Pennsylvania Legislature

Government & Politics
4:25 pm
Sun August 25, 2013

Hearing Set for Process of Listing Endangered Species in Pennsylvania

The process of listing endangered species in Pennsylvania is about to get a hearing.
    
Companion bills in the state House and Senate are aimed at making the two independent commissions in charge of the designations run their regulations past another commission, as well as legislative committees.

Republican Rep. Jeff Pyle of Armstrong County, who’s sponsoring the House measure, says labeling animals “endangered” affects industry permits, so an appeal process should be in place.

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Government & Politics
6:56 am
Thu August 15, 2013

A Call to Centralize Tax-Exempt Determination in PA

State lawmakers are considering changes to the rules governing purely public charities — and what such institutions need to get a pass on paying taxes.

The Legislature recently took the first step in a lengthy constitutional amendment process to take more control in how purely public charities are defined.
    
A court ruling revoking a summer camp’s status had forced the issue.
    
But one local tax appeals board lawyer says the reason such cases land in court is because the state laws on the subject are already overly complex.

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Pennsylvania Legislature
4:54 pm
Wed August 14, 2013

In Harrisburg, At Least 3 Proposals to Trim PA Legislature

Although Pennsylvania is the sixth most populous state, it has the largest full-time legislature in the nation with 253 members (203 in the House, 50 in the Senate).

At least three different proposals to reduce the size of the General Assembly are floating around the state capitol.

The Speaker of the House, Rep. Sam Smith (R-Jefferson County) said he will introduce two measures: one that would reduce the House to 153 members, and the other to shrink the Senate to 38.

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Education
9:17 am
Tue August 13, 2013

Lawmaker Wants Earlier School Enrollment in PA

Across most of Pennsylvania, children aren’t required to go to school until they’re 8 years old, with a few exceptions.

But one state lawmaker is trying to change that.

Republican state Rep. Fred Keller of Union County said he wants to set the minimum compulsory age to 6 years old, the most common age minimum for school attendance in the country.

He said it seems like common sense to require earlier enrollment in schools.

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Government & Politics
12:37 pm
Fri August 9, 2013

In Harrisburg, a Revived Effort to Downsize the State Legislature

Proposals to shrink the size of the state Legislature are back before lawmakers.

The Speaker of the House is reintroducing his plan from last year to cut 203-member House by 50 seats.
    
Last year his plan passed the House, but only after language to also reduce the size of the 50-member Senate.
    
The Senate didn’t advance the proposal.
    

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Environment
3:30 am
Mon July 29, 2013

Bill Would Change Endangered Species Determination Process

Two state agencies are warning proposed legislation would strip their authority to determine which species are labeled endangered in Pennsylvania.

The measure would require the Fish and Boat Commission and the Game Commission, now independent agencies, to instead run their decisions through certain legislative committees and a state regulatory review agency.

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Government & Politics
6:40 am
Thu July 18, 2013

As House Eyes Transparency Law Changes, Agency Chief Urges Caution

The head of the state's open records agency is urging lawmakers to proceed with caution as they propose changes to the measure that created the office.

The 5-year-old Right-to-Know law could be in for some considerable tweaks. An effort is already underway in the Senate to address well-documented problems with the law, which governs public access to government information and records.

Office of Open Records Director Terry Mutchler said she's concerned the approach taken by the House could compromise Pennsylvania's Right-to-Know law in the spirit of improving it.

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State Government
6:57 am
Tue July 16, 2013

State Lawmaker Says House Panel Should Focus on Poverty

A Republican state lawmaker says the next big focus of one House panel will be how poverty afflicts people across Pennsylvania and what can be done to make the problem better.

Rep. Dave Reed (R-Indiana), who chairs the House Majority Policy Committee, said he hopes his initiative is eye-opening to legislators on both sides of the aisle.

