Tuesday, December 20, 2011

House Unanimously Nonconcurs In Marcellus Shale Legislation Sending Bill To Conference

House Republicans and House Democrats combined Tuesday, for different reasons, to vote unanimously to nonconcur in Senate changes to House Bill 1950 (Ellis-R-Butler) which would amend the Oil and Gas Act to include additional environmental protection measures relating to Marcellus Shale drilling and a statewide drilling fee.
            Last week, Senate Republicans gutted the House-passed version of the bill and inserted the language from Senate Bill 1100 (Scarnati-R-Jefferson) passed earlier by the Senate and sent the bill back to the House.  (A summary, the Senate Fiscal Note and the House Fiscal Note are available for the bill.)

            House Democrats said the bill was inadequate in terms of the amount of money raised by a drilling fee, like the House-passed optional county adopted fee, and environmental protection measures are inadequate.
            Democrats attempted several amendments to the bill in the House Rules Committee which failed along party lines before the bill went to the full House for the concurrence vote.  Rep. Eddie Pashinski (D-Luzerne) tried amendments again on the House Floor, but they failed to get a two-thirds vote to suspend the rules to have the amendments considered.
            House Republicans said the earlier House-passed bill took a balanced approach to dealing with Marcellus Shale issues and funded valuable programs like Growing Greener through a transfer from the DCNR Oil and Gas Fund.
            The bill must now go back to the Senate for a vote on whether they will insist on their amendments before the bill can formally go to a conference committee.  The Senate returns to session January 3, but the first voting day is now scheduled for January 17.
            What's A Conference Committee?
             In practical terms it probably does not matter when the Senate votes to insist on its amendments because difficult negotiations, which have been going on for weeks, will continue between the Senate and House Republicans and the Governor's Office to come to some sort of compromise.
            A conference committee consists of six members-- three from the House and three from the Senate.  Two members from each chamber are from the majority party and one from each chamber from the minority party.  Four votes are needed to approve a conference committee report.
            If an agreement is approved by the committee, the conference committee report is presented to the Senate and House for an up or down vote.  Amendments are not allowed unless the rules of each chamber are suspended by a two-thirds vote.

Related Links
Analysis: What We Lose If There's No Final Action On A Marcellus Shale Bill
Analysis: Should Taxpayers Spend $75 M A Year On Zack & Miri Make A Porno?
Analysis: Senate, House Each Passed Marcellus Bills, Where Do We Go?  Easy!
Analysis: Will We Get A Chevy Or A Pinto Out Of Marcellus Shale Debate?
Analysis: Is 8 Years Long Enough To Wait To Update PA's Drilling Law?

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