WirePOLITICS: Petri pushes legislation in PA House

Tom Waringthe Wire

A measure sponsored by state Rep. Scott Petri, which was included in a bill signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf, will permit operators of Pennsylvania bed and breakfast inns who do not possess a liquor license to provide a complimentary bottle of Pennsylvania wine to their overnight guests at check-in.

House Bill 1690, sponsored by House Speaker Mike Turzai, changes the way wine is sold in the state. The new law aims to expand wine sales and improve customer convenience.

“My legislation will enhance the state’s tourism industry and its wine growers by enabling unlicensed B&Bs to compete with offers made by their out-of-state counterparts,” Petri said. “It will permit them to offer a complimentary bottle of Pennsylvania wine to their paying guests, and they can promote the free gift in their advertising for overnight and weekend packages and other promotions. This new law is good for Pennsylvania tourism and the state’s wine industry.”

The House has overwhelmingly approved legislation sponsored by state Rep. Scott Petri, the Ethics Committee chairman, that would strengthen Pennsylvania laws governing public corruption.

House Bill 17 would hold state, county or municipal government officials and public employees, including school district employees, accountable for crimes related to their official duties by requiring them to forfeit their government pension and pay appropriate restitution when they plead guilty or no contest to any crime related to their official government position or any felony offense.

“Government officials and employees would not be able to avoid losing their taxpayer-paid pension by pleading guilty to a lesser offense, as we have seen in some high-profile cases. My legislation would take away this discretion, requiring offenders to face the real penalties associated with their crimes. This would also include reimbursing the victims of their crimes – often times the taxpayer,” Petri said.

Eleven states have legislation that requires forfeiture for any conviction involving public office for any felony. Nine others revoke pensions for any crime involving their office.

House Bill 17 passed the House by a vote of 188-2. The measure now goes to the Senate for consideration.

State Rep. Scott Petri, chairman of the House Urban Affairs Committee, held a public hearing at Coatesville City Hall to hear from municipal officials and residents who deal with the impact of blight every day.

“Community leaders who may never have seen this problem coming are now proactively engaging in finding solutions to correct it,” he said. “One overriding cause blamed for blight is a downturn in the local economy. The loss of a major employer often has a domino effect, resulting in abandoned and decaying industrial sites, job losses, declining population and the financial inability of residents to maintain their homes. Blight often has subtle beginnings and grows until one day you realize you have a problem. My committee is looking at ways to prevent it from happening and to help correct it where it exists.”

Petri said blight depresses property values and causes residents to relocate, both of which drive down the tax base. Abandoned buildings that are falling into disrepair attract vermin and crime and generally create unsafe conditions, he said. It is a problem that feeds on itself, as blight serves to discourage new residents and employers from relocating there, according to the lawmaker. State officials and municipal planners, he believes, must work together to revitalize these areas and generate economic development.

“Fortunately for us in Bucks County, the once-abandoned Davis Pontiac location in Richboro is now in the midst of a major revitalization plan that proposes to create about 90,000 square feet of modern commercial space,” he said. “In New Hope, there are plans to revitalize the site of the former Odette’s Restaurant, next to the Delaware Canal. Once a local hot spot, the restaurant closed after flooding in 2006 and fell into disrepair.”

The committee toured sites undergoing revitalization in Downingtown, Coatesville and Parkesburg in advance of the hearing.

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