.

It now looks like the mat­ter will not be ad­dressed un­til the next ses­sion in Jan­uary.

Not ex­actly what you would call a sense of ur­gency.

Then there is per­haps the state’s big­gest fis­cal prob­lem, the mas­sive sea of red ink that is threat­en­ing to plunge the state, along with a slew of school dis­tricts into fi­nan­cial chaos. That would be the grow­ing deficit in the state’s two un­der­funded pub­lic em­ployee pen­sion plans.

For years many have be­lieved that a crit­i­cal first step would be to dump that bloated, ex­pen­sive de­fined ben­e­fit plan for all fu­ture hires and in­stead put them in 401-k style plans uti­lized by most of pri­vate in­dus­try. Of course leg­is­la­tors in­stead said they were sim­ply out of time this week and any ac­tion on pen­sions would have to wait un­til the new year.

That tick­ing sound you hear is what many ex­perts be­lieve is a tick­ing time bomb in the state’s bud­get - a pen­sion fund deficit that is now be­ing counted in the bil­lions.

The mea­sure, re­ally only a start­ing point in mean­ing­ful re­form, would save the state and school dis­tricts $2.6 bil­lion over 32 years. But it’s not go­ing to hap­pen, at least not now.

Speak­ing of in­ac­tion, you can sound “Taps” for House Bill 1947.

That is the his­toric leg­is­la­tion that would have ended the statute of lim­i­ta­tions for crim­i­nal charges in cases of child sex­ual abuse, as well as ex­tend­ing the win­dow of time for vic­tims to bring civil suits to age 50.

But a lin­ger­ing dis­pute over whether to make the lan­guage retroac­tive deep-sixed any ac­tion on the bill. The mea­sure had been over­whelm­ingly ap­proved 18015 by the House last spring, but then changed in the Se­nate af­ter a full-court press to block the retroac­tive lan­guage by the Catholic church and the in­sur­ance in­dus­try. The Se­nate took the retroac­tive lan­guage out, then passed the mea­sure. That meant it got kicked back to the House, where it died this week.

House Bill 1947 never made even made it to the floor for a full House vote, which might not have been the worst news for leg­is­la­tors this week. Many of them had been un­der in­tense pres­sure from the church for their votes, and likely did not rel­ish the idea of tak­ing an­other stand a week be­fore stand­ing in front of vot­ers ask­ing for their votes.

So go ahead and raise a glass to one more baby step out of the dark ages when it comes to way this state sells booze.

And then cry in your beer for the way this Leg­is­la­ture con­tin­ues to avoid tack­ling the crit­i­cal is­sues fac­ing the state.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.