June 18, 2012
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Pennsylvania Senate Republican News Brief
"We are reaching a critical time when the force is seeing many retirements, and we need
to make certain that we have troopers trained and ready to take their place in
protecting our communities – many of which rely solely on the State Police for
-- Sen. John Rafferty (R-Montgomery) on passage of his legislation
creating a dedicated funding source State Police cadet training.
Senate in Session Monday at 1 p.m.
The Senate is in session this week. Bills to be considered include:
Senate Bill 941,
Senate Bill 943 – Sen. Jake Corman (R-Centre) – alcohol offense prevention
Senate Bill 1090 – Sen. Jake Corman (R-Centre) – Tuition Assistance Program
Senate Bill 1184 – Sen. John Rafferty (R-Montgomery) – ignition interlock for DUI offenders
Senate Bill 920 – Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh) – carbon monoxide alarms
On Wednesday, the Senate Education Committee, chaired by
Sen. Jeffrey Piccola (R-Dauphin), and the Senate Veterans Affairs and
Emergency Preparedness Committee, chaired by Sen. Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne),
will hold a joint public hearing to discuss military-friendly education programs
and policies. (9 a.m. N. Office Bldg. Rm. 1)
The Senate Aging and Youth Committee, chaired by Sen.
Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland), will hold a joint information meeting Wednesday
with the House Aging Committee on the Department of Aging's proposed State Plan.
(9:30 a.m. Rm. 60 EW)
Senate Acts to Re-Institute Homeowners Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program
Legislation that would restart the Homeowners Emergency
Mortgage Assistance Program (HEMAP) is headed to the governor for enactment into
law following Senate approval of the measure on Wednesday.
Senate Bill 1433, sponsored by Sen. John Gordner (R-Columbia), will
use funds Pennsylvania expects to receive from a settlement with the nation's
lenders to re-institute HEMAP.
Created in 1983, HEMAP provides temporary assistance to
homeowners facing the loss of their homes due to circumstances beyond their
control, such as the recently unemployed and those facing medical emergencies.
The program works with those likely to be able to resume future payments and has
assisted 46,000 Pennsylvania families since its inception. For more, please
see In the Spotlight, below.
Bill to Extend Firefighter-Ambulance Grants Approved by Senate
Legislation to extend a program providing assistance to
fire companies and ambulance services was unanimously approved by the Senate on
Senate Bill 866, sponsored by Sen. Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland), the
Volunteer Fire Company and Volunteer Ambulance Service Grant Program would be
expanded to include municipal fire companies. The program, set to expire at the
end of June, would be extended to June 30, 2016. Senate Bill 866 will be sent to
the House of Representatives for consideration.
The measure would also increase funding by $5 million, to
help emergency responders pay for equipment, construction or renovation of
facilities, training and debt reduction. With the additional funding,
approximately $1 million in grants would be awarded to municipal fire companies
and the remaining $4 million of new funding would be available for grants to
volunteer fire company and ambulance services.
For more on the program, please see Fast Facts, below.
Senate Approves Bill to Help Fund PA State Police Cadet Training
The Senate approved legislation June 11 that would create a
dedicated funding source to provide for the training of Pennsylvania State
Police cadets. The bill is now before the House Judiciary Committee for
State Police ranks are facing many retirements, and a
dedicated funding source for training is essential to ensure commonwealth
communities receive adequate police protection.
Senate Bill 237, sponsored by Sen. John Rafferty (R-Montgomery), is
expected to generate approximately $4 million for cadet training.
Municipalities with more than 3,000 residents that provide
fewer than 40 hours of local police support would see their portion of
traffic-fine revenue collected during State Police traffic stops shifted to pay
for cadet training. State Police report that 187 Pennsylvania municipalities
with a population exceeding 4,000 rely solely on the State Police for their services.
Legislation to Reform Tax Equalization Board Approved
The Senate on Tuesday approved legislation sponsored by
Sen. John Gordner (R-Columbia) to reform the State Tax Equalization Board (STEB).
Because of the Constitutional requirement for uniform
taxation, it is necessary that locally assessed millage is equalized when
entities, such as school districts, encompass municipalities in multiple
counties. It is STEB's responsibility to conduct this equalization on an annual basis.
In 2010, there were numerous cases throughout the state
where STEB incorrectly determined market values within municipalities, resulting
in wrong data in many of the school districts that require multi-county tax
Senate Bill 1546, sent to the House of Representatives, places STEB under
the state Department of Community and Economic Development for oversight of its
operations and requires the STEB Board to hear local grievances and review
Committee Approves Increased Penalties for Failure to Report Suspected Child Abuse
Legislation sponsored by Senate Aging and Youth
Committee Chair Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland) to increase penalties for failure
to report suspected child abuse was approved by the Senate on Tuesday.
