House votes on casinos, police shootings

HARRISBURG (AP) — The Pennsylvania House of Representatives adjourned Thursday after a busy pre-election legislative agenda that included passing a bill that would allow casino-style gambling in Pennsylvania to expand to the internet and reinstate a provision that casinos pay tens of millions of dollars to host communities.

The local-tax provision on casinos was struck down by the state Supreme Court last month.

The GOP-controlled House, which adjourned until Nov. 14, also passed a bill that would restrict situations in which police officers are identified after firing a weapon or using force.

Meanwhile, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf said he will sign a bill liberalizing the sale of beer in Pennsylvania and a package of legislation designed to fight opioid addiction.

The Republican-controlled Senate adjourned just after midnight Wednesday until Nov. 16. Legislative officials said they did not yet know whether any votes will be held before the Nov. 30 end of the current two-year legislative session.

Wolf says he plans to sign a bill to liberalize beer sales laws in Pennsylvania. Under the measure, beer distributors would be allowed to sell suds in smaller quantities, including six-packs and growlers, and bars could sell alcohol starting at 9 a.m. on Sundays, without a requirement to serve food. Sporting venues would be allowed to sell mixed drinks and consumers could legally participate in beer-of-the-month clubs that ship directly to homes.

The House voted 108-71 to approve legislation that would allow casino-style gambling in Pennsylvania on the internet and in the state’s six international airports, and reinstate a mandate that casinos pay tens of millions of dollars to host communities. It also would regulate daily fantasy sports betting. The future of the bill is unclear in the Senate. The provisions to expand casino-style gambling previously passed the House in June, but stalled in the Senate. The Senate approved a similar provision Wednesday to reinstate the local share tax on casino revenues, a month after it was struck down by the state’s highest court because it treated the state’s 10 largest casinos differently. A lawyer for Mount Airy Casino says the new provision in the bill is also unconstitutional for the same reasons.

A major proposal to change public-sector pension benefits appeared dead without a vote Thursday after House leaders could not muster enough votes to pass it. The GOP-penned legislation would have scaled back traditional pension benefits for newly hired state government and public school employees in favor of plans that rely in part on a 401(k)-style benefit. The changes would not have yielded any short-term pension obligation savings for the state and school districts, but supporters say it would have helped shield them in the future from increases in pension obligations when investments perform poorly.

Legislation heading to Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk would restrict situations in which police officers are identified while they are being investigated for firing a weapon or using force that results in death or serious injury. The bill passed the House on Thursday, 151-32, less than a day after it passed the Senate. Wolf is not saying whether he’ll sign it, although it passed both chambers by veto-proof majorities.

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