The end of the legislative session, and the beginning of the end of election season. We promise, the end is in sight.
The end times are upon us
The Pennsylvania legislature ended its two-year session on Wednesday — er, Thursday. The House came back on Thursday for a few hours, and both houses may return after the election to tidy up some last-minute business.
A casino tax question is also still on the table. Casinos have been paying a fixed rate to their host communities in Pennsylvania, but a recent court decision would allow smaller casinos to pay far less. Those host communities rely on the fees, but areas without casinos are hoping a modified law would allow those funds to be distributed statewide. The session ended without passing a bill that would have replaced those funds in the casino communities, meaning they will be going into 2017 budget season with empty pockets and plenty of uncertainty. Pittsburgh, for one, will be $10 million short this year.
There were some “yea” votes as well. Uber and Lyft, along with other “transportation network companies” got the go-ahead to operate legally in Pennsylvania.
A controversial bill that would protect the identity of law enforcement officers involved in fatal shootings passed, though Governor Tom Wolf has expressed concern over signing it into law.
And a small calculation change has made all the difference in the Community Revitalization and Improvement Zone program. The first few years of the tax-rebate economic development program were lackluster. But now, pilot cities Bethlehem and Lancaster are seeing major increases — think 10 times more revenue — after the state changed the calculation.
Politics as usual
Every election season has debates, like the recent Senate debate between incumbent Republican Pat Toomey and Democrat challenger Katie McGinty. But not every debate features fierce barbs thrown about the Republican nominee for president. Toomey hasn’t yet endorsed Donald Trump, but hasn’t distanced himself from the candidate either. That, along with policy topics, was a major focus of the televised debate.
Pittsburgh has decided to rewrite the rulebook after this year’s Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. The city’s police chief, Cameron McLay, spoke at the event wearing his uniform. A citizen police review board ruled this week that while McLay’s speech was ill-advised, the rules could be made clearer to prevent future infractions.
And in the area of politicians behaving badly: Pennsylvania’s former top lawyer was sentenced to 10 to 23 months in prison this week. Former attorney general Kathleen Kane’s request for house arrest was denied by the judge, who also ordered Kane to serve eight years of probation.
Kane was the first woman and first Democrat elected to the position, but not the first AG to end up in jail. Another Scranton native, Ernie Preate, holds that honor. Since Pennsylvania has only elected ten attorneys general, the ratio of convicted to not convicted isn’t great.
Don’t miss our map of how school enrollment has changed since the state instituted the “hold harmless” policy that requires every district to get at least as much funding as it got the year before. Some districts have lost large chunks of population, while others have gained significantly — without the increased funds to support that growth.