Scarnati Aide: "No Conversation" Between Corbett's Commission and Senate R Leaders
For months, Governor Tom Corbett has been urging the General Assembly to hold off on passing an impact fee and other natural gas drilling legislation until his Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission issues its report. Corbett’s warnings grew gradually stronger, culminating in a veto threat in the final week of budget negotiations.
The panel votes on recommendations Friday, and releases its full findings on July 22. But already, Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati’s chief of staff is minimizing the commission’s impact on drilling policy.
“There’s going to be significant legislative independence on this moving forward,” Drew Crompton told Capitolwire ($). “How that plays out exactly, we don’t know yet. We don’t have any sense of what the commission is going to recommend. We’ve had virtually no contact with them.”
In an interview with StateImpact, Crompton was a bit more nuanced. “It comes down to two things,” he said. “The fee, and everything else.”
On the “everything else” front – safety regulations, economic development and other factors – Crompton said he expects the commission’s findings to make a “significant impact” on future bills. “I think they’re going to be helpful,” he said.
As for language within an impact fee? “Will we change our fee [SB 1100] in light of what the commission outlines? I don’t know. I don’t know at all what the commission plans on recommending.” And that’s Crompton’s larger problem. He said Senate Republicans have largely been in the dark on the 30-member panel’s deliberations. “As far as having some rapport with them, that has not occurred. I sit here today not having any indication on what’s going to be recommended or voted upon.” Crompton said Scarnati and Lieutenant Governor Jim Cawley, who heads the commission, did have a few one-on-one conversations early on. “But anything in the last few weeks, or even in the last couple of months…when their recommendations have been coming into shape, we haven’t had any input on that at all,” he said. “There’s been no conversation during that period of time.”
Crompton boiled down his warning of “legislative independence” to a political reality: the fact commission members haven’t communicated with lawmakers, as well as the fact no senators or representatives were asked to sit on the panel. “That’s the…situation they chose by not putting any legislators on the commission,” he explained. “They can’t think the [General Assembly] is going to adopt verbatim [legislation it] didn’t influence. That’s not meant to be hostile – it’s the reality of how they made the commission.”
UPDATE 6:15 PM:
In a brief phone interview, Cawley’s spokesman, Chad Saylor, pushed back against Crompton’s complains. “There’s always more that can be done to keep 253 [lawmakers] up to speed,” he said, “the Lieutenant Governor did his best. He had numerous meetings with legislators. More are planned, including with Democrats.”
He continued, “We’ve had legislators testify before the commission [and] submit information in writing to us. Their input, to the best of our ability, has been included.”