PA House of Representatives

Matt Rourke / AP

Activists across the commonwealth are urging state lawmakers to take an uncommon step in order to move a bill that would place limits on the gifts elected officials can accept.

They’re putting together discharge petition—a measure that’s not often used, and even less often used successfully.

Such a petition can force a bill to move out of a committee to a floor vote if the committee refuses to act on it.

Mike Groll / AP

A bill to expand gambling and raise sorely-needed revenue is moving on to the House, after passing swiftly through the Senate last week.

Gaming has been a sticky issue for the legislature for several sessions, and the latest bill is expected to face pushback from several factions of House lawmakers.

The Senate-passed bill would chiefly legalize and regulate internet gambling. It would also let Pennsylvanians buy lottery tickets and bet on fantasy sports online, and fix a law that dictates how casinos pay out fees to their local communities.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

A bipartisan group of legislative leaders has been working on a major proposal to change how state employee pensions are structured.

The commonwealth’s roughly $70 billion unfunded pension liability has been dogging lawmakers for years. But the plan most likely to move forward won’t attempt to reduce that debt significantly.

Instead, leaders say the measure will look similar to one they attempted to pass last session, which disintegrated without a vote because Democrats refused to support it.

Google Maps

Around the state, advocates and frustrated Pennsylvanians are pushing lawmakers to change the rules governing how district lines are redrawn every 10 years.

The current process lets politicians the skew districts in their political favor—a process known as gerrymandering.

Pennsylvania House GOP Plan Doubles Down On Spending

Apr 4, 2017
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

House Republicans on Monday unveiled a $31.5 billion no-new-taxes budget proposal for Pennsylvania government that would add politically touchy cutbacks to a relatively austere plan floated by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf as the state grapples with a huge deficit.

The plan left many questions unanswered, including how it would fill a projected $3 billion deficit without a tax increase, and how it would find such significant savings in two of the costliest services in state government, prisons and health care for the poor.

Matt Rourke / AP

The 2018 gubernatorial election is still well over a year away. But already, Republicans are announcing intentions to contest Democratic incumbent Tom Wolf’s bid for reelection.

It’s likely that GOP House Speaker Mike Turzai—long rumored to be interested in higher office—will soon be among them.

Pittsburgh-based political agency Cold Spark Media has confirmed it’s working with the Allegheny County Republican. Mark Harris, a partner with the agency acting as Turzai’s strategist, said the politician may explore a run more seriously after the state budget is finished.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

When a child is abducted, millions of Pennsylvanians are asked to help through the Amber Alert system. State Representative Dom Costa, D-Allegheny, is hoping to use a similar system when a police officer is hurt.

Katie Meyer / WITF

In one of the state Capitol’s busy lobbies, there’s a clock that tracks unfunded pension liabilities. All day and night, that clock ticks upwards, adding billions of dollars to Pennsylvania’s debts every year.

The clock’s overseen by a small, dedicated group of pension overhaul advocates and on Tuesday, they dragged it up to the Capitol’s main rotunda to make a renewed call to lawmakers: find a way to halt the clock’s rising numbers, once and for all.

Carolyn Kaster / AP

The state House has passed a resolution that makes significant changes to its ethics rules.

Scott Petri, a Bucks County Republican and former chair of the Ethics Committee, said the updates have been in the works for the past two years and provide some very necessary clarification. 

He also said it’s conceivable the new rules could have prevented a recent debacle surrounding Democratic Representative Leslie Acosta.

She secretly pleaded guilty to embezzlement in March, kept her seat and then finally resigned on Tuesday after being reelected.

Katie Meyer / WITF

New members have officially been sworn into the Pennsylvania legislature.

The first day of the new session saw further entrenchment of Harrisburg’s partisan divide. Republicans shored up their majorities in the House and Senate, where they’ve often clashed with Democratic Governor Tom Wolf.

Now, lawmakers are turning their attention to legislative priorities in the new session.

Lawmakers Begin New Session With Old Leaders Again At Helm

Jan 3, 2017
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Pennsylvania lawmakers are back in session with leadership teams largely unchanged from the two-year session that concluded in November.

The oath of office was administered Tuesday for members in both chambers, including 22 new representatives and six freshmen senators.

Republicans are again in firm majority control of both chambers, 121 to 82 in the House and 34 to 16 in the Senate.

Republican Rep. Mike Turzai was re-elected House speaker, while Republican Sen. Joe Scarnati is again the Senate's president pro tempore.

Kevin McCorry / WHYY

 

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives held leadership elections Tuesday in preparation for the impending end of the legislative session. Republican leaders new and old said they're looking forward to having their largest majority in decades next session.

Most of the major changes in the House's majority GOP leadership are due to retirements—the chamber's appropriations chair William Adolf, of Delaware County, is stepping down, as is Susquehanna County Caucus Chair Sandra Major.

WITF

The city of Harrisburg's near-bankruptcy led to Pennsylvania's first and only local government takeover, the ousting of a seven-term mayor and his pending criminal trial - and aggressive, expensive parking enforcement in the state capit

Matt Rourke / AP

After a long summer break, the state House is back in session—for now. But lawmakers aren’t expecting to tackle anything too divisive before Election Day.

The House will have just 12 voting days before lawmakers retire to their districts for the election. The Senate, which returns next week, will have nine.

Major items on the docket include decisions on expanded gambling and a state pension overhaul. Governor Tom Wolf is also seeking a joint session to address the opioid crisis.

Nonbelievers Sue Over Pennsylvania House's Opening Prayers

Aug 25, 2016
Ken Marshall / Flickr

A group of people who don't believe in God are challenging the way prayers are handled before sessions of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

The lawsuit filed Thursday in Harrisburg federal court says nonbelievers are treated like a disfavored minority who can be discriminated against, and that House officials denied their requests to make an opening invocation.

