Animal protection bill up for vote as Pa. lawmakers wrap session

- Pennsylvania lawmakers returned to the Capitol on Wednesday to face a rush to wrap up work on dozens of bills on what was expected to be their last day of votes in the two-year legislative session.

FOX 29’s Lucy Noland went to Harrisburg to report the State House is set to vote on the most comprehensive animal protection bill to hit the floor in the history of the commonwealth, and Gov. Tom Wolf told her he’s ready to sign it.

House Bill 869 was already unanimously passed by the Senate.

People convicted would be hit with serious penalties for torturing, abusing or severely harming or killing an animal.

The bill would also keep pets out of the hands of their abusers and make abusing a horse a misdemeanor. Right now, it’s a summary and that's the equivalent of a traffic citation.

The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau didn't like the portion of the bill that would ban most tethering of dogs, but it’s now neutral.

According to Kristen Tullo of The Humane Society, Pennsylvania is still one of only three states without “a first offense felony for torture of an animal which means dismembering, causing serious bodily injury.”

   Other measures up for final passage could include Republicans' long-sought legislation to overhaul benefits in Pennsylvania's two massive public pension plans and another to temporarily extend a mandate that casinos pay tens of millions of dollars to host communities.
   Lawmakers expected to work late into the night. Bills that do not pass Wednesday will die when the legislative session ends Nov. 30, unless House or Senate leaders make an 11th-hour decision to schedule votes on another day before then.
   Other items on tap include measures to fight opioid addiction; to ban elective abortions after 20 weeks, compared to 24 weeks in current law; and to make it easier for gun owners and groups -- including the National Rifle Association -- to sue municipalities over their firearms ordinances.
   The abortion bill and the firearms bill both face a likely veto by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf. He has been noncommittal about the proposed pension changes.
   Also pending is a bill that would lift time limits for some perpetrators of child sexual abuse to be sued by their victims and prosecuted by authorities. However, a bone of contention was the Senate's rejection of a provision approved overwhelmingly by the House to retroactively restore the ability of former child victims to sue for damages if they are now older than the current legal age limit of 30. 
   The pension legislation was scheduled for up-or-down votes in the House and Senate.
   Meanwhile, lawmakers were under the gun to revive a decade-old tax on casinos that distributed $140 million for local government budgets, institutions and projects in Philadelphia and 11 counties. The tax was struck down by the state Supreme Court last month.
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