Senate Republican News Brief

“The fundamental problem facing the Commonwealth with its current pension plans is that its collective risk profile is way too high. This pension proposal will allow the state to more effectively mitigate potential debt, provide a competitive benefit for our employees and build a solid platform for the Commonwealth’s future fiscal health by providing the largest risk transfer in the country.”

Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Pat Browne (R-Lehigh) on Senate passage of sweeping pension reform legislation.


Preview

Senate Session Today at 1 p.m.

Legislation that could be considered by the Senate this week includes:

Senate Bill 332 – protects children from second-hand smoke in vehicles. Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming)

Senate Bill 496 – authorizes evaluations for gambling disorders for those who are convicted of criminal trespass at a gaming facility after self-excluding from such facilities. Sen. Mario Scavello (R-Monroe)

Senate Bill 561 – requires the General Assembly and the Governor to approve all regulations with an economic impact or cost to the Commonwealth, political subdivisions and the private sector exceeding $1 million. Sen. John DiSanto (R-Dauphin)

Senate Bill 630 – reforms the insurance licensure requirements for Pennsylvania travel agents by reducing unnecessary burdens and offering greater protection to Pennsylvania residents. Sen. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Allegheny)

Senate Bill 9 – requires proof of citizenship to receive public benefits such as Medicaid, welfare and unemployment compensation. Sen. Pat Stefano (R-Fayette)

Senate Bill 53 – permanently allows for distance education inclusion in the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency State Grant Program. Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery)

Senate Bill 242 – extends the sunset provision of the Underground Utility Protection Law to December 31, 2024 and moves oversight of the One Call System to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. Sen. Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne)

Senate Bill 430 – provides a Realty Transfer Tax exemption for nationally recognized veterans’ organizations. Sen. John Rafferty (R-Montgomery)

Senate Bill 431 (Scavello) – increases fines and penalties for littering. Sen. Mario Scavello (R-Monroe)

Senate Bill 461 — modernizes and strengthens the use of DNA technology to better fight violent crime in Pennsylvania. Sen. Tom Killion (R-Delaware)

Senate Bill 527 – creates an independent Office of State Inspector General. Sen. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster) 

Committee Hearings Streamed Live at PASenateGOP.com:

Tuesday 9 a.m. N. Office Building, Hearing Room 1
The Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee, Sen. Mario Scavello (R-Monroe) Chair
Tourism in Pennsylvania

Tuesday 9 a.m. East Wing, Hearing Room 8E-B
Joint Legislative Air and Water Pollution Control and Conservation Committee, chaired by Sen. Scott Hutchinson (R-Venango) Chair
Review of Act 101 of 1988 (Municipal Waste Planning, Recycling and Waste Reduction Act)

Tuesday 11 a.m. East Wing, Hearing Room 8E-A
Joint Hearing – Senate Game and Fisheries Committee, Sen. Pat Stefano (R-Fayette) Chair
Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee, Sen. Elder Vogel (R-Beaver) Chair
Chronic Wasting Disease

Wednesday 9 a.m. N. Office Building, Hearing Room 1
Joint Hearing – Health and Human Services Committee, Sen. Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne) Chair
Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, Sen. Randy Vulakovich (R-Allegheny) Chair
PA Hospital and Healthsystem Preparedness

Full Senate Committee Schedule

Review

Senate Approves Sweeping Pension Reform

The Senate approved legislation June 5 to reform Pennsylvania’s public pension plans for state and public school employees.

Senate Bill 1 offers all new public-sector employees three retirement planning options – a defined contribution plan similar to the 401(k) system offered by most employers in the private sector, or one of two hybrid plans that combine a 401(k)-style system with a variation of the current defined benefit plan. Pension benefits already earned by current employees and retirees would not be affected.

Senate Bill 1, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Centre), includes a shared risk and shared gain provision further protecting taxpayers. If investment returns fail to meet projections over a long enough period of time, employees in the defined contribution plans could pay slightly higher contribution rates. However, if investments perform better than projections, employees would pay a lower rate for their benefits.

The measure is projected to save more than $5 billion and shield taxpayers from $20 billion or more in additional liabilities if state investments fail to meet projections. In addition, the bill creates a new Pension Management and Asset Investment Review Commission to study ways to reduce investment costs with the goal of saving an additional $3 billion.  

Senate Bill 1 will be signed by the Governor today. More 

Senate Approves Langerholc Bill to Promote Use of Natural Gas-Burning Vehicles 

A bill introduced by Sen. Wayne Langerholc (R-Cambria) to promote the use of cleaner-burning natural gas in larger vehicles was unanimously approved by the Senate on Tuesday. 

Senate Bill 589 increases the maximum allowable weight for motor carrier vehicles that are powered by natural gas from 80,000 pounds to 82,000 pounds, to accommodate the heavier equipment needed for natural-gas burning vehicles. Senate Bill 589 now goes to the House for its consideration. 

Senator Langerholc: “This legislation is a win-win for Pennsylvania. It encourages the use of natural gas to power our larger trucks and updates our laws to ensure that federal transportation funds continue to flow to our Commonwealth, which is the hub of interstate commerce for the entire East Coast.” More

Other Bills Approved by the Senate and Sent to the House 

Senate Bill 353 is a Chester County land conveyance bill. 

Senate Bill 434 reduces the allotted period of time needed to acquire a title of a blighted or abandoned property through adverse possession under various situations and circumstances. 

