Senate Republican News Brief

“One of my primary concerns in considering any change to liquor and beer sales is how we can make the process more convenient for consumers. The final product approved by the governor today will provide a much-needed update to the system and give consumers many of the reforms they have asked for, while at the same time generating additional state revenues that could help close the budget deficit.”

Senate Law and Justice Committee Chairman Chuck McIlhinney (R-Bucks) on enactment of liquor reform legislation he championed.

Preview 

Senate Reconvenes at 1 p.m. 

The Senate reconvenes today at 1 p.m. Bills expected to be considered by the Senate are as follows:

Senate Bill 163 clarifies that parental rights may not be terminated solely because a parent is incarcerated and addresses services available to those children. Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery) 

Senate Bill 1109 amends the state Constitution to extend the state’s property tax exemption program for disabled veterans to the surviving spouse of soldiers killed in action. Sen. Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne)

Senate Bill 1113 broadens 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 703 creates a state plumbers licensing program regulating who can call themselves a state-licensed plumbing contractor rather than who can perform plumbing services. Sen. Tom McGarrigle (R-Delaware) 

House Bill 147 proposed Constitutional amendment allowing local taxing authorities to exclude from taxation up to 100 percent of the assessed value of the homestead property.

House Bill 602 increases the base minimum state active duty pay for National Guard personnel.

House Bill 1325 allows for assessments of storm water fees without the need to establish a municipal authority in Second Class Townships.

House Bill 1199 repeals the 1965 Act authorizing the Department of Highways to erect and maintain a toll bridge over the Monongahela River.

House Bill 1766 allows future life insurance policy reserves to be based on Principle-Based Reserving.

Committee Action

Monday, 10 a.m. North Office Building, Hearing Room #1

The Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery): Hearing on HB 1947, extending the statute of limitations for victims of child abuse to sue their abuser and the institution that employed the abuser.

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

The Senate Majority Policy Committee, chaired by Sen. David Argall (R-Schuylkill): Hearing on SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)

Tuesday, 10 a.m. Majority Caucus Room

Public School Building Construction & Reconstruction Advisory Committee: Organizational Meeting

Tuesday, 11:30 a.m. North Office Building, Hearing Room #1

The Senate State Government Committee, chaired by Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon): Hearing on SB 413 (Administrative Law Procedure and Office of Administrative Hearings)

Wednesday, 10 a.m. East Wing, Hearing Room 8E-A

The Legislative Budget and Finance Committee, chaired by Sen. Bob Mensch (R-Montgomery): Release of reports on a performance audit of the PA Fish and Boat Commission, and afterschool programs in Pennsylvania.

Senate Committee Schedule

Hearings streamed live at PASenateGOP.com. 

Review 

Consumer-Centered Liquor Reforms Signed Into Law 

Legislation championed by Senate Law and Justice Committee Chairman Chuck McIlhinney (R-Bucks) to allow grocery stores to sell wine, increase opportunities for the sale of beer, and improve consumer convenience for overall liquor sales was signed into law Wednesday.

Act 39 of 2016 provides many changes that increase customer convenience, including:

  • Allowing grocery stores that sell beer, licensed restaurants, and hotels to sell up to four bottles of wine per customer.
  • Permitting licensed wine producers to ship their products directly to Pennsylvania consumers.
  • Allowing “six-pack” shops to upgrade their “eating place” licenses to “full” restaurant licenses to sell wine as well as beer.
  • Lifting the requirement that State Stores close on certain holidays and only operate on limited hours on Sundays.
  • Allowing special discounts and sales at State Stores.
  • Permitting casinos, for a fee of $1 million, to receive a license to sell alcohol 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Allowing lottery tickets sales in State Stores.

According to a detailed fiscal analysis of the bill, the plan could generate up to an additional $100 million to 150 million in profits for the state system. In addition to modernizing liquor sales, the bill also requires a comprehensive study of the valuation of the state system and various proposals to privatize liquor sales in the future.

Bills Sent to Governor for Enactment into Law

Senate Bill 61 officially recognizes bike medics and permits them to operate their bicycles in the same manner as a police officer on a bicycle. Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery)

Senate Bill 489 reduces the maximum fee that a check casher may charge for cashing government checks, requires the public posting of fees for cashing the checks, and allows for recovery of losses due to fraudulent misrepresentation. Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming)

Senate Bill 847 adds a representative from the Korean War Veterans Association to the State Veterans Commission, a panel composed of representatives from Pennsylvania’s major veterans associations. Sen. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster)

House Bill 57 amends the Public Utility Code to change the interest rate associated with recovery of purchased gas costs, eliminate the migration rider, and provide for recovery of costs incurred to implement customer choice.

Senate Acts to Protect Energy Jobs

The Senate on Wednesday approved legislation to protect family-sustaining Pennsylvania jobs placed at risk by the new federal regulations.

Senate Bill 1195, sponsored by Sen. Don White (R-Indiana), provides procedures for the General Assembly’s consideration of the Department of Environmental Protection’s implementation strategy for the Clean Power Plan before its submission to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Senate Bill 1195 is a compromise agreement between the General Assembly and Governor Wolf that provides important safeguards that protect local energy-producing industries and the thousands of workers they employ from overreaching regulations that could come with Pennsylvania’s compliance with the federal regulations.

Senate Bill 1195 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Committee Approves Measure to Increase Education for Opioid Prescribing 

The Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee, chaired by Sen. Tommy Tomlinson (R-Bucks), approved legislation Tuesday that would require continuing medical education training as a way to stem the tide of opioid and prescription drug abuse in the state.

Senate Bill 1202, sponsored by Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming), requires state licensing boards to call for two hours of continuing education in “pain management” and two hours in “opioid prescribing practices” for individuals applying for an initial license or renewal of an existing license or certification to prescribe medications in the Commonwealth.

The increased use of heroin, which often has roots in the abuse of prescription painkillers like Vicodin and OxyContin, has catapulted Pennsylvania to seventh in the nation for drug-related overdose deaths in recent federal statistics.  According to a National Survey of Primary Care Physicians, nine out of 10 doctors reported prescription drug abuse as a moderate to large problem in their communities, and 85 percent believed that prescription drugs are overused in clinical practice.
Listen

Stefano Bill to Deny Public Benefits to Illegal Immigrants Advances

Legislation sponsored by Sen. Pat Stefano (R-Fayette) that would deny public benefits, such as Medicaid, welfare, and unemployment compensation to illegal immigrants living in Pennsylvania passed the House State Government Committee last week.

Senate Bill 9 would require anyone receiving public benefits in the Commonwealth to provide identification proving they are legal residents.  In addition, individuals would be required to sign an affidavit stating they are a United States citizen, or an immigrant lawfully residing in this country.  Any illegal immigrant who falsely claims they are residing in the country legally, in order to obtain public benefits, will have committed a second degree misdemeanor and be subject to arrest.

Federal law prohibits illegal immigrants from receiving state or local public benefits.  However, Senator Stefano said Pennsylvania is simply too lenient in enforcing the federal provisions.

Bills Approved by the Senate and Sent to House

Senate Bill 428 provides additional sentencing provisions for trespassing at gaming establishments. Sen. Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland)

Senate Bill 1270 amends the Real Estate Appraisers Certification Act to bring Pennsylvania into compliance with updated Federal appraiser standards. Sen. Tom Killion (R-Delaware)

Senate Bill 1227 transfers the responsibilities of the Public Employee Retirement Commission with regard to pension legislation to the Independent Fiscal Office and the Office of the Auditor General.

House Bill 264 requires carbon monoxide detectors to be installed in long-term care nursing facilities, personal care homes and assisted living residences that use fossil fuel burning devices or appliances. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

House Bill 1241 amends the definition of public utility in state law to exempt water or sewer service provided by a resort and to exempt the provision of service by a municipal corporation under certain circumstances. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

Senate Republican News Brief

“In the unfortunate event that a school district must furlough a teacher, we need to make sure that the very best remain. If we want high performing schools where every child has an opportunity to experience earned success, we cannot allow the vestiges of a system that protects low-performing educators to remain.”

Sen. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster) on Senate passage of legislation that would keep the best teachers in the classroom and boost student achievement by ending the practice of seniority-based layoffs.

Preview

Senate Reconvenes at 1 p.m.

