HARRISBURG – The Senate gave its approval to study mandatory overtime within the Department of Corrections, according to measure’s prime sponsor, Senator David G. Argall (R-Schuylkill/Berks).
Senate Resolution 263 directs the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to compile a study within six months to review costs associated with mandatory overtime for corrections officers. The study is to look at the cost to hire, train and equip new corrections officers versus paying overtime to existing corrections officers.
Argall said that the issue is both a public safety concern as well as a morale problem.
“Mandatory overtime places added physical, mental and emotional strain on corrections officers,” Argall said. “This study should give us a better understanding of why overtime costs continue to soar while the inmate population declines.”
During the recent state budget hearings with the Senate Appropriations Committee, Corrections Secretary John Wetzel noted that overtime costs for the department continues to hover around $90 million annually.
“The Department of Corrections continues to be one of the fastest growing areas of the state budget. I’m hopeful we can work on the overtime issue to ensure corrections officers are not overburdened with excruciating overtime mandates,” Argall said.
The department led all other state agencies in overtime spending from 2010 through 2014.
The Department of Corrections receives the third largest state appropriation from the General Fund compared to all state agencies.
The Legislative Budget and Finance Committee is required to have their report completed in six months.
HARRISBURG – Senator David G. Argall (R-Schuylkill/Berks) released the following statement regarding tonight’s Senate vote on the Property Tax Independence Act, which failed after a tie vote of 24-to-24 with a tiebreak vote by the Lieutenant Governor:
“While this legislation did not gain enough votes to pass the Senate today, the problem of ever-rising school property taxes does not go away. Each session, we continue to pick up support in all parts of the state and tonight’s tie vote in the Senate shows the importance of this issue.
“Earlier today, the governor said that school property tax elimination is a ‘distraction.’ I don’t think the people who are losing their homes due to school property taxes would call this issue a ‘distraction.’ I’ve got news for the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor who voted against us: we are not giving up.”
The Property Tax Independence Act was drafted by the Pennsylvania Coalition of Taxpayer Associations with more than 80 member groups, including:
- Adams 912 Patriots
- Allegheny Valley Citizens Against New School
- Berks County Patriots
- Berks Tea Party
- Bradford County Concerned Citizens
- Bristol Boro Taxpayers Association
- Butler County Taxpayer Alliance
- Carbon County Coalition of Taxpayers
- Central Bucks Taxpayers Association
- Central Penn Patriots
- ChesCo Taxpayer Alert
- Ches-Lan Anti School Tax Association
- Citizens Against Higher Taxes
- Citizens Against Property Taxes
- Citizens for the Elimination of Property Taxes
- Citizens for Responsible Education
- Clearfield Co. Homeowners Against Property Tax
- Coatesville Taxpayers Alliance
- Columbia County Taxpayer Coalition
- Community School Watch of Tulpehocken
- Concerned Citizens for Common Cents Education
- Concerned Citizens of Bethlehem A.S.D.
- Concerned Citizens of Nazareth A.S.D.
- Dallastown Area Taxpayers Coalition
- Daniel Boone Taxpayer Activists
- Dauphin Co. Citizens for Property Tax Elimination
- Delaware County 55+ Coalition
- Delaware County Taxpayers Coalition
- Elverson Taxpayers Forum
- Erie Co. Voters for Property Tax Elimination
- Fayette Patriots
- Fed Up
- Franklin County 9/12 Patriots
- Freeport Area Taxpayers for Home Ownership
- Greene Co. Coalition of Taxpayers
- Grove City Student Taxpayer Coalition
- Hanover Tea Party Patriots
- Lebanon 9-12 Project
- Lehigh Valley 9-12 Project
- Lower Bucks Co. Taxpayers Association
- Luzerne County Property Owners
- Mercer County Freedom Alliance
- Monroe and Pike Taxpayers Association
- Monroe County Taxpayer Coalition
- Mon Valley Citizens for Tax Reform
- Morrisville Citizens for Quality, Safe, Responsible Education
- Mountain Top on the Move
- Neighborhood Voter Network
- Oley Concerned Citizens
- Owen J. Roberts Taxpayers Association
- Oxford Area Taxpayer Alliance
- PA Patriots
- PA Tax Talk
- Pennsylvania Freedom Allies
- Pennsylvania Taxpayers Cyber Coalition
- Property Tax Elimination Association
- Roof Garden Patriots
- Rose Tree Media Taxpayers United
- Schuylkill County Conservatives
- Scranton & Lackawanna Co. Taxpayers & Citizens Association, Inc.
