Pa. lawmakers plan busy final week

Posted: December 11, 2011

NEW YORK - The Pennsylvania legislature may have only a week left before its winter break, but its members are nonetheless trying to cram in debate on a number of high-profile - and controversial - bills.

School vouchers, redistricting, a Marcellus Shale impact fee, and voter ID are among the measures the two chambers will consider.

"It's going to be a busy week," House Speaker Sam Smith (R., Jefferson) said Saturday. "Will we get it all done? I don't know."

Smith said that there were still attempts to work out a deal on a natural gas extraction fee - and that if no action is taken before Gov. Corbett's budget address in February, the measure was in danger of getting mired on the legislative sideline.

"The longer it goes, the more it allows detractors to muck it up," he said.

Smith said the House was also planning on debating a scaled-down version of the school-voucher bill that the Senate passed in October.

The Senate version would extend vouchers to low-income families with children in the bottom 5 percent of poor-performing public schools - but the House is eyeing a pilot program that would serve a smaller number of the 17 districts statewide that would qualify under the Senate proposal.

Then there is talk about trying to get so-called voter-ID legislation to the governor. The House in June approved a bill that would require residents to present identification before voting. The Senate is expected to take up the bill this week - although there is talk of making changes to it. Corbett on Saturday said he believed the measure would reach his desk before the end of the year.

Democrats and civil rights activists have described the proposal as a "poll tax" that would disenfranchise voters.


Contact staff writer Angela Couloumbis at 717-787-5934, acouloumbis@phillynews.com,

or @AngelasInk on Twitter.

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