The Senate reconvenes today at 1 p.m. Bills expected to be considered by the Senate this week include:

Senate Bill 180 the Donate Life PA Act, updating the law relating to organ and tissue donations. Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery)

Senate Bill 691 increases a retailer’s presumptive minimum cost of administering the cigarette tax. Sen. Bob Mensch (R-Montgomery)

Senate Bill 837 ensures only those with a professional license are permitted to represent themselves as a marriage and family therapist in Pennsylvania. Sen. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster)

Senate Bill 910 places into law the school funding formula developed over the past year by the Basic Education Funding Commission. Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster)

Senate Bill 1031 reestablishes the Independent Counsel Authorization Act. Sen. John Gordner (R-Columbia)

Senate Bill 1038 allows a judge of the court of common pleas to serve on a juvenile detention board in third class counties. Sen. Don White (R-Indiana)

Senate Bill 1154 – updates the Civil Service Act to place the Commonwealth more in line with hiring practices of the private sector while maintaining the merit-based and non-political nature of the Civil Service hiring process. Sen. Randy Vulakovich (R-Allegheny)

House Bill 150 establishes a bicycle Share-The-Road registration plate.

House Bill 608 gives the Department of Health the power to quickly add chemicals to the list of “precursor substances” under the Drug Act.

House Bill 1484 further preserves Soldiers’ Grove located across the street from the Capitol Complex.

House Bill 215 further provides for the offense of neglect of a care-dependent person, and to create the offense of abuse of a care-dependent person.

House Bill 380 reduces the length of time for a no fault divorce based on separation from two years to one year.

Senate and House Leaders to Call on Gov. Wolf to Sign Teacher Furlough Reform

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson), Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Centre), Sen. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster) and House Leadership hold a news conference to call on Gov. Wolf to sign teacher furlough reform legislation, House Bill 805, the Protecting Excellent Teachers Act. (Tuesday, 1 p.m., East Wing Rotunda)

Committee Action

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Infrastructure, Environment and Government Operations, chaired by Sen. John Eichelberger (R-Blair), public hearing with the Office of Administration regarding technology investments. (Monday, 9:30 a.m., Room 8E-B)

The Joint Legislative Air and Water Pollution Control and Conservation Committee, chaired by Sen. Scott Hutchinson (R-Venango), public hearing on Chronic Wasting Disease in the PA deer population. (Monday, noon, Room 8E-A)

The Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, chaired by Sen. Randy Vulakovich (R-Allegheny), and the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee receive presentations by the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs on the services they can provide to state agencies during emergencies and their plans for closing armories; and by the Civil Air Patrol on its mission. (Tuesday, 9 a.m., N. Office Bldg. Room 1)

The Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee, chaired by Sen. Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland), and the House Gaming Oversight Committee public hearing on the Revenue Department’s notification to casinos of its intention to increase the assessment for Section 1401 accounts from 1.5 percent to 2 percent. (Tuesday, 9 a.m., East Wing Room 60)

The Senate Transportation Committee , chaired by Sen. John Rafferty (R-Montgomery), will consider Senate Bill 153 , Senate Bill 1219 , Senate Bill 1220 , Senate Bill 1267 and House bill 1713 . (Tuesday, 10:30 a.m., Room 8E-B)

The Senate Education Committee, chaired by Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster), and the House Education Committee public hearing on ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act). (Wednesday, 9 a.m., N. Office Bldg. Room 1)

The Senate Game and Fisheries Committee, chaired by Sen. Mario Scavello (R-Monroe), public hearing on expansion of Sunday hunting in Pennsylvania. (Wednesday, 9 a.m., Room 8E-A)

Senate Committee Schedule

Hearings streamed live at PASenateGOP.com .

Review

Teacher Furlough Reform Passes General Assembly

The Senate gave final approval Monday to legislation that would keep the best teachers in the classroom and boost student achievement by ending the practice of seniority-based layoffs.

House Bill 805, known as the Protecting Excellent Teachers Act, would strengthen the teaching profession and boost student success by ensuring that school districts use teacher performance to guide furlough and reinstatement decisions. Performance ratings would be based on the comprehensive statewide educator evaluation system adopted in 2012, under which observed educators are assigned a rating of distinguished, proficient, needs improvement or failing.

House Bill 805 prohibits school districts from using a teacher’s pay and benefits as determining factors for any layoff decision.

Currently, teacher layoffs are conducted in order of inverse seniority. The last teacher hired is the first person fired. Pennsylvania is one of only a few states that require seniority to be the sole factor in determining layoffs. House Bill 805 now goes to the Governor’s desk.

The Senate version of the House Bill 805, Senate Bill 5, was introduced by Sen. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster).

ALSO: Schools, Lawmakers Call on Wolf to Stand with Students, Schools and Protect Excellent Teachers

Senate Unanimously Approves Bill to Increase Penalties for Home Invasions

Legislation sponsored by sponsored by Sen. John Rafferty (R-Montgomery) that would strengthen penalties for burglaries involving home invasions was unanimously approved by the Senate on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 1062 would change state law to reflect the seriousness of the violent crime of home invasions. The current burglary statute does not distinguish those burglaries where force or threat of force is used. The bill would create a sentencing enhancement to increase the recommended sentence for such crimes.

The legislation was drafted with input from the District Attorney’s Association and the Office of the Attorney General and has bipartisan support. The bill now goes to the House for consideration.

Senator Rafferty: “Home invasions go far beyond entering a home to steal property – they are violent acts that can leave permanent scars on those who are targeted in their own homes, where they should feel safest.”

Senate Approves Bill to Help Parents Avoid Truancy Fines, Get Children Back to School

On Tuesday, the Senate unanimously approved legislation sponsored by Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery) to help prevent a parent from being jailed for failing to pay fines associated with their child’s truancy.

Senate Bill 359 would require schools to offer a school attendance improvement conference to the student and their parents or guardian if the child continues to be truant following notification of the child’s third unexcused absence.

If a school attendance improvement conference is scheduled, further legal action is suspended until after the date of the conference has passed.

The legislation is in response to the death of a Reading woman while she was jailed for truancy charges in Berks County Prison. Eileen DiNino, a 55-year-old mother of seven, died of undetermined causes as she was serving a 48-hour sentence for not paying fines a magisterial district justice imposed following her sons’ absences from school. The bill now goes to the House for consideration.

Senator Greenleaf: “Referring a truancy case to the court should be the last resort. I believe intervention is more appropriate than legal action and will result in better school attendance for children who have been truant.”

Senate Approves Cost-saving Legislation for Schools

The Senate on Tuesday approved legislation to allow school districts to save thousands of dollars in annual mailing costs.

Senate Bill 1077, sponsored by Sen. Elder Vogel (R-Beaver), eliminates the state mandate that school districts annually inform parents by physical mailing when the district uses audio and video recording to identify and address discipline issues on school buses.

The mailer mandate was included as part of Act 9 of 2014, which gave school districts the ability to use audio recordings on school buses. Instead of the physical mailing, which can easily cost thousands of dollars each year, schools must post notice of the policy in the student handbook as well as on the school’s website.

Senate Bill 1077 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Senator Killion Sworn Into Office

Senator Tom Killion (R-9) was sworn into office during a Wednesday ceremony in the Senate Chamber. He was elected to the Senate on April 26 under a special election to represent the citizens of the 9th Senatorial District, which includes portions of Chester and Delaware counties.

Prior to joining the Senate, he served as a State Representative for the 168th Legislative District and was Chairman of the Delaware County Council. He also founded two local small businesses.

The Senate returned to its full complement of 50 members: 31 Republicans and 19 Democrats.

Watch: Senator Killion discusses his Senate priorities
Watch: Senator Killion discusses
state budget negotiations

Additional Bills Sent to Governor

House Bill 400 establishes the “Work Experience for High School Students with Disabilities Act.”

Senate Bill 811 provides for the Fiscal Year 2015-16 Capital Budget.

House Bill 1200 repeals part of an Act from 1903 that requires railroads under bridges or viaducts to pay maintenance fees.

House Bill 1788 clarifies circumstances in Philadelphia in which a Neighborhood Improvement District overlaps with a Tax Increment Financing district.

Additional Bills Sent to the House for Consideration

Senate Bill 1144 prohibits the sale of over-the-counter cough medicines containing dextromethorphan to minors.

Senate Bill 1156 requires health care personnel and clergy to obtain background checks.

Senate Bill 1229 corrects technical issues related to the distribution of Pennsylvania Breeding Funds.

Bills Returned to the House for Concurrence on Senate Amendments

House Bill 944 amends the Community and Economic Improvement Act to improve the management of neighborhood improvement districts in Philadelphia.

House Bill 1310 provides privacy and protects the safety of individuals who call 911 to report crimes.

