by GovNetPA, Inc.  
  Copyright © 2007 by / GovNetPA, Inc. All rights reserved. — Under The Dome™
Tuesday, December 4, 2007

  • Senate open records bill to be reform vehicle in House. When the state House takes up an overhaul of Pennsylvania’s open records law this week, they’ll be working off the Senate’s script. On Monday afternoon, the House Appropriations Committee approved that Senate bill, which rewrites the state’s open records law, in an unusual procedural move that will fast-track the bill for a final vote by Monday. Several Republicans on the committee objected to the procedure, but Majority Leader Bill DeWeese, D-Greene, said it was the best way to get an open records bill to the governor before Christmas. CLICK HERE for a story from Capitolwire Staff Reporter Christopher Lilienthal.
  • DeWeese: What me worry? House Majority Leader Bill DeWeese, D-Greene, isn’t worried that members of his caucus will revolt against him over the ongoing state attorney general investigation into Bonusgate that ensnared seven top caucus staffers nearly three weeks ago. When asked if he felt under pressure to resign from House Democrats, DeWeese said during a brief sit-down with some Capitol reporters Monday: “We’ve had an internal caucus, and subsequently, I’ve met with almost every one of 102 colleagues and I feel that the cooperation that we have projected since February and March, once explained to our members, was favorably received.” He also said: “I’m very confident that we are going to project a very substantive legislative agenda, and I look forward to being in the vanguard of a variety of debates on MCARE and HSCA and energy and property taxes, and preeminently here in the ensuing days on open records." On Nov. 13, seven Democratic caucus staffers, including DeWeese’s chief of staff Mike Manzo, either resigned or were fired. DeWeese has said that House records that had to be turned over to Attorney General Tom Corbett’s office made further employment by those aides with House Democrats untenable. In the week after the staffers’ ouster, sources told Capitolwire that some House Democrats and leaders were pondering whether to urge DeWeese to step down as the Democratic leader. DeWeese declined to comment specifically on the ongoing investigation into Bonusgate on Monday, saying only: “The protocols of the grand jury dynamic demand great circumspection,” but that the caucus has been cooperating fully with Corbett’s probe.
  • Senate approves bill preventing regulation of Internet telephone services. The Senate approved legislation Monday by a vote of 34-13, preventing any state government agency from regulating Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP. VoIP allows telephone calls to be made via a broadband Internet connection instead of a regular phone line. The only senator to voice some concern was Sen. Connie Williams, D-Montgomery, who asked bill sponsor, Sen. Robert Wonderling, R-Montgomery, if the bill in any way opened the door for the deregulation of traditional telephone service. Wonderling said the bill narrowly defines its subject so as to only apply to Internet telephone service. “I think it’s important for the members and for the record to clarify what we’re attempting to do today with Senate Bill 1000, and that is not, as some would suggest, to deregulate traditional telephone service in Pennsylvania,” Wonderling said. “In fact, quite the contrary. The intent of Senate Bill 1000 is to ensure that these [Internet-based] information services, as defined by the Federal Communications Commission, are not subject to state regulation.” Williams supported the bill. It now heads to the House of Representatives for that chamber's consideration.
  • Let jurors decide retardation in death penalty cases, House speaker says. Juries should decide whether a capital defendant is mentally retarded and, therefore, ineligible for the death penalty, House Speaker Denny O’Brien contended at a press conference Monday, where he and other lawmakers discussed legislation that would create that procedure. However, the state Senate in late October approved legislation calling for a judge to make a pretrial determination of a death penalty defendant’s intellectual functioning. That debate between the two chambers has raged on for more than five years in Pennsylvania, after the U.S. Supreme Court declared executing the mentally retarded unconstitutional in 2002. That ruling instructed the states to decide how that determination should be made. Could there be more stalemate in store for this session? CLICK HERE for a story on O'Brien's arguments for a post-trial jury determination of mental retardation in death penalty cases.
