Senate Republican News Brief

“Any public employee who violates the public trust in this manner should forfeit his or her pension. However, in too many cases, the guilty are able to strike a plea deal and continue collecting a taxpayer-funded pension. That needs to end.”

Sen. John DiSanto (R-Dauphin) on legislation to require pension forfeiture if a public employee or public official is convicted, pleads guilty, or pleads no contest to any felony offense related to his or her employment.

Preview 

Senate Session Today at 1 p.m.

 

Billls expected to be considered by the Senate this week include:

Senate Bill 8 reforms state law governing seizure and forfeiture of property related to criminal offenses. Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon) 

Senate Bill 260 provides broader representation of crime victims on the Victims’ Services Advisory Committee within the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. Sen. Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland) 

Senate Bill 399 prohibits Second Class township supervisors from holding any other elective township office or appointed position in the township. Sen. John Gordner (R-Columbia) 

Senate Bill 554 addresses the procedures applicable to victims of human trafficking who are encountered by law enforcement officers. Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery) 

Senate Bill 560 enables police officers to use body-worn cameras. Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery) 

Senate Bill 5 provides for Pennsylvania State Preemption over local firearms and ammunition regulations. Sen. Wayne Langerholc (R-Cambria)

Committee Hearings Streamed Live at PASenateGOP.com:

Tuesday 9:30 a.m. East Wing, Hearing Room 8E-A

Senate Transportation Committee, Sen. John Rafferty (R-Montgomery) Chair

PennDOT’s 12-Year Program and Project Prioritization

Tuesday 11 a.m. N. Office Building, Hearing Room 1

Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, Sen. Elder Vogel (R-Beaver) Chair

Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education, Workforce, Community and Economic Development, Sen. John Eichelberger (R-Blair) Chair

Farm Show Lease/Leaseback

Wednesday 8 a.m. East Wing, Hearing Room 8E-A

Nuclear Energy Caucus, Sen. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster) Chair

PJM Interconnection

Full Senate Committee Schedule 

Review

Martin Introduces Bill Targeting Repeat DUI Offenders

Repeat DUI offenders could face tougher punishments under legislation introduced by Sen. Scott Martin (R-Lancaster). 

Senator Martin’s legislation would mandate at least two years of jail time for any individual convicted of more than two DUIs in a 10-year period, with harsher sentences for offenses that lead to the death of another person. Under Martin’s bill, a repeat offender who causes the death of another person as a result of a DUI could be charged with a first-degree felony.

 “We have seen far too many tragedies in which innocent citizens have been victimized by the recklessness of others. We need to make sure repeat offenders face a punishment that matches the dangerous nature of the crime.”

More than half of all Pennsylvanians who lose their license due to a DUI conviction are repeat offenders. More

DiSanto Introduces Bill to Strengthen Public Employee Pension Forfeiture Act

Sen. John DiSanto (R-Dauphin) introduced legislation, Senate Bill 611, to require pension forfeiture if a public employee or public official is convicted, pleads guilty, or pleads no contest to any felony offense related to his or her employment.

Currently, the Public Employee Pension Forfeiture Act requires a public employee to forfeit his or her pension only for certain crimes listed in the act. In practice, this law allows public employees charged with a forfeiture crime to plead guilty to a different non-forfeiture crime in order to avoid pension forfeiture.

In addition, the legislation ensures that such criminal convictions are reported to state pension boards. Current law does not require the employee, courts, or state agencies to send copies of court records upon conviction. More

UC Service Center Funding Gains Final Legislative Approval 

The Senate granted final legislative approval Wednesday of a bill that provides emergency funding to ease the hardships Pennsylvania’s unemployed workers have endured since Governor Wolf closed three Unemployment Compensation Service Centers late last year.

Senate Bill 250, sponsored by Sen. Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland), authorizes a $15 million transfer from the Unemployment Compensation Fund (UCF) to the Service and Infrastructure Improvement Fund. The bill now goes to the Governor for his signature and enactment into law.

The Governor ordered the closure of service centers in Allentown, Altoona and Lancaster after his request for a transfer of $57 million in additional funding from the UCF failed to receive legislative approval before the end of the 2015-16 Legislative Session on November 30, 2016.

For four years, the Department of Labor & Industry tapped the UCF for a total of $178 million for technology upgrades. That spending is currently under review by the state Auditor General and the technology upgrades were not completed.

The unilateral decision by the Governor to close the three service centers substantially increased the demand on the five remaining centers: Duquesne, Erie, Harrisburg, Indiana and Scranton. This resulted in thousands of unemployed Pennsylvanians being forced to endure lengthy waiting times to receive assistance.

