Senate News Brief

“This new formula, at its heart, is about taking the mystery and chance out of school funding, and matching dollars to needs. It sets objective, common-sense calculations for slicing up the education pie, based upon common-sense principles, such as sending more money to districts with more children, and sending added dollars for children with more complex needs.”

Senate Education Committee Chairman Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster) on enactment of legislation implementing a new Basic Education funding formula in Pennsylvania.

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 428 – amends Title 18 to provide additional sentencing options, gambling addiction evaluation, and treatment as part of the sentencing. Sen. Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland)

Senate Bill 910 – codifies the Basic Education Funding Commission’s School funding formula. Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster)

Senate Bill 1011 – amends the Fiscal Code to prohibit the promulgation of Chapter 78 regulations. Sen. Scott Hutchinson (R-Venango)

Senate Bill 1195 – amends the PA Greenhouse Gas Regulation Implementation Act to extend the review and approval time for the General Assembly. Sen. Don White (R-Indiana)

Senate Bill 163 – protecting and providing services for children of incarcerated parents. Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery) 

Senate Bill 1270 – amends the Real Estate Appraisers Certification Act making changes to the application and providing for continuing education requirements. Sen. Tom Killion (R-Delaware)

Senate Bill 61 – amends Title 75 recognizing Bike Medics. Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery)

Senate Bill 489 – amends the Check Casher Licensing Act to lower the fee for cashing a government-issued check. Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming)

Senate Bill 1159 – amends the Public School Code to affirm the General Assembly’s role in implementing the new ESSA.

Senate Bill 1227 – transfers certain powers from Public Employee Retirement Commission to the Independent Fiscal Office and the Office of the Auditor General.

House Bill 57 – amends Title 66 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.

House Bill 147 – proposes a Constitutional amendment to allow local authorities to exclude from taxation up to 100% of assessed value of the homestead property.

House Bill 264 – provides standards for carbon monoxide alarms in care facilities.

Implementation of New DUI Ignition Interlock Law

Legislators, families of DUI victims, MADD and other advocacy groups will hold a news conference at noon Wednesday on the steps of the State Capitol.

They will discuss the state’s new ignition interlock law, Act 33 of 2016, sponsored by Sen. John Rafferty (R-Montgomery), including how the law will be implemented, specific provisions, and public education efforts.

Committee Action

Monday, June 6 | 10 a.m. Room 8E-B

Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education, Workforce, Community & Economic Development, chaired by Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster): Hearing with Departments of Community & Economic Development and Labor & Industry on economic development and job training programs.

Tuesday, June 7 | 9 a.m. N. Office Bldg. Hearing Room 1

Senate Education Committee, chaired by Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster), and House Education Committee: ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act).

Tuesday, June 7 | 9:30 a.m. Room 8E-A

Senate State Government Committee, chaired by Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon): Hearing on the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission. 

Wednesday, June 8 | 9:30 a.m. Majority Caucus Room

Senate State Government Committee, chaired by Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon): Nomination of Harry Gamble for Board of Claims.

Senate Committee Schedule

Hearings streamed live at PASenateGOP.com. 

Review

Sweeping Education Funding Reforms Enacted

Legislation enacting a new Basic Education funding formula for Pennsylvania schools was signed into law Friday.

Act 35 of 2016 included language from Senate Bill 910, sponsored by Senate Education Committee Chairman Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster).

The new law was based on recommendations by the Basic Education Funding Commission, co-chaired by Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh). The BEFC 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.

The formula also includes three school district-based factors which reflect student and community differences throughout the 500 Pennsylvania school districts: Sparsity Size Adjustment, Median Household Income Index, and Tax Effort Capacity Index.

Tougher DUI Ignition Interlock Legislation Enacted

 

Legislation that would require most drivers convicted for a first time drunk driving violation to use ignition interlocks for at least a year received final legislative approval and was signed into law.

Act 33 of 2016, sponsored by Sen. John Rafferty (R-Montgomery), will require convicted drunk drivers with illegal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .10 or greater to use ignition interlocks for at least 12 months for first-time offenders. Under previous law, the requirement applied only to second and subsequent offenses.

