Pennsylvania Legislature en Senate To Consider Cash Gift Ban As A 'First Step' <p>The state Senate will vote on a proposal to restrict cash gifts to public officials, a measure that aims to change state law, not just the rules that govern the Senate or the House.<br /> Mon, 07 Apr 2014 21:26:12 +0000 Mary Wilson 27168 at Legislature Expected To Clarify Who Must Report Child Abuse <p>Proposals to change how suspected child abuse must be reported in Pennsylvania are nearing the finish line after stalling for several months.<br /><br />Two measures are awaiting final votes in the House and Senate to clarify who must report child abuse and how they should do it. But a plan that originated in the state Senate would now exclude lawyers from the list of people who will be mandated reporters, after House lawmakers voiced concerns about breaching attorney-client privilege: should lawyers be mandated reporters if filing a complaint could violate the trust of their client? Sun, 06 Apr 2014 21:18:10 +0000 Mary Wilson 27114 at Hue And Cry, And Hope, For A Ban On Cash Gifts <p>That sound you hear is the stampede of lawmakers rushing to propose a ban on cash gifts. The calls for reform are following revelations that four Philadelphia House Democrats accepted money from an undercover lobbyist working with state prosecutors in a quashed sting.<br /><br />Pennsylvania’s ethics act is one of the weakest in the country, letting public officials accept gifts as long as they report those valued at $250 or more. The reporting trigger is $650 dollars if the gift is transportation, lodging, or hospitality.<br /> Thu, 27 Mar 2014 19:25:40 +0000 Mary Wilson 26590 at Regulations on Indoor Tanning Under Consideration By State Senate <p>Pennsylvania lawmakers are trying to decide if the states youth should have only limited access to tanning beds. Legislation that would regulate access to tanning salons for those under 18 is currently under consideration by the Senate. Pennsylvania would join 36 other states that have already imposed similar restrictions.</p> Thu, 27 Mar 2014 19:12:29 +0000 Haldan Kirsch 26371 at Calls Mount For Further Investigation Of Sting Dropped By AG's Office <p>A non-partisan government reform group says investigations into a sting operation dropped by the attorney general’s office shouldn’t stop with the state House Ethics Committee.<br /><br />Leaders from both parties in the House have assured the chamber’s Ethics panel it would be given the budget to do an investigation of members implicated in a sting that gave $20,000 to eight people. Attorney General Kathleen Kane says she dropped the case because it couldn’t be successfully prosecuted, despite recordings of public officials accepting money or gifts.<br /> Mon, 24 Mar 2014 12:00:09 +0000 Mary Wilson 26361 at State Senator: Campaign Spending Could Be More Transparent With Better Software <p>A state senator is calling on the commonwealth to make campaign finance reports more readily available to the public, but some say what’s needed isn’t new software, but new law.<br /><br />Pennsylvanians shouldn’t have to wait days or weeks to see online who’s donating to a political candidate, or how much a candidate is spending, said Sen. Jake Corman (R-Centre) Wednesday. At a hearing with the Pennsylvania Department of State, he used the example of making a deposit in a bank.<br /> Fri, 21 Mar 2014 14:40:32 +0000 Mary Wilson 26246 at Changes to Prescription Database Bill Puts House and Senate at Odds <p>The state House and Senate may be headed for a standoff over an effort to crack down on prescription drug abuse.<br /><br />A Senate committee approved a measure Wednesday for an expanded state database to track prescription drugs that would also give law enforcement greater access to the information. The amended measure would not require law enforcement to have a search warrant before accessing the system – something the House voted for last fall.<br /> Thu, 20 Mar 2014 16:54:56 +0000 Mary Wilson 26188 at State Senate OKs Rural Community College Plan <p>A rural community college based in western Pennsylvania is one step closer to becoming a reality. The proposal to start setting up a 15th community college passed with just four votes cast against it in the state Senate Wednesday.<br /><br />The bill, proposed by Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson), aims to provide educational and job-training opportunities in a region that has been historically underserved, according to a <a href="">2011 study by the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee</a>.<br /> Thu, 20 Mar 2014 10:45:35 +0000 Mary Wilson 26169 at Bill to Curb Local Gun Restrictions Goes to Full House <p>Gun owners and groups like the National Rifle Association would be able to take municipalities to court over local gun restrictions under a measure that passed a House committee with overwhelming support Tuesday.