Legislative Wrap Up for 2011-12
Lawmakers returned to Harrisburg a few short weeks ago for a condensed fall session that saw a flurry of activity before the gavels came down in both chambers on Wednesday night. Below is a summary of major initiatives that were and were not accomplished this fall.
Law enforcement issues were a high priority this fall—perhaps most notably is a bill sent to the Governor that is designed to ensure that offenders who illegally buy guns for criminals to use (so called “straw purchasers”) will face at least five years in prison. The legislature approved a bill that would give Pennsylvania judges options other than life in prison when sentencing juveniles in murder cases. Both chambers also approved new wiretapping rules and greater penalties for public drunkenness. Also awaiting the Governor’s signature is a "sexting" bill that would create criminal penalties for minors who transmit nude or sexually explicit images of themselves or other youths.
Keenly aware of the national focus on job creation and business incentives, both House and Senate approved a bill that would allow certain employers to keep 95 percent of the state income tax withheld from newly hired employees.
Time ran out on several notable issues of interest to particular legislators and the Governor. Charter school reform, which was a priority for Governor Corbett, did not meet final approval in the House, as he had hoped. New limits on state borrowing also failed to pass final muster.
Expect to see those issues at the top of legislators’ priority lists early next session. Other hot topics come January will include the looming pension crisis, preparations for Governor Corbett’s next budget, and transportation & infrastructure needs that went unaddressed in this session.