Historic expansion: Some reconciliation would help at Gettysburg

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Bipartisan action in Congress may be rare these days, but Pennsylvania lawmakers want to step across party lines to honor some important history.

Democratic Sen. Bob Casey and Republican Sen. Pat Toomey and Rep. Scott Perry have introduced legislation in both chambers that would preserve two historic sites in Gettysburg.

The bills would expand the Gettysburg National Military Park by 45 acres at Big Round Top and place the Lincoln Train Station, where President Lincoln arrived before delivering the Gettysburg Address, under the control of the National Park Service.

Before the land and station acquisitions can occur, they must be OK'd by Congress. But the language in the House and Senate bills differs slightly. Rep. Perry's bill requires that the land and station be donated, while the measure by Sens. Casey and Toomey would allow them to be purchased after no-cost alternatives have been exhausted.

The difference hardly seems to matter, based on what is happening in Gettysburg. Because of a series of donation-based transfers between the National Military Park and the Gettysburg Foundation, no federal money will be involved. Therefore, either bill would support preservation of the historic sites, by authorizing expansion of the national park and breathing life back into the Lincoln Train Station.

Sen. Toomey told the York Daily News that he was "cautiously optimistic" that some form of the legislation would be enacted; a spokesman for Sen. Casey's office said he believed the two versions could be reconciled.

Let's hope so. At a historic site known for conflict and division, it's good to see Pennsylvania lawmakers putting aside partisan differences to enhance Americans' understanding of Gettysburg.



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