Thursday, October 5, 2000

Altoona Mirror

Location: Altoona, Pennsylvania

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Altoona Mirror (Newspaper) - October 5, 2000, Altoona, Pennsylvania Thursday, October 5,2000 STATE Altoona Mirror ■ Page A3 Pa. projects receive funding increases By Claude R. Marx The Associated Press WASHINGTON — Coal mine clean up and transportation funding are among the Pennsylvania projects getting election-year funding increases from Congress this week. Northeast Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh, the sites of close races this fall, are among the areas receiving special attention. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., who is being challenged for re-election by Rep. Ron Klink, D-Pa., worked to include $26 million in public transportation programs for that part of the state. The funds are part of $58 billion Transportation Department spending bill Though Santorum leads by double digits in every poll, the race is within single digits in the Pittsburgh area. Klink has represented a Pittsburgh-area district for eight years and was a former television anchor in Pittsburgh. The $12 million for anthracite coal mine cleanup was a top priority of Rep. Don Sherwood, R-Pa., who is expected to face a difficult reelection challenge from Scranton lawyer Patrick Casey. The project, which many business leaders in northeast Pennsylvania think will help spark further investment, had bipartisan support. News releases announcing it were issued by Sherwood and Reps. George Gekas, R-Pa., Tim Holden, D-Pa., and Paul Kanjorski, D-Pa. The funds will be used to clean mining residue such as polluted mine water that kills life in streams, underground fires and abandoned shafts. Rep. Joseph Hoeffel, D-Pa., who also has a difficult re-election race, was able to put $200,000 in the bill to fund the Schuylkill River Heritage Area. The area, which spans Berks, Chester, Montgomery, Philadelphia and Schuylkill counties, focuses on preserving the region’s history as a leading coal producer. The projects are part of an $18.8 billion Interior Department spending bill. Hoeffel is being challenged by state Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, R-Montgomery. Pennsylvania has been successful in getting funds in part because three members of its delegation are on Appropriations Committees — Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., Rep. John Murtha, D-12th District, and Rep. John Peterson, R-5th District. Because of their efforts, Pennsylvanians got more back from the federal government than they paid in taxes. Clinton to speak at Klink fund-raiser PITTSBURGH — President Clinton is coming to Pittsburgh next week to raise money for U.S. Rep. Ron Klink’s effort to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum. Klink, a four-term Democrat from Murrysville, has trailed Santorum, a freshman senator from Mount Lebanon, in the polls and in fund raising for months. The invitation-only, fund-raising breakfast Wednesday at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center is being paid for by the Pennsylvania Fund 2000, a joint fund-raising committee authorized by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Citizens for Ron Klink and the Pennsylvania Democratic Party. Schweiker won’t run for governor in 2002 HARRISBURG — Lt. Gov. Mark S. Schweiker said Wednesday that he will not seek the Republican nomination for governor in 2002. Schweiker told The Associated Press that the demands of being a gubernatorial candidate would consume too much of the time and energy that he wants devote to his wife and their three pre-teen-aged children when his tenure as lieutenant governor ends. He said he was disclosing the decision now because he wanted to provide a “clearing-the-deck kind of response” early on to party activists who have been asking about his intentions and urging him to run. Regulators give go-ahead for mining WAYNESBURG — Federal mining regulators approved plans for a coal company to dig beneath a historic farmhouse about 45 miles southwest of Pittsburgh. The U.S. Office of Surface Mining said Tuesday that it supports RAG Emerald Resources’ plans for a mine beneath the Thomas Kent Farm. The 102-acre farm is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as an example of living quarters in rural Pennsylvania in the 19th century. RAG Emerald said it plans to support the brick farmhouse with cables and braces to prevent damage caused by shifting earth near the mine. This week, RAG began digging on a corner of the property. The farm’s owner, Laurine Williams, said land near the house has moved four feet already. Pa. Supreme Court rejects random bus searches PHILADELPHIA — A divided Pennsylvania Supreme Court has decided that random bus searches at toll plazas to uncover possible drug activity are unconstitutional. The court majority said evidence seized after two officers stopped a Greyhound bus at a Delaware Water Gap tollbooth five years ago should have been suppressed because the search was illegal. The high court has recognized three kinds of encounters between police and citizens: a mere encounter, an investigative detention and a custodial detention. Only the first type of stop does not require probable cause. From wire reports Never Clean Your Gutters Again! Rain goes in, leaves stay out Four season, all-weather protection Installs over existing gutters Prevents rot & water damage from clogged gutters Ends costly and dangerous gutter cleanup forever. Central Pa. GutterHelmet GUTTER PROTECTION SYSTEMS 946-3956 Call for Current Discounts Public’s right to know vs. privacy ■ Senators hear testimony about expanding Pennsylvania’s 43-year-old records law. By George Strawley The Associated Press HARRISBURG — A bill that would expand public access to records in Pennsylvania met resistance from law enforcement and other groups Wednesday in front of senators who said it had little chance of passing this year. However, the measure — which would replace a 48-year-old law with one entitling the public to a broad range of public records—should get a high priority when the General Assembly reconvenes next year, one leading senator who backs the measure said. “I think it should get a low number as a bill, which makes it a high priority,” said Sen. President Pro-Tem Robert C. Jubelirer, R-Blair. Aired Wednesday before the Senate State Government Committee, the bill has the support of lobbyists for Pennsylvania’s news media and Common Cause of Pennsylva nia, who said the 1957 law that governs public records desperately needs updating. The bipartisan measure would reverse the state's longstanding legal assumption that documents ranging from police logs to minutes of public meetings are secret unless specifically opened by law. The bill would require government to respond promptly to records requests. Exceptions are made for active police investigations, employee health records and almost 20 other types of records. The bill also would create an independent office for reviewing disputes concerning requests and require state and local government to charge reasonable copying costs. Opponents, including the Pennsylvania State Police, coordinators of 911 dispatch systems and victim advocates, brought up an assortment of scenarios in which they said the bill could jeopardize criminal investigations, deter the reporting of crime, invade sorely needed privacy and mire government agencies in records disputes. Provisions meant to address especially sensitive documents did not go far enough, they said. “This bill allows the intrusion of the public and the media into our most tragic and private moments,” said Roy Hyatt, coordinator of Dauphin County’s 911 system. As an example, Hyatt cited a television broadcast of actor William Shatner’s frantic call to an emergency dispatcher after discovering his wife at the bottom of a swimming pool. Others cited the possibility of citizens filing nuisance requests to tie up agencies or crime suspects using the law to find out who turned them in. One state police representative said passage of the bill instantly would prompt sophisticated criminals to requisition details of police procedures that now are kept hidden. Backers of the measure cited their own examples of investigations prompted when 911 tapes revealed poor responses by dispatchers, and they said the law gave ample room for agencies to fight nuisance requests without expensive court battles. “The bottom line is that openness isn’t an extra or supplemental thing that government does for citizens,’ said Dennis Hetzel, editor and publisher of the York Daily Record. “Providing citizen access is a core responsibility of government. It’s a core responsibility that Pennsylvania has inadequately met.” Senators recognized that the bill required delicate balancing of interests, but they held out hope for compromise on the remaining disputes. “You can’t swing this pendulum all the way over to the other side or you’re going to hurt some people,’ Jubelirer said. “But I think we have a way to go to move into an area where we could say we are in the 21st century — because we’re not. 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