<br /><br />The bill would give challengers of local gun restrictions the legal standing necessary to ask for court review of an ordinance. Successful challengers could be reimbursed by municipalities for legal costs and other expenses.<br /> Wed, 19 Mar 2014 11:55:44 +0000 Mary Wilson 26109 at Bill Would End PA Background Check System For Guns <p>A proposal to dismantle the state background check system used to determine if someone is eligible to buy a gun or a gun license is set for a committee vote Tuesday.<br /><br />The measure, referred to the House Judiciary Committee, would bypass and defund the state background check in favor of using the national background check system.<br /><br />Supporters say it would reduce redundancy and free up state funding currently going to the state background check system, established in 1998.<br /> Tue, 18 Mar 2014 11:44:44 +0000 Mary Wilson 26044 at Corbett Administration Urges Caution on Film Tax Credit Expansion <p>The Corbett administration is still cautioning lawmakers against uncapping a tax credit for the film industry.<br /><br />Several Republican legislative leaders, along with Democrats, have voiced support for increasing the state’s annual $60 million in tax credits. Supporters say it would attract more big-budget films to the commonwealth and support a growing industry.<br /><br />But Alan Walker, secretary of the state Department of Community and Economic Development, said there are complications to consider.<br /> Wed, 26 Feb 2014 12:49:33 +0000 Mary Wilson 25017 at PA House Speaker Says He Won’t Run For Re-Election <p>Pennsylvania’s state House Speaker says he won’t run for re-election this year, after 27 years serving in the Legislature.<br /><br />Sam Smith, a 14-term Republican legacy from Punxsutawney, said he just stopped enjoying the job.<br /><br />“I wasn’t putting 100 percent into it, in the sense that I used to always say – no matter how bad and crazy things were around here – I could say, ‘Yeah but I still really enjoy my work, I really love the fights, the battles, the political wrangling that goes on,’” Smith said. “You need to really want to be doing it.”<br /> Tue, 11 Feb 2014 22:51:02 +0000 Mary Wilson 24274 at State Dems Take Issue With Corbett's Education Funding Proposal <p>State Democratic lawmakers are taking issue with how Gov. Tom Corbett is proposing to increase funding for public education.<br /><br />The governor proposed a $240 million block grant which would come with spending restrictions and be doled out according to a formula.<br /><br />But Chester County Sen. Andy Dinniman, ranking Democrat on the chamber’s education committee, said the formula differs from the one used under an existing block grant.<br /> Mon, 10 Feb 2014 08:30:00 +0000 Mary Wilson 24157 at Revenge Porn Bill Faces Uncertain Future in PA House <p>The chairman of a state House committee says he’d like to move a proposal this spring to criminalize what’s been called "revenge porn."<br /><br />The measure would make it a crime to post nude images of someone online with intent to harass the person pictured.<br /><br />It has passed in the Senate, though its sponsor, Democratic Sen. Judy Schwank of Berks County, said she’s not sure how speedily the bill could advance in the House.<br /> Mon, 03 Feb 2014 12:45:24 +0000 Mary Wilson 23799 at State Senate Republicans Hope to Vote on Expanding PA Lottery Before Summer Recess <p>State Senate Republicans have a tentative plan to move legislation by July to expand the Pennsylvania Lottery.<br /><br />Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi says the goal is to hold a vote on a measure to legalize terminal-based games like keno, a fast-paced drawing, before the Legislature’s traditional summer recess.<br /><br />Revenue Secretary Dan Meuser skirted the question of whether legislative approval is needed to add such games, but he said the Corbett administration is seeking some statutory changes.<br /> Thu, 30 Jan 2014 14:56:04 +0000 Mary Wilson 23610 at Rhetorical Fight Brewing Over Union Deductions Proposal <p>A rhetorical battle is brewing over a proposal to end the automatic deduction of union dues and voluntary political contributions from the pay of public employees in Pennsylvania.<br /><br />Unions representing public workers say it’s an attempt to kill organized labor and shrink their political spending.<br /><br />The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Bryan Cutler of Lancaster County, says he’s not refuting the rights of public employee unions to make contributions to political campaigns and political action committees.<br /> Tue, 28 Jan 2014 15:33:23 +0000 Mary Wilson 23476 at State Senators Taking Next Formal Step to Make Changes to PA Lottery <p>State senators are taking the next formal step to making changes to the Pennsylvania Lottery.