Lawmakers work late into Tuesday, as 2019-20 budget moves forward
The Capitol building in Harrisburg (Capital-Star photo by Sarah Anne Hughes)
The General Assembly moved at a breakneck pace Tuesday night toward wrapping up their work on the 2019-20 state budget, as the House and Senate advanced several pieces of legislation.
The Pennsylvania House advanced, with minor controversy, appropriations legislation for the state’s four state-related universities — Penn State, the University of Pittsburgh , Temple, and Lincoln universities. Their budgets all increased by 2 percent.
Some Philadelphia lawmakers took issue with Temple’s planned expansion into the local neighborhood, but the biggest controversy came on the vote for Pitt’s appropriation.
A report in the Washington Examiner earlier this month sparked concerns among Republicans who oppose abortion access, after it was reported that Pitt had used fetal tissue in its research.
A total of 32 Republicans voted against Pitt’s appropriation, with a few lawmakers changing their ayes to nays. State-related appropriations need a two-thirds majority to pass. The bill had more than 30 votes to spare.
The House also considered two budget-enabling bills that would amend the school and human services codes.
The Senate Appropriations Committee advanced the House-passed spending plan and state-related university legislation to the upper chamber’s floor, where it received first consideration.
The committee vote signaled the Senate’s first endorsement of the 2019-20 budget, which the chamber must consider on three days before sending it to the governor’s desk.
Since first consideration fell on a Tuesday, the earliest the Senate can advance the budget is Thursday, said Senate Republican spokeswoman Jenn Kocher.
On Wednesday, the Senate will consider a controversial bill to eliminate the state’s General Assistance program, which provides small sums of cash to people with temporary and permanent disabilities.
Senators voted on partisan lines to advance that bill on Tuesday night.
House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, said the chamber would be in session Saturday to continue budget votes.
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