Essential Pittsburgh
4:00 pm
Wed July 10, 2013

Micek On ACLU Lawsuit, "Payday Loans" & PennDOT's Lost Construction Season

Many issues still remain unaddressed in the PA legislature.
Credit Tim Lambert / WITF

In the wake of Governor Corbett’s budget signing and the Supreme Court’s overturn of the Defense of Marriage Act, John Micek Opinions Editor of the Harrisburg Patriot-News explains the many pressing issues at the state level. 

American Civil Liberties Union and 23 Plaintiffs File Lawsuit to Overturn PA Same-Sex Marriage Ban

Same-sex couples living in Pennsylvania, regardless of whether they are legally married in another state, are currently denied the federal and tax benefits accessible to opposite-sex couples.  Micek describes the experience of these families as living in a “bizarre second class status that other couples don’t have.  Something that strikes me as fundamentally unjust.”

He, like many others in the state, notes the inevitability of the lawsuit to repeal the marriage ban, which currently reads that it must be between one man and one woman.

“It’s not a matter of if this will become legal in PA, it’s when?”

Payday Loans and Lobbying for Inclusion in State Law

While Governor Corbett signed the state budget before the July 1 deadline, the Pennsylvania legislature is pushing to meet as early as next week to address the authorization of state funds allocated from the budget.  The fiscal code of the state is a key component in budgetary legislation in that it is, according to Micek, “the roadmap or instruction book that allows for the money spent in the general fund budget.”

Usually the code is passed and signed along with other budget legislation, but the House inserted some language concerning “payday loans” that will be discussed in the upcoming meetings.

Payday loans involve a system where people borrow money and promise to pay it back by their next payday, but they come with extremely high interest rates. Pennsylvania, which has a cap on interest rates, has made this “loan sharking” illegal in the past.  But many are pushing the legislature to legalize the concept so at least it can be regulated and the consumers protected.

With these high rates, the typical users of payday loans are those in desperate need of money, usually low-income folks that are also the least likely to be able to pay them back.

Holding up this vote will halt funding for $235 million allocated for items such as state universities, the welfare system and the public school code.

Transportation Revisited

PennDOT has missed an entire construction season because the PA legislature was unable to agree on a budget bill before the June 30 deadline.  With this delay, locations set for construction will be pushed back until next year.  Micek insinuates that lawmakers are “reluctant” to vote for transportation funding because it typically comes from tax and fee increases and the upcoming months lead to an election.