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Editorials from around Pennsylvania

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 20, 2015 at 8:16 am •  Published: May 20, 2015
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Editorials from around Pennsylvania:

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PARENTS SHOULD HAVE DISCRETION ON ALLOWING THEIR TEEN CHILDREN TO DRINK IN THE HOME

For teenagers, there are dangerous driving days ahead.

According to AAA, the most deadly dates on the road for teens during warm-weather months are May 20, May 23, June 10, July 4, July 9, Aug. 8 and Aug. 14, based on a five-year study.

In other words, proms, graduations and the associated celebrations combined with warm temperatures and youthful hubris lead to young people making bad decisions. Those decisions often involve driving at high speeds and alcohol.

Some parents believe a responsible way to keep their children safe is to allow them to drink at home, where activities can be monitored and they will stay off the road.

One problem: It is illegal.

About 30 states allow underage consumption of alcohol with parental consent on private property, according to the National Institute on Alcohol abuse and Alcoholism. Not Pennsylvania. As the commonwealth's Liquor Control Board website states, in no uncertain terms: "It's a crime to sell or give alcoholic beverages to anyone under 21 — even your own kids."

So what is a thoughtful parent to do? Allow a child to drink before they are legally able, in an effort to keep them safe, on the assumption they will do so elsewhere if you do not permit it in the home? Do you allow these young people who you are helping to develop a sense of right and wrong to knowingly break the law? Or are you strict on the issue and not allow any drinking, and then expect your child will obey your rules when out with friends?

Parenting is about helping your children make good decisions, whether you are around or not. So discussions need to be had about the consequences of alcohol. There is something to be said about trying to demystify drinking and all it entails for a youngster who is heading to college in a few short months and is likely to encounter a culture that not only encourages it but glorifies it.

Pennsylvania should revisit its statutes to give parents the discretion of allowing their own children to drink at home. We simply don't see a problem with allowing a sip of wine or a nip of beer for a 17-year-old. But we also realize that this is the same state that has alcohol sales policies straight out of the 1920s, so we aren't holding our breath that this will be addressed anytime soon.

Let's be clear: Whether laws are changed or not, no parent should allow a child younger than age 21 to get totally wasted, or let them drink on a regular basis in the home. But some discretion should be given to parents without making them criminals.

In the meantime, talk to your teen children about drinking. Encourage them to make good decisions. Help them stay safe not only this summer but all year long.

— PennLive

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THE 'GREEN' RUSE: GERMANY'S POOR 'MODEL'

Germany's much-ballyhooed, nearly 30-percent wind and solar power-grid conversion isn't all it's cracked up to be. And it carries devastating costs for nations less fortunate.

Praised by President Barack Obama and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, it imposes a "simply brutal" burden on the poor, Pioneer Energy President Robert Zubrin writes for National Review. With an average residential electricity rate about twice those in neighboring Poland and France and almost two-and-a-half times the U.S. rate, annual electricity bills average $1,700 per German. Figuring two per household on average, that exceeds 10 percent of Germany's $33,000 median household income — and is a far greater income percentage for Germans "just scraping by."

The 30-percent-green claim is overstated, too. Factor in wind and solar power's intermittent nature and they produced just 14.8 percent of Germany's electricity in 2014. And with the Fukushima disaster leading Germany to unplug nuclear power plants, it's actually producing less carbon-free electricity now than in 2011 — and meeting demand by burning more coal.

"Germany's green-energy program is neither green, nor an energy program," but "a form of ultra-regressive taxation — in effect, a state-sponsored cult of human sacrifice for weather control," Mr. Zubrin says.

Remember that when climate cluckers tout it as a model.

— The Tribune-Review

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FUND AMTRAK, CONGRESS, FOR THE MILLIONS OF PEOPLE WHO USE THE RAIL SERVICE EACH YEAR

Americans love their cars, but not everyone drives. And not everyone who does relishes the idea of driving to cities such as Philadelphia and New York.

Every day, Lancaster County residents take Amtrak trains to Philly, Harrisburg and points beyond — last year, 521,670 passengers used the Lancaster station, and there were more than 5.9 million Amtrak passengers in Pennsylvania. Total Amtrak ridership in 2014 approached 31 million.

We still need trains. And we need those trains to be safe.

So it was disturbing when the U.S. House Appropriations Committee voted Wednesday to slash Amtrak funding by 18 percent, or by about $250 million.

Members of Congress, "particularly those from areas that have little or no Amtrak service, have bridled over the roughly $1 billion-a-year funding for Amtrak's operations and capital projects," The Washington Post reports.

Amtrak was created by Congress in 1970, to take over passenger rail services previously operated by private railroad companies. As its website explains, it's a federally chartered corporation — the U.S. government is its majority stockholder — that is meant to operate as a for-profit company.

But it hasn't been able to turn a profit, despite its 55 percent growth in ridership from 1997-2012.

Republicans in Congress blame mismanagement for Amtrak's financial woes and want to privatize the rail service, particularly its Northeast Corridor.

