“While a significant reduction in the corporate net income tax sounds appealing, we cannot really assess Gov. Wolf’s proposal in the vacuum in which it is being presented. We need to see exactly how the $1.25 billion impact on the budget will be offset.”
— Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Centre) on Gov. Wolf’s proposed corporate tax changes.
Senate Reconvenes at 1 p.m.
The Senate reconvenes today at 1 p.m. The following bills will likely be considered by the full Senate this week:
Senate Bill 130 – Sen. John Gordner (R-Columbia) – prohibiting those sentenced to community service from purchasing credit toward that service in the form of gift cards, cash or other forms of remuneration.
The Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, chaired by Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming), and the Senate Local Government Committee, chaired by Sen. Scott Hutchinson (R-Venango), will hold a joint public hearing on the benefits of the Act 13 Impact Fee. (Tues., 8:30 a.m., N. Office Bldg., Room 1)
Senate Votes to Deny Public Benefits to Illegal Immigrants in PA
A bill 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 was passed by the full Senate on Tuesday.
The number of illegal immigrants living in Pennsylvania grew from an estimated 140,000 to 170,000 between 2009 and 2012, with a cost of $285 million. That cost is expected to grow to $812 million by the year 2020. Senate Bill 9, would require anyone receiving public benefits in the Commonwealth to provide identification proving they are legal residents.
Senator Stefano: “In these tough economic times, when revenues are scarce, it’s important to ensure that our state’s resources are dedicated to those who pay taxes and are here in this state legally. Pennsylvania citizens, including legal immigrants, who are struggling to make ends meet, should not have their hard-earned dollars go toward benefits for illegal immigrants.”
Senate Approves Increased Accountability for State Contracts
The Senate approved legislation February 23 that would provide more accountability in the awarding of state sole-source/no-bid and emergency contracts.
This legislation would require more public access to procurement records, including the posting of information on the websites of the Department of General Services and other purchasing agencies. Written determinations of purchasing officers would also be required when entering into sole-source/no-bid and emergency contracts deemed to be “in the best interests of the Commonwealth.”
Senate Approves Bill Regulating Healthcare Exchange Navigators
The Senate approved legislation on February 23 that would provide essential protection of consumers’ rights and personal information under the federal health care act.
Senate Bill 293, sponsored by Sen. John Eichelberger (R-Blair) and known as the Navigator Accessibility and Regulation Act, would require Healthcare Exchange Navigators be certified by the Department of Insurance and pass a criminal background check.
The federal Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) relies on individuals, generally called “navigators,” to educate and enroll millions of uninsured Americans in either 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.
Senate Passes Greenleaf’s Legislation to Expunge Minor Criminal Records
The Senate approved legislation sponsored by Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery) that would allow individuals who have served a sentence for nonviolent third- and second-degree misdemeanors to petition the court for expungement of their criminal records after at least seven years without a new offense.
Senate Bill 166 is expected to help counter high rates of recidivism, relieve an overburdened pardon system, and provide more opportunities for ex-offenders to join the workforce. The bill was sent to the House of Representatives.
Senator Greenleaf: “A low-level misdemeanor in one’s past is often a barrier when seeking employment, long after they have completed their sentence. A number of states are expanding their expungement laws to reduce the period during which a minor criminal record can punish people.”
Natural Gas Consumer Access Bill Passes Senate Committee
An effort to provide local natural gas service to un-served and under-served areas of Pennsylvania was overwhelmingly approved Tuesday by the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, chaired by Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming).
Senate Bill 214, sponsored by Senator Yaw and known as the Natural Gas Expansion and Development Initiative, would seek to foster the extension and expansion of natural gas service to residential, commercial and industrial sites.
Senate Bill 214 will also create a system providing for expedited extension or expansion projects if an economic development agency or a large number of residential, commercial or industrial entities want to seek to obtain natural gas service. Further, this legislation allows a potential natural gas customer to spread project costs over a 10-year period, rather than full up-front costs that are currently required today.
Committee Acts to Update Horse Racing Regulation
The Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, chaired by Sen. Elder Vogel (R-Beaver), approved legislation Tuesday that makes substantial regulatory changes necessary to protect and bolster Pennsylvania’s horse racing industry.
Senate Bill 352, sponsored by Senator Vogel, makes several substantial and essential changes to the state’s oversight of the horse racing industry. One major change dissolves the separate state commissions under the Department of Agriculture for thoroughbred and harness racing in favor of a single oversight commission.
Senator Vogel: “This legislation will bring the regulations regarding the horse racing industry into the 21st Century. The parameters and guidelines for the oversight of the racing industries in Pennsylvania have not be updated in over twenty years despite drastic changes in the way the industry is funded, raced and regulated.”
Federal law prohibits illegal immigrants from receiving state or local public benefits. However, Stefano said Pennsylvania is simply too lenient in enforcing the federal provisions.
Pennsylvania recently agreed to pay the federal government $48.8 million to settle claims that it paid non-emergency Medicaid, family assistance and food stamp benefits to immigrants who did not qualify for them.
In addition to requiring anyone receiving public benefits in the Commonwealth to provide identification proving they are legal residents, Senate Bill 9 would require individuals 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.
The legislation would provide compassionate exceptions to its restrictions. It would only apply to residents 18 and older and would exempt seniors who are Medicare eligible as well as disabled Pennsylvanians who are receiving SSI or SSDI. The bill would also allow every person in Pennsylvania access to emergency medical care, necessary immunizations and disaster relief.
Senator Stefano: “Illegal immigration creates unfair competition for jobs with American workers and puts a major strain on services that are intended for hard-working Pennsylvania citizens. We should do all we can to ensure that our tax dollars are used to fund services for state citizens, not those entering this country illegally.”
Senate Appropriations Committee Budget Hearings
Monday, March 16
Governor’s Office/Budget Office/Exec. Offices
Independent Fiscal Office
Tuesday, March 17
Wednesday, March 18
State Police/Homeland Security
Drug & Alcohol Programs
Thursday, March 19
Gaming Control Board
PA State System of Higher Education
Monday, March 23
Public Utility Commission
Tuesday, March 24
Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology
State Related Universities
Wednesday, March 25
Corrections/Probation & Parole
PA Liquor Control Board
Thursday, March 26
Community & Economic Development
Monday, March 30
Labor & Industry
Banking & Securities
Tuesday, March 31
Historical & Museum Commission
Wednesday, April 1
PA Emergency Management Agency
Conservation & Natural Resources
Military & Veterans Affairs
Questions or Comments?