On September 23, the General Assembly is set to return to Harrisburg after summer recess to take on liquor privatization, transportation funding and other issues left hanging when members broke from session in early July. Harrisburg observers said the agenda could make for a wild, busy fall or a stalemate, resulting in little action on substantive issues.
“Without the worry of approving a state budget, it should give them more time to focus on other issues,” said one long-time Harrisburg lobbyist. “On the other hand, nothing indicates they won’t get stuck just like they did before they broke.”
Two key issues, liquor privatization and transportation funding, became tangled just before recess. Democrats in the state House of Representatives refused to vote on a transportation funding plan if the Senate Republicans sent over a liquor privatization plan. House Republicans approved a privatization plan in March but one never left the Senate.
“If they could separate the two, maybe one would pass, transportation being the most likely,” said a source with the House Republican Caucus.
Lawmakers are starting to feel the effects of the funding shortfall in their own districts.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation recently announced that it will place new or lower weight limits on about 1,000 bridges.
PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch said the restrictions don’t mean the bridges are unsafe, but they will hold for heavy truck traffic as a precautionary measure.
PennDOT has classified 4,500 bridges in Pennsylvania as “structurally deficient.”
— John L. Kennedy, for the Law Weekly