Former Senator Arnold’s Bill Sent to Governor

A bill initially introduced by former Senator David Arnold (R-48) received final legislative approval this week and was sent to the Governor’s desk for enactment into law, according to Senator Joe Pittman (R-41), who took over as prime sponsor of the measure after Senator Arnold passed away in January 2021 following a battle with brain cancer.

Senate Bill 89, which repeals the Balanced Multimodal Transportation Policy Commission, an inactive panel that has never met, was unanimously approved by the Senate in March and unanimously approved by the House of Representatives on Tuesday (June 22).

“My name may now appear on the legislation, but this is truly Dave’s bill,” Senator Pittman said. “It has been my honor to help move it through the legislative process as a way to preserve Dave Arnold’s legacy in the Senate and recognize his service to his constituents.”

Senator Arnold won a special election to replace Senator Mike Folmer, who resigned. He represented the 48th District – all of Lebanon County and parts of Dauphin and York counties — from January 2020 until his death a year later.

Contact:         Jeremy Dias                jdias@pasen.gov

Senate Approves Bill Easing Duplicative PENNDOT Mandate

The Senate today (June 16) approved a House Bill that will ease the bureaucratic burdens that currently make it difficult for small communities to hold festivals, parades, and other events on PENNDOT maintained roadways, according to Senator Scott Hutchinson, who introduced a companion bill.

House Bill 765, which was introduced by Representative Brett Miller (R-45) and mirrors Senator Hutchinson’s bill,  Senate Bill 615, now goes to the Governor for enactment into law.

The bill bars PENNDOT from requiring duplicative insurance for processions, special activities, or assemblages. If the bill is signed by the Governor, PENNDOT could no longer require that local governments, in addition to the event sponsors assume duplicative liability as a condition of issuing event permits.

“These events are crucial for smaller communities,” said Senator Hutchinson. “They help restore a shared sense of purpose and meaning to those who live there. We should be supporting these communities, not imposing burdens on them.”

 

Contact:          Justin Leventry           jleventry@pasen.gov

Committee Approves Pittman Plan to Support Transportation Improvements

Listen

The Senate Transportation Committee today (June 8) unanimously approved legislation introduced by Senator Joe Pittman to expeditiously reduce the amount of funding diverted each year from essential transportation improvement projects to support State Police operations.

Senate Bill 242 significantly expedites the timeframe for reducing the diversion of money from the state’s Motor License Fund (MLF) – which supports highway and bridge improvement efforts – to fund the State Police.

“When Act 89 of 2013 was enacted, Pennsylvanians were promised a significant investment would be made to improve our deteriorating roads and bridges,” Senator Pittman said. “We need to continue to fulfill that promise and ensure tax dollars earmarked to maintain and improve our roadway system are available for their intended purpose. My legislation moves us in that direction more expeditiously.”

A 2016 Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LBFC) report determined that 47 percent of State Police manpower hours were dedicated to highway safety (i.e. patrolling roads, preventing, and responding to accidents, enforcing traffic violations, etc.). 

“The LBFC estimated the annual cost of those highway safety efforts to be about $500 million,” Senator Pittman said.   “Subsequently, the plan to cap and gradually scale back funding from the MLF was put into place as part of the budget agreement.  While eight years are left in the current plan, my legislation would further reduce that timeframe to four years. I believe now is the time to accelerate the shift to funding the State Police through the General Fund and to use the MLF for its intended purpose — to improve the condition and safety of our highways and bridges.”

Contact:           Jeremy Dias                jdias@pasen.gov

Video of the committee meeting.

Senate Approves Bill Requiring Drivers Clear Snow/Ice from Vehicles

The Senate approved a measure on Monday (October 21) that would require drivers to remove ice and snow from their vehicles, according to Senator Dan Laughlin (R-49), a co-sponsor of the bill. Senate Bill 114 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

“An 18-inch thick slab of snow and ice blown from the top of an SUV is bad enough, but just imagine an iceberg of that same thickness coming off the top of a semi as it barrels along an interstate highway,” said Senator Laughlin. “That negligence – regardless of the size of vehicle — is simply unforgiveable – especially if it results in a tragic accident. That’s why I co-sponsored this bill.”

The current law only penalizes a driver when serious bodily harm occurs from a snow or ice projectile. Senate Bill 114 would give police officers discretion to pull over a vehicle where the buildup of ice or snow poses a potential hazard.

Contact:           Matt Azeles                 mazeles@pasen.gov   (717) 787-8927

Pittman Legislation Stresses Funding for Transportation Improvements

Listen

Senator Joe Pittman will soon introduce legislation to reduce the amount of funding diverted each year from essential transportation improvement projects to support State Police operations.

