Wednesday, May 20, 2020

House Republicans Moving Bill To Reallocate Keystone Fund, Damage Vitality Of PA’s Outdoor Economy, Into Position For Final Vote

On May 19, House Republicans are moving House Bill 2004 (Ortitay-R-Allegheny), that would give the General Assembly authority to annually reallocate monies from the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund between participating agencies instead of having the allocation fixed in law, into position for a final vote.
The House may vote as early as next week to give the bill second consideration, which is normally the time bills are amended on the House floor, but no amendments have been filed.  If that happens, a final vote can take place shortly thereafter.
The bill would undercut Pennsylvania’s outdoor recreation industry at a time when more people than ever are using local and state recreation facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic and when Pennsylvania needs to support local small businesses.
The legislation is part of a three-prong Conservative Republican effort to undercut funding for local environmental projects, hamstring environmental protection programs and agencies.
Groups Strongly Oppose The Bill
House Bill 2004 is strongly opposed by park and recreation groups, environmental groups as well as hunting and angling groups across Pennsylvania.  Here are a few examples--
The PA Parks and Forests Foundation told House members-- “In establishing the Keystone Fund, the General Assembly sought to create a dedicated and permanent funding source for making investments in recreation, parks, conservation, libraries, historical preservation, and education. 
“This fund has a 26 year legacy of success that has benefited all Pennsylvanians.
“Pennsylvania citizens strongly affirmed the General Assembly’s action, with 67 percent  of voters voting to supplement the Keystone Fund’s permanent funding stream with $50 million in bond revenues.” Read more here.
The PA Land Trust Association sent a letter to all House members saying, “We are dismayed that members of the House might essentially bring an end to the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund, the acclaimed nonpartisan, nonpolitical investment program that makes long-lasting infrastructure improvements in communities, creates jobs, and boosts local economies across the state.
“We urge you to oppose HB 2004, which would so damage the key features of the hugely successful Keystone Fund that it would continue to exist only in name.”  Read more here.
The Rails-To-Trails Conservancy urged the public to call their House member to oppose House Bill 2004 saying, “Just as more people are seeking trails and the outdoors for physical activity and solace during these times of isolation, legislators in Harrisburg are targeting vital funding for trails, parks and land conservation.
“Help protect trail and outdoor recreation funding. Contact your state representative and ask them to oppose any cuts or transfers to the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund, including House Bill (H.B.) 2004.”  Read more here.
The PA Environmental Council opposes House Bill 2004 saying, "“HB 2004 threatens the vitality of our outdoor economy by creating greater uncertainty regarding availability of funds. 
“Outdoor recreation is one of Pennsylvania’s largest industries, supporting more than 250,000 jobs, more than $29 billion in consumer spending, and $1.9 billion in tax revenues. 
“Each public dollar of the Keystone Fund typically leverages $3.13 in private investment for our parks, trails, community green spaces, and libraries.”  Read more here. 
The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, a national coalition of 60 hunting, angling, conservation, and outdoor industry organizations with Pennsylvania roots, expressed their strong opposition to legislation-- House Bill 2004--  to reallocate monies in the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund at a time when it would disrupt a conservation program with a proven record of success.  Read more here.
2nd Move Against Environmental Funding
On April 21, House Republicans passed House Bill 1822 (M.Keller-R-Perry) by a party line vote to freeze funding for county conservation districts and from a series of environmental and other funds to support local parks, trails, farm conservation, environmental restoration and other projects.
The bill is now in the Senate for action.  Read more here.
3 Front War On The Environment
House Bill 2004 is part of a sustained attack on the environment by Conservative Republicans who have been fighting a three front war on environmental programs and funding for the last decade--
-- Starving environmental agencies for funding so they have to cut staff and programs and then turn around and say they can’t do their job [they’ve successfully done that];
-- Adding even more layers of bureaucracy and procedures to block environmental regulations, reduce environmental standards and give regulated entities more control over these programs; and
-- Using every chance they get to cut funding to support community-based projects to protect and restore the environment, improve recreation opportunities and land conservation efforts that real people-- voters-- overwhelmingly support [they’ve successfully done that].
So far the strategy is working.
These are the latest attempts, but they won’t be the last.
Editor’s Note: $172 Million Just Sitting There: The Senate and House are still sitting on a $172 million surplus in their own operating accounts, but they don’t seem ready to repurpose the money to help taxpayers and real people during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Read more here.
Sacrifice is good… for other people in their view, apparently.
Click Here to read more about "legislative privilege" and hiding how the General Assembly spends taxpayer money.
Related Articles - House Bill 2004:
Related Article - House Bill 1822:
Related Articles:
-- Op-Ed: My Fellow Conservatives Are Out Of Touch On The Environment - Fmr. Gov. Tom Ridge
[Posted: May 20, 2020] PA Environment Digest

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