HARRISBURG - States are in direct competition with each other for business investment, tourism spending, biotech ventures and, most recently, as a location for film productions.

A bill designed to increase Pennsylvania's competitive position to attract this type of work was approved last week by the Senate Finance Committee. The measure by Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-9, Chester, would uncap a current limit on the state film production tax credit.

By making the tax credit more attractive to film producers, Pennsylvania will be able to attract more film and TV productions that extend over a multi-year period, said Pileggi.

The current tax credit was created in 2004. To qualify for a tax credit, a production must have at least 60 percent of its production expenses in Pennsylvania. The amount of the credit is equal to 25 percent of qualified production expenses.

Enhancing the tax credit will help Pennsylvania attract an industry that is mobile, said Sen. John Blake, D-22, Archbald, ranking Democrat on the finance panel.

"They (producers) can go anywhere with these productions," he added. "Without this bill, opportunities will be lost to other states."

Blake said there is ongoing scouting of locations in Northeast Pennsylvania for productions.

Online registration

Former Scranton mayoral candidate Elizabeth Randol is involved in a lobbying effort to enact a state law providing for online voter registration.

The focus this fall is on getting a Senate-approved bill through the House to Gov. Tom Corbett's desk. The measure sponsored by Sen. Lloyd Smucker, R-13, Lancaster, would allow an individual to submit an electronic voter registration application to vote or to change party registration, name or address on a current form.

Under the bill, online registration could be done at any time, but if an application is submitted within 30 days of an election, the application would be valid for the next election.

The bill authorizes the secretary of state to draw up regulations for online registration.

The effort to enact on-line voter registration is being done completely separate from the state's controversial Voter Photo ID law, which is being litigated in state court, said Randol, who is campaign manager for the Online Voter Registration Campaign for Common Cause Pennsylvania.

"We were very careful not to couple the two," she added.

As a result, Smucker's bill has drawn support from 50 diverse organizations including the Pennsylvania Business Council, Urban League and the Commonwealth Foundation, said Randol.

Besides getting more people to vote, state and counties would save money on processing registrations with online registration and voting rolls would become more accurate since the individual enters his or her information directly into the system, said Randol.

Individuals could still register by paper form if the online option became available.

(Robert Swift is Harrisburg bureau chief for Times-Shamrock Communications newspapers. Email: rswift@timesshamrock.com)