Senator Pittman’s legislation significantly expedites the timeframe for reducing the diversion of money from the state’s Motor License Fund (MLF) – which supports highway and bridge improvement efforts – to fund the State Police.

Since Fiscal Year 2012-13, the MLF has provided more than $4.25 billion for State Police operations, money that otherwise would have allowed PENNDOT to undertake more highway infrastructure improvement projects.

As part of the Fiscal Year 2016-17 budget, funding from the MLF to the State Police was capped at $801 million with a schedule to decrease that amount to $500 million over a 10-year period. With eight years left in the current plan, Senator Pittman’s legislation would reduce that timeframe to four years.

Current law calls for a transfer of about 4 percent each year until reaching $500 million in Fiscal Year 2027-28. Senator Pittman’s proposal would double the transfer to about 8 percent each year until Fiscal Year 2023-24.

Fiscal Year

(Current Plan)

Payment from

MLF (in thousands)

Reduction (in thousands)
2020-21 $705,530 $32,070
2021-22 $673,461 $32,070
2022-23 $641,391 $32,070
2023-24 $609,322 $32,070
Fiscal Year

(Pittman plan)

Payment from MLF (in thousands) Reduction (in thousands)
2020-21 $673,461 $64,139
2021-22 $618,800 $64,139
2022-23 $559,400 $64,139
2023-24 $500,000 $45,183

“The State Police definitely provide an essential role in promoting highway safety, but the ultimate way to improve highway safety is to rebuild our deteriorating highways and bridges,” Senator Pittman said. “My bill does not reduce funding for the State Police, but rather shifts the source of the support to the General Fund budget. The State Police need and deserve the full funding necessary to fulfill their mission.

“When Act 89 of 2013 was enacted, Pennsylvanians were promised a significant investment in improving our deteriorating highway system,” Senator Pittman continued. “We need to continue that promise and ensure tax dollars earmarked to maintain and improve our roads and bridges are used for that purpose. My legislation will move us in that direction more expeditiously.”

A 2016 Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LBFC) report determined that 47 percent of State Police manpower hours were dedicated to highway safety (i.e. patrolling roads, preventing and responding to accidents, enforcing traffic violations, etc.). 

“The LBFC estimated the annual cost of those highway safety efforts to be about $500 million,” Senator Pittman said.   “Subsequently, the plan to cap and gradually scale back funding from the MLF was put into place as part of the budget agreement.  As our revenue outlook improves, I believe the timing is now right to accelerate the shift to funding the State Police through the General Fund and use the MLF for its intended purpose — to improve the condition and safety of our highways and bridges.”

Senator Pittman added that the state’s 12 year plan transportation plan could be further restricted by potential cuts in funding over the next 10 years. A recent report, Threats to Transportation Funding in PA, indicated that the state could lose a cumulative $6 billion in federal funds due to the insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund and by a cumulative $3.6 billion in state funds if a vehicle sales tax transfer is repealed and payments from the Turnpike Commission are reduced.

“This means we must act now to protect funding for transportation projects,” Senator Pittman said. “The potential loss of state and federal funding would have a severely detrimental impact on PENNDOT’s efforts to rebuild our crumbling roads and bridges.” ###

Cli for Senator Pittman’s comments on his proposal.

 

Contact:           Carlton Logue             clogue@pasen.gov

Vehicle Emissions Testing Reform Bills Approved by Senate Transportation Committee

Harrisburg – A package of bills was approved today by the Senate Transportation Committee, chaired by Senator Kim Ward (R-39), reforming Pennsylvania’s vehicle emissions testing program, also referred to as the Vehicle Emissions Inspection and Maintenance (I/M) program.

Pennsylvania’s federally-sanctioned I/M program requires motorists in 25 counties to participate in an annual emissions testing for gasoline-powered passenger cars, vans and light-duty trucks with a model year 1975 and newer. (Diesel-powered vehicles are federally exempt from an annual emissions testing, and other vehicles such as motorcycles are exempt in Pennsylvania.) 

The reform measures would remove counties meeting or exceeding air quality standards from the testing requirement, change the annual emissions testing to a two-year testing requirement, and exempt newer vehicles, among other changes. Similar reforms passed in California, which has more stringent vehicle emissions standards than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and other jurisdictions that join Pennsylvania in the federally-mandated Northeast Ozone Transport Region.

“We took extraordinary action today signaling reform is needed to Pennsylvania’s outdated and onerous vehicle emissions testing program,” Senator Ward said. “Between 2011-2017, only 4 percent of all subject vehicles failed the emissions test, which is attributed to newer, more fuel-efficient vehicles on our roads. When we are meeting or exceeding federal air quality standards and vehicles are not failing the emissions testing, we must modernize this program to relieve the burden on our constituents.” 