  • Rendell looks to resuscitate his healthcare reform plan today. Gov. Ed Rendell will hold a news conference this afternoon to discuss his Cover All Pennsylvanians health insurance plan. Based on information contained in an OFF THE FLOOR column on Monday, it’s likely that Rendell plans to announce his intention to use the surplus from a bailout fund for doctors' MCARE Fund contributions to pay for health insurance for the state's uninsured. Opponents of Rendell’s plan to this point have questioned the governor’s proposed method of funding his health insurance idea: taxing businesses that don’t provide health insurance to their employees. It’s likely that funding plan wasn’t going to make it through the Republican-controlled Senate. However, some Capitol observers think this new plan to finance Rendell’s insurance proposal could have a chance at winning General Assembly approval. In his column, Capitolwire Bureau Chief Peter L. DeCoursey writes House Democrats are expected to tie the proposal to create new health insurance programs for those who can't afford insurance - and those who now just choose not to buy it - to bills that would fund the annual bailout for the medical malpractice insurance payments of doctors into the state-run MCARE Fund. Rendell’s news conference is scheduled to start at 2 p.m. in the Governor’s Reception Room in the Main Capitol.
  • GOP-backed alternative energy investment proposal to get Senate vote this week. According to information from state Senate Republicans, the Senate this week is expected to consider legislation that would invest $650 million over 10 years in consumer energy programs, energy conservation, and the development of alternative and renewable energy. The special session on energy measure, sponsored by Sen. Tommy Tomlinson, R-Bucks, and Sen. Mary Jo White, R-Venango, provides funding for grants and loans to projects geared at improving energy supply and efficiency, increasing conservation and reducing demand for energy – with no tax increases. Last week the bill was amended in the Senate Appropriations Committee, preparing it for a floor vote by the full Senate. Tomlinson sponsored the amendment approved during that Appropriations Committee meeting. It would allocate $250 million of the $650 million as new borrowing, with the remaining $400 million being driven out over the next 10 years in annual spending. Although the bill appears ready for a Senate vote, it is still far apart from what Gov. Ed Rendell wants. The governor has proposed taking out an $850 million bond to pay for alternative energy and conservation projects over the next few years. He and environmental groups have said that an immediate investment over the short-term is necessary to kick-start the alternative energy industry in the state. For more about the bill and the issue, CLICK HERE to read a Capitolwire story written in mid-October.
  • Efforts to get a vote on emergency contraception bill falter yet again in state House. Postponing votes is the only thing House lawmakers can seemingly agree on regarding a bill intended to ensure that rape victims have access to emergency contraception. On Oct. 3, the state House of Representatives put off voting on amendments to the legislation, opting to postpone debate until Oct. 22. When a compromise couldn’t be reached in late October, the bill was delayed until November. With a compromise still eluding lawmakers, and a change in the session schedule, Monday was targeted as the day for a vote. But as session rolled on yesterday, it became clear to bill proponents that there was insufficient support for the measure. To read how the whole thing fell apart, once again, CLICK HERE for a report from The Morning Call of Allentown.
  • State Capitol to commemorate Jewish Festival of Lights, which begins this evening. If you’re going to be in the state Capitol later this afternoon, be sure to swing by the East Wing Plaza for the state Capitol’s observance of the beginning to the eight-day Jewish holiday of Chanukah. Also known as the Festival of Lights, the holiday is observed by the kindling of lights on each night of the celebration: one on the first night, two on the second, and so on. According to tradition as recorded in the Talmud - the most significant collection of the Jewish oral tradition interpreting the Torah – the festival marks the miraculous victory of the Jews, led by the Maccabees, against persecution and religious oppression by the Seleucid Empire during the reign of Antiochus IV, a successor of Alexander The Great. In addition to being victorious in war, another miracle occurred: when the Maccabees came to rededicate the Temple in Jerusalem, which had been desecrated by the Jews’ oppressors, they found only one flask of oil with which to light the menorah (the nine-branched candelabrum used to hold the Chanukah candles). This small flask lasted for eight days. In order to commemorate this miracle, a menorah is lit for the eight days of Chanukah. Today’s celebration, which will include the lighting of the first candle of the menorah, will give visitors a chance to sample traditional Chanukah latkes (potato pancakes) and enjoy live music, starting at 4:30 p.m. Rabbi Shmuel Pewzner of Chabad-Lubavitch will preside over the lighting of the large menorah.
Meetings Scheduled For Tuesday, December 4, 2007
  • House Appropriations Committee, First Recess, Room 140, (Majority Caucus Room), Main Capitol.
    Agenda to be announced.
  • House Calendar Special Session No. 1, Call of Chair, House Chamber, Main Capitol.
    Bills: HB5, HB17, HR6
  • House Professional Licensure Committee, Call of Chair, Room 205, Ryan Office Building. (Revised 11/30/2007)
    Meeting to consider Regs. 16A-5318, the following bills, and any other business that may come before the Committee.
