The Senate Transportation Committee today approved an important government reform bill sponsored by Senator John C. Rafferty, Jr. (R-44) that would bring greater transparency and accountability to the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA). Rafferty said the committee’s quick action on Senate Bill 170 signals his determination to have the bill signed into law, despite Governor Wolf’s veto of the legislation last session that halted every critical reform measure.
“This bill focuses on transparency and the public’s trust and will bring long-needed reforms at DRPA, which has been facing multiple accounts and investigations of corrupt and unacceptable practices,” said Rafferty, who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee. “It had overwhelming, bipartisan support in the Legislature last session and should not fall victim to the governor protecting the status quo of corruption, mismanagement and nepotism at DRPA.”
He blasted Wolf for vetoing the legislation last October after the governor said he did not want the State Senate to have the power to confirm his appointees to the board. The New Jersey Senate currently has confirmation power over their governor’s appointees.
“The public has a right to know the qualifications of the governor’s appointees who oversee a large, bi-state public trust with operating revenues exceeding $340 million,” noted Rafferty. “Similar to other important nominations made by the governor, Pennsylvania’s Commissioners should be carefully vetted by the Senate through public hearings and not behind closed doors.”
Rafferty has sponsored this legislation since 2010 and confirmed the reform measures will make DRPA more open and accountable, ensuring that its practices are in line with standards in Pennsylvania (and New Jersey) and that it is responsive to the taxpayers and the states in which it operates.
“The DRPA is entrusted with millions of dollars in taxpayer money through the tolls and fees that users pay. DRPA and its Pennsylvania Commissioners should be accountable to the legislature and the citizens they serve,” Rafferty said.
Reform provisions of Senate Bill 170 would, in no particular order:
- Prohibit the DRPA from engaging in economic development activity and clarify that DRPA may borrow funds only to finance projects authorized by the compact;
- Require Senate confirmation of Pennsylvania’s Commissioners who are appointed by the governor;
- Authorize DRPA to hold executive session consisting of the majority of the Commissioners from both states to address confidential matters;
- Subject DRPA to the requirements of the procurement laws in both states;
- Allow citizens to obtain public records from the agency via Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law or New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act;
- Restrict DRPA employee perks by prohibiting –
- Vehicle allowances, toll exemptions and lump-sum expense allowances;
- Any personal lines of credit from DRPA;
- The acceptance of any gifts that could affect the conduct of DRPA business;
- Salaries to be higher than those of the Governors of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
- Prohibit political activity using DRPA time or resources;
- Forbid DRPA employees (at the director level and higher) from being employed by an entity that does business with DRPA for two years after the individual leaves DRPA service;
- Require biennial budget audits, biennial performance audits and a biennial review of compensation for DRPA’s officers and employees, and prohibiting DRPA management from receiving their salaries until audits are complete;
- Prohibit DRPA employees (at the director level or higher) from holding outside employment during their tenure at DRPA;
- Require Commissioners to file financial interest statements and identify any potential conflicts of interest in writing in advance of board meetings;
- Ban any transaction or professional activity and engaging in any outside business that presents a conflict of interest with DRPA duties;
- Prohibit charitable contributions by executive employees on behalf of DRPA;
- Provide 30 days public notice prior to any vote concerning a contract;
- Prohibit DRPA from negotiating, extending, amending or otherwise altering the terms of a contract, or entering into a contract, unless the action is taken by the DRPA board at a public meeting;
- Require current and prospective vendors to disclose a list of political contributions annually and for the prior four years; and
- Establish a Port Authority Transit Corporation (PATCO) Commuter Council to study, investigate, monitor and make recommendations pertaining to the maintenance and operation of PATCO’s facilities for the transportation of passengers, including those with disabilities.
CONTACT: Nolan Ritchie (717) 787-1398