Late-night bid to force severance tax onto House floor fails narrowly

Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg. (WITF)

Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg. (WITF)

Supporters of a natural gas severance tax attempted to circumvent state House Republican leaders late Tuesday night to push the issue back onto the floor.

The motion to call the measure up as a special order of business came after a long day of votes on other major bills.

It ultimately received popular support, but was just shy of the constitutional majority it needed in order to force debate to resume.

The Democrats and moderate Republicans who support a new tax on natural gas drillers say House GOP leaders — who oppose it — are trying to sink the bill through inaction.

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“Since we cannot have a fair and open debate, we need to use the procedure that the rules provide to bring this question to the floor,” Montgomery County Republican Kate Harper said.

The bill in question — House Bill 1401 — is currently saddled with hundreds of amendments, which have so far kept it from getting a final vote.

House Majority Leader Dave Reed told members they’d “rue the day” they voted to call up the bill, saying it would set a precedent to hinder House operations in the future.

“It exists in the rules,” he said. “That doesn’t mean it should be used on any particular issue on any random evening in the middle of December.”

The motion got 100 votes. It needed 101.

Members are reconvening early Wednesday morning for what is expected to be their final session day of the year.

It’s unclear if they’ll take any more action on the severance tax bill.

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