School funding, permitting at top of Pa. legislature’s 2024 agenda

This story originally appeared on Spotlight PA.

In the new year, Pennsylvania lawmakers plan to put a lot of their energy into changing permitting processes, getting a long-sought constitutional amendment over the finish line, and figuring out how to overhaul the commonwealth’s education funding system.

The business of lawmaking won’t resume right away when Harrisburg’s customary holiday break winds down. State House Democratic leaders say a leak above their chamber will keep them out of the building — and out of session — until the spring.

But leaders in both chambers say they don’t plan to be idle during that time.

Looming over the entire body is a nearly year-old court ruling that declared Pennsylvania’s education funding system to be unconstitutionally inequitable and ordered lawmakers to correct it. For months, a bipartisan commission has been holding hearings on the issue, and state House Majority Leader Matt Bradford (D., Montgomery) says that work will continue during the recess in 2024.

The commission plans to release a report based on its hearings in early January. After that, Bradford said, the Democratic-controlled state House and GOP-controlled state Senate have a lot of hard work ahead to figure out a consensus plan.

The commonwealth “made a down payment” in the just-passed state budget, he said, “but there’s clearly decades of underfunding and inadequacy, and then the ripple effects of that … so we’ve got to really talk about what those equity issues look like and how to affirmatively address them.”

Bradford said his caucus’ priorities also include continuing to vocally push several bills Democrats already passed — particularly ones that would raise the commonwealth’s $7.25 minimum wagebroaden protections for LGBTQ people, and require universal background checks for gun purchases.

He said it is “embarrassing” that the legislature is still weighing these issues.

  • January 8, 2024
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