Pennsylvania Legislature

Government & Politics
7:49 am
Wed February 26, 2014

Corbett Administration Urges Caution on Film Tax Credit Expansion

The Corbett administration is still cautioning lawmakers against uncapping a tax credit for the film industry.

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.

But Alan Walker, secretary of the state Department of Community and Economic Development, said there are complications to consider.

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Government & Politics
5:51 pm
Tue February 11, 2014

PA House Speaker Says He Won’t Run For Re-Election

Pennsylvania’s state House Speaker says he won’t run for re-election this year, after 27 years serving in the Legislature.

Sam Smith, a 14-term Republican legacy from Punxsutawney, said he just stopped enjoying the job.

“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.”

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3:30 am
Mon February 10, 2014

State Dems Take Issue With Corbett's Education Funding Proposal

State Democratic lawmakers are taking issue with how Gov. Tom Corbett is proposing to increase funding for public education.

The governor proposed a $240 million block grant which would come with spending restrictions and be doled out according to a formula.

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.

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Government & Politics
7:45 am
Mon February 3, 2014

Revenge Porn Bill Faces Uncertain Future in PA House

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."

The measure would make it a crime to post nude images of someone online with intent to harass the person pictured.

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.

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Government & Politics
9:56 am
Thu January 30, 2014

State Senate Republicans Hope to Vote on Expanding PA Lottery Before Summer Recess

State Senate Republicans have a tentative plan to move legislation by July to expand the Pennsylvania Lottery.

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.

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.

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Government & Politics
10:33 am
Tue January 28, 2014

Rhetorical Fight Brewing Over Union Deductions Proposal

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.

Unions representing public workers say it’s an attempt to kill organized labor and shrink their political spending.

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.

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon January 27, 2014

State Senators Taking Next Formal Step to Make Changes to PA Lottery

State senators are taking the next formal step to making changes to the Pennsylvania Lottery.

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.

The original push to add to game offerings came from the Corbett administration during its effort to privatize a portion of the lottery.

But Erik Arneson, spokesman for the Republican Senate Majority Leader, said lawmakers are interested in the face of a potential budget deficit.

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Government & Politics
9:38 am
Tue January 21, 2014

Hearing to Wade Into How a Federal Law Has Affected Flood Insurance Rates

The implications of a federal law on flood insurance rates will be the topic of an upcoming hearing in Harrisburg.

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.

Republican state Sen. Gene Yaw of Lycoming County said it’s likely many Pennsylvanians living near a river have already seen the higher rates.  

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School Funding
8:03 am
Thu January 16, 2014

State House Passes Plan to Redevelop School Funding Formula

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.

The legislation would create a commission to review education funding and make recommendations for a new formula--something education advocates have urged for years.

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon January 13, 2014

Bipartisan Pair of PA Lawmakers Push for Homelessness Study

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.

The effort would look at the occurrence of homelessness, and its effects and trends in Pennsylvania.    

Dale Lanigan, who helps coordinate volunteers at an emergency overnight men’s shelter in Harrisburg, says it would answer important questions.

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Government & Politics
4:04 pm
Wed January 8, 2014

It's Back: State Lawmakers Talking About Liquor Privatization Again

Republican state lawmakers are in talks to keep the issue of liquor privatization alive in the coming months.

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.

He said the fact that it’s an election year will work to the advantage of supporters.

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Wed January 1, 2014

Proposal Would Let Teachers in PA Carry Guns on the Job

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.

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.

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Government & Politics
10:04 am
Fri December 27, 2013

Work Remains for PA Lawmakers on Child Protection Legislation

Work still remains for state lawmakers on child protection legislation, in spite of the slew of bills signed by the governor last week.

The 10 proposals are the result of more than a year of work to tighten up the state’s child protection laws.

Central to the effort was a proposal to re-write the state’s legal definition of child abuse to make it less vague.

But Bucks County District Attorney Dave Heckler says there’s more to come.

