August 24, 2012 | By | Posted in Legislature

Senate panel postpones Harrisburg hearing

Rep. John Eichelberger

By Melissa Daniels | PA Independent

HARRISBURG — A Senate hearing examining financial decisions behind the city of Harrisburg’s debt is postponed to allow the beleaguered city more time to get its fiscal house in order, and to gather more information on how it got into its struggling situation.

The Senate Local Government Committee was slated to hold a hearing on Harrisburg’s financials on Aug. 29 to examine the debt accumulated by the Harrisburg Authority for the incinerator project, which totals more than $300 million.

But committee chair state Sen. John Eichelberger, R- Blair, said Thursday that lawmakers want to allow the city time to pursue the sale of its assets before possibly disrupting those deals, including one to sell off the incinerator itself.

The committee, which has subpoena power, could bring to light information that could harm negotiations, Eichelberger said. No new date has been set, but it will happen before the end of the session before new members are on the committee, he said.

“We’re willing to work with everybody and make sure that we’re not interfering, but on the other hand, our clock is also running,” he said.

He said the postponement will allow committee members to become more familiar with the situation.

“It’s a very important hearing,” he said. “We want to make sure we understand the issues and are able to try to get through the hearing and obtain as much information as possible.”

At issue is whether the state should put new laws into place to prevent municipal authorities from taking on that much debt. Other issues likely to be discussed include how project approval happens through the state’s Department of Community and Economic Development, and whether the state should allow certain high-risk borrowing practices like those put into play in Harrisburg, Eichelberger said.

He also said he anticipates the hearing will involve more than one day, and that he fully expects new laws to come from the hearings.

Contact Melissa Daniels at

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Melissa Daniels is a reporter for PA Independent. She can be reached at 717-350-0962 or

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