Senate Republican News Brief

“Taxpayers have a vested interest in the labor negotiations between public employers and their employees and deserve the right to review contract agreements.”

Pat Stefano (R-Fayette) on committee approval of his legislation requiring any proposed public sector collective bargaining agreement to be made available online within 48 hours.

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 330, sponsored by Sen. Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland) — blight remediation
Senate Bill 489, sponsored by Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming) — check-cashing requirements
Senate Bill 622, sponsored by Sen. Bob Mensch (R-Montgomery) — Legislative Budget and Finance Committee duties
Senate Bill 695, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) — lobbyist disclosure

Committee Action

The Senate Labor and Industry Committee, chaired by Sen. Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne), will hold a public hearing on the impacts of increasing the minimum wage. (Tues., 9 a.m., N. Office Bldg. Room 1)

The Senate State Government Committee, chaired by Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon), will meet to consider the nomination of Curtis Topper as Secretary of General Services. (Tues., 10:30 a.m., Maj. Caucus Room)

The Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery), will meet to consider Senate Bill 95, Senate Bill 294, Senate Bill 373 and Senate Bill 663. (Tues., 11:30 a.m., Room 8E-B)

The Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, chaired by Sen. Randy Vulakovich (R-Allegheny), will meet to consider the nomination of Major General James Joseph as Pennsylvania Adjutant General and to consider Senate Bill 490. (Tues., Noon, Maj. Caucus Room)

The Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee, chaired by Sen. Pat Vance (R-Cumberland), will meet to consider the nomination of Gary Tennis as Secretary of Drug & Alcohol Programs. (Wed., 9:30 a.m., Maj. Caucus Room)

The Senate Majority Policy Committee, chaired by Sen. David Argall (R-Schuylkill), will hold a public hearing on Wastewater/Stormwater issues (Senate Bill 724). (Wed., 9:30 a.m., N. Office Bldg. Room 1)

Senate Committee Schedule

Hearings are streamed live at PASenateGOP.com.

Review

Senate Passes Consumer Protection Measure

Consumers would be protected against paying multiple copayments for physical therapy, chiropractic and occupational therapy services under a bill unanimously approved by the Senate on April 21.

Senate Bill 487, sponsored by Sen. Chuck McIlhinney (R-Bucks), prevents health insurance policies from charging a consumer more than one copayment amount per visit. The bill would also prohibit policies from depleting more than one visit for services provided on a given date.

The bill allows the Pennsylvania Department of Insurance to develop regulations relating to multiple copayments. Violators would be subjected to penalties prescribed in the Unfair Insurance Practices Act.

Senate Approves Bill to Encourage Private Development at Mass Transit Hubs

The Senate unanimously approved legislation April 21 sponsored by Sen. Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware) to encourage private development at mass transit hubs.

Senate Bill 385 will modernize the Pennsylvania Transit Revitalization Investment District (TRID) Act, originally enacted in December 2004.

Senate Bill 385 streamlines the TRID creation process, sets clear parameters for TRID funding and the use of those funds, and authorizes a new “tax capture” funding mechanism to provide funding. Any projects funded in a TRID will require a minimum one-third match from private dollars.

Committee Approves Taxpayer Protection Measures

The Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Sen. John Eichelberger (R-Blair), approved legislation April 21 that would restrain the growth of government spending by setting state spending limits in the Pennsylvania Constitution. Senate Bill 70, sponsored by Sen. Camera Bartolotta (R-Washington), would limit state spending growth based on inflation and population growth.

The bill would require an amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution, so lawmakers would have to approve the bill in two consecutive legislative sessions before giving voters the final say via referendum. Since the spending controls would be included in the state Constitution, lawmakers would be prevented from breaching or repealing spending limits with a simple majority vote in the future.

The panel also approved Senate Bill 7, sponsored by Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon), that would enact spending controls and ensure any excess funds collected by the state would be used to pay down pension obligations, boost budgetary reserves and reduce the Personal Income Tax rate.

Committee Votes to Require Public Notice Prior to Signing of Government Union Contracts

The Senate State Government Committee, chaired by Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon), approved legislation April 22 that would add greater transparency and openness to negotiations involving public sector collective bargaining agreements by requiring proposed agreements to be posted online for public review.

Senate Bill 645, sponsored by Sen. Pat Stefano (R-Fayette), would require any proposed collective bargaining agreement to be made available on the public employers’ publicly accessible Internet website within 48 hours. An agreement would have to be posted online two weeks prior and 30 days following the signing of the collective bargaining agreement.

Information posted would include a statement of the terms of the proposed collective bargaining agreement and an estimate of the costs to the public employer associated with the agreement. The law would cover union contract agreements negotiated by school districts as well as state, county and municipal governments.

Proposed collective bargaining agreements and any documents presented by the public employer or received from the employee organization in the course of collective bargaining would be considered public records and subject to the Right-to-Know Law.

The committee also approved Senate Bill 643, sponsored by Sen. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster), which would amend the Pennsylvania Sunshine Law to require public notice and access to any meeting where a public sector collective bargaining agreement is negotiated. For more on Senate Bill 643, please see In the Spotlight, below.

Committee Acts to Move Legislators into 401k Pension

The Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Sen. John Eichelberger (R-Blair), approved legislation April 21 to move all members of the Pennsylvania Legislature from the current state employee pension plan into a 401k-style plan, just like most private sector employees.

Senate Bill 401, sponsored by Sen. Don White (R-Indiana), would convert all members of the Pennsylvania Legislature from a defined benefit pension plan to a defined contribution plan. It would make the conversion mandatory for current and future state Senators and Representatives.

The underfunded, bloated pension systems for state and public school retirees have Pennsylvania taxpayers on the hook for billions of dollars in payments for decades to come. This burden is an unsustainable cost that results in tax hikes and cuts to legitimate programs. Converting the members of the General Assembly into plans used by the private sector won’t reap huge savings, but it sets the right example for what needs to be done across the board.

In the Spotlight

Senate Bill 643 would amend the Pennsylvania Sunshine Law to require public notice and access to any meeting where a public sector collective bargaining agreement is negotiated. The requirement would apply to collective bargaining agreement negotiations at the local and state level, including upcoming negotiations between Governor Wolf and public employee unions.

If approved by the legislature and signed into law, Pennsylvania would become the 11th state to require full or limited access to collective bargaining sessions involving public employees.

Senator Aument supported similar legislation in relation to school district contract negotiations as a member of the House of Representatives in January 2014. The bill was sent to the full Senate for consideration.

Senator Aument: “The lack of transparency in collective bargaining negotiations effectively silences the taxpayers who will be responsible for footing the bill. Opening these negotiations to the public will help make elected officials and union representatives more responsive and accountable to those they serve.”

Fast Facts

Gov. Wolf’s Budget: Total New Taxes Paid (by Income)

  • Less than $25,000:   $8 Million
  • $25,000-$49,999:     $316 Million
  • $50,000-$74,999:     $503 Million
  • $75,000-$99,999       $461 Million
  • $100,000-$250,000: $1.27 Billion

Source: Independent Fiscal Office