“Oh, don’t go that way.  You want to avoid the Beltway.” It’s a common chorus in many American cities.  Harrisburg is no exception and backups on its Beltway encroach onto Front Street and other arterial and connector roads on a daily basis.  In recent years, the issues have been exasperated as we continue to see populations trending from rural to urban locations while, at the same time, continue to experience aging and weakening transportation infrastructure.  But plans to bring relief to Harrisburg’s Beltway have been in the works for 15 years.  In 2003, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (“PennDOT”) prepared an I-83 Master Plan, the purpose of which was to identify, plan, and program future transportation improvement projects for the I-83 Capital Beltway.  The Master Plan proposed numerous improvements to the Beltway to address: (1) worsening road conditions; (2) high-traffic volumes and congestion; and, (3) safety.  Obviously, the Master Plan will affect municipalities and businesses alike.
Continue Reading The I-83 Capital Beltway Project: PennDOT’s Right-of-Way Acquisition and Power of Eminent Domain

With the Pennsylvania General Assembly officially starting its new legislative session this January, now is a good time to take stock of the legislative proposals affecting municipalities that were approved by the Assembly and signed into law by Governor Wolf during the 2017-2018 session. In the last two years close to 250 bills were signed into law by the Governor; this article will examine 13 of them.
Continue Reading A Look Back at the 2017-2018 Legislative Session

The Pennsylvania Public Official and Employee Ethics Act has been in effect since 1979 and must be carefully followed by state and local officials and employees.  Mainly, the Act requires that public officials file annual statements disclosing their financial interests, but it also prohibits activities that have been deemed a violation of the public’s trust.  The Act is enforced by the State Ethics Commission, which is comprised of seven politically appointed commissioners assisted by a staff of investigators and prosecutors.  Repercussions for violating the Act include administrative penalties, civil fines/restitution, and sometimes criminal prosecution.
Continue Reading Criminalizing Politics: Ethical Obligations of Pennsylvania’s Public Officials

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals, the appeals court that has jurisdiction over federal cases in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and the U. S. Virgin Islands, recently held that a public employer violates the First Amendment of the United State Constitution when it retaliates against an employee based on the employee’s union membership.  In reaching its conclusion, the Court distinguished between First Amendment “free speech” claims and First Amendment “association” claims.


Continue Reading Court Holds Union Membership ‘Worthy of Constitutional Protection’

In an eagerly-awaited decision, the United States Supreme Court struck down today the “physical presence” standard in Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, 504 U.S. 298 (1992). Quill had long hamstrung states’ efforts to collect sales and use taxes on purchases by in-state residents of products sold by internet-only retailers. With Quill now history, states are

On December 4, 2017, the Supreme Court of the United States heard oral arguments in Christie v. National Collegiate Athletic Association, No. 16-476, regarding the constitutionality of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (“PASPA”), a federal law that prohibits states from authorizing and regulating sports wagering. The case could have significant implications for legal and regulated gambling across the country, including Pennsylvania, where the General Assembly recently passed legislation that would authorize sports wagering in the Commonwealth if PASPA is found to be unconstitutional or is repealed by Congress.
Continue Reading Sports Wagering in Pennsylvania Could Soon Become a Reality

After several months of negotiation, and amid a larger debate on gaming expansion, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed Act 42 of 2017, a sweeping gambling reform bill. For municipalities in Pennsylvania, Act 42 has two notable provisions, one of limited impact on municipalities hosting casinos and the other of potentially much greater impact.
Continue Reading Pennsylvania Expands Casino Gambling—What Is the Impact on Municipalities?

Last September, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down a vital component of the Commonwealth’s Gaming Act, known as the “local share assessment” – a section of law that provides local governments with a significant funding stream backed by an assessment on certain gross revenue from casinos located in or around their municipality. The court’s ruling, prompted by a lawsuit filed by Mount Airy Casino, located in Monroe County, put in jeopardy hundreds of millions of dollars in local funding for counties and municipalities across the Commonwealth.
Continue Reading PA General Assembly Attempts Fix to Local Gaming Funding in Casino Reform Bill