State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
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Lame-duck at death's door

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Aug 8, 2014 2:14 PM

Photo by Wikimedia Commons

It doesn't look like lame ducks will vote in the state legislature this year.

Of course, that could change. House leaders say they haven't discussed whether they would hold votes after the November election. Senate leaders have said they may call a lame-duck session for some kind of emergency.

A lot of big-deal legislative proposals remain unresolved: smaller items like updating the state's open records law and helping distressed cities, as well as the heavier lifts that linger, like public pension overhaul and liquor privatization. If those bills don't pass this year, lawmakers have to start over on negotiations next year.

"We don't have a whole lot of legislative days to close things out," said Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) this week. Both chambers have scheduled no more than 11 session days in September and October combined. "We have to make certain that we utilize those legislative days available really efficiently."

Costa reiterated his hope that the November 4 election marks the end of legislative business for the year.

"We continue to believe that there should not be a lame-duck session," Costa said. "We don't think it's appropriate."

Critics of lame-duck sessions say they leave room for "mischief." They allow lawmakers who have lost their reelection bids to vote on legislation, accountable to no one.

The Senate has ruled out lame-duck sessions since 2008. But in 2010 the chamber reneged on its no-lame-duck promise, convening in mid-November to override a veto by former Gov. Ed Rendell on an education bill to provide tax breaks to charter school landlords. The House also came back for post-election votes in 2010 to pass the state's most recent public pension overhaul.

Note: This story has been updated to reflect the Senate's 2010 lame-duck vote.

Published in State House Sound Bites

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