House Bill 1574 updates the Anti-hazing Law to include hazing done as a condition for initiation or admission into any organization.

Senate Republican News Brief

“As we look ahead to crafting a responsible 2016-17 state budget, Tom Killion’s experience and passion for protecting taxpayers will be a valuable addition. I look forward to working with him on issues important to the 9th Senatorial District.”

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) on the election of Senator-elect Tom Killion (R-9) in the 9th Senatorial District, representing portions of Chester and Delaware counties.

Preview

Senate Reconvenes at 1 p.m.

The Senate reconvenes today at 1 p.m. Bills expected to be considered by the Senate this week include:

Senate Bill 1011 – amends the Fiscal Code to prohibit the promulgation of the Oil and Gas regulations. Sen. Scott Hutchinson (R-Venango)

Senate Bill 1077 – removes the requirement of costly physical mailings to parents by school districts using audio on school buses. Sen. Elder Vogel (R-Beaver)

Senate Bill 1195 – extends the review and approval time frame of the PA Greenhouse Gas Regulation Implementation Act from 100 days to 180 days before submission to the EPA. Sen. Don White (R-Indiana)

Senate Bill 180 – helps increase organ and tissue donation by increasing education and removing barriers that prevent potential organs from being procured. Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery)

Senate Bill 359 – provides new procedures to be followed when a child becomes truant and additional procedures if a child becomes habitually truant. Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery)

Senate Bill 1154 – updates the Civil Service Act to place the Commonwealth more in line with hiring practices of the private sector while maintaining the merit-based and non-political nature of the Civil Service hiring process. Sen. Randy Vulakovich (R-Allegheny)

House Bill 805 – eliminates the process of seniority-based layoffs in public schools.

House Bill 1574 – adds public and private secondary schools, and organizations not affiliated with schools in which students participate, to anti-hazing requirements.

House Bill 1310 – prohibits the release of all or part of a public record that contains a 9-1-1 caller’s name, telephone number, address or location.

House Bill 1788 – addresses circumstances with Neighborhood Improvement Districts overlap with Tax Increment Financing Districts.

Senator-Elect Killion to Be Sworn Into Office Wednesday

Senator-elect Tom Killion (R-9) will formally be sworn into office during a ceremony set for 11 a.m., Wednesday in the Senate Chamber.

Senator-elect Killion was elected to the State Senate on April 26, winning a special election to represent the citizens of the 9th Senatorial District, which includes portions of Chester and Delaware counties.

Committee Action

The Senate Transportation Committee, chaired by Sen. John Rafferty (R-Montgomery), meets for the consideration of bills and a public hearing on Turnpike Commission budget, priorities and Winter Storm Jonas response. (Tuesday, 10 a.m., Room 8E-B)

TheSenate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery), considers SB 428, SB 1112, SB 1160 and SB 1197. (Tuesday, 11:30 a.m., Room 8E-B)

The Senate State Government Committee, chaired by Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon), considers SB 1205, SB 1192, HB 1205 and HB 1653. (Tuesday, 12:30 p.m., Room 8E-B)

The Senate Education Committee, chaired by Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster), holds a public hearing on Adult Literacy, and a meeting to amend SB 1194 (State Military College Legislative Appointment Initiative). (Wednesday, 9:30 a.m., N. Office Bldg. Hearing Room 1)

The Senate State Government Committee, chaired by Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon), holds a public hearing on the Governor’s Recent Executive Orders. (Wednesday, 9:30 a.m., Maj. Caucus Room)

Senate Committee Schedule

Streamed live at PASenateGOP.com. 

Review

General Assembly Closes Book on 2015-16 Budget

Bringing an end to the 2015-16 state budget impasse, the Senate approved legislation April 13 to immediately enact into law the school funding formula developed over the past year by the bipartisan, bicameral Basic Education Funding Commission and provide the overdue state reimbursements for school construction projects.

House Bill 1589, which was approved by a strong bipartisan vote of 37-11, directs all new state money for the current 2015-16 school year to be allocated to districts using the new formula and authorizes the release of state reimbursements under the state’s Planning and Construction Workbook, otherwise known as PlanCon.

The state budget approved by lawmakers in March included an additional $200 million in basic education funding and more than $350 million in PlanCon reimbursements. The language to implement the new basic education funding formula and authorize the PlanCon reimbursements was contained in House Bill 1327, the Fiscal Code.

However, on April 4 the Governor vetoed the Fiscal Code and created his own formula to drive out public education funding. As a result, 86 percent of Pennsylvania’s 500 public school districts would have received less money under this plan than they would have received under the Basic Education Funding Formula. The veto also halted the PlanCon reimbursements.

Under the Governor’s basic education funding formula, three of the state’s 500 school districts would have received nearly half of the overall increase. Philadelphia schools would have received an additional $78 million, including $34 million that was taken from rural school districts throughout the state.

The General Assembly’s action restored the Basic Education Funding increase. As with the Senate, the House of Representatives approved the new Fiscal Code with enough votes to override any veto and sent it to the Governor, who allowed it to become law without his signature.

Pennsylvania Enacts Medical Cannabis Legislation

The General Assembly gave final approval of legislation to permit the use of medical cannabis in Pennsylvania for limited medical conditions. The bill was signed into law.

Act 16 of 2016, sponsored by Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon), establishes a state program under the Department of Health that creates a network of growers, processors and dispensaries and allows doctors to certify a patient to receive medical cannabis for certain medical conditions, including cancer, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.

The bill was amended in the Senate to give dispensaries clearer authorization to operate and add stronger oversight for employees of medical cannabis organizations.

For many of our fellow citizens, especially children suffering seizures, cannabis provides relief from their conditions.

Senate Approves Special License Plate for Active Duty Military

The Senate approved legislation that recognizes and honors Pennsylvania’s active duty military personnel.

Senate Bill 1155, sponsored by Sen. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Allegheny), establishes a special vehicle license plate for members of the United States Armed Forces adding special recognition for active members of the military, reserves, and Pennsylvania National Guard. This would be an addition to the currently available license plates with special recognition for World War II veterans, Purple Heart recipients and Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans.

The bill was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Bills Recently Signed into Law

Act 17 of 2016, sponsored by Sen. Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne),  provides that the Treasury Department may establish a program through which federal Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) savings accounts may be opened for eligible individuals for payment of qualified disability expenses.

Act 20 of 2016 establishes the Caregiver, Advise, Record, and Enable (CARE) Act, which requires hospitals to allow patients to designate a caregiver prior to discharge from the facility.

Act 19 of 2016 amends state law to allow television broadcasts or video images in a moving vehicle as long as the images are not visible to the driver.

Senate Republican News Brief

“New Jersey understands the importance of choosing members to represent their interests on the Commission by requiring Senate confirmation and Pennsylvania should do the same.”

Sen. Mario Scavello (R-Monroe) on his legislation requiring Senate confirmation of appointees to the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission.

Preview

Senate Reconvenes at 1 p.m.

The Senate reconvenes today at 1 p.m. Tuesday session begins at 11 a.m., with a 1 p.m. swearing-in ceremony for Senator-elect Guy Reschenthaler (R-37). Bills on the calendar that may run this week include non-preferred appropriations bills, property tax reform and the following:

Senate Bill 735 – allows mobile retail food facilities to operate in multiple food safety jurisdictions without having to pay fees in each county it operates. Sen. Elder Vogel (R-Beaver)

Senate Bill 859 – consolidates the Department of Corrections and the Board of Probation and Parole, forming the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery)

Senate Bill 936 – provides for a onetime fee to cover the employer’s costs in setting up the wage garnishment to comply with a child support order. Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh)

Senate Bill 984 – establishes statewide regulation of Transportation Network Companies. Sen. Camera Bartolotta (R-Washington)

Senate Bill 1071 – reforms the Statewide Employees’ Defined Contribution Plan. Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh)

Newest Senate Republican to be Sworn in Tuesday

Senator-elect Guy Reschenthaler (R-37) will formally be sworn into office during a ceremony set for 1 p.m. on Tuesday.

Senator-elect Reschenthaler was elected November 3, winning a special election to represent the citizens of the 37th Senatorial District, which includes portions of Allegheny County and Peters Township in Washington County.

With the election, voters gave Senate Republicans a 31-19 majority. For more on Senator-elect Reschenthaler, please see In the Spotlight, below.  

