Senate Declines to Take Action on Gov. Wolf’s Nominee to Head Labor & Industry

(HARRISBURG) – Senate Republican leaders announced today that the state Senate will decline to take action on the Governor’s nominee to lead the PA Department of Labor and Industry (L&I). The leaders did ask for the nomination to be recalled, but Gov. Wolf declined.

In response, Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-25) and Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-34) have issued the following statement:

“The majority of the Senate Republican Caucus expressed serious reservations about the qualifications and abilities of Jerry Oleksiak. At the same time, we wanted to balance those concerns with the understanding that the Governor should have the ability to establish his own team.

“Our lack of confidence stems from concerns for his fitness to lead this agency that were then underscored during meetings with Mr. Oleksiak. Allowing the time for consideration on Mr. Oleksiak to lapse means the Governor’s nominee assumes the post of Secretary but without the affirmative vote of the Senate.”

The move by the Senate is unprecedented. Under law, Oleksiak will become Secretary of L&I since he has been under consideration by the Senate for 25 legislative days.

The Constitution gives the Senate a maximum of 25 legislative days to take action on an Executive Nomination. Any nomination that remains on the Executive Nomination Calendar and has not been considered by the full Senate by the close of the 25th legislative day will automatically be deemed confirmed.

CONTACTS:        

Kate Eckhart – Senator Scarnati (717) 787-7084

Jenn Kocher – Senator Corman (717) 787-1377

Wagner, DiSanto and Brooks Propose to Count, Cap, Cut State Regulations

HARRISBURG – Several senators are taking aim at Pennsylvania’s excessive regulations to jump start the state’s economy.

Senators Scott Wagner (R-York), John DiSanto (R-Dauphin/Perry) and Michele Brooks (R-Crawford/Erie/Mercer/Warren) announced today they will introduce legislation to count, cap and cut the number of regulations in Pennsylvania.

The senators observed how the regulatory environment in Pennsylvania is holding back Pennsylvania businesses and individuals from succeeding in their fields. “If we want to bring jobs to Pennsylvania and see our economy thrive, we need to cut through the bureaucracy in Harrisburg,” Wagner said.

A recent study by the Mercatus Center of George Mason University found that the Pennsylvania Code, which holds all current state regulations, likely contains around 153,000 regulations, and that it would take one person 18 weeks to read the entire Code. “We are literally chasing jobs out of this state because small businesses are buried in red tape,” Wagner added, who pointed to the 24 pages in the Pennsylvania Code regarding the use and design of ladders as an egregious example.

“Government does not create jobs, but it can prevent their creation,” DiSanto observed. “My own experience as a business owner proves this out. Many Pennsylvanians have shared with me how excessive government red tape discourages innovation and investment that would grow our economy. Time would be better spent on producing goods and serving customers than on completing paperwork and jumping through regulatory hoops with no real value to anyone except the entrenched bureaucracy.”

The senators’ bill, called the Red Tape Reduction Act, will accomplish three things:

  1. Count the number of state regulations in the Pennsylvania Code.
  2. Cap the number of state regulations at the current number.
  3. Cut the number of state regulations by instituting a one-in, two-out regulatory model.

A one-in, two-out rule means that for every new regulation imposed in Pennsylvania, two would be eliminated. Canada, British Columbia, the United Kingdom, and most recently the U.S. federal government have all seen success with variations of this policy. It is an effective way to curb excessive government regulation, reported the senators.

“Consistently, I hear that over-reaching regulations are creating undue burdens on our farmers, local governments, business owners, and so many others. This legislation is an important step in identifying and rolling back bureaucratic red tape that is stifling our agriculture industry, communities, and job growth,” Brooks said. “By loosening the grip of government, we can help to free innovators and investors from regulatory over-reach, and cultivate economic growth and new jobs.” 

“It’s time we empower Pennsylvanians to succeed,” declared Wagner. “That starts with reducing our state’s regulatory burden.”

You can listen to Senator Wagner’s comments on regulatory reform here.

Wagner Launches ‘Scissors Out’ Website to Identify Excessive Regulations

HARRISBURG – Senator Scott Wagner (R-York) launched a website, SenatorScottWagner.com/ScissorsOut, where Pennsylvanians affected by excessive regulations can report those regulations.

“One of the biggest concerns I hear about our future is Pennsylvania’s obstructive regulatory environment that continues to stymie job growth,” Wagner said.

