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AP: Recapping the last hours of the legislative session

Written by The Associated Press | Oct 27, 2016 9:28 AM
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Photo by Tim Lambert/WITF

(Harrisburg) --  The Latest on the flurry of activity in the state Legislature as its two-year session winds down:

3:30 p.m.

Legislation heading to the state Senate would allow casino-style gambling in Pennsylvania on the internet and in the state's six international airports, and reinstate a mandate that casinos pay tens of millions of dollars to host communities.

The House passed the bill, 108-71, before it adjourned until November 14.

It also would regulate daily fantasy sports betting. The future of the bill is unclear in the Senate, which is adjourned until Nov. 16.

The provisions to expand casino-style gambling previously passed the House in June, but stalled in the Senate.

Reinstating the requirement for a local share of casino taxes comes a month after it was struck down by the state's highest court because it treated the state's 10 largest casinos differently.

The Senate approved a similar provision Wednesday to reinstate the tax.

But the House removed a Senate provision for it to expire on May 1, a provision that Senate officials had said would give them time to come up with a permanent solution. 

2:40 p.m. 

Freshly passed legislation to liberalize laws on the sale of beer in Pennsylvania is on its way to becoming law.

Governor Tom Wolf said in a statement Thursday that he'll sign the bill. It passed the Senate and House in quick succession barely a day earlier.

Under it, beer distributors would be allowed to sell suds in any quantities, including individual 32-ounce bottles, four-packs, six-packs and growlers.

It also would let bars sell alcohol starting at 9 a.m. on Sundays, without a requirement to serve food, and allow consumers to legally participate in beer-of-the-month clubs that ship beer directly to their homes.

Sporting venues also could sell mixed drinks.

The state's 1,000-plus beer distributors had long sought the changes.

It comes as the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board increasingly grants six-pack licenses to convenience stores and after sweeping changes to liquor laws enacted this summer allowed wine sales in grocery stores.

1:30 p.m.

Legislation heading to Gov. Tom Wolf's desk would restrict situations in which police officers are identified while they are being investigated for firing a weapon or using force that results in death or serious injury.

The bill passed the House, 151-32, less than a day after it passed the Senate. Democratic Governor Tom Wolf isn't saying whether he'll sign it, although it passed both chambers by veto-proof majorities.

Opponents warned that it won't make communities or police safer, or foster trust between the two.

However, proponents say it'll protect police officers who may be innocent of any wrongdoing.

Police unions are endorsing the bill.

The proposal mandates release of the officer's name if he or she is charged with a crime.

If an investigation doesn't produce charges, an officer's name can be released under court order, with the officer's consent or if doing so wouldn't be expected to create a risk of harm to the officer or their family.

11:40 a.m.

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives is back in session, with bills on police shootings, casino taxes, sanctuary cities and animal abuse on the agenda.

The Thursday session was added a day earlier to wrap up business with what could be the final votes of the current two-year legislative session.

Lawmakers are debating a proposal to prevent immediate disclosure of the names of police officers involved in shootings or use of force where there is a death or serious injury.

The Senate is adjourned until Nov. 16, but it could still consider bills during two days scheduled for next month.

1 a.m.

Pennsylvania lawmakers are in a rush to wrap up dozens of bills as the clock winds down on the current two-year legislative session.

The most closely watched bill, to change public sector pension benefits for newly hired teachers and state workers, failed when Republican leaders could not muster sufficient votes for passage.

Neither chamber voted on the final version Wednesday. Leaders say the issue is over until at least next year.

Bills that do not pass this week will die when the legislative session ends November 30, barring an 11th-hour decision by House or Senate leaders to schedule additional voting days. The House plans another voting session Thursday morning.

12:30 a.m.

Legislation on its way to the desk of Governor. Tom Wolf would significantly liberalize beer sales in Pennsylvania. The bill passed the Senate, 44-4, shortly after it passed the House.

Under it, beer distributors would be allowed to sell suds in smaller quantities, including six-packs and growlers. Distributors had long sought the provisions, and the change emerged after distributors were frozen out of sweeping changes to Pennsylvania liquor laws enacted this summer that allowed wine sales in grocery stores.

It also would let bars sell alcohol starting at 9 a.m. on Sundays, without a requirement to serve food, and allow consumers to have up to 192 ounces of beer per month shipped directly to their homes from out-of-state wholesalers or retailers.

Sporting venues also could sell mixed drinks.

12:00 a.m.

The Senate has given its approval to legislation that would create rules for when police officers can be identified while they are being investigated for firing a weapon or using force that results in death or serious injury.

The bill passed the Senate 39-9.

Opponents warned that the lack of transparency wouldn't make communities or police any safer, or foster trust between the two. However, proponents say police unions are endorsing the bill and that it will protect police officers who may be innocent of any wrongdoing.