But rail privatization isn't always the answer, as Britain found out in the 1990s.

And in the here and now, Congress bears some responsibility for Amtrak.

The NTSB doesn't yet know if faulty tracks were a factor in Tuesday's derailment. But NTSB member Robert Sumwalt said the Philly railways' lack of a positive train control system was a factor.

"Based on what we know right now, we feel that had such a system been installed in this section of track, this accident would not have occurred," Sumwalt said.

Amtrak CEO Joseph Boardman said in a news conference Thursday that the system actually has been installed, but wasn't yet operational.

Technical and regulatory roadblocks had "delayed the acquisition of a radio frequency that would allow the system to function properly," The New York Times reports.

Congress had mandated that the system be installed by the end of this year on all rail lines used to convey passengers and certain toxic materials.

But as a McClatchy report points out, "One thing Congress did not do when it required railroads to install the system was give them any money to do it. When asked Thursday how much the government had contributed to the freight railroads to assist with positive train control, (Ed) Hamberger, of the Association of American Railroads, replied, 'Zero.' "

Unfunded mandates are never a good idea.

The next time you take an Amtrak train from Lancaster, you might want to spend the time aboard writing a letter to our representatives and senators in Washington, telling them that.

— LNP

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BIGGER TRAILERS ARE ROAD TO RUIN

The trucking industry has been making special deliveries in Washington, spending millions of dollars on lobbyists and in congressional campaign contributions in a new push to eliminate federal safety rules that limit the size of trucks.

A $55.3 billion transportation funding bill making its way through Congress does just that. It would allow the maximum length of each trailer in a tandem rig to rise from 28 feet to 33 feet, or a combined length of 66 feet rather than 56 feet — not counting the length of the cab and the spaces between the cab and the lead trailer and between the lead and second trailers. In all, some rigs would exceed 90 feet. The longer trucks could carry 18 percent more freight by volume but still would be bound by the federal 80,000-pound weight limit.

The industry claims that the longer trucks will be no less safe than current rigs, but Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety cite data showing that the crash rate for tandem trailers already is 15 percent higher than for single units. Making the rigs longer inevitably would make them more difficult to control and stop, especially amid adverse weather and road conditions. And there can be no safety advantage to making the huge, slow-moving rigs even more difficult to pass.

Apparently, the trucking industry and its dependents in Congress believe that the answer to the nation's badly stressed highway and bridges is to put bigger trucks on them.

In a further bow to the industry, the bill would kill an effort to increase minimum liability insurance requirements on trucks, which has remained at $750,000 for 30 years, and lifts some restrictions on driving hours for operators — further diminishing safety and compensation for people injured in truck crashes.

U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, the 11th District Republican from Hazleton, was instrumental in delaying a previous industry effort to trade safety for lower costs. He rightly argued that the bigger trucks pose special hazards when they leave the interstate highways and enter towns with roads incapable of handling them. He should renew that effort, and Congress should join him in elevating safety above profits.

— Pottsville Republican & Evening Herald

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VOTE ON MEDICAL MARIJUANA BIL OVERDUE

Republican majorities in both houses of the state Legislature famously resist any federal rules that contradict their priorities — from air and water pollution regulations to Medicaid expansion.

It is remarkable, then, that a key Republican refuses to move an important and long overdue piece of state legislation without first securing the blessing of federal bureaucrats. The state Senate recently passed a bill to authorize the prescribed use of medical marijuana and sent it to the House.

Rep. Matt Baker, a Tioga County Republican and chairman of the House Health Committee, said he will not move that bill or any medical marijuana bill without the blessing of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Thus would Baker deny to many patients the prospect of relief, in favor of keeping the medicinal pot issue in a classic bureaucratic Catch-22. Because marijuana is listed by the FDA as a Schedule 1 drug — the most restrictive category — there has been limited clinical research of the type necessary for FDA approval of medicinal use.

Meanwhile, 23 states have filled that void by approving limited use of marijuana for specific medical purposes. While use of marijuana still violates federal law, a bill passed by Congress in December precludes the Department of Justice from spending money to prosecute state-authorized dispensaries or patients who abide by state laws. And, since several states have authorized recreational use of marijuana, the DOJ has adopted its own policy precluding prosecution on federal charges as long as the states closely regulate and enforce their own laws.

In Pennsylvania, the bill that passed the state Senate, 40-7, would permit people with a doctor's recommendation to use marijuana to treat conditions including cancer, epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder, glaucoma, diabetes, Crohn's disease and multiple sclerosis. It would allow oils, pills, liquids, gels, tinctures, home-made edibles and, in limited cases, vaporization. It would preclude smoking.

Gov. Tom Wolf supports the bill.

Baker should put the proposal to a committee vote rather than simply sitting on it. If he doesn't do so, his House colleagues should move a separate but identical bill through a different path to passage.

— The (Wilkes-Barre) Citizens' Voice