Committee Hearings

The Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery), will hold a public hearing on the nominations of Lydia Kirkland and Leo Dunn to be members of the PA Board of Probation and Parole. (Tues., 10 a.m., Room 8E-B)

The Senate Law and Justice Committee, chaired by Sen. Chuck McIlhinney (R-Bucks), will hold a public hearing to consider the nomination of Tyree Blocker as State Police Commissioner, and consider House Bill 941. (Tues., 10:30 a.m., Room 461)

Senate Committee Schedule

Hearings are streamed live at PASenateGOP.com.

Review

Special Committee on Senate Address Holds Two Public Hearings

The Special Committee on Senate Address, chaired by Sen. John Gordner (R-Columbia), held public hearings Tuesday and Wednesday as it examines the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s ability to perform her duties with a suspended law license.

On Tuesday, the committee heard testimony from a panel of constitutional and legal ethics experts regarding their interpretation of constitutionally permissible actions by an attorney with a suspended law license, as well as related matters.

Wednesday’s hearing focused on the impact the license suspension is having on the operations of the Office of Attorney General, and featured testimony from OAG senior staff attorneys.

The committee is expected to submit the official report to the full Senate by Wednesday.

Tuesday’s Hearing

Wednesday’s Hearing

Senate Approves Bill Requiring Senate Confirmation of Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commissioners

Legislation sponsored by Sen. Mario Scavello (R-Monroe) requiring Senate confirmation of appointees to the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission (DRJTBC), Senate Bill 927, was approved Tuesday by the Senate.

The DRJTBC is made up of five commissioners each from New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The New Jersey members are nominated by the governor and confirmed by the New Jersey State Senate.  The Pennsylvania members are appointed by the governor and serve without Senate consideration.

The commission maintains 20 bridges along 140 miles of the Delaware River. The Senate previously approved Senate Bill 286, sponsored by Sen. John Rafferty (R-Montgomery), part of a bi-state legislative package to reform the Delaware River Port Authority, including a provision for the Pennsylvania Senate to confirm the governor’s appointees.

Senate Bill 927 now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Senate Approves Senator Yaw’s Passenger Aid Bill

Legislation requiring passengers involved in motor vehicle accidents to contact emergency personnel and render reasonable assistance in cases where drivers “refuse” or “neglect” to offer aid was approved Tuesday by the Senate.

Current law only requires a passenger to render aid if a driver is physically unable to do so. Under Senate Bill 146, drivers who violate this law would commit a misdemeanor of the third degree. Any occupant who violates the law would commit a summary offense. Senate Bill 146 now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Senator Yaw: “I introduced this bill at the request of Bradford County constituents who were deeply impacted by an unreported hit-and-run that involved the death of a young man. If the passengers in the vehicle involved immediately reported and aided the victim, he may still be alive today. Unfortunately, they did not. This legislation is about doing the right thing and saving lives.”
Listen

Highway Worker Safety Legislation Heading to Governor for Enactment

Legislation designed to prevent distracted and aggressive driving in work zones is heading to Gov. Tom Wolf for signature after unanimous concurrence by the Senate on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 887, which originally passed the Senate in June, toughens penalties for drivers who endanger or kill a highway worker or first responder in a construction zone. Co-sponsored by Sen. Camera Bartolotta (R-Washington), the bill also broadens the scope of “highway workers” to include emergency personnel, local government and municipal workers, members of the Pennsylvania State Police and law enforcement community, and contractors or utility company workers.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reports that approximately 100 workers are killed and another 20,000 workers are injured every year in highway and street construction accidents.

Senate Approves Probationary License Revisions

On Wednesday, the Senate passed legislation sponsored by Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery) aimed at reducing the life-long impact of license suspensions on those who have committed traffic violations at a young age.

Senate Bill 62 reduces by half the time periods that an individual must wait before applying for a probationary driver’s license which permits driving a non-commercial vehicle between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. The legislation does not address DUI or aggravated assault by motor vehicle.

A district judge brought this issue to Senator Greenleaf’s attention, raising his concern over youth between the ages of 16 and 20 getting their license suspended. Many young people before the judge had received a minor traffic violation, and for reasons of immaturity, they failed to respond to the citation. They subsequently incur a one year license suspension, which when also ignored, can soon result in multiple suspensions amounting to many years.

In the Spotlight

The son of former teachers, Senator-elect Guy Reschenthaler was raised in the South Hills of Pittsburgh, graduated from Penn State, The Behrend College, in three years, and completed law school at Duquesne University.

After law school, he fulfilled a lifelong dream and joined the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General Corps and volunteered for duty in Iraq. In Baghdad, he prosecuted nearly 100 terrorists, including top figures in Al-Qaeda. He also successfully defended a Navy SEAL falsely accused of misconduct.

Stateside, he served as a Navy lawyer in Norfolk, Va. and then in Texas and Oklahoma, where he was the first uniformed military officer ever to share in the prestigious Michael Taylor Shelby Award, given annually by the Southern District of Texas Chapter of the Federal Bar Association for outstanding ethics and professionalism.

Back home, he worked in private practice at a multi-state law firm in Mt. Lebanon and was elected Magisterial District Judge for Pleasant Hills, Jefferson Hills and South Park, winning the nomination of both parties.

Senator-elect Reschenthaler’s legislative priorities include improving education opportunities, limiting government and lowering taxes, and reforming the pension system.

Fast Facts

New Senate Republican Majority

Sen. Richard Alloway (R-Franklin)

Sen. David Argall (R-Schuylkill)

Sen. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster)

Sen. Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne)

Sen. Camera Bartolotta (R-Washington)

Sen. Michele Brooks (R-Mercer)

Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh)

Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Centre)

Sen. John Eichelberger (R-Blair)

Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon)

Sen. John Gordner (R-Columbia)

Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery)

Sen. Scott Hutchinson (R-Venango)

Sen. Tom McGarrigle (R-Delaware)

Sen. Chuck McIlhinney (R-Bucks)

Sen. Bob Mensch (R-Montgomery)

Sen. Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware)

Sen. John Rafferty (R-Montgomery)

Senator-Elect Guy Reschenthaler

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson)

Sen. Mario Scavello (R-Monroe)

Sen. Pat Stefano (R-Fayette)

Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster)

Sen. Tommy Tomlinson (R-Bucks)

Sen. Pat Vance (R-Cumberland)

Sen. Elder Vogel (R-Beaver)

Sen. Randy Vulakovich (R-Allegheny)

Sen. Scott Wagner (R-York)

Sen. Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland)

Sen. Don White (R-Indiana)

Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming)

Senate Republican News Brief

After considerable consultation with Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, other members of the Senate and the Governor’s office, it is my view that this step is warranted.”

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) on his intention to establish a bi-partisan Special Committee to pursue possible Senate action against Attorney General Kathleen Kane.

Preview

Senate Reconvenes at 1 p.m.

The Senate reconvenes today at 1 p.m. Bills on the calendar that may run this week include:

Senate Bill 526 amends the Second Class Township Code to change the completion date and method of circulation of the township financial reports. Sen. John Gordner (R-Columbia)

Senate Bill 606 establishes limited liability for maritime pilots licensed by the Navigation Commission for the Delaware River and its Navigable Tributaries. Sen. Tom McGarrigle (R-Delaware)

Senate Bill 857 increases penalties for those convicted of being a “rogue mover” lacking a PUC permit. Sen. David Argall (R-Schuylkill)

Senate Bill 62 makes it easier to obtain a probationary driver’s license, available to habitual offenders whose driving privileges have been revoked. Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery)

 

Committee Hearings

The Senate Education Committee, chaired by Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster), and the House Education Committee will hold a joint public hearing on the growing substitute teacher shortage facing Pennsylvania school districts. (Underway, N. Office Bldg. Room 1)

Senate Committee Schedule

Hearings are streamed live at PASenateGOP.com.

Review

Scarnati Announces Special Committee on Attorney General Kane

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) announced his intention to establish a bi-partisan Special Committee to pursue possible Senate action against Attorney General Kane, pursuant to Article 6, Section 7 of the Pennsylvania Constitution.

The “Special Committee on Senate Address” will be established under Rule 5(a)(2) of the Senate Rules.  It will be composed of three Republican members and three Democrat members, with the President Pro Tempore serving as an ex-officio member.  Appointment of members to the Special Committee will be made next week by the Senate President Pro Tempore, in consultation with Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa.

Members of the bi-partisan committee will be announced and their names read across the desk in the Senate during today’s session.  For more on this Special Committee, please see In the Spotlight, below.

