Update: Last Night’s Senate Action

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Last night, the Senate took much anticipated action on H.B. 278 (Rep. Baker, R-Bradford/Tioga), amending the Fiscal Code, and H.B. 1177 (Rep. Lucas, R-Crawford/Erie), which provides for the Philadelphia cigarette tax necessary to fund the Philadelphia public schools. Here’s how things shook out:

The Senate concurred in amendments made to H.B. 278 by a vote of 26-22. The vote was party-line, with all the Democrats voting in the negative, in addition to Sen. Chuck McIlhinney (R-Bucks), who also voted in the negative. The bill is now heading to the governor’s desk, where its fate is uncertain given that Gov. Corbett has not yet indicated what action he will take with the General Appropriations bill.

Key provisions of the Fiscal Code, which is essentially the “instruction manual” for the budget include:

  • suspension of any transfer of surplus revenue to the Rainy Day Fund in the 2014-2015 fiscal year;
  • a provision to allow leasing of state land to extract natural gas;
  • disbursement of funds under the Tobacco Settlement Act;
  • a requirement that the EQB shall promulgate regulations relating to conventional oil and gas wells separate from regulations relating to unconventional gas wells;
  • a reduction in the licensure fee for taverns to provide small games of chance; and
  • establishment of a regional rural college.

H.B. 1177, on the other hand, was subjected to another round of amendments, which means it will have to go back to the House for a concurrence vote. Those changes include:

  • the addition of a five-year sunset provision on the Philadelphia cigarette tax authorized by the bill;
  • the addition of a hotel tax in additional counties; and
  • the addition of language to provide for more City Revitalization and Improvement Zones or CRIZ. (This provision had been included in H.B. 278 as it was sent to the House but was stripped out in the final round of amendments.)

The bill passed the Senate as amended (again) by a vote of 43-5, with only a handful of Republican members voting in the negative. No announcement has been made at this hour as to when the House will take action on this bill. Session has been scheduled for Monday, August 4, but the agenda isn’t entirely clear. As soon as we know, we’ll let you know, too.

 


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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