Senate Approves Independent Study of State-Owned Universities 

The Senate approved a resolution Tuesday sponsored by Sen. David Argall (R-Schuylkill) that requires an independent study of the future of the State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) to be completed by the end of the year.

Senate Resolution 34 requires the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LBFC) to study the future and sustainability of the 14 state-owned universities across the state. The universities include Bloomsburg University, California University of Pennsylvania, Cheyney University, Clarion University, East Stroudsburg University, Edinboro University, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Kutztown University, Lock Haven University, Mansfield University, Millersville University, Shippensburg University, Slippery Rock University and West Chester University.

Between Penn State University, University of Pittsburgh, Temple University and Lincoln University of Pennsylvania, enrollment is expected to grow by 10 percent over the next four years. Community colleges and Thaddeus Stevens College are also expected to see significant growth over the next four years. Over the same period, PASSHE’s growth is not expected to reach 1 percent.

Senator Argall: “This study will help us understand, from an unbiased perspective, why enrollment at certain universities is declining, what the urgent needs are and how we best move forward to ensure the students of Pennsylvania can receive a quality and affordable degree.” 

Senate Votes to Give School Districts Options on Superintendent Contracts

The Senate on Tuesday approved legislation sponsored by Senate Education Committee Chairman John Eichelberger (R-Blair) that would allow school boards to better manage their professional staff.

Currently, the Public School Code requires school boards to notify a district superintendent and assistant superintendent well in advance of contract expiration whether it intends to renew the contract. Failure to notify that employee by the 150 day deadline results in automatic renewal of the contract for the same term length. This unnecessarily ties the hands of school boards in the management of school personnel in a way that can be costly for the school district.

Senate Bill 227 would allow school districts more flexibility in their decision making. It will alter the deadline for school boards to make renewal decisions regarding superintendent and assistant superintendent contracts from 150 to 90 days prior to expiration of the contract, allowing the school board more time to make their final contract renewal decisions.

Additionally, the legislation limits the automatic renewal of these contracts to one year if the renewal notice deadline is missed. These changes will give superintendents, assistant superintendents, and school boards fair and appropriate timeframes so that better decisions can be made regarding school management and administration.

Committee Round-Up 

Appropriations 

The Senate Appropriations Committee, chaired by Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh), approved four bills Tuesday.

Senate Bill 8 reforms state law governing seizure and forfeiture of property related to criminal offenses.

Senate Bill 260 provides broader representation of crime victims on the Victims’ Services Advisory Committee within the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.

Senate Bill 554 addresses the procedures applicable to victims of human trafficking who are encountered by law enforcement officers.

Senate Bill 560 enables police officers to use body-worn cameras. 

Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure 

The Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee, chaired by Sen. Tommy Tomlinson (R-Bucks), approved six bills Tuesday.

Senate Bill 25  amends the state’s Professional Nursing Law to permit qualified Advanced Practice Registered Nurses to practice in their field of specialty independent of a physician after they fulfill a three-year, 3,600-hour collaboration agreement with a doctor.

Senate Bill 242 transfers enforcement authority for the Pennsylvania One Call System from the Department of Labor & Industry to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.

Senate Bill 354  strengthens licensee reporting requirements to the Department of State.

Senate Bill 458 provides new penalties for illegal household goods movers. 

Senate Bill 530  updates Act 136 of 1998, the Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors Act.

Senate Bill 531  updates the Social Workers, Marriage & Family Therapists and Professional Counselors Act. 

Community, Economic & Recreational Development 

The Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee, chaired by Sen. Mario Scavello (R-Monroe), approved House Bill 271 on Tuesday. The bill authorizes gaming at qualified airports.

Education 

The Senate Education Committee, chaired by Sen. John Eichelberger (R-Blair), approved five bills Wednesday.

Senate Bill 88 prohibits censorship of an American or Pennsylvania historical document based on any religious content.

Senate Bill 93 permits home-schooled or privately tutored students to have access to courses in schools and departments (i.e., vocational school, technical school) of a public school district. 

Senate Bill 273 prohibits any form of state funding to go to any institution of higher education that designates itself as a “sanctuary campus,” refuses to share information about undocumented students, or in any way impedes the federal government’s ability to enforce federal immigration laws.

Senate Bill 383 clarifies the authority school boards have to allow certain school employees to carry firearms on school property to further enhance security measures. 

Senate Bill 592 gives taxpayers an opportunity to examine the terms of employment contracts that the local school board extends to key district employees.

Local Government 

The Senate Local Government Committee, chaired by Sen. Scott Wagner (R-York), approved House Bill 16 on Tuesday. The bill amends the Local Tax Collection Law to prohibit tax payments to an account in an individual’s name and requires the creation of a separate account to be used solely for tax purposes.