Senate approves Argall study to review corrections overtime issue

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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.

Argall’s super load transport bill signed into law

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.

Argall supports effort to promote independence of state Inspector General

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.”