The state House took action today to strengthen the integrity of the state's gaming law, delineate state office building restaurant inspection authority, and ensure veteran representation on the state Civil Service Commission, House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny County) said today.
"Pennsylvanians must believe their government is effective, efficient, and accountable, and we think these bills will help bring that about," Turzai said. "These government reform bills are part of a larger package that is the strongest set of reforms in more than 25 years."
Gaming it Right -- Background Investigations and Commissioner Integrity
For the past two legislative sessions, starting with the House Republican Policy Committee, House Republicans have been working to reform the state law that legalized casino gambling in the Commonwealth. Today, the House debated and voted bills aimed at fixing two clearly identified problems with the state's Race Horse Development and Gaming Act.
"Our aim is to restore integrity to the state's gaming industry. These bills are about the public's interest versus various individual interests... and these bills protect the public's interest," Turzai said.
Some of the investigatory problems under the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) include:
-- Licensing several vendors who were convicted felons.
-- Granting a license to an operator who did not have the financial means to hold a license.
-- Licensing the owner of the proposed Foxwoods Casino in Philadelphia who was being sued in Connecticut for alleged non-payment on a $5.2 million loan for the casino he operated in that state. The owner, in countering the charge, has reportedly called (in court papers) the loan a bribe.
-- Ordering the investigators at BIE to change a background report of a licensee ultimately indicted by a grand jury.
The first gaming reform bill adopted by the House removes the Bureau of Investigations and Enforcement (BIE) from the PGCB and transfers it to the Office of Attorney General. This is a move that was supported by former Gov. Ed Rendell and is now supported by Gov. Tom Corbett, the auditor general, district attorneys, law enforcement and numerous editorial writers across the state.
The second gaming reform bill to pass today is the Gaming Control Board Membership Restriction Act. HB-391 prohibits a legislator or executive-level public employee from being appointed to the PGCB during their term or time of employment and for a period of one year after.
"Our goal is simply to ensure integrity in the gaming industry and make certain the public trusts the state's oversight of the gaming industry," Turzai said. "We believe appointments should be made based on the person's abilities as a regulator, not based on their personal political connections."
Capitol Standards, Better and Consistent Inspections
The House passed a bill to clarify the licensing and inspection authority for restaurants in the state Capitol and other state office buildings. For years, the Capitol cafeteria served thousands of patrons daily, yet apparently went uninspected. In 2009, during a courtesy inspection by the state Department of Agriculture, 54 violations were discovered, including numerous instances of mouse droppings. HB-303 ensures restaurants operating in state facilities are complying with the same standards as other restaurants.
Past court cases and an auditor general report have shown a need for a veterans' advocate within the Civil Service system. HB-378 requires at least one member of the three-member Civil Service Commission be a veteran.
"The Pennsylvania House is under new management and debating bills which are important to the integrity of government and to the people of Pennsylvania," Turzai said.
The following bills were adopted by the state House this week:
House Bill 38 (Caltagirone-D-Berks) Makes technical corrections to a law addressing filing fees for cases before Magisterial District Judges and the Philadelphia Municipal Court. Vote: 197-0
House Bill 67 (Schroder-R-Chester) Prohibits simulcasting of greyhound races. Vote: 200-0
House Bill 143 (Major-R-Susquehanna) Changes the state's Clean and Green initiative by rolling back preferential assessments on small non-coal surface mines. Vote: 148-52
House Bill 262 (Vereb-R-Montgomery) Moves the Gaming Control Board's Bureau of Investigations and Enforcement to the Attorney General's office. Vote: 126-72
House Bill 303 (Brooks-R-Crawford) Clarifies licensing and inspection authority for restaurants in state office buildings. This issue was brought to light due to the mouse droppings at the Capitol cafeteria last year. Vote: 197-0
House Bill 345 (Petri-R-Bucks) Provides for Honor Guard burial details at the Washington Crossing National Cemetery. Vote: 200-0
House Bill 378 (Marsico-R-Dauphin) Requires at least one member of the Civil Service Commission to be a veteran. Vote: 199-1
House Bill 391 (Rep. Rob Kauffman, R-Cumberland/Franklin counties): Restricts the appointment of legislators and executive level public employees to the Gaming Control Board during their term of office/employment and one year thereafter. Vote: 189-8