Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Gaming and University Funding Get Key Votes

In another late night session, the House passed funding for state-related universities, and set the stage for a final vote on table games legislation this evening. The chamber spent most of the day addressing a bill legalizing table games at Pennsylvania casinos. After hours of debate, the bill passed on second consideration. It needs one more vote to pass and go back to the Senate, and that could happen as early as tonight, according to Majority Leader Todd Eachus. He says, “In the past we’ve had a bipartisan agreement to suspend the 24-hour rule to get the vote done. The Senate is in tomorrow. I’d like to get them that vote by dinner in the hopes they might be able to get it to the governor’s desk.” After the table games vote, the House approved funding for Pennsylvania’s four state-related universities, as well as several museums, educational and medical centers. Those measures had been held up because Democrats argue there isn’t enough money to fund them until the table games bill becomes law, since this year’s budget counts on at least 200 million dollars from the initiative. Bucks County Republican Katharine Watson pushed hard for a vote on funding for the University of Pittsburgh, Penn State, Lincoln and Temple over the past week. She says the schools should have never been tied to the gaming bill, “[T]o this day, no matter how hard I try, I do not see any kind of relationship, symbiotic, anything you want, between that and gambling. They’re separate issues, and folks should be able to get the education that they worked hard to get.” The votes came on the day the universities’ presidents sent a letter to House Democrats saying the delayed funding had cost the institutions “millions of dollars” that can never be recovered. They said the delay was disheartening, and that their schools were being used as leverage to get table games passed.

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