Pennsylvania Legislature

State Government
6:56 am
Mon June 24, 2013

Crunch Time for Corbett's Agenda, and State Budget

As the state budget deadline looms, lawmakers are still considering Gov. Tom Corbett's "big three" priorities: pension reforms, transportation funding and liquor reform.
Credit 90.5 WESA

The state budget deadline is days away, but the spending plan is practically an afterthought to lawmakers as Gov. Tom Corbett's other priorities remain unresolved.

A scaled-back pension overhaul proposal is advancing in the Senate and still needs House approval. But it's not the subject of intense disagreement between the chambers, as Senate GOP spokesman Erik Arneson notes is true of other items on the governor's to-do list, like transportation funding and liquor privatization.

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Economy & Business
2:38 pm
Fri June 21, 2013

U.S. Senator Casey Urges Passage of River Act

Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) speaks on the deck of a Gateway Clipper ship in Station Square.
Credit Larkin Page-Jacobs / 90.5 WESA

Western Pennsylvania's canal system of locks and dams is an economic generator in the region and beyond, and on Friday, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) emphasized that it is a resource worth funding.

On the deck of a Gateway Clipper ship at Pittsburgh's Station Square, Casey congratulated river transportation officials for helping push for the River Act, which passed the Senate as part of the Water Resources Development Act. But he also reminded the crowd that there is still a ways to go.

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State Government
10:16 am
Fri June 21, 2013

Child Protection Bill Passes, But With Parent's Caution

A state House proposal to make it easier for some to report suspected child abuse is headed to the Senate, though concerns voiced before a final vote suggest some misgivings about legislating a solution to problems of child abuse — that doing so could interfere with parents who discipline their kids with a smack.

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Veterans
4:02 pm
Thu June 20, 2013

Bill Could Make Free Counseling More Available to Veterans

The state House is advancing a proposal to make it easier for military veterans to receive free mental health counseling in less formal settings.

The bill would change licensing rules to allow retired mental health professionals to volunteer their services through approved groups serving veterans and their families, as well as military personnel.

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Government & Politics
12:09 pm
Thu June 20, 2013

House GOP Drops Speeding Ticket Surcharge Idea

An effort to slap a $100 surcharge on speeding tickets to help fund mass transit in Pennsylvania looks to be dead in the water, as one House member said Wednesday.

The proposal is part of a $2.5 billion plan to fund roads, bridges, and other transportation infrastructure that has passed in the Senate. The surcharge revenue would be specifically routed for public transportation.

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State Pensions
4:36 pm
Wed June 19, 2013

Senate Panel Moves Scaled-Back Pension Overhaul

A state Senate committee has approved a scaled-down version of the governor's pension overhaul plan to address the commonwealth's pension debt.

The bill was re-written to include just one of the three prongs of Gov. Tom Corbett's proposal — one that has been said to be far more palatable to legislators. The measure would enroll most future state and school employees into a 401(k)-style plan, instead of the traditional defined-benefit plan that locks in payouts according to a formula known in advance.

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State Government
12:04 pm
Wed June 19, 2013

Squabble over Business Tax as School Problems Loom Larger

Three big issues have dominated the state budget debate, but with less than two weeks before June 30, one lawmaker is suggesting poor schools are getting short shrift.

"Pensions, transportation, liquor — they're being resolved as we speak," said Sen. Anthony Williams (D-Philadelphia). "Education has not been resolved, and it can actually affect whether we get a budget or not."

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Government & Politics
7:41 am
Wed June 19, 2013

For House GOP, Repealing Wage Law 'Integral' to Transportation Bill

Negotiations over a $2.5 billion plan to fix Pennsylvania's roads and bridges could include getting rid of state-set wages that increase the cost of road repair projects.

Many House Republicans have long opposed of the state's prevailing wage law, saying it typically sets the pay for public works projects at union rates, and boosts costs to local governments by as much as 20 percent.

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Liquor Privatization
7:32 am
Wed June 19, 2013

Senate GOP Calls Its Alcohol Sales Plan A 'Starting Point'

State Senate GOP leaders have presented a counter-offer to the state House's liquor privatization plan, though they admit they don't yet have the votes to pass it out of their chamber.

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State Government
3:33 pm
Tue June 18, 2013

Three Female Lawmakers Call for Political Change in Wake of Abortion Legislation

Calling it an “overreach” of the state’s power and a “new frontier,” three female members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives are blasting recently passed legislation that would prohibit insurance companies from offering policies that cover abortion services in the soon-to-be-launched Pennsylvania health exchange. 

Reps. Erin Molchany (D-Allegheny), Madeline Dean (D-Montgomery) and Mary Jo Daley (D-Montgomery) said the solution might lie in the next election cycle.

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Liquor Privatization
4:58 pm
Mon June 17, 2013

Details Scarce as Senate GOP Wrangles Votes on Liquor Bill

State Senate Republicans are expected to offer their own counter-proposal to the House's plan to phase out state wine and spirits stores and privatize the state's wholesale operation.

