House Majority Leader Says Marcellus Impact Fee Was Never "His Issue"
Wondering why 2011 will come and go without a Marcellus Shale impact fee being passed into law? A quote House Majority Leader Mike Turzai gave to Pennsylvania Public Radio’s Mary Wilson offers a revealing clue:
House Majority Leader Mike Turzai shrugs off questions that the House has thwarted two of the governor’s highest legislative priorities.
“Marcellus has never been our issue. School reform has never been our issue. We didn’t campaign on it. That’s the governor’s.”
Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati has made an impact fee his top priority all year. And ever since Governor Corbett unveiled his impact fee proposal in October, his administration has made it clear they want a bill signed into law, ASAP. “I think sooner rather than later is very important,” said Corbett’s energy executive, Patrick Henderson. The governor wants new regulations and fees set in stone, so energy companies debating whether to buy leases in Pennsylvania or Ohio know what business climate they’re getting. “Folks are wondering when – if you’re an industry – when the shoe’s going to drop,” said Henderson. “Recognizing that, we want to get these issues behind us, so there are clear, consistent rules.”
Turzai and House Republican leaders never shared that zeal for a speedy overhaul of Marcellus Shale regulations. From January through June, Turzai responded to every shale-related question by shifting the topic to the, “on-time, no-tax budget” he made clear was his top priority. Beyond that, the Allegheny County Republican has pushed hard for the privatization of state-owned liquor stores.
When the House did take up a Marcellus Shale impact fee in October, Turzai told reporters the legislation had been drafted primarily by the Corbett Administration. The only substantial departure from Corbett’s initial Marcellus Shale plan was the Turzai-backed amendment removing language superseding municipal zoning of drilling operations.
Regardless of whether or not Marcellus is Turzai’s “issue,” House Republicans are now actively engaged in negotiations to produce a final impact fee. He told Wilson his caucus is insisting on the County-level fee proposed by Corbett, not the state-enacted and collected plan in the Senate bill. “It is important,” he said. “The county option is important to the House, and important to getting 102 yes votes.”
The House is expected to vote “no” on the latest version of an impact fee on Monday. The non-concurrence vote will open the door for a joint House-Senate conference committee, which would streamline a final vote if and when the two chambers reach an agreement on a final proposal.