Partisans Fight Overshadowed PA Legislative Work Spotlight PA

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HARRISBURG — Formal legislative work is never a good sign.

19% of the laws passed by Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled Congress in 2021 renamed bridges or roads. pennsylvania capital star analysis.

This statistic has become a joke among least one member of parliament floor debate.

But it also showed the frosty relationship between Democratic Gov. Tom Wolfe and Republican leaders who decided which bills would reach his desk.

Republican lawmakers were still scratching their heads over Wolfe’s use of executive orders during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, Republicans, with the support of a small number of Democrats, introduced his two constitutional amendments that would give voters less power for the governor and give Congress more say in disaster management.

However, the trend reversed in the final year of Wolfe’s tenure. Governors and Republican leaders spent billions on federal stimulus and were able to agree to a major budget bill that passed the most legislation in six years. Only 3% of his successful bills this year renamed roads and bridges, according to Spotlight PA analysis.

The transition from 2021 to 2022 will also follow the trend. Since 2010, lawmakers have passed more laws in election years than in off years, sometimes doubling his output.

The congressional outcome coincided with many partisan struggles over abortion, executive power, gun control laws, and transgender rights.As Wolfe regularly vetoed Republican bills, Republicans increasingly turned to constitutional amendments to bypass Democrats and advance the agenda.

As Congress prepares to begin its new two-year term in January, with new governor Democratic Josh Shapiro, the Spotlight PA will review Congress’ recent records and the two chapters that define Harrisburg. Look back at the pushes and pulls in between.

Pandemic-born power struggle

Republicans say their successful effort to clip Wolfe’s wings in the spring of 2021 is one of their best recent achievements.

After Wolfe vetoed 19 bills in 2020, most of which would undo some of his administration’s pandemic response, Congress settled on constitutional amendments as a way to get around him. rice field.

State law requires the legislature to pass the same language amendment in two sessions in two consecutive years (usually the answer is yes) before it goes to voters for final approval.

Voters last year approved an amendment that would limit the governor’s declaration of a state of emergency to 21 days without Congressional approval and allow the General Assembly to end the disaster declaration with a simple majority vote of both houses.

Republicans “stand up for individual liberty by passing a constitutional amendment that limits the governor’s executive powers,” House Majority Leader Kelly Benninghoff (R, center) said in Spotlight PA. told a colleague in an email viewed by

Commonwealth Media Service

Introduced by State Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill (Republican, York), the law allows doctors and patients to request waivers or to appeal insurance companies’ decisions not to cover a requested procedure or medication. create a standard process for

bipartisan highlights

In a tough 2021, Wolf signed 100 bills into law, including a bipartisan proposal to create a state broadband agency.

With the support of local Democrats and Republicans, the General Assembly decided that the 11-member Board would develop a statewide broadband plan and distribute tens of millions of dollars in federal grants to expand high-speed Internet access. was unanimously approved.

Last month, authorities release The plan began scheduling listening sessions statewide and received its first assignment federal funds.

In 2022, Wolf signed 166 bills, including 66 bills on one November day. In that glut he already had one bipartisan achievement. This is a bill to help chronically ill patients access new treatments with less disability from insurance companies.

Introduced by State Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill (R, York), the legislation creates a standard process for doctors and patients to: Request a waiver or appeal the insurer’s decision Does not cover required procedures or medications.

It also prohibits insurers from requiring preapproval for emergency care and requires insurers to cover medication-assisted therapy for opioid addicts.

Phillips-Hill called the move “one of the most significant federal healthcare reforms in decades.” Wolfe government, patient advocacy groupsLegislative Democrats also celebrated the bill.

Nicole Reigelman, a spokesperson for the House Democratic Party, said in an email that the legislation would “provide better patient outcomes, prevent future medical complications, and increase pre-approval of health insurance for patients. It gives us more protection,” he said.

Major budget with new tax credits

Passing the budget is not an achievement. The governor and legislature are supposed to get it done every year. But his 2023 budget from 2022 is an exception and includes a long-sought corporate tax cut and billions of dollars in temporary spending.

The deal, which passed about a week after its legal deadline of June 30, saw Wolfe and Republican leaders lay out how the federal government would use billions of dollars as stimulus and how the state’s huge surplus would go. We were arguing over how to use it.

Final result is Federal Budget’s $2.2 Billion Spending Plan We fully fund two new state parks in addition to 20 different programs, including long-term care, property tax relief, local law enforcement, and grants for home repair projects.

For years, all these areas have been bipartisan targets for state investment, but debates over how to fund such schemes have slowed deals.

Besides spending, the budget also included two major tax reforms.First, the state has made the permanent its own childcare tax creditThis allows parents to claim up to $6,000 in state taxes. Second, the budget included a provision that he would reduce the state’s corporate tax rate by 5% over the next eight years.

But the tax debate didn’t end in July. In late October, Wolfe and his legislators made a massive $2 billion tax credit package Promote industries such as hydrogen production, dairy processing, and medical research.

House Speaker Brian Cutler (R-Lancaster) said the deal was left over from budget negotiations and was made possible by the state’s higher surplus.

“It took a while to come together, but I’m glad it’s finally come together,” he said after the deal closed.

lots of vetoes

The eight-year history of Wolfe and Congress cannot be told without highlighting what the governor stopped.

Over the past two years, Wolf has sent 17 proposals back to Congress. This includes top Republican policy pushes such as:

Congress was unable to overrule Wolfe’s veto (the governor sometimes special measures to maintain Democratic support).

In November, the state legislature voted 107 to 85 to impeach Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner.

Tom Grealish / Philadelphia Inquirer

In November, the state legislature voted 107 to 85 to impeach Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner.

unfinished politics

On some of these issues, Wolf and Congress worked together to finalize deals of various sizes after vetoes. Regarding the election, both sides agreed to provide additional state funding to the county in exchange for a ban on third-party funding for election administration in July 2022.

However, much of the state’s election laws remained untouched, and highly controversial debates remained unfinished. upcoming session.

This is not the only protracted battle that will carry over into next year.

In November, the state legislature voted 107 to 85 to impeach Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner. That lame-duck vote set the stage for a trial in the state Senate, which Republican leaders said would begin on January 18. bring the action Expanding into new sessions over the legality of the trial.)

Second, House Republicans could push forward with some constitutional amendments in the brief winter of 2023, when Republicans briefly dominate the state House.

During the 2021-2022 term, Republicans will have a majority in both the House and Senate. They control only the upper chamber for most of the following session.

In state legislatures, Democrats won 102 seats in November and are likely to secure a majority in three special elections. Until then, things are complicated.

If a Republican is elected speaker, giving the party de facto control of the House, Republican lawmakers told Spotlight PA they would. potentially vote On an amendment that would expand voter ID requirements and make it easier for Congress to override the regulation.

If passed, opponents can challenge the amendment in court, arguing that it was not passed in accordance with state law.

But in the short term, Republicans can avoid incoming Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro’s veto while accomplishing some top priorities.

Kate Huangpu of Spotlight PA contributed data analysis.

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