“Today’s committee votes on these vital bills are the culmination of many years of work on this issue.  From Senate Resolution 168 to public hearings, to meetings with stakeholders, we have advocated for the removal of emissions testing in counties that have improved their air quality and meet national standards,” said Senator Langerholc. “This is the first step in the legislative process and we will continue to fight for the people of western Pennsylvania who have been saddled with this onerous requirement for far too long.”

The package of bills that cleared the first legislative hurdle was introduced by Senator Kim Ward, Senator Wayne Langerholc (R-35), Senator Pat Stefano (R-32), Senator Elder Vogel (R-47), and Senator Michele Brooks (R-50) to:

  • Exempt vehicles newer than eight years from emissions testing. Senate Bill 742
  • Change the annual emissions testing to a two-year testing requirement. Senate Bill 743
  • Remove Blair, Cambria, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Lycoming, Mercer and Westmoreland counties from the testing requirement based on empirical evidence cited by the Joint State Government Commission. Senate Bill 744
  • Replace the outdated tailpipe test in the Pittsburgh region and the two-speed idle test in the Philadelphia region with a gas cap test and a visual inspection for model year 1994-95 vehicles. Senate Bill 745
  • Extend the date for emissions inspection stations to obtain new emissions testing equipment from November 1, 2019, to July 1, 2021. Senate Bill 746

If passed by the General Assembly, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection would be required to prepare a revised State Implementation Plan (SIP) encompassing Senate Bills 742, 743, 744, and 745. The revised SIP would require review and approval by the EPA before the reform measures would take effect, ensuring that Pennsylvania is not in danger of losing any federal highway funding. 

The legislation was the result of a Senate Transportation Committee hearing on “Exempting Eligible Counties from Vehicle Emissions Testing” featuring testimony from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the Joint State Government Commission, the Pennsylvania AAA Federation, and an inspection mechanic.

In 1990, Congress set the requirement for an I/M program as part of the Clean Air Act amendments. Since then, the Commonwealth implemented several changes, including the addition of counties beyond the regions of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. For more information, please visit http://www.drivecleanpa.state.pa.us/

Contacts:

(Sen. K. Ward)   Nolan Ritchie nritchie@pasen.gov (717) 787-6063
(Sen. Langerholc)             Gwenn Dando gdando@pasen.gov (717) 787-5400

Sen. Langerholc Encouraged by Discussion at Senate Hearing in Latrobe On Exempting Eligible Counties from Vehicle Emissions Testing

 

The Senate Transportation Committee held a public hearing today in Latrobe on exempting eligible counties from vehicle emissions testing, according to Senator Wayne Langerholc, Jr. (R-35) who served on the panel. 

“I am grateful that the Senate Transportation Committee came to our region to discuss this important matter and gain input,” Langerholc said. “For nearly a decade our region has met federal air quality standards, so it makes sense for local motorists to no longer have to pay for costly and unnecessary testing that may only be needed in more urban areas of the state.”

Langerholc has been fighting hard to ensure that area residents and businesses do not have to comply with the unnecessary mandate.  During the hearing, he noted that the nonpartisan Joint State Government Commission (JSCG) listed Cambria County as one of seven top counties that could be removed from emissions inspections programs in its latest report.

“The report and today’s hearing confirm what we have been saying all along – that our county can easily be removed without any significant environmental impact,” Langerholc said.  “I will be working hard with Chairwoman Ward to ensure we get this onerous requirement removed.” 

Langerholc said that data provides even more evidence that the 14-year-old requirement, which costs motorists on average $40, is no longer necessary, given the fact that the region has been consistently meeting air quality standards.

The testing requirement was first implemented in 1997 and expanded to include Cambria County in 2003.  However, Langerholc noted that it was based on air quality data from the 1990s.  Local air quality has steadily improved since that time, leading Cambria County to be designated as an attainment area in 2008.

CONTACT: Gwenn Dando 717-599-1164

Bartolotta Proposal Seeks to Reduce Grass Clippings on Roadways

HARRISBURG – In recognition of Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, Senator Camera Bartolotta (R-46) will introduce legislation that would help prevent one of the most dangerous and preventable hazards for motorcyclists: grass clippings on roadways.

Grass clippings can cause the surface of the roadway to become extremely slippery, and a number of motorcycle accidents and deaths have been attributed to grass clippings. Grass on roadways can also clog storm drains and contribute to run-off pollution into streams.