Senate Bill 1413 increases the penalties from a third- to a first-degree
misdemeanor for the first violation, and from a second-degree misdemeanor to a
third-degree felony for second and subsequent violations. The measure applies to
mandated reporters -- individuals who come into contact with children in the
course of their profession and are obligated by law to report suspected child abuse.
Mandated reporters of suspected child abuse -- health care
workers, educators, and others -- are key elements in the state's child
protection efforts and were responsible for 77 percent of all referrals for
substantiated child abuse in 2010. The legislation will be sent to the full
Senate for consideration.
Senate Votes to Merge Two State Agencies
The Senate passed legislation on Tuesday that would merge
two state agencies as a way to streamline operations and save taxpayer money.
Senate Bill 1545, sponsored by Senate Banking and Insurance Committee
Chair Don White (R-Indiana), would create a new Department of Banking and
Securities from the merger of the Pennsylvania Securities Commission and
Department of Banking. The bill moves to the House of Representatives for
Governor Corbett proposed the merger as part of his state
budget request for the 2012-13 Fiscal Year. By merging these organizations,
services and oversight could be streamlined with a focus on building on their
strengths and eliminating redundancies and non-essential aspects of their
operations. The merger is estimated to save taxpayers $1 million.
New Law Aims to Keep Unemployment Compensation Fund Solvent
Legislation aimed at securing the long-term solvency of the
state Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund was signed into law by the governor
Act 60 of 2012 received final legislative approval last week.
The new law allows the Commonwealth to borrow up to $4.5
billion in a bond issue to pay the debt. Unemployment benefits will not be
reduced for current beneficiaries. Eligibility and growth of benefits will be
reformed beginning in 2013, and are targeted to higher wage earners.
Senate Acts to Ease Overseas Military Voting
The Senate approved a measure June 11 designed to make it
easier for military personnel and overseas civilians to participate in state
elections. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Bill 1255, sponsored by Sen. Bob Robbins (R-Mercer), expands
accommodations already granted under federal law for federal elections to apply
to state elections as well.
That would allow overseas civilians and military to use the
Federal postcard application to register to vote and apply for an absentee
ballot at the same time. By filing an application for an absentee ballot for a
primary election, the bill would ensure the voter automatically receives an
absentee ballot for other elections occurring in the same year. In addition,
military personnel overseas would be allowed to use the Federal Write In
Absentee Ballot to register and to vote at the same time.
McIlhinney Proposal Would Promote PA Beer, Liquor Sales
Sen. Chuck McIlhinney (R-Bucks) introduced
legislation that would expand the sale of wine and spirits and allow beer
distributors to sell different quantities of alcohol.
Senate Bill 1554 would create a special wine and spirits license for
retailers. The license would expand the number of retailers that sell liquor
without changing the state's current wholesale purchasing system.
The legislation will also allow a beer distributor to
obtain an additional license to sell six-packs or single bottles of beer.
Current law prohibits distributors from selling beer in quantities of less than a case.
Senator McIlhinney: "Consumers and retailers have
expressed a strong interest in wine and liquor being sold somewhere other than
state-owned stores. Making these licenses available to retailers could increase
revenues to the state as well as adding convenience for consumers."
In the Spotlight
The Attorneys General of 49 states, including Pennsylvania,
have reached a $25 billion settlement with the country's five largest lenders to
end mortgage servicing and foreclosure abuses that stemmed from the recent
lending scandal. Pennsylvania will receive approximately $60 million to be used
for consumer and mortgage foreclosure protection programs.
Senate Bill 1433 creates a trust fund with the settlement
dollars for the purposes of funding consumer protection programs and HEMAP for
an extended period of years and requires no tax dollars. Due to state funding
issues, HEMAP has been unable to serve new clients since September 2011.
The legislation targets 90 percent of the settlement
dollars to HEMAP, five percent to the Attorney General for housing consumer
protection programs and five percent for legal assistance related to housing
issues. The bill also provides a supplemental appropriation to immediately
provide $6 million to HEMAP to address a backlog.
Senator Gordner: "HEMAP has proven to be highly
effective. Nearly 85 percent of homeowners who took part in the program remain
in their homes. That's good for our communities and a necessary part of an
Volunteer Fire Company and Volunteer Ambulance Service Grant Program*
Eligible organizations may apply for grant funding for a combination of up to two projects in the
- Facilities - Construction and/or renovation of the fire company's
or ambulance service's facility and purchase or repair of fixtures and
furnishings necessary to maintain or improve the capability of the
company to provide fire, ambulance and rescue services.
- Equipment - Purchase or repair of firefighting, ambulance or
- Debt reduction - Debt reduction associated with the facility (1)
or equipment (2) categories above.
- Training - Training and certification of members.
* Expanded by SB 866 to include municipal fire companies.