    Bills: HB949, HB1188 [removed], HB1257
  • House Tabled Bill Calendar Special Session No. 1, Call of Chair, House Chamber, Main Capitol.
    Bills: HB22
  • Senate Calendar Special Session No. 1, Call of Chair, Senate Chamber, Main Capitol.
    Bills: SB1, SB25, SB31
  • House Consumer Affairs Committee, 9:00a, Room G-50, Irvis Office Building. (Revised 11/28/2007)
    Meeting to consider the following bills, and any other business that may come before the Committee.
    Bills: HB539 [removed], HB824
  • House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, 9:00a, Room 39, East Wing, Main Capitol.
    Meeting to consider the following Special Session bills, and any other business that may come before the Committee.
    Bills: HB15, HB36
  • House Aging and Older Adult Services Committee, 9:30a, Hearing Room #2, Ground Floor, North Office.
    Meeting to consider the following bill, and any other business that may come before the Committee.
    Bills: HB1225
  • House Transportation Committee, 9:30a, Room 205, Ryan Office Building.
    Meeting to consider the following bills, and any other business that may come before the Committee.
    Bills: HB805, HB1598
  • Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, 9:30a, Room 8E-B, East Wing, Main Capitol.
    Meeting to consider the following bills.
    Bills: HR410, SB497, SB1050
  • House Judiciary Committee, 10:00a, Room G-50, Irvis Office Building.
    Meeting to consider the following bills, and any other business that may come before the Committee.
    Bills: HB4, HB5, HB6, HB7
  • House Labor Relations Committee, 10:00a, Room 302, Irvis Office Building. (Revised 11/29/2007)
    Meeting to consider the following bills, and any other business that may come before the Committee.
    Bills: HB1474 [added], HB1756, HB1757
  • Senate Education Committee, 10:00a, Hearing Room #1, Ground Floor, North Office.
    Public hearing on classrooms for the future.
  • Senate Banking and Insurance Committee, 10:30a, Room 8E-A, East Wing, Main Capitol. (Revised 11/29/2007)
    Meeting to consider the following bills.
    Bills: SB483, SB484, SB487, SB488
  • House Calendar, 11:00a, House Chamber, Main Capitol.
    Bills: HB65, HB174, HB281, HB288, HB885, HB1044, HB1085, HB1086, HB1087, HB1177, HB1281, HB1308, HB1415, HB1563, HB1610, HB1643, HB1685, HB1690, HB1761, HB1787, HB1962, HR137, HR278, HR310, HR318, HR321, HR352, HR353, HR355, HR371, HR374, HR377, HR448, HR488, HR497, HR502, HR508, HR509, HR513, HR514, HR518, HR519, HR520 [added], HR521, SB1, SB638, SB737, SB763, SB999, SB1065
  • House Tabled Bill Calendar, 11:00a, House Chamber, Main Capitol.
    Bills: HB93, HB259, HB638, HB734, HB784, HB934, HB982, HB983, HB1068, HB1170, HB1407, HB1600, HB1634, HB1695, HB1867, HB1889, HB1947, HR109, HR112, HR268, SB256, SB1017
  • Senate Judiciary Committee, 11:00a, Room 8E-B, East Wing, Main Capitol.
    Public hearing on the following bill and prison reform.
    Bills: SB1045
  • Senate Appropriations Committee, 12:30p, Room 461, Main Capitol.
    Meeting to consider the following bill.
    Bills: HB1589
  • Senate Calendar, 1:00p, Senate Chamber, Main Capitol.
    Bills: HB131, HB296, HB606, HB1235, HB1604, HB1795, SB232, SB317, SB428, SB711, SB778, SB826, SB838, SB880, SB1114, SB1121
  • Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing, 6:30p, The Union League of Philadelphia, Lincoln Memorial Rm., 140 S. Broad St., Philadelphia, PA.
    Dinner and Policy Committee Meeting.


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Legislator Birthdays
  • December 4
    Sen. Robert M. Tomlinson 
  • December 5
    Sen. James J. Rhoades 
  • December 8
    Sen. Patrick M. Browne 
  • December 10
    Sen. John R. Pippy 
    Sen. Robert J. Mellow 
  • December 13
    Rep. Curt Schroder by GovNetPA, Inc.