Measure Strengthening Right-to-Know Law Sent to House

Legislation that will significantly strengthen Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law was unanimously approved by the Senate on Wednesday. Senate Bill 411, sponsored by Sen. Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware), now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

The bill clarifies and improves the Open Records Law based on experiences and court decisions since the law went into effect in 2008. The bill makes over 30 changes to the law, including limiting inmate records requests, which make up more 40 percent of the workload of the Office of Open Records; handling commercial requestors; and clarifying that volunteer fire companies are not government agencies and should not be treated as such under the law.

An amendment added to the bill requires state-related universities to create accessible online databases to include budget, revenue and expense-related information.

Senate Passes Bill to End Intimidation by Union Members

The Senate approved legislation on Tuesday that would prohibit harassment, stalking or making threats by parties involved in a labor dispute. House Bill 874 returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

The measure does not impact unions engaged in lawful disputes or protests, but addresses issues in previous labor disputes in which violent protests by the union workers ensued, including intimidation and harassment in the form of physical abuse of on-site contractors and property damage.

The measure was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery), in June. It is supported by the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association and the Pennsylvania Sheriffs’ Association.

Senate Acts to Prohibit the Sale of Electronic Cigarettes to Minors

The Senate on Monday passed Senate Bill 751, sponsored by Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery), to prohibit the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors.

A national study, “Monitoring the Future,” found recent e-cigarette use among teens exceeded traditional cigarette smoking in 2014 for the first time. E-cigarette use among 8th and 10th graders was double that of traditional cigarette smoking. E-cigarettes are frequently available in different flavors such as cotton candy, bubble gum, and chocolate which may appeal to children and teens. Today, there are nearly 500 brands of e-cigarettes on the market and they come in over 7,700 different flavors.

The measure is supported by the American Lung Association, the American Heart Association, and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

Senate Sends Bill to Increase Support for Housing Program to Governor

The Senate gave final approval Tuesday to a House Bill that would increase state support for a program that promotes housing affordability and rehabilitation in communities across the commonwealth.

House Bill 792 would dedicate a portion of funds raised from the state’s Realty Transfer Tax for use by the Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement Fund (PHARE) for projects across the state. The legislation does not increase the RTT rate, but solely changes how the revenues under the existing rate are used. Sen. Elder Vogel (R-Beaver), introduced the measure in the Senate as Senate Bill 566.

House Bill 792 now goes to the Governor for his signature and enactment into law.

Watch

Senate Approves Bill Assisting First Responder Fundraising Efforts

Legislation intended to assist local first responders in their fundraising efforts was unanimously approved by the Senate on Wednesday.

House Bill 138 would allow first responders — after getting local approval — to fundraise on local roadways, with programs such as those in which firefighters collect donations in a boot. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

The measure was approved by the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, chaired by Sen. Randy Vulakovich (R-Allegheny), in September.

In the Spotlight

Article 6, Section 7 of the Pennsylvania Constitution includes the following:

All civil officers elected by the people, except the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, members of the General Assembly and judges of the courts of record, shall be removed by the Governor for reasonable cause, after due notice and full hearing, on the address of two-thirds of the Senate.

The preliminary responsibilities and duties of the Special Committee on Senate Address are:

  • Within 30 days following the appointment of Committee members, the Committee will issue a written report to the full Senate with preliminary findings of the Committee, as well as an outline of procedures that the Committee will utilize should they elect to move forward.
  • Within the same period of time, the Committee will be tasked with determining if there is sufficient evidence that warrants notice and a hearing as required under the PA Constitution before the Special Committee on Senate Address.

Senator Scarnati: “The Committee will be tasked with examining Ms. Kane’s ability to perform the functions of her position with an indefinitely suspended law license, as well as possible other areas that may impact her performance.”

Fast Facts

Pennsylvania School Staffing Levels

  • Pennsylvania’s rank in total number of teachers: 6th
  • Rank in total number of instruction staff: 7th
  • Average Pennsylvania student-to-teacher ratio:14.6
  • U.S. average student-to-teacher ratio:15.9
  • Rank in average teacher salary: 10th ($62,994)

Senate Republican News Brief

“Hardworking public employees and school teachers should not be forced to have money deducted from their paychecks in order to support a political agenda they do not support.”

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) on Senate passage of paycheck protection legislation.

Preview

Senate Reconvenes at 1 p.m.

The Senate reconvenes today at 1 p.m. Bills on the calendar that may run this week include:

Committee Action

The Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery), will hold a public hearing on Senate Bill 869, Asset Forfeiture in Pennsylvania. (Tues., 10:30 a.m., Room 8E-B)

The Senate State Government Committee, chaired by Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon), will hold a public hearing on Pennsylvania’s new online voter registration system. (Wed., 10 a.m., N. Office Bldg. Room 1)

Senate Committee Schedule

Hearings are streamed live at PASenateGOP.com unless otherwise indicated.

Review

Senate Approves “Paycheck Protection” Bill

The Senate passed groundbreaking “paycheck protection” legislation on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 501, sponsored by Sen. John Eichelberger (R-Blair), would ensure that public employee paychecks and taxpayer resources are no longer used as a vehicle for the collection of political money by outside groups. The law would only apply to public sector union contracts that currently benefit from this taxpayer-funded legal and financial privilege.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration. For more on Senate Bill 501, please see In the Spotlight, below.

Senate Passes Legislation to Establish Fund for ATV Activities

The Senate approved legislation Tuesday that would ensure that funds received through the registration, certification and enforcement of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) in Pennsylvania are used specifically to support ATV activities.

Senate Bill 648, sponsored by Sen. Pat Stefano (R-Fayette), requires that monies generated through ATV-related operations are placed in a restricted account to be used for a variety of purposes including the construction and maintenance of ATV trails and acquisition of equipment, supplies and interests in land.

Currently, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources does not separate expenditures related to ATV and snowmobile operations. As a result, these funds are being disproportionately allocated between user groups. While ATV operations contribute $1.4 million of the $1.6 million in the current fund, 80 percent of the total funding is allocated to expansion of snowmobile trails. The bill was sent to the House of Representatives.

Gordner Bill to Modernize the State Psychological Practice Act Passes Senate

The first modernization of the Pennsylvania Psychological Practice Act since 1986 was unanimously approved by the Senate on Tuesday.

Sponsored by Sen. John Gordner (R-Columbia), Senate Bill 772 would clarify that diagnosis is within the scope of practice for licensed psychologists; give the State Board the power to deny temporary licenses to those who have had disciplinary actions against them in other states; and require licensed psychologists to disclose other professional licenses held, and any disciplinary actions occurring under those licenses, along with other provisions.

The legislation now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Study of Public-Private Partnerships for Veterans’ Care Authorized

The Senate adopted a resolution Tuesday to study options to provide additional care for veterans.

Senate Resolution 171, sponsored by Sen. David Argall (R-Schuylkill), directs the Pennsylvania Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LBFC) to study the potential cost-savings and effectiveness of allowing the state’s Department of Military and Veterans Affairs to partner with the private sector to provide additional care for veterans.

The study will determine how many veterans are on waiting lists to be placed in state-owned veterans care homes, the average cost per day for care and treatment for a veteran at a state-owned veterans care facility compared to a privately owned health care facility, and the projected number of veterans who will require care over the next 10 years in Pennsylvania.

The resolution requires the study to be completed within six months.

Joint Hearing on Assessing Government Spending, Programs

A joint public hearing by the Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Sen. John Eichelberger (R-Blair), and the Senate State Government Committee, chaired by Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon), looked at ways to better assess government spending and programs.

Testimony was provided by Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Legislative Budget and Finance Committee, Philip Durgen, and Inspector General Grayling Williams.

Hearing Video & Testimony

In the Spotlight

Senate Bill 501 allows public sector unions to continue to collect membership dues from union members and deduct the “Fair Share” amount from nonmembers, which is used strictly for collective bargaining purposes, grievances, and arbitrations.

In addition, unions can continue to spend political money, it just cannot be collected from employee paychecks by the government.  Political contributions and other political funds must be collected from individuals directly by the organization seeking the funds, just as every other political organization must do.

Senator Eichelberger: “This is what the majority of union members want and what the public deserves. It protects members from being forced through the union to fund political candidates or causes they don’t support.”

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson): “I congratulate Senator Eichelberger on his hard work to advance this important paycheck protection measure. It is crucial that electoral politics and official government business have clear separation and that taxpayer resources are in no way used for campaign purposes.”

Fast Facts

PA Education Spending

  • Total state, local and federal education spending in Pennsylvania: $27.4 billion
  • Pennsylvania’s rank for statewide education funding: 6th
  • Ranking for per pupil spending: 12th
  • Average per pupil spending (U.S.): $11,308
  • Average per pupil spending (PA): $15,000
  • Average teacher salary (U.S.): $56,103
  • Average teacher salary (PA):  $62,994

Questions or Comments?

