House OKs charity amendment
June 27, 2013 10:30 AM

HARRISBURG (AP) — The state House of Representatives has approved an effort to amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to clarify that lawmakers, not judges, may decide what kinds of institutions qualify as charities and can escape paying certain taxes.

Wednesday’s 118-82 vote in the Republican-controlled House put aside objections by Democrats that cash-strapped cities will be hurt. The Senate approved it in March.

The amendment would let lawmakers decide which institutions qualify as “purely public charities” that are exempt from local taxes, including hospitals, universities and churches.

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.

Democrats oppose reverting to a state law that they say allows many institutions to escape paying taxes under questionable circumstances and prevents municipalities from challenging that status.

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