News in brief from around the commonwealth


Topper pulls bill

Republican-penned legislation in Pennsylvania to prohibit coverage for gender or sex reassignment surgery and services under taxpayer-paid insurance programs is on ice after lawmakers realized their own health insurance covers it.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jesse Topper, said Wednesday that he decided to pull the bill from the House’s debate calendar a day earlier so he could find out more about the coverage.

The fact that House members have coverage through their own insurance plan emerged during a closed-door Republican discussion just before the bill was to go to a floor debate.

A similar provision passed the Republican-controlled Senate in October over the protests of Democrats.

Republicans said Pennsylvania can’t legally extend the coverage.

The House bill would prohibit coverage of doctor and hospital services, prescription drugs and counseling.

New Kensington

Sheetz tests lights

A western Pennsylvania gas station is testing whether blue lights in bathrooms can discourage drug use by making it difficult for people to see their veins.

The Sheetz gas station chain has installed the lights at its location in New Kensington as a pilot project. A Sheetz spokesman said the company is working with local police on the initiative.

Nick Ruffner said the lighting is “designed to help our customers and employees avoid dangerous situations.” He said it is being tested at that store “for the time being.”

New Kensington resident Nathan Murray Sinicki told WPXI-TV the bathroom’s blue hue is jarring at first. But he said if the unorthodox deterrent is found to work, he supports it.

WJAC-TV reported that 179 people have died from drugs in Westmoreland County so far this year.

The Associated Press