Senator Wagner said he created the new website page to solicit input from local residents and small business owners most harmed by excessive regulation. “I want to learn which mandates hurt Pennsylvanians more than they help, and I want to hear it directly from the people.”

He encourages any Pennsylvanian who has been hurt by an excessive or overly confusing regulation to visit the website, tell their story and share their suggestions. All responses will be catalogued and reviewed by the senator and his staff.

Senator Wagner is working on legislation to reform the regulatory approval process and restrict the growth of state bureaucracy.

“If we want to attract people to our state and empower Pennsylvanians to succeed, we must roll back the excessive regulations dictated from bureaucrats in Harrisburg. Get out your scissors and let’s start cutting through the red tape,” Wagner said.

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Senators Introduce Zero-Based Budget Reform Initiative

HARRISBURG – Senators Scott Wagner (R-York), Scott Martin (R-Lancaster), Mike Folmer (R-Dauphin/Lebanon/York), Guy Reschenthaler (R-Allegheny/Washington), Mike Regan (R-Cumberland/York), and Dan Laughlin (R-Erie) announced today that they intend to introduce a zero-based budget reform bill that would require every state agency to build its budget from a starting point of zero dollars.

Known as zero-based budgeting, the bill will require state agencies to justify every dollar of spending. These reform-minded senators believe this budgeting method will find unrealized savings and efficiencies that can save taxpayers millions of dollars.

“Instead of doing the heavy lifting of finding savings and managing state agencies, Governor Wolf wants to raise taxes on hardworking Pennsylvanians,” Wagner said. “If we implement zero-based budgeting, state government can be responsible stewards of taxpayer money. We could balance our budget and start cutting waste.”

This bill would be a significant departure from traditional budgeting, whereby agencies base their projections on the prior year’s figures. Under the proposed budgeting process, state agencies would be required to submit:

  • The statutory legal justification for the agency and each activity within the agency.
  • An itemized account of expenditures required for the agency to operate at the minimum level of service required by statute.
  • An itemized account of expenditures required for the agency to operate at the current level of service.
  • Concise statements about the quantity and quality of services provided at both the current and minimum levels.

“We owe it to taxpayers to ensure every dollar they send to Harrisburg is used wisely and efficiently,” Senator Martin said. “Every public policy decision should be driven by what is best for the citizens and the taxpayers of Pennsylvania, and not by what a department or agency spent in the previous year.”

“The current budgeting system perpetuates bureaucracies and rewards inefficiency in government operations. Zero-based budgeting would ensure that state money is invested in programs that are necessary and would reward those agencies that operate efficiently. Currently, agencies are working under the philosophy that, ‘If we don’t spend the money by the end of the year we, we won’t get it next year.’ Zero-based budgeting specifically targets that problematic way of thinking,” Senator Laughlin said.

Zero-based budgeting offers real accountability in state government, which is something the sponsors say is needed in Harrisburg. The state’s credit has been downgraded twice in the last three years, putting Pennsylvania in the bottom five states in Standard & Poor’s ratings.

“We need to change the way we think about budgeting in Pennsylvania to better protect our taxpayers from these recurring ‘budget crises,’” Senator Reschenthaler stated. “Zero-based budgeting will use a more fiscally responsible, commonsense approach to budgeting. I look forward to working with my colleagues to better protect taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars in the Commonwealth.”

“Every day, families and businesses have to live within their means, and they do it by questioning every dollar they spend,” Senator Folmer said. “Government should do the same through zero-based budgeting that questions every expenditure before it’s made.”

“Adopting commonsense zero-based budgeting practices will restore transparency and accountability in government spending,” Senator Regan noted. “This tested and proven private-sector approach will empower the legislature to identify cost-reduction opportunities; scale back or eliminate obsolete programs; and redirect funding to services and programs where additional resources will enhance outcomes.”

The private sector is adopting zero-based budgeting today with Kraft-Heinz, Coca-Cola, Kellogg’s and Unilever using this method to ensure they are operating in the most cost-effective manner.

“The scariest phrase in Harrisburg is: we’ve always done it this way. We’re trying to change that,” Wagner said.

 

 

Senator Martin: Wolf’s Veto Prevents Millions in Human Services Cost Savings

HARRISBURG – Governor Wolf’s veto of amendments to the Human Services Code will block the state from realizing millions – or potentially billions – of dollars in cost savings to taxpayers, according to Senator Scott Martin (R-13).

