Pennsylvania Senate Republican News Brief


“The reapportionment process began in 2011, and over the past two years has been extremely open and transparent with numerous public hearings. The process was extended, in part, due to the fact that significant effort was made to solicit and respond to legitimate concerns.”

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) on the state Supreme Court voting unanimously to uphold the Legislative Reapportionment Commission’s Final Reapportionment Plan.


Preview

Senate Session, Open Records Law Hearing

The Senate convenes Monday at 1pm.

Also on Monday, the Senate State Government Committee, chaired by Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster), will examine potential improvements to the state’s Open Records Law during a public hearing. (10:30 a.m. Room 8E-B) Watch live at PASenateGOP.com.

For more on the hearing, please see In the Spotlight, below.

Governor’s Liquor Plan, Higher Ed Affordability, Common Core

On Wednesday, the Senate Law and Justice Committee, chaired by Sen. Chuck McIlhinney (R-Bucks), will hold a hearing to consider the governor’s liquor privatization plan. (1 p.m. Room 1 N. Office Bldg.)

The Senate Education Committee, chaired by Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon), has two hearings on Wednesday, on Higher Education Accessibility and Affordability legislation (9 a.m. Room 1 N. Office Bldg.) and on proposed Common Core standards. (1 p.m. Room 1 N. Office Bldg.)

Senate Committee Schedule

Watch hearings live at PASenateGOP.com.

Review

Rafferty’s Transportation Funding Bill Approved by Senate Panel

The Senate Transportation Committee on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a funding plan sponsored by committee chair Sen. John Rafferty (R-Montgomery) aimed at upgrading Pennsylvania’s transportation infrastructure.

Senate Bill 1 will increase Pennsylvania’s annual transportation investment by $2.5 billion. It follows the major recommendations made by the Governor’s Transportation Funding Advisory Commission. Pennsylvania has more structurally deficient bridges – nearly 4,400 – than any other state in the nation, and 23 percent of its 44,000 miles of state-owned roads are in poor condition.

Senate Bill 1 will raise the needed revenue through a number of sources including adjusting outdated vehicle and driver fees for inflation, surcharging fines for drivers who violate traffic laws, uncapping the Oil Company Franchise Tax over three years, and achieving significant cost savings by modernizing many PennDOT services. For more on the Bridge to Pennsylvania’s Future, please see Fast Facts, below.

Watch

Senate Passes Alloway Landowner Protection Measure

The Senate approved legislation Wednesday that would protect landowners from being held responsible for the actions of other hunters and trappers who use the land.

Senate Bill 648, sponsored by Senate Game and Fisheries Committee Chair Richard Alloway (R-Franklin), would shield landowners from criminal liability for unlawful acts committed by individuals who have been given permission to take game or wildlife on the landowner’s property. The protection would only apply when the landowner does not charge a fee or payment for use of the land.

Senate Bill 648 was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Senate Acts to Crack Down on Metal Theft

The Senate passed legislation Monday to deter the theft of wire, cable, or pipe from homes, businesses, construction sites and utility infrastructure.

The rising market value for metals, especially copper, has spurred an increase in these thefts.

Senate Bill 688, sponsored by Sen. Mike Waugh (R-York), establishes the offense of theft of secondary metals in the crimes code.

Under the measure, the theft of secondary metal would be a misdemeanor of the third degree when the value of the metal is less than $50, a misdemeanor of the second degree if the value of the metal is between $50 and $200, a misdemeanor of the first degree if the value of the metal is between $200 and $1,000 and a felony of the third degree when the value of the metal is more than $1,000.
Listen

Committee Approves Bill Expanding Job Opportunities for Veterans

The Senate Transportation Committee, chaired by Sen. John Rafferty (R-Montgomery), passed legislation Tuesday to expand job opportunities for Pennsylvania’s service members and veterans.

Currently, military personnel and veterans who have two years of experience driving a military commercial vehicle are eligible to waive the CDL skills test when certain criteria are met. One such requirement states that the applicant is eligible for waiver if the applicant has legally operated certain equipment for at least two years immediately preceding application for a commercial driver’s license.

Senate Bill 277, sponsored by Sen. Elder Vogel (R-Beaver), strikes “immediately preceding” from the law, providing military personnel and veterans with at least two years of military commercial driving experience the opportunity to apply for a CDL with the possibility of a waiver at any time.

Eichelberger, Folmer Announce Bills to Improve Municipal Oversight

Senate Local Government Committee Chair John Eichelberger (R-Blair) and Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon) on Wednesday announced a bipartisan package of bills that would help provide better state oversight of municipal financing deals.

Senator Eichelberger’s measure would make several reforms to the Local Government Unit Debt Act, including limiting local government guarantees of municipal authority borrowings, eliminating the ability to charge a fee for issuing a guarantee, and giving the state Department of Community and Economic Development greater authority over the borrowing processes of local government units.

Senator Folmer’s measure bans the use of qualified interest rate management agreements, or so-called municipal “swaps,” for municipalities encompassed in the Local Government Unit Debt Act (LGUDA), such as local governments, school districts and municipal authorities.

The senators introduced their legislative package outside the debt-ridden Harrisburg incinerator, which has caused serious financial problems for the city.

In the Spotlight

The Senate State Government Committee hearing will focus on Senate Bill 444, legislation introduced by Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware) to address compliance issues for state agencies and help clarify and expand the types of records that are available to the public. Committee members will also examine ways to address the law’s application to state-related universities.

Testimony will be offered by Office of Open Records Executive Director Terry Mutchler; Lancaster Newspapers Editor Ernie Schrieber; Millersville University Vice President for University Advancement Gerald Eckert; attorney David Strassburger; Salisbury Township manager and Chairman of the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors Lester Houck; North Cornwall Township (Lebanon County) manager Robin Getz; Common Cause Pennsylvania Executive Director Barry Kauffman; American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania Legislative Director Andy Hoover; and Pennsylvania Freedom of Information Coalition Executive Director Kim de Bourbon.

Senator Smucker: “While the Open Records Law has been an overwhelming success in terms of expanding public access to information about state government, certain aspects of the law have created confusion among state agencies and allowed for the misuse of public resource. Gathering insights on the strengths and weaknesses of the current system will help legislators address any parts of the law that show room for improvement.”

Senator Pileggi: “Pennsylvania’s new Open Records Law has given residents of Pennsylvania access to tens of thousands of government records that were previously unavailable. This bill is designed to address many of the issues that have emerged since it was enacted five years ago. I thank Senator Smucker for holding a public hearing to examine Senate Bill 444, and I look forward to hearing comments on it – both from the formal presentations at next week’s hearing and in letters, emails and tweets from people across the state.”

Fast Facts

Transportation Funding Plan: The Bridge to Pennsylvania’s Future

  • The plan will invest an additional $2.5 billion in Pennsylvania’s highways and bridges, transit agencies, railways, airports, ports and bicycle and pedestrian programs by the fifth year of the plan.
  • Approximately $1.9 billion for state and local highways and bridges.
  • Approximately $510 million for Pennsylvania’s 36 urban and rural transit agencies.
  • Approximately $115 million for railways, airports, ports and bicycle and pedestrian programs.