One Ugly Piece of Legislation

On July 8th, the Senate passed HB 278; the House passed the legislation on July 1st. The bill makes changes to the fiscal code. Similar legislation is passed every year as a companion to the budget. Simply put, if the budget tells the various government departments how much money they can spend and the fiscal code tells the Department of Treasury how to collect that money. Changes to the fiscal code are usually not controversial. That is not the case this year.

According to media accounts, there are two problems with the legislation. The first is that it contains earmarks Sherlock Holmes would struggle to identify. From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review article:

"Millions of dollars are earmarked for projects in a budget-related bill scheduled for a Senate vote on Tuesday that, in most cases, provides few specifics about where or to whom the money goes…For example, the bill directs $3 million to an unnamed hospital in a third-class city in a county classified as "2nd-class A." An unnamed community college would get $500,000 in a county of the fourth class with a population between 175,000 and 190,000. An eighth-class county would get $150,000 for a referral center for abnormal metabolic screenings at a Children’s Hospital.

"There are six counties of the eighth class among Pennsylvania’s 67 counties: Cameron, Forest, Fulton, Montour, Potter and Sullivan."

The second and more serious problem is that the legislation may violate the single subject rule of the Pennsylvania Constitution. According to Article III, Section 3 "No bill shall be passed containing more than one subject…." There is an exception to the clause as it relates to "…a general appropriation bill or a bill codifying or compiling the law…."

A lawyer who is suing the state plans on using the legislation, if the governor signs it, as an exhibit in his lawsuit. As recognized in the fiscal note for HB 278, the bill deals with topics ranging from Medicaid to funding for public schools to the race horse development fund to "tavern gaming."

As of July 9th, the governor has not signed the legislation. If you think that he should not sign it, feel free to let him know by calling 717-787-2500.

Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania (CAP) is a non-profit organization founded to raise the standard of living of all Pennsylvanians by restoring limited government, economic freedom, and personal responsibility. By empowering the Commonwealth’s employers and taxpayers to break state government’s "Iron Triangle" of career politicians, bureaucrats, and Big Government lobbyists, this restoration will occur and Pennsylvania will prosper.