Corbett already eyeing bills for the fall session

Posted: July 05, 2012

HARRISBURG - The last few weeks of grueling negotiations over a state budget may be over, but Gov. Corbett already has his eye on the legislature's fall session to move bills that did not survive the budget crunch.

Topping that list, Corbett said Tuesday: changes in the way charter schools are regulated.

During budget talks last month, the governor pushed for a measure giving the state a larger role in regulating charter schools. He wanted to create a state commission to authorize new charters, taking that power from school boards.

A tentative compromise would have sharply scaled back that commission's powers, but the compromise fell apart just hours before the Sunday deadline for Corbett to sign the budget.

"We were within a sentence of getting this done," he told reporters Tuesday.

The governor said he was optimistic his administration and legislators could finish work on the measure when lawmakers return from their summer break in mid-September.

Also high on Corbett's list is starting debate on an issue that has increasingly plagued the budget: public employee pensions. The state's pension contributions are projected to hit $1.6 billion in this year's budget and to go as high as $10 billion by 2035.

Momentum has been growing for enrolling all new state workers in 401(k)-style plans that would require larger employee contributions.

Corbett acknowledged Tuesday that it was unlikely the question could get resolved in the short period legislators expect to be in the Capitol this fall. The Senate only has eight session days scheduled between mid-September and the November elections. The House has nine. And it's unlikely either chamber will tackle anything controversial, this being an election year.

But the governor said the legislature had to at least begin talking about it: "We are going to have to come up with the money to pay these pensions. . . . There is no way around that."

One thing not on the to-do list: amending the state's Right-to-Know law to include the state-related universities such as Temple and Pennsylvania State.

The push for the change grew out of the scandal surrounding former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, convicted last month on 45 counts of child sexual abuse involving 10 boys he met through a charity he ran for underprivileged youths. Intense interest in how Penn State officials and campus police handled any past complaints about Sandusky's behavior sparked calls for placing tougher disclosure requirements on the state-related universities.

Legislation pending in both the House and Senate would do just that, and on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R., Delaware) told reporters that this was among the priorities of Senate Republicans this fall.

But within an hour, Corbett signaled he still had concerns about details of such a proposal and didn't think there was enough time in the fall to address them all.

Asked to respond, Pileggi spokesman Erik Arneson said that campus police should be subject to the Right-to-Know law and that lawmakers were still discussing particulars of such a bill. "We have every confidence," he said, "this can be done and should be done."


Contact Angela Couloumbis

at 717-787-5934 or acouloumbis@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @AngelasInk.

Inquirer staff writer Amy Worden contributed to this article.

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