HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania — A proposal to require Pennsylvania’s four state-related universities to pledge not to research or experiment with fetal tissue from elective abortions was added Monday to a state budget bill by House Republicans.
The chamber voted 108 to 92, with three Republicans crossing party lines, for the amendment to legislation that will send more than $597 million to Penn State, Lincoln, Temple, and Pitt next year.
The measure’s goal is the University of Pittsburgh, which will receive $155 million over the next year.
The sponsor, Rep. Jerry Knowles, R-Schuylkill, said his goal was to shut down the investigation.
“My goal is not to stop funding,” Knowles said. “Actually, I want to help Pitt eliminate a problem they’ve created.”
A university finance officer must provide a certificate of honor certifying that their school complies with the law to receive state grants. The four schools are not state-owned.
The annual allocation for the four state schools isn’t usually controversial, but last year dozens of House Republicans opposed it over the issue of fetal tissue testing. The current bill combines the four schools rather than individual votes on their funding, an unusual approach. It is part of the broader package of budget legislation to be passed on Thursday, the last day of the state government’s fiscal year.
Rep. Center County leader Kerry Benninghoff called the measure a compromise despite the lack of Democratic support.
Another GOP-sponsored amendment to force Penn State to disclose the whereabouts of a statue of former head coach Joe Paterno was defeated 162-38. The university administration tore down Paterno’s statue in 2012, shortly after his former assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, was convicted of sexually assaulting 10 boys.
The school’s then-president said he had removed “a source of division and an obstacle to healing” from the main site outside the stadium. The current location of the statue and its future use is a topic of ongoing interest and debate among the school’s many fans and alumni.
The sponsor, Rep. Aaron Bernstine, R-Beaver, said schools should disclose where all of their assets are located.
“If Penn State were transparent, we could see where every penny is being spent,” he said.
Rep. Scott Conklin, a Democrat representing the State College area, said the House should not interfere.
“We’re looking at a statue that has been paid for by a person who remains nameless in a location that nobody knows, and we’re sitting here with a budget negotiation, with the state budget to be done in a few days,” Conklin said. “And we’re going through a procedure to talk about a statue.”
Rep. Mike Carroll, D-Luzerne, berated Republicans for injecting the Paterno controversy into the budget process, calling it sheer folly.
“It’s time to rule,” Carroll said. “We don’t rule 51 weeks a year. This is the week. Let’s rule.”
The bill requires another vote to pass the full House, which could happen on Tuesday.