Radio PA Roundtable – October 28-30, 2016

On this week’s Radio PA Roundtable, officials from Fayette County have concerns after devastating flooding in their region over the summer; veterans groups tell lawmakers about their needs in the coming years; and the state House of Representatives avoids one big vote in the stretch run of the legislative session.

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State House Holds Rare One Day Summer Voting Session

The state house has come back for a one day voting session to deal with a bill that’s part of the state budget package.

The vote was 103 to 85 to concur with changes made to the fiscal code in the senate, after some brief comments about whether the session itself was evidence of a late budget.  The senate had stripped out language that the house added related to payday lending, then adjourned for the summer.

State budget officials said passage of the fiscal code was needed to avoid negative effects on state government.   Governor Tom Corbett signed the primary budget bill on June 30th.

Some Pennsylvania Budget-Related Business remains unresolved

The state senate reluctantly agreed with one budget-related bill, but has sent a second one back to the house after making a change.   Now the house must decide whether to return to session after starting its summer break.

A senate committee stripped out non-binding language in the fiscal code bill added by the house dealing with payday lending.  That means the house must concur before that bill can go to the Governor.

The senate reluctantly approved the public welfare code, even though the house removed Medicaid expansion language. Senator Pat Vance expressed her disappointment and said she would try again in the fall.    But Vance and other Republicans said there are other important provisions in the bill that need to be sent to the Governor.

A spokesman for House Republicans says they are trying to see what impact the vote on the fiscal code will have and if there’s a need for the chamber to return to session.  Right now, the house is not scheduled to return until September, nor is the Senate.

The main general fund budget was passed over the weekend and signed into law before the start of the new fiscal year.

Governor Tom Corbett Signs Voter ID Law

    Governor Tom Corbett last evening signed legislation that will require all voters to produce a photo ID starting with the November general election. The governor signed the bill the same day it received final legislative approval following three days of emotional floor debate in the state House of Representatives.

    The new law takes effect immediately and will be rolled out on a test basis for the primary election on April 24th. Come November, however, the ID requirement will be in place on a permanent basis. Supporters say the effort will help crack down on voter fraud, but critics say it’s a solution for a non-existent problem that will disenfranchise many voters, especially the poor and the elderly.

    Acceptable forms of ID at the polling place will include a driver’s license, a student ID issued by a Pennsylvania college or university or an ID from a Pennsylvania care facility.

    Opponents are vowing to challenge the new law in court.

    As part of the law, PennDOT will issue free photo IDs to anyone in need of such identification for voting, but applicants would need to supply the department with proper documents, such as a birth certificate. That service is already available today according to Governor Corbett. A public information campaign is also getting underway.

    President Obama’s re-election campaign issued a statement overnight criticizing Pennsylvania lawmakers for “passing a costly bill to address a non-existent problem.”



State House Gives Final Approval to Voter ID Bill

On a 104 to 88 vote, the state house has concurred with senate changes to the Voter ID bill and sent the measure to the Governor’s desk.  Governor Corbett was scheduled to sign it this evening.

The vote came after debate over three session days.  HB934 will require voters to show an approved photo identification when voting, starting with the November General election.  The new procedure is expected to get a dry run in next month’s primary.

Opponents call it a solution in search of a problem, arguing there’s little evidence of widespread voter fraud.  Democrats in the state house voted against the bill and said it would suppress voting, especially among groups that do not already have an approved photo ID.

Supporters say it’s a way to help ensure “one person, one vote” and  deter voter fraud.

The measure is expected to face a court challenge.  The bill was opposed by civil liberties groups, the AARP and the NAACP.