Contact the Senate Republican Communications Office (717-787-6725). Current and archived News Briefs are also available online at PASenateGOP.com.

Senate Republican News Brief

“It is imperative for lawmakers to support efforts to protect our environment and develop our natural resources safely and responsibly.”

Sen. Camera Bartolotta (R-Washington), sponsor of newly enacted Act 47, which will help reduce the use of fresh water in oil and gas drilling operations.

Preview

Senate Reconvenes at 1 p.m.

The Senate reconvenes today at 1 p.m. Bills on the calendar that may run this week include:

Committee Action

The Senate State Government Committee, chaired by Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon), and the Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Sen. John Eichelberger (R-Blair), will hold a joint hearing on better ways to assess state government expenditures and programs. (Wed., 9 a.m., N. Office Bldg. Room 1)

Senate Committee Schedule

Hearings are streamed live at PASenateGOP.com unless otherwise indicated.

Review

Bill to Reduce Fresh Water Use in Drilling Enacted

Legislation to reduce the use of fresh water in oil and gas drilling operations was signed into law Oct. 8.

Act 47 of 2015 , sponsored by Sen. Camera Bartolotta (R-Washington), clarifies legal liabilities associated with the use of treated mine water in oil and gas operations.

Several oil and gas companies already use treated mine water in place of fresh water in the natural gas extraction process, but concerns regarding liability issues have prevented many companies from utilizing this approach.

The legislation does not weaken any existing environmental safeguards designed to protect public health. It would only clarify parties that could be held responsible if the mine water is not treated or utilized properly.

Senator Bartolotta: “The use of treated mine water by natural gas companies is an innovative approach that will help preserve millions of gallons of fresh water, and I am thankful that more companies will have the freedom to explore this option.”

Smucker Bill on Campus Arrest Powers Signed into Law

Legislation to better protect students and the public on college campuses was signed into law Oct. 1.

Act 41 of 2015, sponsored by Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster), clarifies where campus police officers employed by the 14 state-owned universities have arrest powers.

In an October 2014 court case, the Superior Court determined that a road running through a university campus was not technically “campus grounds,” so campus police did not have clear arrest powers along that stretch. As a result of this determination, a drunk driving conviction was overturned.

Act 41 ensures that campus police officers employed by the state-owned universities can make arrests on the highways, traffic ways, bike paths and pedestrian walkways that traverse or abut lands and buildings owned, controlled, leased or managed by the universities of the State System of Higher Education.  These duties are already possessed by municipal police officers and state-related university police officers.

Aument Introduces Legislation to Create Independent Office

Sen. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster) introduced legislation to statutorily create Pennsylvania’s Office of Inspector General to provide for the office’s appointment, term, power and duties.

Senate Bill 1025 being proposed by Senator Aument would create by law the post of Inspector General. The bill requires that the Inspector General be nominated by the Governor and confirmed by two-thirds of the Senate.

Senator Aument: “The Inspector General’s job as one of our Commonwealth’s top waste, fraud and abuse watchdogs needs to be enacted into law and given the appropriate authority to prevent and deter corruption and other illegal acts in state government.”

Listen

McGarrigle Bill Would Allow Disability License Plates for Parents of Disabled Adults

Sen. Tom McGarrigle (R-Delaware) has introduced legislation to allow parents or guardians with adult children in their care to receive disability license plates.

Senate Bill 983 would provide access to vehicle disability license plates to parents, including adoptive parents or foster parents, of adult children in their care who qualify for a disability license plate.

Senator McGarrigle has been working with a mother in his district seeking a disability license plate for her vehicle as she is the primary caretaker for her adult son. Her son is 21 and lives with blindness, autism and cerebral palsy. Because her son is an adult, PennDOT has refused to provide the disability plate.

Senator McGarrigle: “This legislation would provide a small amount of relief to the parents who care for their adult children with disabilities. They certainly have enough issues to contend with, and access to a disability license plate should not be one of them.”

In the Spotlight

The Pennsylvania Office of Inspector General was created in 1987 to prevent, investigate, and eradicate fraud, waste, abuse, and misconduct in the programs, operations, and contracting of executive agencies under the Governor’s jurisdiction.

Currently, the Inspector General is a cabinet-level official who is appointed by, and reports to, the governor. Pennsylvania is among a small minority of states that does not have a separate statute providing for the appointment, term and duties of the Inspector General. The office only exists if the governor wishes it to continue by Executive Order.

The legislation includes specific powers and duties for the Inspector General’s office, most of which are consistent with the current powers and duties of the office.  It calls for the Inspector General to make investigations and reports, work with state agencies to improve performance of their functions and responsibilities, engage in prevention activities and promote remedial actions to correct operating or other deficiencies in state agencies.

The Inspector General would also make regular reports to the General Assembly concerning problems or deficiencies relating to the administration of a program or operation in an agency. The bill includes important whistleblower protections that will continue to encourage Commonwealth employees who report – in good faith – fraud, waste, misconduct, malfeasance, misfeasance, nonfeasance or abuse.

Fast Facts

 

Pennsylvania’s High Tax Burden

  • Pennsylvania has the 3rd heaviest state and local tax burden of populous states.
  • Pennsylvania has the 10th heaviest state and local tax burden of all states.
  • Total state-local tax burden (per capita): $4,374
  • Tax burden as a share of state income: 10.3%

Source: Tax Foundation

Senate Republican News Brief

“This legislation will give all stakeholders time to work together to improve the process and provide fair and effective options for students and parents.”

Senate Education Committee Chair Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster) on legislation passed by the Senate to delay the Keystone Exams as a graduation requirement for two years.

Preview

Senate Reconvenes at 1 p.m.

The Senate reconvenes today at 1 p.m. Bills on the calendar that may run this week include:

Senate Bill 299– providing municipalities the option to waive an earned income tax for volunteer firefighters and EMS. Sen. Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne)

Senate Bill 352 – reforming and modernizing the Race Horse Industry Reform Act. Sen. Elder Vogel (R-Beaver)

Senate Bill 356 – amending the Local Tax Enabling Act to help with the consolidated collection of local income taxes. Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon)

Senate Bill 370 – extending the sunset from 5 years to 10 years for merged fire companies to continue to collect grant money. Sen. Don White (R-Indiana)

Senate Bill 398 – redesigning the driver’s license and identification card applications to include questions on organ donor designation. Sen. Don White (R-Indiana)

Senate Bill 663 – removing the parental rights of someone who has been convicted of a rape that produced a child. Sen. Randy Vulakovich (R-Allegheny)

Senate Bill 751 – prohibiting the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors. Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery)

Senate Bill 775 – amending Title 11 consolidation of the Third Class City Code. Sen. John Eichelberger (R-Blair)

Senate Bill 683 – modernizing and strengthening the use of DNA technology to fight violent crime. Sen. Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware)

Senate Bill 862 – aligning criminal history background clearance requirements for school employees with the Child Protective Services Law. Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster)

Committee Action

The Legislative Audit Advisory Commission will meet to vote on the auditing firm to handle the Statement of Financial Affairs for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2015. (Tues., 9 a.m., N. Office Bldg. Room 1)

The Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery), will meet to consider Senate Bill 296 and House Bill 272, and hold a public hearing to discuss the collateral consequences of criminal convictions. (Tues., 10 a.m., N. Office Bldg. Room 1)

The Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee, chaired by Sen. Pat Vance (R-Cumberland), will hold a public hearing on continuity of mental health care from prison to community. (Tues., 10 a.m., Room 8E-B)

The Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Sen. John Eichelberger (R-Blair), will meet to consider the nomination of Timothy Reese for Treasurer, and to consider bills. (Wed., 10 a.m., Room 461) *Not streamed live

Senate Committee Schedule

Hearings are streamed live at PASenateGOP.com unless otherwise indicated.

Review

Basic Education Funding Commission Presents Final Report

The Basic Education Funding Commission issued its final report Thursday recommending that the General Assembly adopt a new formula for distributing state funding for basic education to Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts.

The Commission – which was co-chaired by Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh) and Representative Mike Vereb – undertook a comprehensive study of multiple factors before arriving at a consensus on a new formula that will benefit school districts, parents and children.

The 15-member group, created through Act 51 of 2014, held 15 hearings over 11 months and heard from a wide range of experts and advocates in the education field, as well as parents, from urban, suburban and rural school districts throughout the state. For more on the final report, please see In the Spotlight and Fast Facts, below.

