Pennsylvania Legislature

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.

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.

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."

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."

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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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