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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Heads Up: Morning headlines for Sept. 12

Posted By on Wed, Sep 12, 2012 at 9:14 AM

Story of the day: The city's constitutionally-problematic but as-yet unchallenged ban on shale-gas drilling gets hit on two fronts. The state Public Utility Commission, responding to a request from the Ravenstahl administration, says the city has no right to pass such a ban. And in case you've forgotten why the Ravenstahl administration asked for such a ruling, check out this dispatch from the Pittsburgh Business Times, in which Mayor Luke Ravenstahl calls for public pressure on council to overturn the ban. (While there has been little sign that anyone wants to drill here, Ravenstahl argues that the ban hurts Pittsburgh's ability to get drilling companies to locate their headquarters here.) That prompted former city councilor Doug Shields, the ban's main champion, to send out an "action alert" urging gas-drilling opponents that it was "time to call the mayor."

Speaking of the hand of Doug Shields reaching from beyond ... city council is reviving one of his old ideas: a tax on billboards -- or, as one billboard-industry source calls it the "Darlene Harris Extortion Bill," which is obviously a much snappier name. The tax would be a 10 percent levy on revenue earned by billboards, and could raise more than $200,000 a year.

Republicans are bringing back a tired chestnut of their own, demanding that Democratic Congressman Mark Critz keep government's hands off government-provided Medicare. A mailing sent out by one of those shadowy political front groups urges voters to demand Critz oppose a bill that he already opposes. It also repeats an old lie that Democrats plan to raid Medicare of $716 billion -- money that is actually in the form of savings, and that Republicans like VP Paul Ryan have also included in their budgets.

Celebrities get screwed over by Voter ID bills -- just like us. Except not really. Turns out that the father of Jim Cramer -- the financial talk-show host who gets skewered by Jon Stewart from time to time -- was having trouble getting his own Pennsylvania Voter ID. So Cramer took to Twitter, and within hours everything was magically solved. This just proves that Voter ID isn't that bad -- all you have to do is have a nationally famous relative to plead your case.

Remember yesterday, when I said that a tax on natural-gas drilling produced more revenue than expected, but not as much as we could have gotten? A left-leaning group now says we only got half of what we could have garnered with a tax rate more consistent with those used in other states. Well, maybe we'll do better next time we discover a vast mineral resource beneath our feet.

Among yesterday's 9/11 events, Vice President Joe Biden comes to Shanksville, and generally is his Joe Biden-y self. Call them gaffes if you want, but at least there's one candidate in this national election who I'm sure doesn't have a SCSI port at the base of his neck.

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