The proposal mandates release of the officer's name if he or she is charged with a crime.

If an investigation doesn't produce charges, an officer's name can be released under court order, with the officer's consent or if doing so wouldn't be expected to create a risk of harm to the officer or their family.

The bill passed the House last year, but the Senate made changes to it, meaning it must go back to the House.

10:20 p.m.

Beer distributors may soon be getting the authority to sell suds in smaller quantities, and fans at sporting venues could be allowed to buy liquor.

The state House voted 133 to 59 late Wednesday night to alter how beer is packaged and sold, allowing configurations such as six packs and growlers at distributors.

It also would let bars sell alcohol starting at 9 a.m. on Sundays, without a requirement to serve food, and allow consumers to have up to 192 ounces of beer per month shipped directly to their homes from out-of-state wholesalers or retailers.

The measure is now on its way to the state Senate for its consideration.

It follows sweeping changes to Pennsylvania liquor laws enacted this summer, including allowing wine sales in grocery stores.

10:00 p.m.

Some seasonal workers would get back eligibility for unemployment compensation under a bill on the way to Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's desk.

The state House voted 161 to 30 late Wednesday night for a proposal that would revise how jobless benefits are calculated for more than 40,000 seasonal workers.

The changes would apply to construction workers and others who are laid off for months at a time, but have been earning too much during active work seasons to qualify for payment.

9:00 p.m.

Lawmakers have sent a package of bills to Gov. Tom Wolf's desk as part of an effort to fight addiction to powerful prescription painkillers.

Five separate bills won final approval Wednesday in the state House and Senate after more than a year of public hearings around the state.

The bills would limit the opioid quantities prescribed to emergency room patients to seven days and limit the opioid quantities prescribed for minors to seven days. Those limits wouldn't apply in certain medical situations.

The legislation also would require when prescribers to check the state's prescription drug monitoring database every time before they prescribe opioids, and require them to update it within 24 hours. That's instead of the current 72-hour requirement for prescribing to first-time patients.

7:20 p.m.

The Pennsylvania Senate has passed legislation to temporarily reinstate a mandate that casinos pay millions of dollars to host communities, after it was struck down by the state's highest court.

The Senate overwhelmingly approved the bill Wednesday night, 46-1. It goes to the House, where its prospects were uncertain.

The bill would mandate a different formula to create the same payments that yielded some $140 million in the last fiscal year, but only until May 1.

Senate officials say the next seven months will give lawmakers time to work on a permanent solution. The money has gone to local government budgets, institutions and projects in Philadelphia and 11 counties.

A lawyer who represents Mount Airy Casino says the bill is unconstitutional for the same reasons the state Supreme Court struck down the local tax provisions last month.

3:00 p.m.

A bill on the move in the state Legislature would punish municipalities that refuse to detain people suspected by federal immigration authorities of being in the country illegally.

The Republican-controlled Senate passed the bill, 34-14, and sent it to the House of Representatives, which passed a similar bill earlier this month. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's office says he'll review the bill if it reaches his desk.

Under the bill, sanctuary cities would lose access to state law enforcement grants.

The bill also would make a sanctuary city liable for an injury or property damage caused by someone released from custody, despite a detainer request by federal immigration authorities.

Sanctuary cities, including Philadelphia, say they have better relations with immigrant communities in fighting crime or that they can be sued for holding someone who is in the country legally on a federal immigration detainer.

2:00 p.m.

A lawyer for a Pennsylvania casino says a Senate bill to temporarily reinstate a mandate that casinos pay tens of millions of dollars to host communities is unconstitutional. The mandate was struck down by the state Supreme Court last month.

Lawyer Michael Sklar, who represents Mount Airy Casino, said Wednesday that the Senate bill is flawed for the same reasons. One reason he cited is that it imposes a 4 percent local tax on Philadelphia's casino, but a 2 percent tax and $10 million fee on nine other casinos.

Sklar says a 6 percent tax on every casino would be fair and yield the same amount.

The tax structure in the bill would expire May 1. Senate officials say the next seven months will give lawmakers time to work on a permanent solution.

It's not clear whether the bill can pass the House of Representatives.

8:00 a.m.

The state Legislature is rushing to wrap up its work on what is expected to be its last voting day of the two-year legislative session.

Bills on the move Wednesday could include legislation to overhaul benefits in Pennsylvania's two big public pension plans and to temporarily extend a mandate that casinos pay tens of millions of dollars to host communities.

Lawmakers expect to work late into the night as they make one final try to pass a slew of bills. Other bills on tap include a package to fight opioid addiction and to make it easier for gun owners and groups including the National Rifle Association to sue municipalities over their firearms ordinances.

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