Abortion Restriction, Budget Reform Among Final Legislative Pushes Of 2017

Dec 12, 2017

This is the last scheduled session week for state lawmakers this year, and they’re working long days to try and push through several bills that are either time-sensitive, or political priorities.

A few of the measures on the agenda have been a long time coming.

A compromise bill to restore a temporary cash stream to the state unemployment compensation program has been in the works since nearly 500 workers were laid off a year ago over funding concerns.

It has passed the House, and is now on its way through the Senate.

A bill to reauthorize the state Children’s Health Insurance Program easily passed the full legislature, and awaits a signature from Governor Tom Wolf.

It had previously stalled over controversial language that would have banned transition surgeries for underage transgender people. But now that the language has been taken out, Governor Tom Wolf said he will sign it.

Not everything is moving so smoothly. A bill to narrow Pennsylvania’s legal abortion window from 24 to 20 weeks saw extended floor debate—particularly over the fact its supporters haven’t gotten much feedback from medical professionals or others.

“We should have a hearing,” said Allegheny County Democrat Dan Frankel. “There should be an opportunity for stakeholders and the women of Pennsylvania to weigh in.”

Crawford County Republican Kathy Rapp countered that she believes a hearing is moot because everyone already has their mind made up.

“We do not need hearings. We didn’t have hearings last year, and the bill passed with a very wide margin,” she said.

That bill is now positioned for a final House vote. Wolf has pledged to veto it.

The House is also moving a GOP-backed package that would overhaul the budget process.

It would largely lessen the governor’s authority during a budget standoff by, among other things, making it harder to tack supplemental appropriations onto finished budgets, and requiring the budget secretary to reserve funds if revenues fall short.