Friday, April 1, 2016

Spring Reruns: Senate, House Return To Voting Session Monday

Beginning Monday, the Senate and House return to Harrisburg for 2 weeks of voting session to pick up where they left off on the debate [battle] over the state budget-- this year’s and next year’s.
During the break, of course, Gov. Wolf let most of the state budget become law without his signature so money began flowing to school districts, counties, state-related universities,  nonprofit human service groups and state vendors that needed it badly.
He did pick up his pen to veto the Fiscal Code bill-- House Bill 1327 (Peifer-R-Pike)-- that contained the formula for distributing basic education money, fund transfers to support Department of Agriculture programs and other “special” provisions to kill DEP’s update of conventional oil and gas drilling regulations and delay any plan to meet EPA’s Clean Power Climate Plan requirements.
As if on cue, Senate and House Republicans cried “foul,” saying there was nothing in the Fiscal Code bill the Governor didn’t see or agree-to before.  [There’s that word-- “agreed-to” again.]
Gov. Wolf countered on a Pittsburgh radio program Wednesday saying these were the same people [Republicans] he had an agreement with before [several in fact] and they failed to deliver.
Those who said the budget impasse was over two weeks ago apparently weren’t paying enough attention.  The same players are saying the same things they’ve been saying since March a year ago.
No doubt Senate and House Republicans will spend some time discussing where they go from here with items Gov. Wolf vetoed, again.
Do they want to re-pass some provisions and put new bills on his desk?
Do they want to focus just on the FY 2016-17 budget and try to sneak the provisions they care about in legislative vehicles they think are more veto-proof?
Stay tuned for more..
Third Ring Of Political Circus Here
Politics expanded in another direction this week as the Presidential campaign circus arrived in Pennsylvania.  
The first events by Kasich and Cruz in Philadelphia and Harrisburg and the opening of campaign offices by Sanders and one of his trademark shows in Pittsburgh mean things are getting serious ahead of the April 26 primary.
Polls say Trump and Clinton will be the winners.  We’ll see.  The Republican side could be closer than people think.
Also Presidential this week, Obama stepped into Pennsylvania politics by endorsing McGinty for U.S. Senate (chronically behind in the polls) and Shapiro for Attorney General (at least competitive).  He could bat 50 percent come election day.
The other circus (as the media calls it) that is the indicted Attorney General Kathleen Kane continued this week when she spent yet more money to hire former Montgomery County DA Bruce Castor for a new position of Solicitor General; a position that will likely only last another few months like she will.
Castor is now famous for not prosecuting Bill Cosby for sexual wrong-doing.
This somehow fits because Kane hired the former Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler in December to further “investigate” the porngate emails, himself a victim of an impeachment attempt.  Unfortunately, even Gansler said he didn’t think any criminal indictments would result from his spending as much as $2 million reading titillating emails.
As the media has said, you can’t make this up.
What’s Next
The Senate and House Environmental Resources and Energy Committees are expected to take some action in the near future related to their review of DEP’s final Chapter 78 (conventional) and 78a (unconventional) drilling regulation updates.
Whether that action will be to send a disapproval letter before the Independent Regulatory Review Commission meets on April 21 on the regulation or notify the IRRC they will opt to take their extra 14-day review time after the April 21 IRRC meeting on the regulations or save a step and report out a resolution disapproving the regulations, only time will tell.
19 members of the House wrote to the IRRC this week supporting DEP’s regulations, headed by Rep. Greg Vitali (D-Delaware), Minority Chair of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.
After these 2 weeks of session, the House returns May 2 and the Senate May 9 to begin the marathon run up to what used to be the June 30 deadline for a state budget.
In case anyone is counting, it’s just 87 days until the deadline for a new budget.
It’s been 277 days since the deadline for the FY 2015-16 state budget.

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