<br /><br />At an upcoming hearing, they plan to hear from national researchers and state officials on issues related to expanding the lottery to include more games and outsourcing its management.<br /><br />The original push to add to game offerings came from the Corbett administration during its effort to privatize a portion of the lottery.<br /> Mon, 27 Jan 2014 08:30:00 +0000 Mary Wilson 23330 at Hearing to Wade Into How a Federal Law Has Affected Flood Insurance Rates <p>The implications of a federal law on flood insurance rates will be the topic of an upcoming hearing in Harrisburg.<br /><br />A 2012 law designed to make property owners pay for the risk of living in high flood hazard areas has resulted in swift increases to flood insurance premiums.<br /><br />Republican state Sen. Gene Yaw of Lycoming County said it’s likely many Pennsylvanians living near a river have already seen the higher rates. &nbsp;<br /> Tue, 21 Jan 2014 14:38:57 +0000 Mary Wilson 23112 at State House Passes Plan to Redevelop School Funding Formula <p>The state House has passed a plan that could bring lawmakers back to using a funding formula when doling out money to school districts across Pennsylvania.</p> Thu, 16 Jan 2014 13:03:32 +0000 Mary Wilson & Kevin Gavin 22912 at Bipartisan Pair of PA Lawmakers Push for Homelessness Study <p>Some state lawmakers are pushing for a study of homelessness in the commonwealth in order to get a better understanding of what advocates say is a growing problem.<br /><br />The effort would look at the occurrence of homelessness, and its effects and trends in Pennsylvania.&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;<br /><br />Dale Lanigan, who helps coordinate volunteers at an emergency overnight men’s shelter in Harrisburg, says it would answer important questions.<br /> Mon, 13 Jan 2014 08:30:00 +0000 Mary Wilson 22664 at It's Back: State Lawmakers Talking About Liquor Privatization Again <p>Republican state lawmakers are in talks to keep the issue of liquor privatization alive in the coming months.<br /><br />House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, the most dogged legislative supporter of the push, said Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley is once again leading the effort to phase out state wine and spirits stores.<br /><br />He said the fact that it’s an election year will work to the advantage of supporters.<br /> Wed, 08 Jan 2014 21:04:28 +0000 Mary Wilson 22541 at Proposal Would Let Teachers in PA Carry Guns on the Job <p>School shootings across the country have prompted studies on school safety in Pennsylvania, calls to boost security budgets and, now, legislation to allow school staff to carry firearms is on the table.<br /><br />A year ago, top lawmakers and the Corbett administration said they didn't want to talk about arming teachers in a bid to deter gun violence in schools, but that's exactly the debate state Sen. Don White (R-Indiana) wants to have.<br /> Wed, 01 Jan 2014 08:30:00 +0000 Mary Wilson 22152 at Work Remains for PA Lawmakers on Child Protection Legislation <p>Work still remains for state lawmakers on child protection legislation, in spite of the slew of bills signed by the governor last week.<br /><br />The 10 proposals are the result of more than a year of work to tighten up the state’s child protection laws.<br /><br />Central to the effort was a proposal to re-write the state’s legal definition of child abuse to make it less vague.<br /><br />But Bucks County District Attorney Dave Heckler says there’s more to come.<br /> Fri, 27 Dec 2013 15:04:52 +0000 Mary Wilson 22007 at Legislation to Shrink State Legislature Clears First of Several Hurdles <p>The state House is taking a step toward shrinking its membership.<br /><br />Lawmakers have passed a proposal sponsored by the Republican House speaker to cut the 203-seat body to 153 representatives.<br /><br />During debate, several House members voiced concern that reducing House districts would diminish the voice of rural Pennsylvania in the Legislature.<br /><br />But Speaker Sam Smith says the measure doesn’t single out certain regions.<br /> Wed, 18 Dec 2013 14:28:36 +0000 Mary Wilson 21588 at State Lawmakers Propose Marcellus Shale Severance Tax <p>A group of state lawmakers and advocates are calling on their colleagues to consider placing a tax on the production of natural gas.<br /><br />Under Gov. Tom Corbett, the Legislature passed an impact fee, which put a levy on each well drilled.<br /><br />Supporters of the severance tax idea point out Pennsylvania is the only state within shale formations that doesn’t tax gas yields.<br /><br />Democratic Representative Harry Readshaw of Allegheny County notes such a tax would bring in more money than the impact fee, at a time when dollars are sorely needed.<br /> Tue, 17 Dec 2013 22:24:16 +0000 Mary Wilson 21559 at