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Government & Politics
9:28 am
Wed December 18, 2013

Legislation to Shrink State Legislature Clears First of Several Hurdles

The state House is taking a step toward shrinking its membership.

Lawmakers have passed a proposal sponsored by the Republican House speaker to cut the 203-seat body to 153 representatives.

During debate, several House members voiced concern that reducing House districts would diminish the voice of rural Pennsylvania in the Legislature.

But Speaker Sam Smith says the measure doesn’t single out certain regions.

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Marcellus Shale
5:24 pm
Tue December 17, 2013

State Lawmakers Propose Marcellus Shale Severance Tax

A group of state lawmakers and advocates are calling on their colleagues to consider placing a tax on the production of natural gas.

Under Gov. Tom Corbett, the Legislature passed an impact fee, which put a levy on each well drilled.

Supporters of the severance tax idea point out Pennsylvania is the only state within shale formations that doesn’t tax gas yields.

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.

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Government & Politics
10:21 am
Fri December 13, 2013

As State Senate Adjourns, Budget Difficulties Loom

The state Senate has adjourned for the year on a somewhat frenzied note as lawmakers search for solutions to looming budget difficulties.

Most recently, Republican lawmakers have eyed the Pennsylvania Lottery as a potential source of additional tax revenues, by proposing legislation that would privatize its management and expand the games offered.

It’s an issue the Senate will take up again after its holiday break.

But Republican Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati says he’s aware the commonwealth may have reached its saturation point for gambling.

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5:26 pm
Wed December 11, 2013

Lawmakers Consider Banning 'Personal Consumption' of Cats and Dogs

Legislation banning the slaughter of dogs and cats for private human consumption in Pennsylvania is before state Senate lawmakers, after its recent passage in the House.

The slaughter of dogs and cats for human consumption is more common than you might think.

"We've run across it occasionally," said George Bengal, director of law enforcement for the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PSPCA). "I think it goes pretty much unreported, but it does exist."

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Government & Politics
5:10 pm
Wed December 4, 2013

State Lawmakers Call for Gambling Study

The state Senate is calling for a legislative study of gambling in Pennsylvania.

The request is coming from Republican Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati of Jefferson County.

"The resolution came about as we continue to watch our gaming revenues go flat and in some instances decline month of over month from last year."

Scarnati says he’s watched warily as neighboring states introduce and expand gambling, increasing the regional competition for dollars.

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Government & Politics
2:21 pm
Fri November 22, 2013

For Some PA Lawmakers, Support for Transportation Plan Means Tough Elections Ahead

State lawmakers who voted to raise more than $2 billion in fees and gas taxes will have some explaining to do to conservative groups that keep close watch over tax votes in the Legislature.

Lawmakers who flipped to support the $2.3 billion plan are already being targeted by an anti-tax and limited government group based in Harrisburg.

Republican Rep. Stan Saylor of York County is among the members being singled out.

He said he’s already expecting a primary challenge in next year’s election.  

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10:39 am
Fri November 22, 2013

Corbett Hails Passage of PA Highways Bill

After more than a year of discussion, the state has a transportation plan in place.

A $2.3 billion plan to fund roads, bridges, mass transit, airports, waterways, bike paths and more has passed the state House and heads to the governor’s desk.

Gov. Tom Corbett is hailing passage of new transportation bill, saying he perceived an urgent need to fix roads and bridges after he took office three years ago.

The Republican spoke Thursday shortly after legislative approval of a law to pump billions into transportation infrastructure and mass transit.

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7:57 am
Thu November 21, 2013

Transportation Funding Plan Passes Senate, Heads Back to House

A $2.3 billion transportation infrastructure funding plan is headed back to the state House after it passed the Senate with bipartisan support.

Lawmakers are expected to take a concurring vote on it Thursday afternoon.

Senate Democrats were blocked from offering their own amendments to the bill.

Democratic state Sen. Jim Ferlo of Allegheny County says the plan includes a fund that will be used a lot like “walking around money,” or WAMs, which have been disparaged by Gov. Tom Corbett as an underhanded way of stewarding tax dollars.  