- South Eastern Tax Reform Coalition
- Berks Community Taxpayers Association
- Stop Taxation On My Property
- Stop Citizens Group
- Stop Teacher Strikes
- Taxpayers Association Of Brandywine Heights Area School District
- The Patriot’s Voice
- Taxpayers United Reform Needed
- Taxpayer Survival Group
- Tax Reform & Ethics Committee
- Tri-County Campaign for Liberty
- Union Co. Taxpayer Association
- Upper Bucks Taxpayers Action Group
- Valley Forge Patriots
- Washington Co. for Property Tax Reform
- Western Lancaster County 9.12
- Western Pennsylvania Coalition of Taxpayers
- Westmoreland County Taxpayer Alliance
- We The People Cumberland
- We The People Greene County
- Wilkes-Barre City Taxpayers Association
- Wyoming County Concerned Taxpayers
- York 912 Patriots
- York County Taxpayers Council
HARRISBURG – Senators David G. Argall (R-Schuylkill/Berks) Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon/Dauphin/York), Mario Scavello (R-Monroe/Northampton), Scott Wagner (R-York), Judy Schwank (D-Berks), John Yudichak (D-Luzerne/Carbon), Lisa Boscola (D-Lehigh/Northampton), Andy Dinniman (D-Chester) and John Eichelberger (R-Blair) released the following statement regarding their efforts to pass the Property Tax Independence Act in the Senate:
“When we began this bipartisan fight this session to remove the school property tax burden off of property owners, we never said it would be easy. Due to the groundswell of public support and the tireless efforts of thousands of taxpayers advocating for the legislation, we are closer than we have ever been to eliminating school property taxes. Today was supposed to be a full Senate vote to consider the elimination of school property taxes – a proposal drafted by over 80 grassroots taxpayer advocacy groups from across the state. Some minor technical concerns regarding the bill’s implementation have been raised. We agreed to make tweaks to the proposal and have it considered next week by the full Senate.”
HARRISBURG – Qualified private companies will soon begin to facilitate transportation of super-sized loads thanks to a new law authored by Senator David G. Argall (R-Schuylkill/Berks).
Under existing law, any tractor-trailer transporting a load greater than 201,000 pounds, over 160 feet, and/or 16 feet wide requires a police escort. This requirement places a serious burden on the Pennsylvania State Police, often requiring officers to work overtime.
Senate Bill 748, now Act 55 of 2015, allows super-sized loads to be attended by certified pilot escorts with oversight from PennDOT and the State Police.
“Allowing qualified private operators to escort super loads will help mitigate a serious problem for the State Police while maintaining the oversight needed to ensure the safety of motorists,” Argall said. “The growing number of road and bridge construction projects across the state makes it extremely important to explore alternatives to a State Police escort for every super-sized load.”
Act 55 of 2015 takes effect in 60 days.
HARRISBURG – The Senate unanimously passed a proposal today authored by Senator David G. Argall (R-Schuylkill/Berks) to shorten the timeframe in which property owners must bring their property into compliance with property maintenance codes.
Under current law, owners whose property is in violation of codes have 18 months to bring their property into compliance or demolish the structure. Senate Bill 942 would shorten that timeframe to 12 months. Municipalities may also enforce shorter compliance than 12 months if the timeframe is established in their property maintenance code.
“Blight is a pervasive problem that can spread block by block, so it is critical to ensure we prevent that problem before it starts,” Argall said. “I’m hopeful that this additional tool will help local municipalities address the problem as quickly as possible.”
The measure was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
HARRISBURG – The Senate passed a measure today that would strengthen penalties levied against illegal household goods movers, according to the bill’s sponsor, Senator David G. Argall (R-Schuylkill/Berks).
Household goods movers in the Pennsylvania are required by law to register and obtain a permit with the Public Utility Commission (PUC). However, a number of companies operate outside the law by failing to register with the PUC. Many companies also fail to carry adequate insurance coverage for the contents they transport, and others do not carry worker’s compensation coverage for employees.
Senate Bill 857 would make it a $5,000 fine and a third degree misdemeanor for illegal household goods movers. Vehicles used in an illegal move would be confiscated and registration would be suspended. Repeat offenders would be subject to a $10,000 fine.
