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Bill DeWeese

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November, 2006Edit

Representative Bill DeWeese drafted a bill to legalize table games at slots parlors in Pennsylvania. Current legislation only allows for slot machines at casinos, but DeWeese is hoping to allow poker, blackjack and other games. Supporters say the games will help the state compete with gaming in other states.

Bill DeWeese touts his incumbency, Hopkins says it's time for a changeEdit

Source: Sunday, October 22, 2006, by Lynda Guydon Taylor, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Incumbent Rep. Bill DeWeese, D, Waynesburg, makes a case for experience while his opponent, Morris Township Auditor Greg Hopkins, says it is time for a change in the 50th Legislative District.

Mr. DeWeese, 56, believes there's a good chance Democrats will take the House this election, and he will be positioned to vie for majority leader. He is currently state House minority leader.

"I admire my opponent, but I think I can be much more effective," Mr. DeWeese said, referring to his many community affiliations and clout in the House.

But after 30 years in the House, the district has little to show for Mr. DeWeese's tenure, said Mr. Hopkins, 34, a wide receiver and linebacker for the Los Angeles Avengers of the Arena Football League. The district consists of parts of Fayette and Washington counties and all of Greene, which remains the third poorest county in the state.

Mr. Hopkins said he'd never been one to sit on the sidelines and that he wanted to make a difference, which is why he is running. He charged Mr. DeWeese is at the top of the food chain and has forgotten about the people who put him there.

The two sparred on several issues, including legislative reform, tax relief, slots and economic development.

When it comes to economic development, Mr. DeWeese, who holds a Wake Forest University history degree, touted his and state Sen. J. Barry Stout's success in developing Evergreen Technology Park, calling it a "miniaturized Southpointe dynamic." Situated at Interstate 79 and Route 21, the 248-acre park had its first building open this summer.

Don Chappel, executive director of the Greene County Industrial Development Corp., confirmed Mr. DeWeese and Mr. Stout were instrumental in getting about $8 million in state funding.

"We see Greene County is on the move," Mr. DeWeese said, adding he has brought more than $40 million in grants and loans to the district to address sewer and water infrastructure needs.

Mr. Hopkins responded that any kind of industrial development on I-79 is great, but there are other things coming into the county that don't benefit the small, mom-and-pop businesses that have made Greene County what it is today. He referred to the Wal-Mart under construction in Franklin.

A sharp difference surfaced between the two candidates over anticipated slots casinos and the revenue expected to be generated. Mr. DeWeese wholeheartedly backs slots and estimates 70 percent to 80 percent of constituents do, too.

Mr. Hopkins, however, doubts the size of the funding stream advocates predict.

"I don't know where he got that study from," Mr. Hopkins said, referring to the 70 percent to 80 percent of constituents who support slots.

He said $3.2 billion of anticipated revenue would leave the state for gambling purposes. If $400 million is raised in the first year of gambling, he said, the average Greene County resident would realize $75 to $100 in tax relief.

"That's not meaningful, in my eyes," said Mr. Hopkins, who has a degree in environmental sciences from Slippery Rock University, said.

His answer to property tax relief is a consumption or sales tax in which people are taxed on consumer goods. That would broaden the tax base and eliminate the need for a property tax, Mr. Hopkins said. That way, everyone contributes, whether they own property or not.

Another area of contention between the two candidates is the size of the Legislature. Mr. DeWeese, who favors the current number of legislators, said every conservative think tank advises against reduction. If that were to happen, he predicted, Greene County's political clout would be reduced even more.

Mr. Hopkins sees it differently, however. The Pennsylvania Legislature is second to California's, which has three times the number of people in Pennsylvania's. The 50th District has about 62,000 people. If beefed up to 100,000, Mr. Hopkins believes, it would not be that big a deal. Phone calls and the Internet provide efficient ways to stay in touch with constituents, he said.

Mr. Hopkins said that, if elected, he would work for lobbyist disclosure and open records, both of which are in need of reform.

One issue that continues to surface is last year's pay-raise brouhaha, which Mr. DeWeese, as House minority leader, helped to push through.

Explaining why he did so, he said legislators had not had a raise in a decade. On the other hand, he said, the vote should have occurred at midday instead of well after midnight and should not have taken effect until January 2007, instead of immediately.

"You can only beat a dead horse so much. There's no one in the district who's unaware of the dynamic," Mr. DeWeese said, adding that he had shown contrition on the issue and donated his pay raise to the eight school districts in the 50th. Each received $1,000, he said.

LinksEdit

Election Results from November, 2006, Washington CountyEdit

Rep Gen Assembly Dist. 50Edit

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