Elsewhere online
March 31, 2015

Pa. House Slows Progress of Bill on Power to Define Charities

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives has put the brakes on a proposal to give legislators greater authority to determine what nonprofits qualify for tax exemptions after the measure moved quickly through the State Senate, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. The more deliberate approach could keep the proposed amendment to the state Constitution off this November's election ballot.

The bill, which was approved by the Senate in February, would vest with the legislature the power — now held by courts under a 2012 judicial ruling — to define a "purely public charity" for tax purposes. It was passed in 2013, but Pennsylvania requires constitutional changes to be approved twice before going to voters. The House would have to approve the amendment by August for it to appear on this fall's ballot.

Leaders of the House, which, like the State Senate, is Republican-controlled, have not scheduled a committee hearing or set a timetable for a vote on the bill. The amendment is backed by nonprofits, particularly large health systems, which say it will provide clear standards for tax-exempt status. Local governments fear it will curtail their ability to challenge exemptions and collect revenue from nonprofits that officials say operate more like businesses.