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Friday, September 30, 2011

Pennsylvania Senate Gets Back to Work

The Pennsylvania State Senate reconvenes today after its summer recess with a full plate of issues to address. Members of the upper chamber are introducing some of them but others are coming from the governor’s mansion.

When pushed to rank his legislative to-do list, Governor Tom Corbett has labeled passing a school vouchers bill as number one, but he acts as if it is as hard a choice as choosing your favorite child.

This isn’t a horse race… It’s not that one thing’s more important than the other, they’re all important,” said Corbett Spokesperson Kevin Harley.

For example, the long-discussed impact fee on natural gas drillers — which had the very vocal backing of top Republican senators — now has the endorsement of a governor-appointed advisory panel. 

What he wants to do is work with the legislature to implement the recommendations of the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission, many of which in addition to an impact fee, are enforcing stricter environmental regulations on the shale industry,” said Harley.

Corbett has said he will present his own plan for a fee and stricter environmental regulations on the drilling industry in the next couple of weeks.

Also on the governor’s to-do list is passage of a House proposal to privatize the state’s liquor stores and quick action on proposals to fill the multi-billion dollar gap in funding for transportation infrastructure.

Among the issues being moved by members of the senate is a plan to change the way the state casts its Electoral College votes. Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Chester County) wants the votes to be cast based on the vote total in each congressional district, with the state’s two other votes going to the presidential candidate who wins the statewide popular vote. 

Corbett likes the idea.  “It’s not a partisan issue, it’s a bipartisan issue.  It’s just a question of what someone believes is the most equitable way to, or fairest way to distribute our Electoral College votes, and the governor believes along with many other people in the Pennsylvania legislature that the fairest way to do that is by congressional district,” said Harley.

The legislature is also in the process of redrawing those congressional districts as well as the state legislative districts.


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