House Bill 59 would have created a pilot program that would make use of new technology to incorporate evidence-based medicine into care decisions for Medicaid recipients. The program is intended to improve patient outcomes and reduce costs to taxpayers by ensuring Medicaid patients get the care they need, while at the same time preventing misdiagnoses and avoiding unnecessary and costly emergency room visits and hospital admissions.

The plan is patterned after a successful program in Alaska that has helped reduce misdiagnosis rates, improve outpatient care, cut waste, and trim Medicaid costs by over 14 percent. Experts estimate that a similar program in Pennsylvania could generate upwards of $2 billion in annual savings. Pennsylvania’s current budget deficit stands at $2.2 billion.

“Medicaid is an enormous part of our state budget, and the cost to taxpayers will only continue to grow in the future,” Martin said. “As we continue to grapple with a multi-billion dollar deficit, we should be exploring every way to potentially save tax dollars. It is extremely disappointing that Governor Wolf chose to ignore the potential benefits of a program that has already proven to be successful in other states.”

“We have an obligation to manage taxpayer resources as efficiently and effectively as possible. That’s exactly what my proposal was designed to do,” Martin said. “While this veto will delay efforts to save taxpayer dollars, I will continue to work with all of my colleagues in the Senate and the House and use every tool at our disposal to rein in Medicaid costs and ensure this program provides the best possible care to patients and the lowest possible cost.”

“This pilot program would provide numerous benefits without costing the Commonwealth any additional money. It is baffling to me that Governor Wolf would rather side with special interests instead of exploring a proven program to make people healthier and reduce costs,” Martin said.

The bill also included reasonable work and job search requirements for able-bodied, non-disabled, non-elderly, non-pregnant adults who receive Medicaid.

“Vetoing commonsense work requirements is an insult to every hardworking Pennsylvanian that goes to work every day to provide healthcare benefits for his or her family,” Martin said.

CONTACT: Terry Trego (717) 787-6535

Eichelberger, Bloom Call for Limited Constitutional Convention to Reform State Government

 

HARRISBURG (October 17, 2017) – Senator John H. Eichelberger, Jr. (R-Blair) and Representative Stephen Bloom (R-Cumberland) held a news conference at the Capitol today to introduce companion legislation calling for a limited constitutional convention.

“Pennsylvanians deserve better,” said Senator Eichelberger.  “They’re fed up with the inability of the General Assembly, on the whole, to address significant deficiencies in several key areas of the state government.  A limited constitutional convention could lead to significant reform and go a long way in restoring the public’s faith in a system that has been failing them.”

Senate Bill 867, sponsored by Senator Eichelberger, and House Bill 1967, sponsored by Representative Bloom, will allow the public to vote in an upcoming election on whether or not there should be a constitutional convention limited to very specific topics.  Those topics include proposed changes to the terms and size of the General Assembly; spending without an enacted budget; the office of the Lieutenant Governor; and the judiciary.

“A constitutional convention would be an opportunity for citizens who are frustrated with our broken state government to take a very direct role in historic government change,” said Representative Bloom.

If the majority of voters approve, a preparatory committee would immediately make logistical arrangements for holding the convention.  The convention would consist of 163 members — three delegates elected from each of the senatorial districts and 13 other members who would consist of members of the General Assembly and be ex-officio members.  Convention delegates would vote on recommended changes to the state constitution.  All recommendations would require a majority vote of the 163 delegates.  Proposed changes in the form of ballot questions would be placed on the ballot for final approval or rejection by the voters.

Please contact Patrick Schurr, Executive Assistant, at 1-866-509-3424(EICH) or pschurr@pasen.gov for additional information.

Legislators to Call for Action on Limited Constitutional Convention Bill

State Senator John H. Eichelberger, Jr. and State Representative Stephen Bloom will join legislators and reform advocates at a news conference at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, October 17, to call for action on legislation that would seek a limited constitutional convention in Pennsylvania.  The news conference will be held in the State Capitol’s East Wing Media Center.

Senate Bill 867 would allow Pennsylvania voters to decide if the state would host a constitutional convention.  Representative Bloom is introducing a companion bill in the House.  If the majority of voters vote in favor of a constitutional convention, a preparatory committee would immediately make logistical arrangements for the holding of the convention.

