Return to normalcy includes traffic jam at Squirrel Hill Tunnel
By Rep. Anita Kulik
I have felt for a while now that things are beginning to get back to normal, however slowly. The warmer weather is bringing people outside and the availability of the vaccines is making us feel more comfortable with normalcy. But my "Aha!" moment on this more normal state of things came on my most recent trip home from Harrisburg.
For the past year, it has been smooth cruising on the turnpike and the parkway. But "normal" was destined and welcomed to return, and nothing says normal around here than a several-mile backup of traffic heading into the Squirrel Hill Tunnel. Slowing down for a tunnel is our normal.
More people have been visiting the capitol and it is relieving to have even socially distanced meetings with visitors and advocates. After a year closed, the capitol cafeteria will be reopening. House floor proceedings have been productive along with meetings and hearings on upcoming bills and budget issues.
Appropriations hearings continue as the House and Senate discuss the budget as well as the distributions of the monies from the federal government for the Pennsylvania Rescue Plan.
Proposals include grants to businesses and nonprofits, as well as job creation grants. Other proposals include monies for healthcare workforce assistance and training and to assist with education issues, infrastructure matters, family assistance such as increased benefits, and tax relief.
Helping citizens get through the pandemic continues to be addressed. House Bill 290 expands the ways fire departments, VFWs, legion halls and social clubs can operate raffles.
These organizations lost thousands of dollars when the pandemic stunted their fundraising efforts. While it is vital we continue to support our small community businesses, it is equally vital we support those organizations that have supported us. Our local fire companies, for example, only receive a portion of their needed funds from their local governments. They must fundraise to obtain the funds needed for new equipment, vehicles and so much more.
As a member of the liquor committee, I have pushed for various legislation to help our restaurants and bars. My bill for keeping liquor licenses in escrow has been added to an omnibus bill that will address several issues. I also advocated for new legislation to reduce the price paid by taverns for the liquor they buy. As you may know, restaurants and bars must purchase their liquor through the Liquor Control Board (LCB) system. The legislation provides a 15% discount, in an attempt to afford additional relief to these struggling businesses.
I will also be joining with State Sen. Devlin Robinson to host a special event. We will be holding an Identity Theft Prevention Event on May 8 at Burkett Park in Robinson Township, from 8 - 11 a.m. There will be a Shred Truck on hand, as well as a glass recycling bin and the Allegheny County Sheriff will have personnel there to collect unused drugs. Please contact my office for further information, or follow my Facebook page for updates.