Gov. Tom Corbett signed a Pa budget on time (barely) for the first time in nine years this past June 30. But even with fellow Republicans helming both the state House and Senate, there is no guarantee the Legislature will move on big bills important to voters this fall.
Bills important to them are different. There are Marcellus Shale fees. Liquor privatization. School vouchers. Transportation/public transit/road-bridge improvement funding.
And then redistricting. When I stopped the guv to talk shale about a month ago he said, candidly, that "if you ask the Legislature that's going to be their number one."
Think about what happens when you squeeze a water balloon. It is not unlike what happens to House and Senate seats when you remove or add population. It is coming from someone else’s seat, or moving into it. Lawmakers are very, very protective of their seats, and great agita is created by the entire process. Safe GOP seats become a little less safe; same on the Democratic side.
And it is not just the partisan makeup of seats that concerns lawmakers. In many instances, House and Senate members have spent a decade cultivating relationships with constituents, local officials, fire chiefs and school board members in a township or borough, only to see them snatched away and relocated to his or her neighboring member.
So while the four caucus leaders spend the next few months drawing, redrawing and redrawing again, they are bound to anger some of their members. It is inevitable. It is impossible to draw a fair map that makes every member happy.
The common wisdom is the Senate is most interested in shale fees, while the House (and Majority Leader Mike Turzai) is leading the charge on LCB privatization. The governor supports school choice but legislation bogged down early in the year. Unions are carrying the ball on transportation (though there is business interest in that as well).
So the only thing they have in common is redistricting. Maybe the General Assembly's "number one" interest in themselves, instead of policy, will make them move anyway -- better for them to take the tough votes now, after all, than in the 2012 election year.