“Prohibiting grass clippings from roadways is an easy, commonsense solution to a deadly problem,” Bartolotta said. “Land owners have a right to manage and maintain their property as they see fit, but they also have a responsibility to ensure they do not create a lethal hazard for other motorists on public roadways by being negligent.”

Bartolotta’s bill would treat offenses related to grass clippings on roadways in the same way as waste paper, sweepings, ashes, household waste, glass, metal, refuse and other rubbish deposited on roads. Fines would range from $50 to $300 for a first offense, and $300 to $1,000 for a subsequent offense. In either case, offenders would also be required to have the clippings removed from the road.

 

CONTACT:   Colleen Greer (717) 787-1463

New DUI Laws Go Into Effect On Sunday

HARRISBURG – A new law cracking down on habitual DUI offenders will go into effect on Sunday, according to Senator Scott Martin (R-13).

Act 153 of 2018, which was signed into law in October, increases penalties for repeated DUI crimes and repeat offenders who cause the death of another person. Under the new law, any individual convicted of their third DUI with a BAC of .16 or higher could be found guilty of a felony offense.

The same penalty would apply to all individuals convicted of four or more DUI offenses.

The law also increases penalties for motorists who cause the death of another person as a result of a DUI, including a potential first-degree felony charge for repeat offenders.

Martin helped lead the effort in the Senate to pass the bill, and several measures he authored were included in the final legislation.

“Impaired driving not only poses a danger to the driver who makes that irresponsible choice, but also to every motorist and passenger they encounter on the roadways,” Martin said. “Especially as we enter the holiday season, it is critical for drivers to understand the serious nature – and the serious consequences – of driving under the influence.”

“When an individual repeatedly makes the irresponsible and dangerous decision to get behind the wheel while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the punishment should fit the serious nature of the crime,” Martin said. “Drunk driving creates a serious hazard that all too often leads to a trail of pain and misery for innocent bystanders. I am thankful that this new law will help keep habitual offenders off the road and behind bars.”

In addition to the measures targeting repeat DUI offenders, the new law also includes stiffer punishments for motorists who drive on a suspended or revoked license, including additional jail time for motorists who are found guilty of aggravated assault by vehicle or homicide by vehicle without a valid license while DUI.

CONTACT: Terry Trego (717) 787-6535

Governor signs legislation to protect highway construction workers

HARRISBURG – Governor Wolf recently signed bipartisan legislation authored by Senator David G. Argall (R-Schuylkill/Berks) that aims to better protect construction workers along highways.

Senator Argall and Senator Judy Schwank (D-Berks), teamed up with Senate Transportation Committee Chairman John C. Rafferty (R-Berks/Chester/Montgomery) to bring Senate Bill 172 to life after hearing reports from Berks County transportation officials about the hazardous conditions that highway construction workers face from speeding motorists.

“This whole issue started back in 2014 when Senator Schwank and I met with transportation leaders from Berks County” Argall said. “The problem is that too many motorists are speeding through these construction zones putting workers’ lives at risk. If you look at the statistics, we saw over 1900 crashes in work zones with 23 deaths across Pennsylvania in 2015, all because motorists couldn’t slowdown in active work zones. That’s an unacceptable statistic and we promised our constituents that we would help ensure the safety of those who work to build and maintain our infrastructure.”

According to statistics from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, work zone crashes have been increasing at a rate of five percent annually since 2012.

Automated speed enforcement cameras (ASES) will be deployed in active work zones along federal aid highways under PennDOT and the Turnpike Commission’s jurisdiction. Motorists that exceed the speed limit by at least 11 mph when construction workers and an ASES are present will receive a written warning for the first offense, a $75 fine for the second offense and a $150 fine for third and subsequent offenses. Motorists who do not speed through these active work zones will not be impacted by this legislation.

This legislation was based on a law that previously passed in Maryland. Approximately seven percent of motorists in that state were found to exceed the stated speed limit in work zones by at least 12 mph. After legislation was passed placing speed cameras in work zones, the number of Maryland drivers exceeding the posted speed limit dropped to less than one percent.

Further commenting on his newly signed law, Senator Argall stated “this legislation has always been about changing driver behavior and making conditions safer for our highway workers. Now that SB 172 is law, I am certain that the troubling statistics I noted earlier will decline significantly. I thank Senator Schwank and Senator Rafferty for all their bipartisan support in making this legislation possible. I also want to thank all of our highway construction workers who work tirelessly to maintain our infrastructure, I’m hoping that this legislation will make you feel more secure as you carry out your day-to-day work.”

Contact:

Joshua J. Paul (Argall)
717.787.2637