Senate Bill 497 eliminates the “waste” designation for steel slag when it is sold as a commodity and is not a discarded material. 

Senate Bill 624 amends the Bituminous Mine Subsidence and Land Conservation Act, providing for planned subsidence and for retroactivity.

More Options for Career and Technical Education Students 

The Senate approved a measure on Tuesday that provides career and technical education (CTE) students with additional options to meet state graduation requirements.

House Bill 202, which amends state law regarding Keystone Exams and alternative testing for CTE students, now goes to the Governor for his signature and enactment into law. House Bill 202 would allow CTE students to show career readiness through measures such as industry-based competency certifications.

Committee Round-Up 

Appropriations

The Senate Appropriations Committee, chaired by Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh), met June 4 and approved Senate Bill 1, legislation to alter public pensions for state workers and school employees.  

On June 5, the committee approved six additional bills.

House Bill 202 eliminates the statutory requirement for the development and implementation of Keystone Exams in English Composition, Algebra II, Geometry, U.S. History, Chemistry, Civics and Government, and World History.  

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

Senate Bill 561 would require the approval of the General Assembly and the Governor for all new regulations with an economic impact or cost exceeding $1 million to the Commonwealth, its political subdivisions, and the private sector.

Senate Bill 624 amends the Bituminous Mine Subsidence and Land Conservation Act, providing for planned subsidence and for retroactivity.

Senate Bill 630 reforms insurance licensure requirements for travel agents. 

Senate Bill 646 amends Act 101 of 1988, the Municipal Waste Planning Recycling and Waste Reduction Act. 

Appropriations Subcommittee on Infrastructure, Environment & Government Operations 

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Infrastructure, Environment & Government Operations, chaired by Sen. Bob Mensch (R-Montgomery), held a public hearing Wednesday to discuss Governor Tom Wolf’s proposed municipal fee for State Police coverage.  

Part of the Governor’s proposed state budget includes a plan to impose a $25 per-capita fee on municipalities without their own police force. Hearing Video  

Communications & Technology 

Three Senate committees held a joint public hearing Wednesday on the status of the statewide emergency radio system. First authorized in 1996, the system was to allow state and county emergency responders, as well as local police, fire and EMS, to communicate with each other on a shared network. However, the mobile radio component has been plagued with problems and remains unreliable. 

The hearing was held by the Senate Communications and Technology Committee, chaired by Sen. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster), the Senate Law and Justice Committee, chaired by Sen. Chuck McIlhinney (R-Bucks), and the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, chaired by Sen. Randy Vulakovich (R-Allegheny).

Hearing Video & Testimony 

Education 

On June 5, the Senate Education Committee, chaired by Sen. John Eichelberger (R-Blair), held a public hearing on the use of graduation requirements as a tool for teacher evaluation and accountability.  

Among the 40 states implementing multi-measure teacher evaluation systems that include objective measures of student learning and growth, six states, including Pennsylvania, are implementing systems that may include graduation rate data and that reference specific standardized, national exams. Hearing Video & Testimony 

Finance  

The Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Sen. Scott Hutchinson (R-Venango), approved three bills June 5. 

House Bill 453 requires any agency receiving state funds to respond to an audit by the state Auditor General or future funding may be suspended.

Senate Bill 515 raises the cap on the Net Operating Loss carryforward amount to 45 percent of taxable income.

House Bill 1071 prohibits political subdivisions from imposing a recyclable plastic bag ban or levying a fee, surcharge or tax on plastic bags.

The committee also considered the nomination of Dan Hassell for Revenue Secretary. Video 

Judiciary 

The Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery), approved three bills on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 529 provides those with low-level, nonviolent criminal records a mechanism to have their record sealed from public view.

Senate Bill 662 establishes a second degree felony for the delivery or distribution of an illicit drug that results in “serious bodily injury” to the user.

Senate Bill 741 addresses sunset provisions related to funding for the courts and indigent legal services. 

Labor & Industry 

The Senate Labor and Industry Committee, chaired by Sen. Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland), approved Senate Bill 183 on Tuesday. The bill creates a state plumbers licensing program. 

Local Government 

The Senate Local Government Committee, chaired by Sen. Scott Wagner (R-York), approved three bills on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 690 establishes a mechanism for the initial apportionment of any home rule or optional plan municipality without a mayor that will be dividing into wards either partially or totally.

Senate Bill 691 establishes uniform residential qualifications of office for persons seeking election to, or appointment to fill a vacancy in a municipal elected office where recent service in the military might interfere with the person’s ability to satisfy the relevant residency requirements.

Senate Bill 693 allows political subdivisions and authorities to enter into contracts for services when two consecutive advertisements fail to induce bids. 

State Government 

The Senate State Government Committee, chaired by Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon), approved two bills June 5.

Senate Bill 527 creates an independent Office of Inspector General.

Senate Bill 595 authorizes the electronic notarization of documents in cases where the signer appears before the notary by means of real-time audio-video communication.

On Tuesday, the committee held the first of a series of public hearings on Pennsylvania election issues. Topics included alternative methods of voting and delivery, and the use of poll workers.

Hearing Video & Written Testimony 

Urban Affairs & Housing

The Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee, chaired Sen. Tom McGarrigle (R-Delaware), approved Senate Bill 446 on June 5. The bill provides for the regulation and certification of addiction recovery houses.