Following is a listing of executive and legislative action for the week of July 29. Members of the General Assembly are scheduled to return to session in September.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced that her office, along with the U.S. Department of Justice and other state attorneys general, reached a settlement with Wyeth Pharmaceuticals for promoting the use of a drug for purposes not approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
The company, owned by Pfizer Inc., paid $491 million in civil penalties for promoting Rapamune as an anti-rejection drug in organ transplants despite it only being approved by the Food and Drug Administration for kidney transplants.
Wyeth has agreed to pay the states and the federal government more than $257 million in civil damages and penalties to resolve the civil allegations of off-label marketing. More than $60 million of the amount will go to Medicaid programs, which are funded jointly by the states and the federal government. Pennsylvania will receive more than $1.4 million.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission will raise cash tolls 12 percent and E-ZPass tolls 2 percent starting in January 2014.
It’s the 11th rate hike since the turnpike opened in 1940 and the sixth since 2007, when the General Assembly approved a law requiring the commission to transfer funds to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation for road, bridge and mass transit upkeep. The law, Act 44, was supposed to place tolls on Interstate 80 and those proceeds were meant to go to funding transportation projects statewide, but federal highways rejected the plan.
A turnpike official said additional increases are likely if the turnpike is held responsible for the PennDOT payments in future years.
The commission has transferred almost $3.9 billion to PennDOT and said in a statement it will continue to make annual disbursements of $450 million. Of that, $200 million is used for highway and bridge improvements and $250 million is used to support the operating expenses of various public transit authorities in the state.
The commission released a statement saying that a short commuter trip for Class 1 vehicles will increase from $1.02 to $1.04 for E-ZPass customers and from $1.40 to $1.60 for cash-paying travelers. Some examples of popular short trips include: Willow Grove (Exit 343) to Bensalem (Exit 351); Irwin (Exit 67) to Pittsburgh (Exit 57); and Harrisburg East (Exit 247) to Harrisburg West (Exit 242). E-ZPass users will save 56 cents on these trips.
A typical mid-length trip for Class 1 vehicles will increase from $2.71 to $2.77 for E-ZPass customers and from $3.55 to $4 for cash-paying travelers. Some examples of popular medium trips include: Morgantown (Exit 298) to Valley Forge (Exit 326); Lehigh Valley (Exit 56) to Pocono (Exit 5); and Cranberry (Exit 28) to Pittsburgh (Exit 57). E-ZPass users will save $1.23 on those trips.