The bill only applies to commercial, for-hire entities.
”In current practice, it is actually cheaper for many companies to pay the fine rather than comply with the law. The flimsy penalties are actually discouraging companies from following the letter of the law,” Argall said. “Strengthening the law will be an important step to ensure consumers and their property is protected.”
All revenue generated by the fines would be used to assist with the PUC’s motor carrier enforcement efforts.
HARRISBURG – Senator David G. Argall (R-Schuylkill/Berks) is co-sponsoring a bill that would certify the Office of the Inspector General and ensure the office can operate independently.
The Office of the Inspector General was created in 1987 and serves as one of the Pennsylvania’s most important fiscal watchdogs to identify and prevent waste, fraud and abuse. However, because the Inspector General is a cabinet-level official who is appointed by and reports to the governor, the office cannot maintain its independence.
Senate Bill 1025 would establish the office by law and provide for Senate confirmation of all future appointees. The bill also establishes regulations for the appointment, term and duties of the office, including setting a six-year term that ensures the tenure of the Inspector General overlaps with those of the Governor of Pennsylvania.
“Eliminating waste and misconduct in state government has been a point of emphasis for the General Assembly over the past several years, and the Office of Inspector General is well-equipped to handle the enormous responsibility of preventing the misuse of public dollars,” Argall said. “Codifying the office in state law will ensure it can serve as an effective partner in protecting taxpayers without being beholden to any individual.”
HARRISBURG – The House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a measure on Tuesday sponsored by Senator David G. Argall (R-Schuylkill/Berks) that would allow private companies to assist with the movement of super-sized transport vehicles. Argall’s measure, Senate Bill 748, would remove the current mandate that the Pennsylvania State Police must escort any tractor-trailer transporting a load greater than 201,000 pounds, over 160 feet, and/or 16 feet wide. “This puts Pennsylvania in line with several other states,” Argall said. “The current law puts an unnecessary strain on the State Police. I’m thankful to see this commonsense reform on its way to the governor’s desk.” Argall’s bill requires safety standards and a certification process through PennDOT for private businesses seeking to assist in the transport of super load trailers.
HARRISBURG – A bipartisan proposal that would create a five-year pilot program to place automated speed enforcement systems in active work zones won the unanimous approval of the Senate Transportation Committee today.
Senate Bill 840, sponsored by Senators David G. Argall (R-Schuylkill/Berks) and Judy Schwank (D-Berks), would create a program to allow the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission to place speed-monitoring cameras in active work zones.
Earlier this year, Berks County resident Holly Doppel struck a chord with many senators, including Argall and Schwank.
Doppel’s son was part of a work crew near Bensalem along the Turnpike on May 2. Fortunately, her son left the crew at 1 a.m. Four hours later, a motorist was killed and four construction workers were injured, one with life-altering injuries.
“The goal is to save lives of construction workers and motorists alike in these work zones all across the state,” Argall said. “While this proposal cannot undo the void left in many families across the state who lost a loved one due to crashes as a result of excessive speeding, I hope this brings peace of mind to families of road crews and motorists that we are trying to change driver’s behavior, especially in these work zones.”
Motorists caught exceeding the speed limit by an automated system would be subject to a flat $100 citation with no points or other repercussions. The system would only be active when the work zone is active. The bill also contains several provisions to inform motorists of a work zone with automated speed enforcement systems deployed, including ample signage, a 24-hour grace period and details posted online.
“I’m pleased that the committee acted on our proposal so swiftly,” Schwank said. “Experience with these systems in other places shows that they work, and slower speeds mean fewer highway injuries and deaths for motorists and workers. There is still a long way to go, but I’m hopeful it can be in place for next year’s construction season.”
A similar program in Maryland realized an 85 percent reduction in the amount of motorists speeding in work zones.
HARRISBURG – The Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee unanimously approved a proposal by Senator David G. Argall (R-Schuylkill/Berks) on Monday to shorten the timeframe when property owners must bring their property into compliance with property maintenance codes.
Under current law, property owners have 18 months to bring a property into compliance or demolish the property. Senate Bill 942 would shorten that timeframe to 12 months. Municipalities may also enforce shorter compliance than 12 months if the timeframe is established in their property maintenance code.
“Blight is contagious and can spread block by block,” Argall said. “I’m hopeful that this additional tool will aid local governments in their war on blight.”