HARRISBURG – Democrat state Sen. Daylin Leach of Montgomery County says he’ll introduce legislation to repeal a 2011 law that impacted Pennsylvania abortion clinics. Leach said that the law is unconstitutional, given Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision on a Texas law. The law signed by former PA Gov. Tom Corbett required freestanding clinics that perform abortions to comply with the same safety standards as freestanding outpatient surgery centers.
HARRISBURG – Concerned citizens and families will hold a Defend My Privacy rally from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. today at the Capitol Rotunda in Harrisburg over proposed legislation. Senate Bills 1307, 1316, 974 and House Bill 1510 – known as the Bathroom Bills – would force businesses, schools, and ministries to permit men to use women’s facilities. The bills are before the state Senate and House with support from Gov. Wolf and some lawmakers. Current Pennsylvania law requires all elementary, secondary, and special education schools to have separate restrooms for boys and girls. But all that changes if the bills become law, making all public facilities accessible to anyone regardless of biological sex. It would also apply to religious entities that are open to the public, like Sunday morning church services, bathrooms in religious schools, Christian camps, daycare centers, and women’s shelters.
HARRISBURG (AP) – Pennsylvania lawmakers are back at the Capitol for the final days of the state government’s fiscal year as budget negotiators try to produce a budget package that Gov. Tom Wolf will sign. Leaders of the four legislative caucuses broke from a meeting just after midnight Sunday reporting no final agreements on a spending level or a tax package to close a deficit. They say they’re inching closer to an agreement, and a House GOP spokesman says budget legislation could be unveiled in the coming hours after more closed-door discussion. Funding for human services and public schools could be affected, depending on the spending level, while higher taxes on cigarettes are under discussion. The 2016-17 fiscal year starts Friday.
HARRISBURG – School districts in Pennsylvania would be encouraged to form partnerships not only for administrative roles, but also for managing services such as transportation, facilities, and technology under legislation proposed by Lancaster County Sen. Ryan Aument. Senate Bill 1332 would also establish a pilot grant program to aid districts in creating such agreements. Up to four districts could apply for up to $250,000 in grant funds. Existing partnerships, such as Columbia and Elanco’s, would be given priority. The exact amount of money allocated to the grant program would be up for negotiation by legislators.
HARRISBURG – The PA Game Commission would be able to set its own license fees under a bill approved by the state Senate. Currently, Game Commission fees are determined by legislation. The bill’s sponsor, Somerset County Sen. Pat Stefano commented that relying on the Legislature to address the agency’s income is a bad idea. Stefano said the Game Commission’s last fee increase was in 1999. Senate Bill 1166 now goes to the state House for consideration.
HARRISBURG (AP) – The start of Pennsylvania’s 2016-17 fiscal year is days away and budget negotiations continue behind closed doors. Talks continued through Sunday, while lawmakers plan to return to the state Capitol in Harrisburg today. Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf and leaders of the Republican-controlled Legislature have reported no agreements on spending or how to pay for it, and have not unveiled a bipartisan budget package. It appears unlikely that a budget package will pass before the fiscal-year deadline. Negotiators are tight-lipped, and rank-and-file lawmakers who must vote on it have said they’re being told little by caucus leaders. Wolf wants to balance a deficit projected at $1.8 billion next year and to increase aid to public schools for instruction and operations by $250 million.
HARRISBURG (AP) – The union representing faculty members at Pennsylvania’s 14 state universities has set an Aug. 25 date for a decision on whether members will take a strike authorization vote. The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties said an emergency legislative assembly was scheduled after no progress was made in talks with the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. Other bargaining sessions are planned over the summer, the next one on July 19. Faculty members have been working without a contract since the last agreement expired in June 2015.
LANCASTER (AP) – The number of Pennsylvania parents opting out of state-mandated tests is continuing to increase. The number of students who opted out of the Pennsylvania System of Standardized Assessment exams doubled across Pennsylvania this year, reaching more than 7,500 for math and language arts. Science opt-outs were just above 1%. State law provides a religious exception that permits parents to keep their children out of state testing. School leaders say that if the trend continues, it could call into question the significance of the test results. The scores make up the bulk of the state’s rating system for schools and play a role in teachers’ evaluations.
HARRISBURG (AP) – The Amish are branching out, setting up settlements in Bolivia, Argentina, and Canada as their numbers continue to grow. A new study by the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College reports the group‘s total current population is about 308,000 and has grown about 18% over the past five years. The two small South American settlements were founded last fall after longstanding Mennonite communities in those countries reached out to North American Amish to explore affiliation. Nearly two-thirds of all Amish live in three states – Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana. There are currently settlements in 31 states and three Canadian provinces. Two new settlements were established this year in Prince Edward Island, Canada, a first for that province.
HARRISBURG – With less than one week until the June 30 budget deadline, legislative leaders should resist the temptation to “get it done” at the expense of getting it right for Pennsylvania families. The latest budget negotiations center on a potential $31.5 billion spending plan, which would represent the largest spending increase in a decade and require $1.1 billion in additional revenue. The House has already moved to raise $200 million through gambling expansion and $150 million through tax amnesty. And while broad-based tax increases appear to be off the table, lawmakers are considering targeted taxes and other unstable revenue generators, including a tobacco tax, a rumored energy tax, higher taxes on bank savings accounts, and a new tax on Uber and other ridesharing services. Matthew Brouillette, president and CEO of the Commonwealth Foundation said a $31.5 billion budget would represent a spending increase of more than five times the rate of inflation and a $1.5 billion increase over the current year’s spending. He also mentioned that last year, Gov. Wolf claimed we had a $2.3 billion deficit that would require $4.6 billion in new taxes. He said that unless lawmakers raised taxes, Pennsylvania would have to cut a billion dollars from education. Yet, lawmakers increased education spending by $250 million without raising taxes by one penny. Brouillette says lawmakers must not settle for just getting the budget done—they should ensure it gets done right.