Five people and three organizations are suing House Speaker Mike Turzai, the parliamentarian and five lawmakers.

PA Budget Becomes Law; Some Lawmakers Cry Foul

Jul 12, 2016
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The state officially has a budget.

The $31.5 billion spending plan went into effect at midnight on Monday, without Governor Tom Wolf’s signature. But negotiations still aren’t finished on the revenue plan to back it up.

Deadline notwithstanding, lawmakers did seem to have a productive day of talks on the spending plan.

Senate GOP spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher called the progress “encouraging.” She said it seems likely a vote could come soon.

Thomas Favre-Bulle / Flickr

With little news of progress on the 2017 state budget coming out of Harrisburg, school advocates around the state are crossing their fingers a resolution comes soon.

If not, Steve Robinson, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association said state-funded institutions will be in bad shape come fall.

Robinson said schools used up a lot of resources during last year’s nine-month budget impasse.

Right-Wing Group Chalks Up More Election Wins

May 2, 2016
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

 An advocacy group focused on bankrolling conservative candidates for the state Legislature is flexing its muscles after the Pennsylvania primary.

The Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania, commonly referred to as CAP, has run afoul of top Republican lawmakers for its “purist” views opposing organized labor and eschewing lawmaker perks, like pensions. But being likened to dictators hasn’t slowed CAP down.  

David Amsler / Flickr

A bipartisan group of state lawmakers is backing new proposals to give a person’s low-level criminal offenses a limited shelf life in Pennsylvania.

Plans in the House and Senate would automatically seal low-level criminal records in Pennsylvania after a person has had no criminal activity for five to 10 years. The legislation builds on a plan enacted into law this year to let people with minor offenses ask a judge to seal their criminal records.

House OKs Retroactive Abuse Case Limits

Apr 12, 2016
Matt Rourke / AP

A long-sought measure to retroactively change the statute of limitations on child sex abuse cases has been queued up for a final vote in the state House. 

The proposal would erase the statute of limitations in criminal cases of child sex abuse going forward, and extend the limit for civil cases from the victim’s 30th birthday to when he or she turns 50.

Governor Tom Wolf / Flickr

 

Senate backers hope medical marijuana legislation in Pennsylvania will get to Gov. Tom Wolf's desk this week.

A Senate committee made changes to the bill Monday, and the bill's backers say they hope it can win passage in the House and Senate this week.

House Mulls Major Changes To Child Sex Abuse Law

Apr 6, 2016
Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

The state House is poised to consider major changes to the statutes of limitations on child sex abuse cases in Pennsylvania, one month after the release of a grand jury’s findings that the clergy of the Altoona-Johnstown Catholic Diocese covered up child sex abuse allegations for decades.

The bill, passed by the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, would eliminate the time limit for bringing criminal charges in a child sex abuse case. It expands the timeframe for bringing civil suits, giving victims until they’re 50 years old, instead of 30.

Bill To Limit Pennsylvania Abortions Voted Out Of Committee

Apr 4, 2016
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

 

Republican-crafted bill that would place new limits on abortion is out of a Pennsylvania legislative committee days after the amendments to the Abortion Control Act were introduced.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Democratic state lawmakers who were reliable backers of Governor Tom Wolf’s agenda during the budget impasse say they may not stick so closely to his side in the next year.

Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa said his caucus will do some soul-searching ahead of the next round of budget negotiations, after coming away with so little from the budget impasse.

“We might go down a different path,” Costa told reporters Wednesday. “I don’t know where we’ll end up.”

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

When the state’s finances are the subject of partisan debate, it helps to turn to the analyses of the ratings agencies that judge creditworthiness – and two of the three major credit ratings agencies are warning that Pennsylvania’s fiscal problems aren’t over, even if its budget impasse is.

In Key Vote, Medical Marijuana Passes House

Mar 17, 2016
Governor Tom Wolf / Flickr

A plan to allow certain forms of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania has cleared a major hurdle, passing the state House and now heading to the Senate, where a similar proposal was approved last year.

Budget Plan Puts GOP, Wolf On Collision Course

Mar 16, 2016
Matt Rourke / AP

State lawmakers and Governor Tom Wolf could be headed for another clash over the Pennsylvania budget, now more than eight months late.

Top Republican lawmakers say they’ll pass a plan this week to restore funds vetoed by the governor late last year. The more than $6 billion proposal would bring the total state budget to about $30 billion, and the supplemental funding aims to make a variety of line items whole again – like the schools, rural hospitals, and agricultural programs on the brink of closing because they haven’t received all their state money.

Jennifer Morrow / Flickr

  The Pennsylvania House of Representatives has unanimously passed a bill to increase the penalty for attacking a health care practitioner.

Under House Bill 1219, the legal charges in such assault cases would be elevated from misdemeanors to felonies.

Pennsylvania Medical Society President Scott Shapiro said health care workers face a disproportionate amount of violence in the workplace.

Plan Would Take Politicians Out Of Redistricting

Jan 25, 2016
Matt Rourke / AP

Pennsylvania’s next redistricting effort is five years away, but one state lawmaker is already thinking about changing how it’s done.

Sen. John Wozniak (D-Cambria) plans to propose an overhaul that would take politicians out of the process of redrawing district lines to accommodate population changes.

Wozniak echoes the observations of pollsters and political science professors when he talks about partisan redistricting, and how Republican control of the process for the past two cycles has yielded GOP pickups and, Wozniak believes, more ideologically extreme candidates.

PA House Sends Short-Term Spending Plan To Governor

Sep 24, 2015

The Pennsylvania state House of Representatives has passed a short-term spending bill that Gov. Tom Wolf has vowed to veto without an agreement on a plan to end a nearly three-month budget stalemate.

Pages