But details of the proposal are still under wraps. When asked for a status update on the bill, Senate Appropriations Chairman Jake Corman (R-Centre) said, with a laugh, "That's a great question."

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State Government
7:19 am
Wed June 12, 2013

House Puts Off Budget Vote Until Wednesday

State House GOP leaders expect to send a $28.3 billion budget proposal to the Senate on Wednesday. The move is largely procedural, since closed-door budget negotiations are still ongoing.

The House was originally slated to vote on the spending plan late Tuesday afternoon. But since final remarks on the floor were expected to go on into the evening, the final vote was put off.

"We clearly have the votes. The votes aren't a question," said Rep. Mike Vereb (R-Montgomery). "There's nobody getting beat up tonight, there's nobody getting sequestered."

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Transportation
4:24 pm
Tue June 11, 2013

Cylists Call On State Lawmakers to Keep Proposed $2 Million For Lane Planning

Bicycle and walking enthusiasts took to the state Capitol steps Tuesday to urge lawmakers to maintain money set aside for lane and pathway planning in a transportation funding bill.

The state Senate's $2.5 billion transportation funding proposal includes $2 million for planning for pedestrian and bicycle lanes.

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State Government
12:26 pm
Tue June 11, 2013

Corbett, Counties Push Block Grant Expansion

Several county commissioners and state lawmakers are joining Gov. Tom Corbett in a push to expand a pilot program to change the way counties receive human services funding.

The proposal is one of the governor's lower-profile budget priorities. He wants to allow all counties to receive their state funding for seven distinct human services in a single block grant.

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State Government
3:59 pm
Wed June 5, 2013

State Lawmakers Propose Expanded Definition of Child Abuse

State lawmakers are getting ready to move forward with proposals to expand the definition of child abuse in Pennsylvania in an effort to flag more incidents of suspected mistreatment.

The changes come at the suggestion of a task force convened last year to study child protection laws and issues.

Attorney Jason Kutulakis, a member of the panel, said the commonwealth’s legal definition of child abuse must be expanded and made clearer.

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State Government
10:48 am
Tue June 4, 2013

Silos May Be in the Offing for More Counties' Human Services Programs

The fate of a pilot program affecting county human services programs is getting more scrutiny this week as state lawmakers consider proposals to expand it gradually or scrap it altogether.

The pilot program allows 20 counties to collapse the funding of several distinct human services into one big funding pot, removing the constraints on each service’s designated silo of funding and giving administrators more control over how the money is divvied up.

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State Government
3:54 pm
Mon June 3, 2013

Senate Dems Offer Their Own Budget Proposal

As lawmakers in the state House teed up the legislative vehicle for a state budget Monday morning, Senate Democrats offered their view on what the final spending plan should look like.

The Senate Democrats' plan amounts to about $28.4 billion — roughly $56 million above what the governor proposed. It depends on the so-called modernization of the state's liquor system, keeping a business tax the governor wants to eliminate, and the state's participation in a federally authorized expansion of the Medicaid program.

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State Government
6:21 am
Thu May 30, 2013

State Senate Pension Hearing Offers Few Answers

State Senate lawmakers are beginning the public vetting of a three-part proposal from the governor's office to deal with the state's multi-billion dollar pension debt.

Months of debate leading up to the hearing have only made the groups on either side of the issue seem as entrenched as ever.

Gerry Oleksiak, vice president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, reiterated the unions' position that the governor's plan to reduce the future benefits of current employees is an unconstitutional breach of contract.

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Government & Politics
6:17 am
Thu May 9, 2013

PA Supreme Court Upholds State House and Senate Districts on Second Try

After more than a year of legal challenges, the state has new district lines for the House and Senate. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has unanimously ruled to uphold the state Legislature’s second stab at drawing new districts.

The maps were challenged by several groups – among them, a piano teacher and self-styled redistricting savant who drew her own maps to show there was a better way.

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Education
2:26 pm
Mon March 25, 2013

Bill Would Create Community College Affordability Task Force

As community college officials continue their fight for more state funding, the Pennsylvania Senate is considering a bill that would convene a task force on community college affordability.

“I don’t think there has been any organized effort to really review how community colleges are funded, particularly at the state level and the local level,” said Alex Johnson, president of the Community College of Allegheny County. “Over time the funding from various sources, particularly government sources, has eroded to the extent that students have the burden.”

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Government Reform
3:30 am
Mon March 25, 2013

Government Reform Caucus Forms in Harrisburg

A newcomer to the Pennsylvania Legislature is trying to gather a group of fellow members who would at least partially define themselves as “reformers.” 

Sen. Rob Teplitz (D-Dauphin County) has joined forces with Rep. Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster County) to create what they are calling the House-Senate Government Reform Caucus.

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