In the rush of last month’s budget debate, the General Assembly approved a measure giving the state Attorney General the authority to prosecute certain Philadelphia gun crimes for the next two years in cases when the district attorney chooses to not press charges.
Rep. Martina White, the last remaining Republican whose district is entirely within Pennsylvania’s largest city, authored the measure, citing rising illegal gun arrests in Philadelphia this year, according to the Inquirer.
The specific language gives jurisdiction to the Attorney General, currently Democrat Josh Shapiro, to press charges in cases the illegal possession, sale or purchases of firearms, for the next two years — which coincides with the end of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner’s, a Democrat, first term.
The expanded jurisdiction for gun crimes would not apply in any other locales in the state.
The bill, passed June 28 and signed by Gov. Tom Wolf on July 2, also included a measure to reverse a May state Supreme Court against inter-law enforcement cooperation, published reports indicated.
The case, Commonwealth vs. Hlubin, ruled that local police officers could not participate in cross jurisdiction task forces unless their municipality approved the cooperation in an ordinance.
Under the new law, local police may now participate with the approval of their police chief.
The bill passed with just one dissenting vote on the same day as the House engaged in a long, drawn out floor fight over legislation to eliminate General Assistance.
One House Democratic staffer told the Capital-Star that the two votes taking place on the same day likely diverted the attention of lawmakers.
Rep. Chris Rabb, D-Philadelphia, told the Capital-Star that while the vote was “not a high point for the Philly delegation, but it’s not representative of our accidental complicity” in a bill to preempt the city’s elected DA.
The state budget also included an extra $2.5 million to fund joint law enforcement task forces to tackle illegal guns.