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State Government
9:38 am
Mon July 15, 2013

House Convenes to Finish Budget Item

State House lawmakers are coming back to Harrisburg to finish up budget business Monday. A final concurrence vote is expected to approve what's called the fiscal code, a bill full of key fund transfers.

The summer vote was prompted when the Senate took language out of the legislation that suggested the Legislature intended to legalize payday lending.

Such loans are controversial, and Republican Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi said it didn't belong in a budget-related item.

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State Pensions
3:30 am
Mon July 15, 2013

State Government Reform Activists Update Research on 2005 Pay Raise

State government reform activists are pointing to their annual update on the costs of Legislature-approved increases to their benefits as an illustration of why pension reform efforts are doomed.

Eric Epstein, founder of the group Rock the Capital, said the late-night pay raise lawmakers approved for themselves in 2005 has inspired the most ire among voters, but it's not the most costly thing lawmakers have done to boost their own benefits in the past 20 years.

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Education
7:30 am
Thu July 11, 2013

Special Education Funding Panel Holds Inaugural Hearing

State lawmakers are staring down a funding formula that some say is a recipe for a budgeting disaster.

It's the commonwealth's way of paying for federally-required special education services, and it's the subject of a special commission whose recommendations for legislative fixes are due this fall.

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Government & Politics
10:54 am
Tue July 9, 2013

Fiscal Code Outstanding Without a Vote in Sight

Republican state lawmakers are insisting the budget for this year was delivered on time, but a key companion bill called the fiscal code is missing, and no timetable has been set to send it to the governor.

The House has gaveled out for the summer, and a spokesman for the governor said Monday the House hasn't scheduled a day to come back to Harrisburg. For the time being, the earliest session day is September 23.

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Transportation
3:30 am
Mon July 8, 2013

Bridges Could Be Weight-Restricted This Fall Without a Funding Plan

The state could put weight limits on aging bridges across Pennsylvania as early as this fall as a direct result of the failure in Harrisburg to pass a transportation funding plan.

The limit would require certain vehicles to find detours around bridges.

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Government & Politics
7:38 am
Thu July 4, 2013

State Senate, House at Odds Over Last-Minute Addition to Budget-Related Bill

State Senate lawmakers are sending a budget-related bill to the governor’s desk, after a committee went along with a House move to remove Medicaid expansion from the measure.
    
Republicans say adding the Medicaid plan back to the bill would have been wasted effort, since neither the House nor the governor is open to an expansion right now.
    
But Democratic Senator Vincent Hughes of Philadelphia said he’s disappointed, since the earlier Medicaid expansion language passed in the Senate with bipartisan support.  

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Government & Politics
7:38 am
Wed July 3, 2013

Lawmakers Urge Open Records Reforms for State-Related Universities

Pennsylvania's state-related universities have received mostly flat funding from the commonwealth for the second year running. With the struggle for their state aid long settled, some lawmakers are noting a tangential issue has been overshadowed: the level of transparency at the schools.

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Medicaid Expansion
3:47 pm
Mon July 1, 2013

PA House Will Not Consider Medicaid Expansion

Under the Affordable Care Act, each state’s governor must decide whether to expand Medicaid, with the federal government picking up the whole tab for the first three years and 90 percent thereafter.

The Pennsylvania Senate supported expansion in a vote Friday night, but there is a different attitude in the House.

Steve Miskin, spokesman for the House Republican Caucus, said the House has not and will not consider expanding Medicaid as it exists now.   

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Government & Politics
7:10 am
Mon July 1, 2013

State Budget Signed On Time, But Deadline Moves for Rest of Corbett's Agenda

Gov. Tom Corbett has signed an on-time budget, but he can claim zero victories on his other top priorities: liquor privatization, transportation funding or pension overhaul.
Credit Mary Wilson / 90.5 WESA

Gov. Tom Corbett has signed an on-time budget, but without any victories on his other top three legislative priorities.

Liquor privatization, transportation funding and pension overhaul will have to wait until the fall for further legislative action.

