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Legislature Preparing for End of Session

With only a few Session days remaining in it 2014 schedule, the General Assembly passed the $2 per pack cigarette tax for Philadelphia school funding, debated gun control, moved a medical marijuana bill, and took steps to pass a new capital budget authorization.  House and Senate leadership are still unable, however, to agree on major initiatives including pension reform or modernization/sales of the state liquor system.

On Wednesday, Gov. Corbett signed a bill adding $2 per-pack tax on cigarettes sold in Philadelphia to help fund its schools. The law which takes effect immediately is expected to raise an additional $55 million per year for the Philadelphia School District. The initiative had been in the works for nearly two years, but was not included in this year’s budget as talks deteriorated.

The House voted out legislation to reduce the borrowing ability of the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Project (RACP) program, with legislation that would reduce the debt ceiling by $50 million per year beginning in 2018, until the cap goes below $3 billion.  The bill now goes to the Senate.

At the same time, the House moved legislation that included authorization for funding of hundreds of capital projects, many of which will fall under the RACP program.

The Senate broke new ground with a historic vote to allow the use of medical marijuana. However, despite the vote, there is virtually no chance the House will take up the bill this fall.

The upper chamber passed Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi’s bill to strengthen the state’s Open Records law by, among other items, greatly expanding the information available from state-related universities, improving the appeals process for information requests, and establishing a new fee structure for commercial requests.

The Senate also passed legislation that would protect individuals from prosecution if they contact emergency services for an overdose victim. This bill previously passed the House and will now go to the Governor for his signature.

Last but not least, the Senate unanimously approved a bill to overhaul Act 47, the state’s program for financially distressed municipalities. The legislation would impose a five-year limit for municipalities to leave the Act 47 program and allow a three-year extension, if needed.