Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

State Lawmakers Set Priorities for Fall Session

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

State Lawmakers Set Priorities for Fall Session

Article excerpt

HARRISBURG -- Education again ranks high on the priority list of issues for Republican state lawmakers, who will return to the state Capitol for a brief fall session beginning late next month.

Also on the list of issues for their handful of session days: reducing the state's debt load, changing sentencing for juvenile offenders and possibly blocking the federal health care law.

Democrats have other things on their to-do list, including finding new dollars to pay for the state's backlog of road and bridge repairs.

Absent from either list is liquor store privatization, which the governor suggested in June could be resurrected this fall. And no action is expected yet on fixing the state's pension funding crisis, an issue that promises to make next year's budget process another exercise in mathematical gymnastics.

Much of the GOP list involves wrapping up loose ends, including the new methods for regulating charter schools and distributing special education dollars.

The changes for charter schools discussed earlier this summer would have strengthened financial and academic oversight of those schools, as well as altered how those institutions are created.

Local school boards currently decide whether to authorize a charter or cyber-charter school in their area, but some Republican lawmakers are seeking to form a state board that also could approve new charter schools.

The idea of a central authorizing board was part of what stymied the proposal in late June, when it was shelved so the state spending plan could be finished on time. Gov. Tom Corbett later described those closed-door discussions as being "a sentence away" from agreement on new rules for charters.

Erik Arneson, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware, said there have been discussions on charter- school regulations throughout the summer among Republicans in the Senate, House and the governor's office.

"We're optimistic that it will be resolved this fall," Mr. Arneson said. …

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