According to statistics compiled by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, nearly two million drunk-driving attempts have been stopped with ignition interlock devices, including more than 78,000 instances in Pennsylvania between 2003 and 2015.

Bill Defining Three-Wheeled “Autocycles” Becomes Law 

Legislation establishing a legal definition for increasingly popular, three-wheeled “autocycles” received final legislative approval and was signed into law.

Act 34 of 2016, sponsored by Sen. Mario Scavello (R-Monroe), will make clearer the distinction between these newly developed three-wheeled vehicles with two forward wheels and the more recognizable three-wheeled, trike-style motorcycles which have been around for many years. Models of the newer vehicles include the Polaris “Slingshot” and the Tanom Motors “Invader.”

The measure will foster conformity with other states in the region that have already adopted an autocycle definition. The result will be more accurate crash reporting statistics, clarity for law enforcement and safer travel for motorists.

Senate Approves Civil Service Modernization Measure

The Senate approved Senate Bill 1154, sponsored by Sen. Randy Vulakovich (R-Allegheny), which would streamline and modernize Pennsylvania’s Civil Service Act.

With 70 percent of the Commonwealth’s workforce classified as civil service employees, Senate Bill 1154 would ensure that vacancies are filled with qualified people in a timely manner. The bill would allow applicants to be notified of an open job or test by methods other than the U.S. Mail, such as by email. It would also expand the “Rule of Three” by giving the commission the option to provide agencies with a list of more than three applicants.

Senate Bill 1154 would allow for “vacancy-based hiring,” which will permit the Civil Service Commission to post actual job vacancies, rather than a general list of job classifications.  

Senate Acts to Boost Organ Donations 

The Senate approved legislation sponsored by Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery) to help increase organ and tissue donation in the Commonwealth.

One person in Pennsylvania dies every 18 hours while waiting for an organ transplant.  More than 8,000 Pennsylvanians are waiting for a life-saving organ transplant.  More await life-improving cornea, tissue and bone marrow transplants.

Senate Bill 180 would ensure that more viable organs reach the patients in need and increase public education about the need for donors.  Sometimes people never get the chance to give the gift of organ or tissue donation – even if they are registered – because too much time has passed before donation is considered or authorized.

The Donate Life PA Act would improve the communication process between county coroners or medical examiners and organ procurement organizations.  At the same time, the bill includes specific rules to ensure that organ donation will never interfere with a criminal investigation.
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Senate Adopts Resolution Urging Administration to Update Statewide Radio Network System

The Senate adopted Senate Resolution 325, sponsored by Sen. Bob Mensch (R-Montgomery), urging the administration to fix the problematic, taxpayer-funded statewide radio system also known as STARNet.

The administration has the opportunity to implement a plan to create a unified radio system that works. Pennsylvania taxpayers have invested over $750 million dollars into STARNet and it remains unreliable often preventing our agents in the field from doing their job safely and effectively. Most recently, it has proven to be a liability in the search for Eric Frein who ambushed and murdered one State Trooper and gravely injured another.
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Other Bills Approved by the Senate and Sent to the House

Senate Bill 837, sponsored by Sen. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster), provides title protection to Marriage and Family Therapists licensed by the State Board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors to ensure that only those with a professional license be permitted to fashion themselves as a marriage and family therapist in Pennsylvania.

Senate Bill 1031, sponsored by Sen. John Gordner (R-Columbia), allows for the appointment of independent counsel to investigate alleged wrongdoing by an Attorney General, employees of the Office of Attorney General, or chairman or treasurer of a political campaign of the Attorney General.

Senate Bill 1038, sponsored by Sen. Don White (R-Indiana), adds a judicial position to juvenile detention boards in third class counties.

Senate Bill 1194, sponsored by Sen. Bob Mensch (R-Montgomery), removes the sunset date of June 30, 2016 from the “State Military College Legislative Appointment Initiative,” which allows members of the General Assembly to appoint annually an eligible student from their legislative districts.