2013-09-26 / Local & State

Pa. Lawmakers Return To Capitol For Fall Session

By Marc Levy and
Mark Scolforo

Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – Pennsylvania state lawmakers were back in Harrisburg on Monday to start their fall session with little shift in the political landscape apparent in the three months since Gov. Tom Corbett failed to win passage of three major priorities before the Republican controlled Legislature wrapped up for the summer.

No major action was expected in Monday’s session. To greet lawmakers, a group of public school advocates pressed their case during a rally in the Capitol Rotunda to highlight what they call Pennsylvania’s broken process to distribute state aid to 500 schools districts each year.

Also in the Capitol for meetings was Rick Bloomingdale, the president of the Pennsylvania AFLCIO who was pushing for action on transportation funding legislation, and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, who was meeting with Corbett as the city’s school district struggles with its biggest funding crisis in memory.

In Baltimore, several top aides to Corbett were meeting Monday with officials from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to discuss Corbett’s week-old plan to use federal Medicaid expansion dollars to extend health insurance to hundreds of thousands of the working poor.

The meeting comes amid criticism that Corbett’s plan will leave people uninsured when the extra Medicaid money becomes available Jan. 1, and Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, on Monday said he is urging the federal government to say as quickly as possible whether it will sign off on Corbett’s plan.

The plan released Monday by Corbett, a Republican and critic of Medicaid, will require potentially lengthy negotiations with the federal government to sort out changes Corbett wants to the Medicaid expansion envisioned by President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.

In the fall, Corbett, a Republican, plans to focus his efforts on trying to improve Pennsylvania’s business environment.

It remained to be seen whether leaders of the House and Senate Republican majorities will try again to revive Corbett’s spring agenda, which involved increasing gas taxes to improve transportation systems, privatizing the sale of wine and spirits and changing the state’s major public employee pension systems.

When June 30 ended, the House had rejected a $2.5 billion transportation funding bill passed 45-5 by the Senate, but a lesser bill also failed to get enough support. Meanwhile, some Republican senators said they would not support wine and liquor privatization legislation, a top priority of the House GOP, until the House had approved a satisfactory transportation bill.

On Monday, Costa said the only way a transportation funding bill would pass is if Corbett publicly breaks any link between it and wine and liquor legislation.

“Until then, I think it’s being held hostage by the House Republicans,” Costa said.

Each chamber has 20 scheduled voting session days through mid-December.

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