A transportation funding plan got stuck in the House. A bid to change how alcohol is sold in Pennsylvania stalled in the Senate. Pension overhaul is a plan neither chamber is ready to advance.

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State Government
3:30 am
Mon July 1, 2013

In Debate Over Tattoo Regulations, Arguments Have Been Inked Before

An effort to require tattoo artists in Pennsylvania to be licensed serves as an example of the kind of tug of war between those who support government regulations and those who see many of them as a threat to market competition.

Pennsylvania doesn't regulate tattoo parlors — something that Paul Garrison, owner of the Ink Splat tattoo shop in East Stroudsburg used to find quite strange.

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Liquor Privatization
10:18 am
Sat June 29, 2013

Alcohol Sales Overhaul Passes Senate on Party Lines

After days of negotiations, a plan to expand alcohol sales in Pennsylvania has the preliminary approval of the state Senate.

An amended proposal passed the chamber along party lines in the wee hours Saturday morning, with all 27 Republicans voting in its favor (the Senate voted to override its 11 p.m. curfew to pass the bill).

The proposal must clear another full Senate vote before it goes back to the House.

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Liquor Privatization
7:56 am
Fri June 28, 2013

Senate Republicans Search for Passable Alcohol Plan

The fizz hasn’t settled among state Senate Republicans over changes to a plan to expand the sale of beer, wine and liquor in Pennsylvania.

There are rumors — there are even bullet points of what Senate Republicans might change about an alcohol sales overhaul plan. Nothing’s solid.

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Transportation
3:49 pm
Thu June 27, 2013

Lawmakers Advance State Transportation Funding Bill

After days of false starts, a plan to fund Pennsylvania’s roads, bridges and mass transit has cleared a state House committee vote.
    
The roughly $2 billion proposal has received bipartisan support, though many Democrats say they still have concerns it contains too little money for mass transit.
    
Republican Transportation Committee Chairman Dick Hess said he’s open to more changes to the plan when it’s up for a vote before the full House.

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Pennsylvania Budget
9:49 am
Thu June 27, 2013

PA Dems Won't Let Medicaid Debate Die

As the budget battle comes to a boil in Harrisburg, the fight over Medicaid expansion is heating up right along side it.  

Lawmakers for the most part are split along party lines with Republicans supporting Gov. Tom Corbett’s decision to not opt into the federal government’s offer, while Democrats are calling for the state to expand the program as soon as possible.

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Government & Politics
7:15 am
Thu June 27, 2013

Plan to Change Charity Tax Law Clears First Big Hurdle

State lawmakers are one step closer to wresting control over tax-exempt charity decision from the courts.

The House has passed a constitutional amendment to put the Legislature in charge of deciding whether an organization qualifies as what's called a purely public charity. The distinction excuses title-bearers from paying property taxes.

A recent state court ruling limited lawmakers' power to broaden the definition. House Republicans argued Wednesday the proposed amendment is a simple way to reassert legislative authority.

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Transportation
7:18 am
Wed June 26, 2013

House Struggles with Transportation Funding

When it comes to money for fixing roads, bridges and mass transit, state House lawmakers are struggling to even get a plan out of committee.

What's clear is House Republican leaders want a transportation infrastructure funding plan that spends less than the $2.5 billion the Senate proposed. What's not clear is how they'll make the bill palatable to enough Republicans and Democrats to pass the bill out of committee, let alone the full chamber.

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Government & Politics
7:15 am
Wed June 26, 2013

When Will State Lawmakers Wrap Up the Spring Session? Depends Who You Ask

State lawmakers and the governor's office don't seem to be in agreement about when they'll break for the summer.

Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati said Tuesday he's not open to the idea of scheduling session days in July.

"We still have before us the ability and, I think, the will to get issues done," Scarnati said. "We will clearly be able to have the budget done and the accompanying bills before June 30."

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