Senate Votes to Delay Keystone Exams Graduation Requirement

The Senate unanimously approved legislation June 15 that would delay the Keystone Exams as a graduation requirement for two years.

Senate Bill 880, sponsored by Senate Education Committee Chair Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster), would delay the end-of-course exams in algebra, biology and literature as a graduation requirement until 2019.

Senator Smucker: “While I strongly believe in holding schools accountable and ensuring that our high school graduates are career- and college-ready, these exams have created some unintended consequences that should be taken into consideration. The intent of the exams is admirable, but the implementation has presented concerns that may be best addressed by pushing the pause button and working through them.”

Senate Approves 911 Reauthorization Measure

The Senate on Tuesday approved House Bill 911, legislation that will reauthorize the Emergency 9-1-1 System in Pennsylvania.

The Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, chaired by Sen. Randy Vulakovich (R-Allegheny), held two public hearings on the bill and adopted a comprehensive amendment based on input provided by a number of individuals and organizations.

The current fee on wireless devices is set to expire on June 30, 2015, unless the law is reauthorized.  House Bill 911 would set the fee at $1.65 a month per device.  For the first time, 9-1-1 will be using national standards for staffing and equipment, thus when counties submit their annual 9-1-1 plan and funds are disbursed to them they will not fund things that are out of line.  There are also incentives for consolidation and shared services which will result in cost savings. The bill returns to the House of Representatives for a concurrence vote.

Direct Wine Shipping Bill Approved by Committee

The Senate Law and Justice Committee, chaired by Sen. Chuck McIlhinney (R-Bucks), on Wednesday approved House Bill 189, providing for the direct shipment of wine to consumers.

Currently out-of-state retailers of wine may obtain a direct shipper’s permit through the PLCB.  However, the permit limits the amount of wine to be shipped and excludes any wines currently available for sale through the State Stores.  In addition, the wine cannot be shipped directly to a resident’s home; it must be picked up at a State Store by the purchaser.

The bill was amended to remove the 18 percent Johnstown Flood tax, place limitations on the number of bottles that can be direct shipped, strengthen the penalties for reselling wine, and establish the PA Wine Marketing and Research program board, among other changes.

Watch

In the Spotlight

The lack of a permanent state funding formula for education has provided an unbalanced distribution of state funding to school districts and does not match the needs to educate students in some districts, according to a statement from the Basic Education Funding Commission.

The commission determined that allocation of basic education funding needs to allow for accountability, transparency and predictability. The main objective of the new funding formula is to fairly distribute state resources according to various student and school district factors.

The new formula takes into account several student-based factors, including: Student count, which is the average of the most recent three years of Average Daily Membership (ADM), poverty, English language learners and charter school enrollment. The formula assigned weights to each category to help determine the degree to which each factor drives up the cost of educating a student.

Commission Statement: “The goal of the commission was to create a funding formula that would be a significant improvement over the current system for how Pennsylvania distributes state dollars toward education. We believe we have laid out a plan that will succeed in doing that.”

Fast Facts

Recommended Basic Education Funding Formula Factors

  • Student count
  • Poverty
  • Number of English language learners
  • Charter school enrollment
  • Sparsity Size Adjustment for rural school districts
  • Median Household Income
  • A school district’s ability to generate local tax-related revenue

Senate Republican News Brief

“The Court agreed with General Assembly’s vision when creating this law – that only through the independence of the office can we ensure that proper scrutiny can be given to government through its public records.”

Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Centre) on the Commonwealth Court ruling reversing Gov. Wolf’s dismissal of the director of the state Office of Open Records.

Preview

Senate Reconvenes at 1 p.m.

The Senate reconvenes today at 1 p.m. Bills on the calendar that may run this week include:

Senate Bill 352 — horse racing reform. Sen. Elder Vogel (R-Beaver)
Senate Bill 590– PASSHE intellectual property. Sen. Tommy Tomlinson (R-Bucks)
Senate Bill 687, Senate Bill 688 – planned community reform. Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh)
Senate Bill 861 – insurance coverage for loaner vehicles. Sen. Don White (R-Indiana)
Senate Bill 880 – delaying Keystone Exams.  Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster)
Senate Bill 663 – rape survivor child custody. Sen. Randy Vulakovich (R-Allegheny)
Senate Bill 747 – punitive damages in health care industry. Sen. Elder Vogel (R-Beaver)
Senate Bill 772 – professional psychologists practice. Sen. John Gordner (R-Columbia)
House Bill 911 – 911 emergency communications funding.

Committee Action

The Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery), will consider bills, consider nominations to the Board of Probation and Parole, and hold a public hearing to examine the disposition of digital assets (Senate Bill 518). (Tues., 11:30 a.m., Room 8E-B)

The Senate Game and Fisheries Committee, chaired by Sen. Mario Scavello (R-Monroe), will consider bills. (Tues., 12:30 p.m., Room 8E-A)

The Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee, chaired by Sen. Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland), will hold a public hearing to consider PA Gaming and Control Board and Dept. of Drug and Alcohol Programs: gaming, internet gaming and related issues, and Title 4 (Amusements) legislation. (Wed., 9 a.m., Room 8E-B)

The Senate State Government Committee, chaired by Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon), will meet to consider bills and hold a public hearing on the Wolf Administration’s GO-TIME initiative pertaining to procurement. (Wed., 9 a.m., N. Office Bldg. Room 1)

The Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Sen. John Eichelberger (R-Blair), will hold a public hearing on municipal pension legislation. (Thurs., 9:30 a.m., N. Office Bldg. Room 1)

Senate Committee Schedule

Hearings are streamed live at PASenateGOP.com.

Review

Bill Regulating Healthcare Exchange Navigators Sent to Governor

The Senate approved and sent to the governor on Tuesday legislation to protect consumers’ rights and personal information with regard to navigators and certified application counselors created by the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.”

Senate Bill 293, sponsored by Sen. John Eichelberger (R-Blair), would require Healthcare Exchange Navigators be certified by the Department of Insurance and pass a criminal background check. The Senate concurred on House amendments to the measure and sent it on to Governor Wolf.

The federal Affordable Care Act relies on individuals, generally called “navigators,” to educate and enroll millions of uninsured Americans in Medicaid or a private insurance plan.  Although in many respects these navigators act like insurance agents, they have almost no qualifications or restrictions placed upon them by the federal statute.

Senate Establishes Scholarship Program in Public School Code

The Senate on Tuesday approved legislation to continue and codify a scholarship program for Pennsylvania students.

Senate Bill 329, sponsored by Sen. Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland), establishes the Ready to Succeed Scholarship in the Public School Code to provide for a new scholarship program administered by the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency to help defray the cost of attending a state-grant-approved institution of higher education.

Eligibility criteria set by the bill include total annual household income not in excess of $110,000 and demonstration of outstanding academic achievement. The measure was sent to the House of Representatives.

Senate Approves Blight Remediation Measure

The Senate approved legislation on Tuesday to give counties a new option to finance the demolition of blighted and abandoned properties.

Senate Bill 486, sponsored by Sen. David Argall (R-Schuylkill), would give counties the option to levy up to an additional $15 fee on deeds and mortgages recorded in the Recorder of Deeds office. The new revenue would be used exclusively for demolition funding within that specific county.

Senate Bill 486 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Senate Considers Cabinet Nominations

The Senate approved three cabinet nominations last week:

John Wetzel – Secretary of Corrections
Dr. Rachel Levine – Physician General
Eileen McNulty – Secretary of Revenue

The Senate voted 26-22 to not confirm the nomination of Marcus Brown to serve as State Police Commissioner. For a tally of nominations confirmed by the Senate, please see Fast Facts, below.

Greenleaf Announces Bill to Protect Human Trafficking Child Victims from Prosecution

Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery) held a news conference at the State Capitol on Tuesday announcing the introduction of “Safe Harbor” legislation designed to help law enforcement identify the child victims of human trafficking and avoid prosecuting children who have been forced to perform illegal activities.

The legislation follows Act 105 of 2014 that rewrote the Commonwealth’s human trafficking statute to better enable prosecutors to bring charges for human trafficking and increase penalties for traffickers.

For more on Senator Greenleaf’s legislation, please see In the Spotlight, below.

In the Spotlight

More than 100,000 children are exploited through prostitution in the United States each year.  Adults psychologically manipulate these children, often with the use of illegal drugs. As a consequence, children have been charged with prostitution, drug possession, loitering, and other offenses that are inherently related to prostitution.

