Editorials from around Pennsylvania:
WITH REVENUES DOWN, CAN LAWMAKERS AFFORD TO GAMBLE ON SMALL GAMES OF CHANCE?
Gov. Tom Corbett's budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1 bets big on on small games of chance. The administration's $29.4 billion spending plan depends on $102 million in revenue from bar and tavern patrons playing 50-50 raffles and faithfully pulling on pull-tabs.
But saloon owners have not been jumping at the chance to offer the games. So far, the state has received just six applications.
For that, you at least partly can blame an application process that lawmakers have cast as due diligence, but comes across as government at its most plodding and inefficient.
To get a license, a bar or restaurant owner has to fill out (asterisk)as many three separate applications; get fingerprinted by an FBI-affiliated center and pay a $2,000 application fee. That application, in turn, is reviewed by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, and the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board's Bureau of Investigations and Enforcement.
If the bureau doesn't have enough information to complete a background check, the Gaming Control Board(asterisk) could charge an applicant a higher fee.
Given the choice between that cumbersome process and upping their profit margins by, say, offering an even more creative Happy Hour special, it's easy to see why there's a disincentive for tavern keepers to get into the small games business.
That's a gamble the Republican administration can hardly afford to take.
Still, on Wednesday, state regulators awarded the first license to the owners of The Midway Tavern in Adams County. Ronda Ziegler, who co-owns the Hanover bar with her husband Barry, fell back on her experience in the banking business to navigate the application process.
As he seeks to mend fences with key constituencies — women, independents and others critical of his administration - Corbett has filled his spending plan with new money for schools and seniors. To pay for it, he's relying on a series of optimistic assumptions and the political mood of a Republican-controlled Legislature that is, like him, running for re-election.
Corbett is banking on, for instance, savings from federal approval of the administration's Medicaid reform plan ($125 million); legislative authorization of pension reform ($170 million); the expansion of natural gas drilling in state forests ($75 million); reforms to the state's unclaimed property program ($150 million), and a $225 million transfer from the state's Tobacco Settlement account (ordinarily used for public health purposes) to the state pension system.
On Tuesday, the need for those monies became all the more pressing with the news that, for the third straight month, Pennsylvania had missed its revenue collection targets.
The state brought in $34.6 million less in February than it had projected, according to the Department of Revenue. To date, the state is $75.5 million below where it expected to be for the fiscal year, which began July 1.
Sales tax receipts, which have slumped in every month since November, are among the prime culprits for the drop. The same has happened with personal income tax collections.
In even the best years, passing a budget is a delicate political and fiscal balancing act. In years in which revenues are down, it is a nearly impossible task.
There is no small irony in the fact that Corbett, who castigated his Democratic predecessor Ed Rendell for engaging in acts of accounting legerdemain that left the state saddled with a $4.2 billion deficit, is now upending the couch cushions and looking for one-time fixes to pay for his own programs.
Lawmakers with budget oversight have already said they'll make the necessary adjustments if revenues don't match up with expenditures. They're the same kind of calculations that everyday Pennsylvanians make — on a much smaller scale — every day.
The implications on the state level, of course, are much broader, affecting the futures of millions of school children, college students, seniors and the state neediest citizens, on whose backs budgets are so often balanced.
At the same time, the administration has continued to cut business taxes - even as the Pennsylvania languishes in the bottom half of states for job-creation. It has also steadfastly refused to impose a severance tax on natural gas drillers, leaving hundreds of millions of dollars on the table, rendering the state an outlier among those with natural gas exploration.
Budgets are statements of priorities. And as he heads into the thick of a re-election campaign, Corbett has promised much. If he misses the mark and cannot carry through on those promises, Pennsylvanians will have much to consider when they enter the voting booth this fall.
SCOTUS: U.S. LAW STILL VALID IN HAZLETON
U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta effectively used his war against immigrants to propel himself into Congress, but the wrong-headed ordinances he concocted while mayor of Hazleton properly have died at the steps of the Supreme Court of the United States.
The justices have refused to hear Hazleton's appeals of federal district and appellate court rejections of those ordinances. So, it's settled: the immigration laws of the United States apply even to Hazleton.
Mr. Barletta long has been committed to demagoguery on the subject, however, and the court's decision to leave intact the laws of the United States didn't change that.
He issued a statement following the decision wishing that Hazleton had the freedom to act against immigration that is enjoyed by Fremont, Neb. That town's anti-immigration ordinance was upheld by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in Kansas City, Mo.
The ordinance was substantially different than Hazleton's and another from Farmers Branch, Texas, that also had been rejected by district and appellate courts, and which the Supreme Court also decided not to hear. The Fremont ordinance did not attempt to provide authority to arrest or fine immigrants for failing to obtain local residency authority from the local government.
The Supreme Court has not taken an illegal immigration appeal involving local or state laws since 2012. Apparently, it believes that the Congress - which is empowered by the Constitution to do so - should enact immigration laws that are applicable throughout the United States, even in Hazleton.
— The (Scranton) Times-Tribune
COMMON CORE: GARBAGE IN, GARBAGE OUT
A clear indication of a tarnished brand or a flawed ideology is a name change. So, yesterday's liberals have become today's "progressives." So-called global warming now is "climate change."
And to escape growing, and justified, public criticism of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, Washington's latest lesson plan for top-down education uniformity, states are changing the program's name, The Heritage Foundation reports. It's now the "Iowa Core" in that state. Florida calls it the "Next Generation Sunshine State Standards." Some states are considering removing any mention of Common Core.
But no matter what they call it, states can't erase its brand. Common Core, with its lure of federal education dollars, usurps local control over academic content and, in some subject areas, lowers local school standards, critics say. Garbage in, garbage out.
