News & Brews April 10, 2024

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Pa. inches closer to banning handheld cell use while driving

Yesterday, the Pa. House voted 124-77 in favor of a ban on the use of handheld phones while driving. The bill now heads to the Senate, which previously passed a different version of the measure. As PennLive explains, the bill would, among other things, “[d]efine using an interactive mobile device as holding it with at least one hand or supporting it with a part of the body, dialing or answering it by pressing more than one button, or requiring a driver to reach for it so they are no longer in a seated position or removed their seat belt” and “[n]ot apply to use of a device used only for navigation or if a driver is pulled off the road in a stopped position.”

Pa. House GOP to announce ‘Back to Basics’ reform package today

The House Republican Appropriations Committee will hold a press conference this morning at 9:00 a.m. to unveil a “Back to Basics” government reform package, which is “based on observations and feedback from agencies during the 2024 budget hearings.” Proposals in the package range from requiring “a zero-based budgeting phased-in approach for government agencies” to “authoriz[ing] the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to review all 800 Department of Environmental Protection permits for effectiveness and make recommendations on which permits could be eliminated or combined.”

Shapiro warns Biden’s LNG block could hurt him in Nov. 

The Financial Times reports that Gov. “Josh Shapiro, a Biden ally and rising star in the Democratic party, warned the administration’s recent decision to pause approvals for new liquefied natural gas projects was hanging over Pennsylvania, where the shale gas industry is a major employer.” The story notes that Shapiro “urged the president to reverse the policy or risk losing votes in a crucial 2024 swing state.”

How much will 2x/day Pittsburgh-NYC train cost? 

The Center Square reports that expanding Amtrak’s service to include twice-per-day trains from Pittsburgh to New York via Harrisburg “will require a hefty investment to upgrade infrastructure and millions more in operating costs every year.” Capital improvements are projected at $218 million while annual costs are estimated at about $8 million (“a very preliminary estimate,” per PennDOT).

Poll: How is your tax literacy? 

Turns out that when it comes to taxes, a lot of Americans know very little. For example, according to a new survey from the Tax Foundation, 22% of respondents—including more than a third of Democrats—wrongly think the top 1% of taxpayers pay only 1% of federal income taxes. A quarter of respondents think the top taxpayers pay only 12%. Meanwhile, just 22% of respondents got the right answer: The top 1% of taxpayers pay 42% of federal income taxes. This and other tax-illiteracy results led the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board to write, “Perhaps the best way for the GOP to win this [tax] debate is for Republicans to run an education campaign on how the country’s progressive income tax really works.”

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