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Pennsy lawmakers anxious to conclude session's work

November 22, 2000

Pennsy lawmakers anxious to conclude session's work



Eager to finish this year's business before the Thanksgiving holiday, the Pennsylvania legislature will spend today trying to grapple with issues that dominated the 1999-2000 session. The shortage of time and the complexity of some issues raise doubt that much will get done, but some legislators are determined to try anyway.

The top issue? A decision on how to spend the $11 billion due the state as part of the national tobacco settlement. Republican Gov. Tom Ridge would like to spend 40 percent of that cash to provide health care for the uninsured. Democrats agree, but some GOP House members want to use $140 million to provide expanded prescription drug service.

Less important, but more controversial, is a plan to force the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, which sets rules for athletic contests involving high school, junior high and middle school students, to accept a package of reforms. The Senate wants the reforms immediately, but the House would give the group three years to make the changes.

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But the issue sparking the most comment is a rumored plan by lame-duck lawmakers to increase their pension benefits before their successors take office. No bill to do that has been filed, nor has any lawmaker even admitted to supporting such a measure. But The Associated Press reports that the state capital is awash in rumors to that effect and the Harrisburg chapter of Common Cause is calling on citizens to remain vigilant.

The impulses that drive lawmakers to try to pass bills at this late hour are not always sinister. The new lawmakers who'll take office Jan. 2 will need to be briefed on these matters and may insist on putting their own stamp on them, delaying the process even further.

And those leaving office may be looking for a final accomplishment as part of their legislative legacy. But we ask those who are in a hurry now to consider whether a rush to action will help or hurt their relationships with the newcomers.

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