The Pennsylvania Legislature is in the midst of a busy and unusual voting session on Saturday, the last day of the fiscal year. Here are some highlights of what it did so far:
WELFARE BENEFITS: The House of Representatives gave final approval to a bill that would add work or tougher work-search requirements for poor adults to qualify for state-subsidized health care. The same bill will delay the elimination of a Depression-era cash benefit by one month until Aug. 1 for adults temporarily unable to work.
ETHANE TAX CREDIT: Gov. Tom Corbett's top legislative priority at the end of June won final approval from the House and Senate. The nickel-per-gallon tax credit on ethane refining is designed to entice the multibillion-dollar construction of an integrated petrochemical industry in Pennsylvania.
SOCIAL SERVICES BLOCK GRANT: Corbett failed to win support for a plan to absorb seven different pots of aid for county-administered social services - for the homeless, mentally ill and disabled, neglected or abused children and those addicted to drugs and alcohol - into one block grant program. So he settled for a "pilot" program that could involve up to 20 volunteer counties, and the House gave final approval.
TEACHER EVALUATION: The House gave final approval to a bill that would replace the current performance evaluations for public school teachers now based solely on classroom observations by superiors. The new system would rely on those observations for half of the rating and the other half would be based on multiple measures of student achievement, including standardized test scores, classroom activities and quiz scores. Critics said the measure excused charter school teachers from the same standards.
ALLEGHENY COUNTY JUDGESHIP: The Senate unanimously confirmed Corbett's longtime friend and ex-chief of staff, Bill Ward, to a vacant Allegheny County judgeship. Along with Ward, five other nominees for seats on the bench in Allegheny County, York County and Philadelphia were confirmed by the Senate. Locally, York County solicitor Michael Flannelly was nominated for the seat on the bench left vacant when Judge Chuck Patterson died of a heart attack in November.
CHARTER SCHOOLS: Corbett wanted to smooth the road to creating privately run, taxpayer-funded charter schools by putting the decision in the hands of an appointed state board, rather than locally elected school boards, and stripping the ability of parents and teachers to prevent the conversion of a public school building into a charter school. But support did not materialize after a last-ditch effort.
EDUCATION TAX CREDITS: A doubling of an education tax credit to $150 million won approval from the House and Senate, including $50 million for a new element of the program to help low-income students transfer out of the state's worst schools. The Educational Improvement Tax Credit program rewards businesses that contribute money, property or services to nonprofit groups that provide scholarships to students from low- and middle-income families who transfer to private schools or public schools outside their home districts.