Legislation that would hand control of Harrisburg to a receiver is heading to the state House of Representatives, after winning Senate approval by a 37-13 vote.
There was no debate before the Senate voted on the governor to declare a state of fiscal emergency in Pennsylvania’s capital city, which would be triggered by the city’s inability to meet its financial obligations and failure to adopt a financial recovery plan under Act 47 within 30 days of the law’s enactment.
The bill, authored by Sen. Jeffrey Piccola, R-Dauphin County, and Rep. Glen Grell, R-Hampden Twp., would then allow the governor to petition Commonwealth Court to appoint a receiver who would be charged with creating a long-term recovery plan and implement the plan as needed.
It also creates an advisory panel that would provide non-binding counsel to the receiver.
Harrisburg City Council has filed for bankruptcy but it remains in question whether the city qualifies for Chapter 9 protection because of certain requirements in the bankruptcy code and a state law passed in June preventing Harrisburg and distressed third-class cities from filing for bankruptcy through July 1, 2012.
“The bankruptcy filing recently approved by city council is illegal and demonstrates the majority’s inability and absolute flagrant disregard in governing the city in a responsible manner. This ongoing, reckless behavior has become a national embarrassment not only for this city but for our entire Commonwealth, as Harrisburg is the only municipality in state history to reject an Act 47 recovery plan,” Piccola said. “Their behavior has brought us to this point which is unfortunate but necessary.”
Sen. John Blake, D-Lackawanna County, was among those senators who opposed the legislation. He called it an overreach and said it runs contrary to other efforts, such as the push for liquor store privatization and pushback to the federal health insurance law, to reduce government’s role in people’s lives.