Pa. House Dems fail to slow charity-tax amendment

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Minority Democrats in the state House of Representatives failed to slow a constitutional amendment at the center of a power struggle between the legislative and judicial branches.

Republicans on Tuesday defended the plan to let lawmakers decide which institutions qualify as “purely public charities” that are exempt from local taxes — including hospitals, social service agencies, universities and churches. Democrats say the bill is being rushed and unsuccessfully offered amendments to limit the impact on local governments.

A 2012 state Supreme Court ruling limited lawmakers’ power to broaden the definition of tax-exempt charities and said the courts hold that constitutional responsibility.

Final House approval could come as early as Wednesday. If approved in two sessions of the Legislature, the proposal could be sent out to a statewide referendum in 2015.

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