Senate Bill 851 would require law enforcement to report to the Department of Human Services any encounter with a minor who has been subject to sexual exploitation.  The Department will develop and implement a statewide protocol to deliver safe long-term housing, education, life-skills training, and counseling to the children who have been exploited.  The bill would require that police be trained to identify and assist sexually exploited children.  Most importantly, the bill would require that sexually exploited children be diverted from the criminal justice system to more appropriate human services.

Senator Greenleaf: “For many years, we have treated the victims of trafficking as criminals and the criminals as victims. Children are often lured into sex trafficking and charged with serious crimes. It can be difficult to identify human trafficking victims because they either do not identify as victims, are mistrustful of law enforcement, or fear retribution from their trafficker. These children deserve the protection of the child welfare system, not re-victimization and incarceration in the juvenile justice system.”

Fast Facts

Cabinet Nominees Confirmed by Senate to Date

Major General James Joseph – Adjutant General
Teresa Osborne – Secretary of Aging
Russell Redding – Secretary of Agriculture
Robin Wiessmann – Secretary of Banking and Securities
Dennis Davin – Secretary of Community and Economic Development
Cindy Dunn – Secretary of Conservation and Natural Resources
John Wetzel – Secretary of Corrections
Gary Tennis – Secretary of Drug and Alcohol Programs
Pedro Rivera – Secretary of Education
John Quigley – Secretary of Environmental Protection
Curtis Topper – Secretary of General Services
Dr. Karen Murphy – Secretary of Health
Ted Dallas – Secretary of Human Services
Teresa Miller – Insurance Commissioner
Kathy Manderino – Secretary of Labor and Industry
Dr. Rachel Levine – Physician General
Eileen McNulty – Secretary of Revenue
Pedro Cortes – Secretary of Department of State
Leslie Richards – Secretary of Transportation

Senate Republican News Brief

“Timely internet publication of all lobbying documents is an important part of improving transparency in state government and providing taxpayers with increased access to information.”

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) on his legislation requiring lobbyists and lobbying firms to register and file reports online.

Preview

Senate Reconvenes at 10 a.m.

The Senate reconvenes today at 10 a.m. Bills on the calendar that may run this week include:

Senate Bill 329 – Establishing the Ready to Succeed Scholarship Program. Sen. Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland)

Senate Bill 396 – Reenacting and amending the Health Care Cost Containment Act. Sen. Pat Vance (R-Cumberland)

Senate Bill 486 – Allowing counties to apply a fee to fund the demolition of blighted properties. Sen. David Argall (R-Schuylkill)

Senate Bill 513 – Amending the Solid Waste Management Act allowing for municipal waste landfills to truck leachate. Sen. Tom McGarrigle (R-Delaware)

Senate Bill 538 – Legislation to strengthen licensee reporting requirements to the Department of State’s Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs’ 29 licensing boards and licensee suspensions. Sen. Tommy Tomlinson (R-Bucks)

Committee Action

The Senate Transportation Committee, chaired by Sen. John Rafferty (R-Montgomery), and the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, chaired by Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming), will hold a joint public hearing on Safe Transportation of Crude Oil and Other Energy Products by Rail. (Tues., 9 a.m., Keystone Building, PUC Hearing Room 1)

The Senate Education Committee, chaired by Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster), will consider Senate Bill 6 and hold a public hearing on truancy enforcement. (Tues., 9:30 a.m., N. Office Bldg. Room 1)

The Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee, chaired by Sen. Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland), will hold a public hearing on Pennsylvania gaming, Internet gaming and related issues. (Wed., 9 a.m., Room 8E-B)

The Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Sen. John Eichelberger (R-Blair), will hold a public hearing on proposals to increase the sales/use tax and the personal income tax. (Wed., 2 p.m., N. Office Bldg. Room 1)

Senate Committee Schedule

Hearings are streamed live at PASenateGOP.com.

Review

Senate Acts to Make Lobbying Disclosure Information More Accessible

The Senate passed bipartisan legislation June 1 to improve access to lobbying disclosure data.

Senate Bill 695, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson), requires lobbyists and lobbying firms to register and file reports electronically through the computerized system developed by the Pennsylvania Department of State. In addition, the Department will be required to post on its Lobbyist Disclosure website all lobbying registration and reporting documents it receives within a week of the filing.

Currently, lobbyists may register and file reports with the state on paper forms through traditional mail.  In some cases this has led to delayed posting of the information on the Department’s publicly accessible website.

Senate Approves Bill to Improve Access Child Immunizations

Legislation that would improve access to child immunizations was approved Tuesday by the Senate.

Senate Bill 305, sponsored by Sen. Tom McGarrigle (R-Delaware), would allow pharmacists the ability to administer the flu vaccine to children 9 years of age and older with parental consent. The legislation would also permit pharmacy interns who have completed appropriate training to administer the flu vaccine under pharmacist supervision.

Current state law allows pharmacists and pharmacy interns to immunize only adults. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all children at least six months old receive a flu shot every year, but only about 55 percent of Pennsylvania children do.

Senate Approves Animal Cruelty Prevention Bills

The Senate approved a package of bills on Wednesday intended to help prevent animal cruelty.

Senate Bill 78, sponsored by Sen. Richard Alloway (R-Franklin), targets kennel owners who lose their license due to violations of the Dog Law. The legislation would prevent violators from continuing to operate a kennel at the same location by having a license issued to an immediate family member or another individual who resides at the same address.

Senate Bill 373, sponsored by Sen. Richard Alloway (R-Franklin), strengthens laws regarding the tethering of dogs. It also adds a provision regarding shelter for dogs and cats to ensure that they are protected against inclement weather, kept dry and allowed to maintain their normal body temperatures.

For more animal cruelty bills passed by the Senate, please see In the Spotlight, below.

Listen

Listen

Senate Votes to Subject PEMA Director Position to Senate Review and Confirmation

The Senate approved legislation Tuesday sponsored by Sen. Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne) to include the Director of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency as a position subject to review and confirmation by the Senate. Currently, the post is filled by appointment by the Governor.

The additional review of this individual provided by Senate Bill 490 will improve agency accountability and ensure that there is strong internal and external communication and coordination between state and local agencies in responding to emergencies.

Watch

Senate Confirms Seven Cabinet Secretaries

The Senate confirmed seven cabinet nominations last week.

Robin Wiessmann – Secretary of Banking and Securities

Cindy Dunn – Secretary of Conservation and Natural Resources

Pedro Rivera – Secretary of Education

John Quigley – Secretary of Environmental Protection

Ted Dallas – Secretary of Human Services

Teresa Miller – Insurance Commissioner

Pedro Cortes – Secretary of Department of State

Previously confirmed by the Senate:

Major General James Joseph – Adjutant General

Teresa Osborne – Secretary of Aging

Russell Redding – Secretary of Agriculture

Dennis Davin – Secretary of Community and Economic Development

Gary Tennis – Secretary of Drug and Alcohol Programs

Curtis Topper – Secretary of General Services

Dr. Karen Murphy – Secretary of Health

Kathy Manderino – Secretary of Labor and Industry

Leslie Richards – Secretary of Transportation

In the Spotlight

Senate Bill 294, sponsored by Sen. John Eichelberger (R-Blair), addresses the enforcement and application of Pennsylvania’s cruelty laws, particularly as they pertain to horses. It better defines “torture” and provides appropriate penalties based on language drafted with the assistance of the Farm Bureau.  The bill also provides for the seizure of animals in extreme instances of torture or cruelty.

Senate Bill 594 adds a section to Pennsylvania’s Animal Cruelty Law to specifically address when it happens in a domestic-violence situation.  Under the legislation, if a person with a protection-from-abuse order against them commits animal cruelty against the pet of their spouse or partner, they would face a minimum monetary fine of $2,000 and a maximum fine of $15,000.

Senator Alloway: “Our pets deserve a safe, comfortable environment both before and after they are adopted by loving families. Although the vast majority of people would never dream of harming a pet, stiff punishments are still necessary for those few bad apples who abuse defenseless animals. These bills will go a long way toward realizing that goal.”

Fast Facts

Revenue Collections Continue to Improve

  • Pennsylvania collected $2 billion in General Fund revenue in May, 2.6 percent more than anticipated.
  • Fiscal year-to-date General Fund collections total $27.7 billion, which is $618.9 million, or 2.3 percent, above estimate.
  • Year-to-date sales tax collections total $8.6 billion, which is 0.2 percent more than anticipated.
  • Year-to-date personal income tax collections total $10.9 billion, which is 0.6 percent above estimate.
  • Year-to-date corporation tax collections total $4.5 billion, which is 3.9 percent, above estimate.