The Pennsylvania General Assembly adjourned its 2018 session on November 14, shortly after Governor Tom Wolf (D) was easily reelected to another four year term. The state legislature remains under Republican control, with a 110-93 advantage in the House and 29-21 edge in the Senate.
Wolf signed a $32.7 billion budget on June 22, which increased spending by about $560 million over the previous year’s plan, but contained no new taxes or fees. The increase in spending mainly focused on education, pensions, social services, and prisons.
Wolf also signed a pension reform bill into law in June. The new measure moves away from the current guaranteed pension system that state public employees participated in for about a century. The new system includes a 401(k)-style plan that is similar to those that exist in the private sector. Employees will have three retirement savings options from which to choose. The reform raises the retirement age from 65 to 67, and the new plans start to take effect for those hired in 2019.
For the first time in more than a decade, a piece of anti-violence legislation that deals directly with gun control was signed into law. The new law requires people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence crimes and those subject to protective orders to give up their guns within 24 hours. Gun owners subject to abuse orders can also no longer give their weapons to family members or friends, but must hand them over to police, a gun dealer, or lawyer.
The death of a Penn State fraternity pledge inspired lawmakers and the governor to toughen criminal penalties for hazing and allow courts to confiscate fraternity houses where hazing has occurred. Schools must maintain anti-hazing policies and report hazing incidents. Hazing incidents that result in severe injury or death are now classified as felonies.
One major piece of legislation that did not pass concerned reforms to the state’s statute of limitations on child sex crimes. The calls for reform stemmed from new reports on decades-old abuses by Catholic priests. Legislative leaders said that they remain committed to enacting the reforms.