More insidiously, it removes decision-making from state and local school boards.
And it doesn't require a degree in education for parents to see that Common Core, despite its edu-babble defense, "takes their seats at the table," writes Lindsey M. Burke for Heritage.
"Educational choice, not centralization or uniformity, should be the goal of state reform," Ms. Burke writes. But Common Core takes the opposite approach, transferring authority from local school districts to Washington bureaucrats.
And just like garbage, no matter how it's packaged, Common Core reeks.
— Pittsburgh Tribunue-Review
RELATIONSHIP CURRICULUM SHOULD BE MANDATORY
Julianne Siller and Tristan Stahley were friends; she was a senior at Spring-Ford Area High School and he was a former student at neighboring Perkiomen Valley High School, both in Montgomery County. She was 17; he was 16.
Last May 25, just weeks before Julianne was to graduate high school, she was brutally stabbed to death on a park trail with Tristan. He is awaiting trial for first-degree murder.
Court records have referred to the couple as boyfriend and girlfriend, but according to Julianne's family, that may have been wishful thinking. The Sillers said in a recent interview that the pair had not dated, but instead were part of a group of friends.
While grieving the loss of their beautiful daughter, the Siller family is trying to help prevent teen relationship violence from affecting others. The family is among those advocating for more instruction in schools on healthy relationships. The goal is to teach teens how to manage their relationships and to be aware of warning signs for violence so they can get help.
Currently in Pennsylvania, the healthy relationship curriculum is set out as a guideline not a mandate.
That puts Pennsylvania among the 15 states that do not have laws which specifically provide for a school response to teen dating violence, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. On the other end of the spectrum, there are also 15 states that do make dating violence education mandatory in schools.
"Relationship violence is a form of bullying . And yet, bullying education is mandatory; sexual aggression awareness training is mandatory, but dating violence isn't and that doesn't make sense because they are all part of the same thing," said Pauline McGibbon of the Montgomery County Women's Center.
The state board did construct in 2012 a set of standards to help guide schools toward curriculums that would focus on aspects of self-awareness, maintaining relationships, and decision making. Area schools, including Spring-Ford where Julianne Siller was a senior, acknowledge the need for raising awareness about healthy relationships, but, without a mandate, few schools include it in their curriculum.
The "Standards for Student Interpersonal Skills" from the state Board of Education is "not a curriculum but are used as a foundation for creating a curriculum that is specific to each district's student population."
The Siller family and others would like to see the relationship course become mandated for all schools in Pennsylvania.
Their reasoning is quite simple: Teens are vulnerable within their relationships. No one knows when friendship can become obsession and turn violent. Teens need to know warning signs and the resources available to help them.
State Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, R-12 of Upper Moreland, calls it a public safety issue. But for the Sillers, it's personal.
They want their daughter's life to be unforgotten, and they want the circumstance of her death to be a lesson for others.
Relationship violence can happen to any teen. The importance of resources to deal with it must be made available.
We urge all area schools to establish in their curriculum a course that follows the guidelines laid out by the state, and we urge the state Legislature to mandate this learning.
If one life is saved, the effort is more than worthwhile.
— Delaware County Daily Times
OUR TAKE: SIX REASONS TO LET PENNSYLVANIA MUNICIPAL COPS USE RADAR
Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation that does not allow municipal police officers to use radar to enforce speed limits.
Only state police officers are allowed to use that law enforcement tool.
Legislation proposed by state Rep. Mario Scavello, R-Monroe County, (and co-sponsored by York County Reps. Will Tallman, Ron Miller and Seth Grove) would permit full-time police officers employed by full-service police departments to deploy radar on local roads.
Why should state lawmakers approve this idea, which has failed many times over the years?
1. Because... Machine guns.
We trust local police with real guns but not radar guns? That's offensive and demeaning. As Southern York County Regional Police Chief James Boddington once noted: "I can have a machine gun but I can't have a radar gun? That's like a brain surgeon using a screwdriver and a pair of pliers. It's a total insult."
2. Because... Laughingstock.
In a news story on this issue last year, police officials from across the nation said they were stunned to learn that our municipal officers couldn't use this tool. That revelation gave the impression that our Keystone State cops are like, well, the bumbling Keystone Kops of silent film fame.
3. Because... Barney Fife is just a TV character.
Most local police officers are well-trained and competent to properly use this speed-enforcement method. The legislation also has some protections to prevent municipalities from operating blatant speed traps.
4. Because Speed kills.
In 2011, Pennsylvania had the second-highest percentage of speeding fatalities in the nation, and the number of speeding fatalities on roadways where police are prohibited from using radar were three to six times higher than the number of speeding fatalities on roadways where police are allowed to use radar, according to the website of the "Coalition to Eliminate the Prohibition Against Municipal Police Using Radar (that group gets an F for naming, branding and acronyming: CTETPAMPUR?).
5. Because... Popular demand.
The legislation is supported by Pennsylvania State Mayors' Association, Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, the Pennsylvania Municipal League, the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs, the Pennsylvania Association of Township Commissioners, the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors and the Pennsylvania State Mayors' Association.
6. Because... VASCAR stinks.
VASCAR (much better acronym: Visual Average Speed Computer And Recorder) is the method most local cops use to enforce speed limits. Basically, they paint two lines across a roadway, then hide somewhere and use a stopwatch to time cars crossing the lines. Travel that distance too quickly and you're busted. Yep. Then the cops can file the citation using a fax machine — or maybe a teletype or a smoke signal. This is old technology. It's time-consuming to set up. It relies on humans to start and stop the watch, so it might not be accurate. It's just, well... it stinks.
Give our professional, well-trained municipal police officers the best, easiest and most accurate tool to make our local roads safer: Radar (RAdio Detection And Ranging).
— York Daily Record