HARRISBURG—The war over Harrisburg's financial future is being fought on two fronts. The State Senate will possibly vote on a state takeover today while Mayor Linda Thompson's attorneys will go before a federal judge to fight the bankruptcy filing by City Council.
A state takeover has been in the works since early summer, when City Council voted down several different Act 47 plans. But that takeover might be on hold after council voted in favor of Chapter 9 bankruptcy. That bankruptcy is scheduled to get its first look in U.S. District Court later this morning.
"Nobody wants to do it. This isn't like we set out at the beginning of the year to takeover Harrisburg," said Senator Jeff Picolla, (R) 15th District, during a September interview.
Picolla and Representative Glen Grell, (D) 87th District, collaborated on Senate Bill 1151. The legislation will strip the Mayor and City Council of most financial decision making powers and put it into the hands of a state appointed board. That bill passed the House of Representatives in September. Now, it's up to the Senate to debate its merits.
"We have tried to encourage the parties to resolve this impasse on their own but it's become apparent that that is not going to happen," Grell said during a September interview.
Harrisburg is trying to plan ways to dig its way out of a $310 million hole. City Council and Mayor Thompson are at odds over which direction to head. The state and mayor recommended several measures under the Act 47 plan, all of which were voted down by City Council.
"Unfortunately Harrisburg has the distinction as the only community in Pennsylvania ever to seek state assistance under Act 47 and then refuse or fail to implement a recovery plan."
Council, last week, filed for Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy. Council's attorney claims the bankruptcy filing will freeze all of the state takeover plans as well as put Harrisburg's creditors on hold. The Mayor, Picolla and Grell think the Chapter 9 filing is illegal under state code and should be thrown out of U.S. federal court.
Of course, that is for a judge to decide. Taking a look at the State Senate's agenda for today, Senate Bill 1151 is not on the docket. But again, the talk around the Capitol is that the measure could come for a vote some time today or maybe Wednesday.
If the Senate votes in favor of the bill, Governor Tom Corbett has said he will sign it into law.