5 issues Pennsylvania lawmakers will face this fall
This story originally appeared on Featured sound system.
The Pennsylvania General Assembly is heading for a long summer break after a flurry of legislative activity. But several key issues remain unresolved and will have to wait until lawmakers meet again in the fall.
Democrats have indicated they want to see more government spending to deal with the economic fallout from the pandemic. Republicans who control both legislative chambers hope to focus on electoral reform and facilitate economic growth by extending pandemic regulatory waivers and prudently spending federal dollars.
Here are the issues to watch out for.
Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed an electoral reform bill drafted by Republicans last week, saying it would result in voter suppression. GOP lawmakers countered that it would be provide additional security measures while expanding access to the ballot boxes.
The measure included stricter voter identification requirements, shorter deadlines for applying for a postal ballot and a plan to introduce early voting by 2025.
Republicans are expected to resuscitate the problem upon their return. Jason Thompson, spokesperson for Pro Tempore Senate Speaker Jake Corman (R., Center), said electoral reform will be “one of our top priorities” when the legislature reconvenes.
Senator David Argall (R., Schuykill) introduced a bill in June this would give counties the option to start processing mail-in ballots before election day and extend the deadline for requesting a mail-in ballot. The bipartisan Association of Pennsylvania County Commissioners lobbied for these reforms, arguing they are necessary to avoid delays in reporting results – a problem they faced in the November 2020 elections.
With Wolf’s veto, Republican lawmakers this fall could consider stand-alone bills with a better chance of winning the governor’s signature while pursuing a path that brings more controversial issues directly to voters.
Earlier this week, a key Republican – York County Rep. Seth Grove – expressed support for Wolf’s bypass and extending voter identification in Pennsylvania through a constitutional amendment. A resolution was passed by the state Senate in June and sent to the House for consideration.
The General Assembly must approve the measure in two consecutive two-year sessions to send the issue to voters. The earliest the question could appear on the ballot is 2023.
$ 5 billion in federal relief dollars
Pennsylvania Budget of 40 billion dollars directed $ 2 billion in federal bailout funds to social services, highway construction, nursing homes and higher education. But the state still has $ 5 billion in relief funds.
Democrats want to see these funds spent on more financial aid for Pennsylvanians. Democratic Senate spokesperson Brittany Crampsie told Spotlight PA that lawmakers will advocate for those dollars to be spent on rent assistance, public health initiatives and worker training programs.
“Whatever legislative process we have to go through to get this money to the people as it was intended, that’s what we’re going to do,” Crampsie said.
But Democrats will certainly meet Republican resistance.
GOP lawmakers fear spending federal money too quickly, pointing to budget deficit more than a decade after Pennsylvania used one-time stimulus dollars to increase funding for basic education. If the state uses relief funds to increase funding for a program or create a new one, lawmakers will eventually need to find another source of revenue, which may require higher taxes.