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Legislative Update

The state House cancelled its scheduled August voting session days last week, when leaders determined they had insufficient support to take up Philadelphia school funding and perhaps pension reform.  House Speaker Sam Smith (R-Jefferson) and Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) said the chamber did not have a consensus to put up 102 votes for either issue, with many members expected to offer amendments for other programs.

At the same time, Governor Corbett’s staff said they could not guarantee the Governor would sign a bill if it wasn’t only related to Philadelphia schools and a cigarette tax.

To soften the blow on that city’s schools, Corbett announced that he would release $250 million in school funds in advance so that the district could open its doors on time, but city officials said that action doesn’t address long-term school funding needs.

When the General Assembly DOES return September 15, there are fewer than a dozen scheduled session days left before the November elections. The legislature CAN return after the election, in sine die session, but in recent years, legislative leaders have opposed such lame duck sessions.

Major issues remain – including the Philadelphia school funding crisis and reforms to the state’s two major public sector pension systems.  House Republicans have told ERG they expect a pension reform vote, possibly on a hybrid system.  Governor Corbett last week asked lawmakers to come back early to consider it, but the governor is also hoping he can get movement on privatizing state liquor stores.

The Senate is looking at a variety of administrative changes to state laws, including online voter registration, campaign finance reporting and lobbyist reform.  And both chambers appear willing to work toward reauthorization of the PA Health Care Cost Containment Council, changes in property taxes and school funding in general, drug databases and drug overdose reporting laws, Right-To-Know laws, and urban revitalization programs.