House approves beer packaging changes

HARRISBURG (AP) — The latest on the flurry of activity in the Pennsylvania Legislature as its two-year session winds down:

10:20 p.m.

Beer distributors may soon be getting the authority to sell suds in smaller quantities, and fans at sporting venues could be allowed to buy liquor.

The state House voted 133-59 late Wednesday night to alter how beer is packaged and sold, allowing configurations such as six packs and growlers at distributors.

It also would let bars sell alcohol starting at 9 a.m. on Sundays, without a requirement to serve food, and allow consumers to have up to 192 ounces of beer per month shipped directly to their homes from out-of-state wholesalers or retailers.

The measure is now on its way to the state Senate for its consideration.

It follows sweeping changes to Pennsylvania liquor laws enacted this summer, including allowing wine sales in grocery stores.

10 p.m.

Some seasonal workers would get back eligibility for unemployment compensation under a bill on the way to Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk.

The state House voted 161 to 30 late Wednesday night for a proposal that would revise how jobless benefits are calculated for more than 40,000 seasonal workers.

The changes would apply to construction workers and others who are laid off for months at a time, but have been earning too much during active work seasons to qualify for payment.

9 p.m.

Lawmakers have sent a package of bills to Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk as part of an effort to fight addiction to powerful prescription painkillers.

Five separate bills won final approval Wednesday in the state House and Senate after more than a year of public hearings around the state.

The bills would limit the opioid quantities prescribed to emergency room patients to seven days and limit the opioid quantities prescribed for minors to seven days. Those limits wouldn’t apply in certain medical situations.

The legislation also would require when prescribers to check the state’s prescription drug monitoring database every time before they prescribe opioids, and require them to update it within 24 hours. That’s instead of the current 72-hour requirement for prescribing to first-time patients.

7:20 p.m.

The Pennsylvania Senate has passed legislation to temporarily reinstate a mandate that casinos pay millions of dollars to host communities, after it was struck down by the state’s highest court.

The Senate overwhelmingly approved the bill Wednesday night, 46-1. It goes to the House, where its prospects were uncertain.

The bill would mandate a different formula to create the same payments that yielded some $140 million in the last fiscal year, but only until May 1.

Senate officials say the next seven months will give lawmakers time to work on a permanent solution. The money has gone to local government budgets, institutions and projects in Philadelphia and 11 counties.

A lawyer who represents Mount Airy Casino says the bill is unconstitutional for the same reasons the state Supreme Court struck down the local tax provisions last month.

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3 p.m.

A bill on the move in the Pennsylvania Legislature would punish municipalities that refuse to detain people suspected by federal immigration authorities of being in the country illegally.

The Republican-controlled Senate passed the bill, 34-14, and sent it to the House of Representatives, which passed a similar bill earlier this month. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s office says he’ll review the bill if it reaches his desk.

Under the bill, sanctuary cities would lose access to state law enforcement grants.

The bill also would make a sanctuary city liable for an injury or property damage caused by someone released from custody, despite a detainer request by federal immigration authorities.

Sanctuary cities, including Philadelphia, say they have better relations with immigrant communities in fighting crime or that they can be sued for holding someone who is in the country legally on a federal immigration detainer.

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2 p.m.

A lawyer for a Pennsylvania casino says a Senate bill to temporarily reinstate a mandate that casinos pay tens of millions of dollars to host communities is unconstitutional. The mandate was struck down by the state Supreme Court last month.

Lawyer Michael Sklar, who represents Mount Airy Casino, said Wednesday that the Senate bill is flawed for the same reasons. One reason he cited is that it imposes a 4 percent local tax on Philadelphia’s casino, but a 2 percent tax and $10 million fee on nine other casinos.

Sklar says a 6 percent tax on every casino would be fair and yield the same amount.

The tax structure in the bill would expire May 1. Senate officials say the next seven months will give lawmakers time to work on a permanent solution.

It’s not clear whether the bill can pass the House of Representatives.

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8 a.m.

The Pennsylvania Legislature is rushing to wrap up its work on what is expected to be its last voting day of the two-year legislative session.

Bills on the move Wednesday could include legislation to overhaul benefits in Pennsylvania’s two big public pension plans and to temporarily extend a mandate that casinos pay tens of millions of dollars to host communities.

Lawmakers expect to work late into the night as they make one final try to pass a slew of bills. Other bills on tap include a package to fight opioid addiction and to make it easier for gun owners and groups including the National Rifle Association to sue municipalities over their firearms ordinances.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.

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