Pennsylvania hosted its last limited state constitutional convention in 1967.

The news conference will be streamed live at senatoreichelberger.com and Facebook.com/senatoreichelberger.

WHO:       Senator John H. Eichelberger, Jr. and Representative Stephen Bloom

WHAT:     News Conference Calling for State Constitutional Convention

WHEN:      9 a.m. Tuesday, October 17

WHERE:   State Capitol East Wing Media Center, Harrisburg PA

 

CONTACT: 
Patrick Schurr, 1-866-509-3424 or pschurr@pasen.gov

State Inspector General Legislation Sent to Governor

 

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HARRISBURG – Legislation that would statutorily create the State Office of Inspector General and give Pennsylvania’s top fraud, waste and abuse investigator more power and authority has been finally passed by the General Assembly and now has been sent to the Governor.

Senate Bill 527, authored by Senator Ryan Aument (R-36) and Mindy Fee (R-37), codifies the Office of Inspector General, which currently exists only by Gubernatorial Executive Order.

“My goal has always been to make sure we are doing all we can to catch people who cheat government,” said Aument.  “This legislation – which is 30 years in the making – will help us achieve that important goal.”

In addition to creating the office by law, the legislation achieves two other primary objectives.

First, since the Inspector General’s Office will exist by law, it can be given more power and authority to succeed.  Under the legislation, the Inspector General will now have subpoena powers and limited law enforcement authority, something the office currently does not have.

Second, the legislation was built on and includes national best practices for the operations of an Inspector General’s Office and the selection of who holds the Inspector General’s post.

“I am proud to enhance and promote the good work of our Inspector General,” said Fee.  “Under this bill, Pennsylvania’s Inspector General will be able to do his work in a manner that is fitting for an investigator – free of direct undue influence.”

The legislation includes many provisions which promote independence.

For example, for the first time, there will be enumerated qualifications which an Inspector General must meet in order to be appointed. 

An Inspector General cannot be hired based on political affiliation, must be a person of integrity, have a capability for strong leadership and demonstrated ability in accounting, auditing, financial analysis, law, management analysis, public administration, investigation or criminal justice administration or other appropriate fields.

An Inspector General cannot seek elective office during their term, and just as importantly, cannot be dismissed from their job without a substantive reason, including for cause.

The legislation also gives the Inspector General his own line-item in the state budget and places those monies under his jurisdiction, an important component of making sure his budget is not interfered with by other state government leaders.

“When Senator Aument and I drafted this legislation, we worked to not just empower Pennsylvania’s Inspector General, but to create an atmosphere where everyone can have full confidence in his work,” said Fee.

Another key component of this legislation is that it begins a new – and regular – conversation between the Inspector General and the General Assembly.

Senate Bill 527 requires that the Inspector General directly engage the members of the House and Senate by submitting an annual report that details the work of the office, the monetary value of fraud prevention, and the actual recovery of monies from cheaters.  It also invites the Inspector General to tell lawmakers if there are problems in state government that need to be addressed in laws, such as loopholes or other issues.

The legislation was first introduced by Aument and Fee during the 2015-16 legislative session, however it was vetoed by Governor Wolf, who cited concerns with how the legislation created the Inspector General’s Office.

“One of the things I am most proud of,” said Aument, “is that we were able to work with the Governor and both Republicans and Democrats to craft a proposal that I believe will make a meaningful difference for Pennsylvania.”

Rep. Fee echoed Aument’s comments. 

“To me, this legislation represents what people expect of their lawmakers – to actively work to enact meaningful reform in how we structure state government, to promote accountability in how we value scarce taxpayer money, and to find ways to pass quality legislation despite differences,” she said.

CONTACT: Jake Smeltz (717) 787-4420 

EDITORIAL NOTE: 

The Pennsylvania Office of Inspector General (OIG) was first established by Executive Order in 1979 within the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. To further protect the state’s interest, Executive Order 1987-7 was issued to create a statewide OIG within the Executive Office of the Governor, possessing authority which encompasses all executive agencies.

