When the House and Senate reconvene next month for the final gathering of the 2015-2016 Legislative Session, anything could happen.
It’s important to remember that 2016 isn’t just any old election year–it’s a presidential election year. That means lawmakers will want to get back to campaigning in their districts. That doesn’t mean however, that they’ll just overlook the many pressing issues facing the Commonwealth. In fact, the days the two chambers will be in session–12 days for the House and 9 days for the Senate–might actually be quite busy.
Here’s what to look for in the PA General Assembly’s Fall Session:
Pennsylvania has been facing a looming public pension crisis for a number of years, and the pressure is on for lawmakers to find a way to address the $63 billion unfunded liability that grows bigger with each passing day. The House has floated a “stacked hybrid” plan that serves as a compromise between those supporting a new “defined contribution” model and those wanting to stay with the current “defined benefit” plan. Some Senate leaders and their colleagues are lukewarm to the idea, so expect continued negotiations on this ever-present problem, and likely, an agreement to delay action until the 2017-18 legislative session.
Last month, lawmakers booked $100 million in the Tax Code revenue projections for Internet gaming which has not yet been adopted by the Legislature. It is expected that negotiations on this proposal will restart in September. In addition, the Legislature booked $12 million in additional revenue for casinos to serve alcohol from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m.; yet to date, no casino has agreed to ante up the $1 million in license fees. This has created an immediate budget hole of about $12 million that the Legislature will definitely need to consider in the gaming expansion legislation.
Yes, Kathleen Kane. The saga of Pennsylvania’s first female Attorney General hasn’t quite ended despite her conviction and resignation. The leader of a House impeachment inquiry into Kane’s tenure says he plans to finish what he started. Although Kane was convicted of perjury and other charges earlier this month and resigned her office two days later, Rep. Todd Stephens (R-Montgomery) said the results of his investigation will likely bring new malfeasance to light, even if it may not be criminal in nature. If impeachment articles are recommended and pass both chambers, Kane would be prevented from ever serving in public office again, unless the charges are overthrown or she were afforded a pardon.
Other Possible Action
Rideshare Legislation: House lawmakers are looking at easing restrictions on transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft to make it easier for them to operate in Pennsylvania, including Philadelphia. While several bills are under consideration, legacy cab companies in Philadelphia (where the ride-sharing companies have been granted the temporary ability to operate until September 30th) still stand in the way. Taxi drivers in the City argue that the app-based companies undercut their livelihood. The Senate passed the bill legalizing the practice statewide in November.
Child Sex Abuse Statutes: The House is expected to take up a bill that would not only extend the statutes of limitations on child sex abuse cases but also provide retroactive relief to those wishing to file lawsuits from incidents occurring years ago.
Anti-Discrimination: Although it is unlikely to move in the fall, a bill that would protect members of the LGBT from discrimination could be part of the legislative discussions.
Stay tuned to Pugliese Associates for updates on next month’s legislative action.