Editorials from around Pennsylvania

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 17, 2013 at 12:52 pm •  Published: July 17, 2013
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SOME RECONCILIATION WOULD HELP AT GETTYSBURG

Bipartisan action in Congress may be rare these days, but Pennsylvania lawmakers want to step across party lines to honor some important history.

Democratic Sen. Bob Casey and Republican Sen. Pat Toomey and Rep. Scott Perry have introduced legislation in both chambers that would preserve two historic sites in Gettysburg.

The bills would expand the Gettysburg National Military Park by 45 acres at Big Round Top and place the Lincoln Train Station, where President Lincoln arrived before delivering the Gettysburg Address, under the control of the National Park Service.

Before the land and station acquisitions can occur, they must be OK'd by Congress. But the language in the House and Senate bills differs slightly. Rep. Perry's bill requires that the land and station be donated, while the measure by Sens. Casey and Toomey would allow them to be purchased after no-cost alternatives have been exhausted.

The difference hardly seems to matter, based on what is happening in Gettysburg. Because of a series of donation-based transfers between the National Military Park and the Gettysburg Foundation, no federal money will be involved. Therefore, either bill would support preservation of the historic sites, by authorizing expansion of the national park and breathing life back into the Lincoln Train Station.

Sen. Toomey told the York Daily News that he was "cautiously optimistic" that some form of the legislation would be enacted; a spokesman for Sen. Casey's office said he believed the two versions could be reconciled.

Let's hope so. At a historic site known for conflict and division, it's good to see Pennsylvania lawmakers putting aside partisan differences to enhance Americans' understanding of Gettysburg.

—The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

KANE MUST SUPPORT GAY MARRIAGE BAN

So long as she is the state attorney general, Kathleen Kane must defend the state's ban on gay marriage. While that ban is discriminatory and increasingly unpopular, it remains the law on the books. It is inappropriate for Kane to let her personal conviction trump her role as Pennsylvania's chief lawmaker.

On Tuesday, a federal lawsuit was filed against Pennsylvania challenging its state law banning same-sex marriage. In theory, Kane — who is on the record as supporting gay marriage — would defend the state's ban in court. As attorney general, Kane took an oath to uphold the state's constitution and laws. State law gave Kane the flexibility to instead have the case argued by attorneys in the governor's office or elsewhere in the executive branch. On Thursday, she chose that option.

Throwing the case to Gov. Tom Corbett set a terrible precedent, however. Essentially, taking that route says it's OK for the attorney general to take a pass on any case that doesn't mesh with his or her personal beliefs.

That said, Pennsylvania's gay-marriage ban deserves to fail in court. The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled the Defense of Marriage Act — a discriminatory Clinton-era law that barred same-sex couples from being recognized as equal to heterosexual couples at the federal level — is unconstitutional. If the court is to remain consistent, it also would strike down Pennsylvania's ban.

Increasingly, that's what the majority of Pennsylvanians want. A poll conducted by Susquehanna Polling and Research found that more than 70 percent of Pennsylvanians support a ban on discrimination against individuals based on their sexual orientation, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported in May. A Franklin & Marshall College poll shows support for gay marriage rose from 33 percent in 2006 to 54 percent this year, the paper said. Among younger voters who ultimately will determine the state's fate, support for gay marriage is even more overwhelming.

But this isn't about gay marriage. And it's not about polls. It's about an attorney general's lack of commitment to doing the job she was elected to do. In this case, Kane failed to put aside her personal beliefs and deliver a defense of the state's gay-marriage ban. It's what voters put her in office to do.

— The (Carlisle) Sentinel

CORBETT'S AGENDA ITEMS ALL HAD FLAWS

Pennsylvania's roads and bridges are in bad shape. School taxes have shot up, in part, to cover districts' higher contributions to state pensions. And customers regularly complain about the state's antiquated system for selling liquor and beer.

So why doesn't Pennsylvania's 2013-14 budget, which Gov. Tom Corbett signed on June 30, solve any of these challenges? Corbett described all of them as top priorities in his budget proposal. Yet even with Republican majorities in the state House and Senate, Corbett's ambitious agenda failed.

Because the state Legislature passed the budget on time, "I can't be disappointed," Corbett told reporters on the night of June 30 after signing the budget bill. "I have to thank the people for what they did and I certainly encourage them when they get back in the fall; Let's get it done," he told the Patriot-News in Harrisburg.

There are compelling reasons to address all three of Corbett's priorities but the governor's approach didn't work and each of his proposals has flaws.

Adequate funding to repair roads and bridges and to pay for mass transit should have received broad support from Republicans and Democrats. Citizens are well aware that Pennsylvania leads the nation in the number of bridges that are structurally deficient and state highways have taken a beating.

Corbett set up an independent commission to recommend new sources of revenue for transportation. The governor then followed up on the commission's recommendations by proposing an increase in wholesale taxes on gasoline, with the higher cost likely passed along to motorists.

Democrats refused to support the transportation plan from the governor, who has refused to raise taxes for anything else. Still, Corbett might have been able to forge a consensus if he had recognized that he needed Democratic votes to pass his transportation plan and then tried not to alienate them on other issues.

But instead of trying to build bipartisan support for at least one agenda item, Corbett unveiled a privatization plan for the state liquor system that included costly fees that favored big retailers and irked beer distributors. His plan also provoked the usual litany of complaints from Democrats that state jobs would be eliminated.

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