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9:29 pm
Tue November 19, 2013

On Third Go, House Green-Lights Transportation Plan

A $2.3 billion amendment to a transportation funding plan passed a preliminary vote in the state House Tuesday night, within 24 hours of the House's rejection of the same measure, twice, amid concerns from tax-wary Republicans and labor-allied Democrats.

The vote was 104-95, though two Republicans who missed the final tally asked that their affirmative votes be noted in the record.

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Stranger Stalking Legislation
4:34 pm
Mon November 18, 2013

'Sarah’s Amendment' Faces Vote in Harrisburg

About 60 percent of stalking victims aren't currently able to obtain a restraining order in Pennsylvania, according to numbers from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Under current law, PA victims can only obtain one if their stalker is a relative or someone they dated.

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon November 18, 2013

Pileggi Dismisses State Police’s Warnings About Expanding DNA Collection

One of the top Republicans in the state Senate is dismissing concerns from the State Police about a proposal to expand the state’s DNA collection is made law.

They say it would necessitate more funding from the commonwealth.

But GOP Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi says he doesn’t think the people who staff the state’s public forensic labs are “unbiased” in their assessment of how much money they would need to handle a larger workload.

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Government & Politics
9:43 am
Thu November 14, 2013

Proposal to Legalize Gambling in Bars Heads Back to Senate

A proposal to legalize small-time gambling in bars has cleared the state House and will go back to the Senate for approval.
The measure would allow thousands of bars and taverns to offer small games of chance, like raffles and drawings.
The state would get 60 percent of revenue, and the hosting municipality would get a five percent cut.
The hosting bars and taverns would keep the rest.

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Government & Politics
6:22 pm
Wed November 13, 2013

House Committee Passes Endangered Species Legislation

A proposal to add regulatory oversight to the commissions designating endangered species and protected wild trout streams in Pennsylvania has passed out of a key state House committee.

It would give a regulatory review board of political appointees final approval over decisions to allow the state to protect certain species and streams.

Supporters, including natural gas companies and home builders, say it would provide a check and balance to the state’s independent commissions now in charge of the process.

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Government & Politics
10:50 am
Wed November 13, 2013

State Lawmakers Considering Expanding DNA Collection By Law Enforcement

A plan to expand the state’s DNA collection is under consideration by a state House committee.

The proposal would allow law enforcement to take DNA samples from people arrested for felonies and certain misdemeanor crimes before they are convicted.

Right now, state law allows only for such collection after conviction.

Supporters say the move would help close cases and exonerate innocent individuals.

But the state’s public DNA labs are already swamped, and Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Col. Scott Snyder is urging lawmakers to proceed with caution.  

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Government & Politics
5:40 pm
Wed October 23, 2013

New State Law Allows Medical Providers To Say 'Sorry'

A new state law will allow medical providers to do something many take for granted: say they’re sorry for a bad outcome.

The law will be effective in about two months.

In the past, an apology from a doctor or midwife has been admissible as evidence of liability.

Republican Sen. Pat Vance of Cumberland County says the law will finally let medical professionals express their sympathies in the event that something goes wrong in the course of care.

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Government & Politics
4:03 pm
Wed October 23, 2013

House Vote on Transportation Funding Will Likely Wait Until November

A transportation funding proposal isn’t quite ready for a vote before the full state House.
Negotiations are expected to continue into next month as state lawmakers try to secure public works payment-related concessions from labor unions that can woo Republican votes without losing support from Democratic members.
But House Speaker Sam Smith won’t even say he’s cautiously optimistic that a plan could pass in November.

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Government & Politics
7:45 am
Thu October 3, 2013

House Lawmakers Pass Property Tax Relief Bill

A proposal to provide school property tax relief has passed in the state House, but it faces only middling indicators of success in the Senate.

The bill would let school districts opt to reduce or replace property taxes with other levies on earned income and businesses. The measure passed without debate in a legislative body whose members rarely turn down chances for comment.

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