So the dust has pretty much settled from budget month at the state capitol. What didn’t happen is as noteworthy as what did happen.
No defund of Planned Parenthood. Although House Bill 2405 was introduced with great fanfare– because everything primary sponsor Rep. Daryl Metcalfe does is done with great fanfare- the bill was referred to the House Rules Committee and was never heard from again.
No preconviction DNA collection. There were murmurs throughout the spring that the House would take up Senate Bill 775, mandating the collection of DNA from all persons arrested- but not convicted- for a felony or one of several enumerated misdemeanors. In June, the House had already debated expanding the power of the government and civilians to wiretap us and a ban on “secret compartments” in vehicles. Taking up DNA collection of people who are innocent under the law may have been a bridge too far toward the police state, but we are on alert for the possibility that this bill comes back when the legislature returns to session in the fall.
No ID for public benefits. With the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, Joseph Scarnati, as the primary sponsor, it seemed that the passage of SB 9 was a foregone conclusion. But the bill went through a serious game of legislative ping-pong. It was amended and passed in the House, forcing it to return to the Senate. It was amended and passed in the Senate, forcing it back to the House. The bill was brought up for consideration on the House floor at 11:45pm on Saturday, just as the governor was preparing for the signing ceremony of the budget and related legislation. When the House Republicans returned from the ceremony, SB 9 wasn’t taken up.
SB 9, in its current form, mandates applicants for public aid to show ID to be eligible for the aid, with some exceptions. No ID, no aid. As we’ve learned throughout the debate over voter ID, there are some citizens who do not have and who would have a difficult time obtaining ID. In the House, Rep. Metcalfe (that guy again) stirred the pot further by adding a provision that would create a third-degree felony if an undocumented immigrant possesses a benefits card, an obviously unconstitutional provision since there are legitimate reasons for an undocumented immigrant to possess a card. For example, he might have it because his citizen child participates in food stamps.
It’s hard to predict where SB 9 will end.
No taxpayer-funded private school vouchers. Vouchers proponents are claiming victory after the passage of an enhanced version of the Educational Improvement Tax Credit program, in which private corporations can get a tax break for donating to a scholarship fund. But the fact is that “EITC 2.0,” as it’s been called, was Plan B after the defeat of vouchers, which would have given public funds directly to students to attend private and parochial schools….well, parochial schools because the amount of the voucher could only cover the tuition at a religious school and not at a secular private school.
We lost on a new E-Verify mandate for public contractors, Senate Bill 637, Pennsylvania’s first E-Verify mandate. The governor has not yet signed the bill, but he is expected to do so.
All told, though, we escaped the torture of budget month in Harrisburg with civil liberties relatively unscathed. All in a day’s, or month’s, work at the ACLU of Pennsylvania….. And that sounds like a good reason for you to donate today!