The OIG is primarily responsible for investigating fraud, waste, abuse, and misconduct in executive agencies. To meet this duty, the OIG maintains staff in the Harrisburg headquarters office, as well as in regional offices in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Investigative reports are submitted to agency heads and the Governor’s Office of General Counsel, recommending appropriate corrective action, including employee discipline, sanctions or remedial actions for contractors, and improved policies for agencies. When applicable, the OIG recommends cases for referral by the Office of General Counsel to an appropriate agency for criminal prosecution, or to the State Ethics Commission for ethics violations. The OIG also assists federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies that investigate and prosecute fraud against the Commonwealth. Additionally, the OIG conducts investigations regarding independent state agencies upon the request and cooperation of the agency.

Since 1994, the OIG is also responsible for investigating and prosecuting welfare fraud and for conducting collection activities for public assistance programs administered by the Department of Human Services (DHS). The OIG employees who perform welfare fraud detection and prevention initiatives and collection activities have a statewide presence. The OIG is headquartered in Harrisburg and operates regional offices in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Wilkes-Barre. Partnering with DHS, the OIG works to ensure that those who rightfully deserve benefits receive them. When appropriate, the OIG works with local district attorneys to prosecute those who received benefits fraudulently. These initiatives are designed to maintain the integrity of the public assistance programs.

Senate Budget Plan Holds Line on Spending, Boosts Support for Schools

The State Senate today approved a spending plan for fiscal year 2017-18 that holds the line on spending, increases funding for education and funds core responsibilities of state government, according to Senate Republican Leaders.

Despite massive increases in mandated expenses – including pensions, health care and human services – the overall increase in spending in the proposed budget is just 0.2 percent over the current year, and well below the rate of inflation.

 The spending total of $31.996 billion is nearly $650 million less than Governor Wolf’s original budget request and adheres to the approach demanded by taxpayers by controlling state government spending and cutting through expensive layers of bureaucracy.

Along with the fiscally responsible approach to the budget, the spending plan meets the core responsibilities of government and funds key priorities – maintaining a quality education system, promoting job growth and addressing some of the most serious challenges facing Pennsylvania communities.

Senate Republican leaders offered the following statements on House Bill 218, which now goes to the House for consideration:

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-25): “This year’s budget required many difficult decisions to be made.  While the reality of our fiscal situation makes some spending reductions necessary, we were able to restore a portion of funding to budget lines that are important for all Pennsylvanians.  Our goal continues to be protecting taxpayers from broad-based tax increases that have been detrimental to Pennsylvania in the past.”

 

 

Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-34): “The budget adhere to what has been demanded by taxpayers – controlling state government spending while still providing historic education funding and money for other priorities. By putting taxpayers first, we have held the spending increase to less than 1 percent. We have done this in the face of significant fiscal challenges and growth in mandated spending. We look forward to continuing the talks to achieve a revenue package that moves toward bringing more fiscal stability to state government.” Listen

 

Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Pat Browne (R-16): “In recognizing the financial challenges the Commonwealth continues to face, this budget provides a fiscally-responsible spending plan with a modest increase in funding for vital state programs and services, while still protecting hard working individuals and job creators from onerous tax increases.  This budget also continues the state’s dedication to providing a quality education for all Pennsylvania students as it increases funding for basic education, special education, early childhood education and early intervention to unprecedented levels.”  Listen

 

CONTACTS:
Kate Eckhart – Senator Scarnati (717) 787-7084
Jenn Kocher – Senator Corman (717) 787-1377
Matt Moyer – Senator Browne  (717) 787-1349

SB 8 (Asset Forfeiture Reform) Signed into Law as Act 13

(Harrisburg) – Today, Senator Mike Folmer (R-48) and Senator Joe Scarnati’s (R-25) Senate Bill 8, to reform Pennsylvania’s Asset Forfeiture Law, was signed into law as Act 13 of 2017.

“Act 13 represents over two years of work by many different groups, and makes significant asset forfeiture reforms as the status quo didn’t provide adequate protections for property owners,” Senator Folmer said.  “This is a step towards smarter forfeiture practices to provide various protections to property owners.”  

Key Reforms in SB 8 Include: 

  • Higher burdens of proof imposed on the Commonwealth.
  • Protections for third party owners by placing additional burdens of proof on the Commonwealth.
  • Improved transparency in auditing and reporting at both the county and state levels.
  • Specific and additional protection in real property cases by prohibiting the pre-forfeiture seizure of real property without a hearing.
  • Additional procedural protections for property owners, such as returning property to the forfeiture proceeding if there is undue hardship, and an extra level of protection for anyone acquitted of a related crime who is trying to get their property back.