HARRISBURG - A year ago, the state Capitol was obsessing about the looming Republican takeover of the House and governorship, and how that would likely result in the movement of an array of legislation the GOP had long favored but was unable to enact.
At this point, halfway through the current two-year legislative session, things have not entirely worked out that way. The out-of-power Democrats would undoubtedly love to trade places, but Republicans have not always been able to sort out their internal disagreements on key issues.
Republican numbers have helped them force through new rules for civil lawsuits widely supported by the business community, but on a gun rights bill they were able to draw considerable Democratic votes to expand the use of lethal force in self-defense.
More than 100 laws have been enacted since late April, starting with a revision to the construction code that repealed a mandate for fire sprinklers in new homes, a bill now known as Act 1 of 2011. Over the past several weeks, lawmakers made dozens of votes to push through favored bills, and Gov. Tom Corbett announced Thursday he signed 23 into law.
Lawmakers and the governor spent the spring working on the state budget. The version that passed shortly before midnight on the final day of the fiscal year met two of Corbett's stated goals because it was produced on time and did not raise any broad-based taxes.
Along with the budget, the House and Senate also gave Corbett a new law expanding his control over the public welfare system, a change designed to help him wring savings out of the massive state agency and reduce fraud and abuse.
Some of this year's new laws responded to issues that arose during 2011 or in the recent past.
The General Assembly responded to the stalemate in the city of Harrisburg over its municipal finances by making it more difficult for third-class cities to secure federal bankruptcy protection to address crushing debt and creating a pathway to an unprecedented state takeover of the city's finances. It enacted tougher standards for abortion clinics, changed the state's Megan's Law to force homeless and out-of-state offenders to register, and banned "bath salts" and synthetic marijuana.
After retired Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was charged with child molestation, the General Assembly set up an 11-member task force on child abuse to examine whether changes or additions to state law are warranted. The commission has a year to issue its report.
Lawmakers fulfilled their once-a-decade requirement to redraw their own legislative districts as well as those of the Pennsylvania congressional delegation. A Republican-backed proposal to split the state's electoral votes in presidential elections by congressional district- instead of the existing, winner-take-all scheme - did not get even a committee vote and may be dead.
More stringent rules were imposed on Pennsylvania's teen drivers, and all drivers were prohibited from texting behind the wheel - although a proposal stalled that would require hands-free devices for drivers using cell phones.
Less closely watched legislation removed the "back tag" requirement for licensed hunters, expanded Sunday hours for beer sales and established the Safety in Youth Sports Act, which revamped procedures for handling suspected concussions among student athletes.
A big prize eluded Corbett this year, as school vouchers and charter school regulation changes languished. Both remain on the potential agenda for 2012.
The governor and some Republican allies also came out strongly in favor of privatizing the state liquor system, but that proposal also hit a wall of organized resistance and faces an uncertain future.
The debate that has gone on for years about collecting new revenues from the booming Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling in the state - and updating regulations over the industry - continued inconclusively this year but is a candidate for action before the session ends in the fall.
The list of other issues Pennsylvania policymakers talked about but could not resolve this year includes shrinking the size of the Legislature, allowing hunting on Sunday, setting up a disaster relief fund for the flood-prone state, tightening immigration restrictions, and requiring voters to produce identification.
A bill to revamp how DNA is used in criminal investigations and trials passed the Senate and has a chance of getting out of the House next year. Other topics to watch for movement on include revisions to the Right-to-Know Law and transportation funding, which Corbett studied but then set aside in 2011.
It's a full-time Legislature, and there's always next year.
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Mark Scolforo covers the Legislature for The Associated Press in Harrisburg. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.