Pennsylvania Senate Republican News Brief


“About a year ago it came to my attention that retired state employees who are hired back as annuitants are able to collect unemployment on top of their pension and additional salary for the temporary work. The past three years 638 state annuitants collected $2.77 million in unemployment benefits. It only makes sense to close this loophole.”

Sen. Pat Vance (R-Cumberland) sponsor of Senate-passed legislation to end ‘triple dipping’ benefits.


Preview

Senate Session Week Kicks Off Monday at 1 p.m.

The Senate will convene Monday at 1 p.m. Bills expected to be considered this week include: Senate Bill 648, sponsored by Sen. Richard Alloway (R-Franklin), providing legal protection for landowners allowing hunting on their property; Senate Bill 688, sponsored by Sen. Mike Waugh (R-York), targeting metal thefts; and Senate Bill 835, sponsored by Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh), providing recovery by stepchildren in wrongful death actions.

Legal Representation, Storm Response, Transportation, Health Secretary

On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery), will hold a public hearing on civil legal representation of the indigent. (9:30 a.m. Room 8E-B)

The Senate Consumer Affairs and Professional Licensure Committee, chaired by Sen. Tommy Tomlinson (R-Bucks), will hold a public hearing Tuesday on storm response. (9:30 a.m. Room 1 North Office Bldg.)

Senate Bill 1, the proposed Comprehensive Transportation Funding Package, will be considered Tuesday by the Senate Transportation Committee, chaired by Sen. John Rafferty (R-Montgomery). (10 a.m. Room 8E-A)

On Wednesday, the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee, chaired by Sen. Pat Vance (R-Cumberland), will consider the nomination of Michael Wolf for Secretary of Health. (10 a.m. Room 8E-A)

Senate Committee Schedule

Review

Vance Bill to End Unemployment ‘Triple Dipping’ Benefits Passes Senate

The Senate on Tuesday approved legislation sponsored by Sen. Pat Vance (R-Cumberland) that would prevent retirees from receiving unemployment compensation payments for leaving a temporary job in order to remain eligible for pension, retirement or annuity benefits.

Senate Bill 297 now goes to the House for its consideration.

Senator Vance said the bill targets retired state employees who are hired back as annuitants and are able to collect unemployment on top of their pension and additional salary for the temporary work. Because they can only work a maximum of 95 days for the state per calendar year, current unemployment law considers annuitants involuntarily terminated from their jobs. The past three years 638 state annuitants collected $2.77 million in unemployment benefits.

The bill would amend the Unemployment Compensation Law to make those who voluntarily leave employment to prevent a reduction in their pension, retirement, annuity or other similar benefits ineligible for unemployment.
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Senate Votes to Require Prompt Notification of Personal Data Breaches

State and local government agencies will be required to notify the public of data breaches involving personal information within seven days under legislation approved by the Senate on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 114 was drafted by Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware) in the wake of three separate thefts of state-owned computers containing at least 17,800 Social Security numbers and other personal information of approximately 400,000 state residents. The state agencies involved did not notify the public until several weeks had passed.
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For more on Senate Bill 114, please see In the Spotlight, below.

Senate Acts to Reduce Tax Burden for Farmers

The Senate on Tuesday passed legislation introduced by Sen. Elder Vogel (R-Beaver) that will provide tax relief to Pennsylvania farmers.

Senate Bill 638 would ensure that high tunnel greenhouses are not considered permanent structures and categorized as real estate for tax purposes. High tunnels, also known as hoop houses, are steel pipe frames covered by plastic that have a variety of agricultural purposes including plant protection, livestock housing, and storage.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Senate Approves Greater Flexibility in Makeup of County Row Offices

The Senate passed legislation Wednesday sponsored by Sen. Richard Alloway (R-Franklin) that would give counties greater control over the makeup and responsibilities of local row offices.

Senate Bill 744 would allow counties that advance from the fifth class to the fourth class based on population gains to maintain their current configuration of row offices indefinitely. The bill would give counties the flexibility to decide whether the new row offices should be added.

Natural Gas Consumer Access Bills Pass Senate Committee

The Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, chaired by Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming), approved two bills Wednesday designed to make natural gas service available to more Pennsylvanians.

Senate Bill 738 and Senate Bill 739, sponsored by Senator Yaw and Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware), will foster the extension and expansion of natural gas distribution systems to unserved and underserved residential, commercial and industrial sites.

Senate Bill 738 will require every natural gas distribution utility operating in Pennsylvania to submit a three-year plan to the Public Utility Commission, outlining the utility’s plans for extension and expansion projects. Senate Bill 739 will amend the Alternative Energy Investment Act to provide for $15 million for grants to schools, hospitals and small businesses to obtain access to natural gas service.
Listen SB738 | Listen SB739

Corman Mentored Hunting Bill Passes General Assembly

Legislation sponsored by Sen. Jake Corman (R-Centre) to authorize the Pennsylvania Game Commission to expand its successful Mentored Youth Hunting Program to all ages passed the General Assembly unanimously. The bill now has to be signed by the Governor in order to become law.

In 2006, the Game Commission launched the Mentored Youth Hunting Program, through legislative authority, with the stated goal to expand hunting opportunities for individuals under age 12 while maintaining safety afield. Senate Bill 623 expands this voluntary opportunity to all ages.

Senate Passes Greenleaf’s Lyme Disease Prevention Bill

The Senate approved legislation sponsored by Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery) to create a task force within the Department of Health to provide greater public awareness and education about Lyme disease.

Under Senate Bill 177, the task force would develop a public education program and coordinate its efforts with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and Department of Education to reach outdoorsmen, visitors to state parks, and students.

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted primarily by ticks. Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases pose a serious threat to the quality of life for Pennsylvanians, with Lyme disease cases increasing dramatically over the past several years.

Baker Bill Makes Financial Disclosure Statements Easily Accessible Online

Sen. Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne) announced legislation requiring that the financial disclosure statements submitted by state and local elected and appointed officials, employees, nominees, and candidates be filed electronically and posted online in a searchable format.

The bill also includes language requiring state and county political party officers to file financial interest statements.

The Ethics Commission has for years gone beyond the limited requirements in state law and posted the filings online. Senate Bill 899 makes posting a matter of state law and provides that filings be sorted by name, office, year, and amendment. It adds a requirement for amended filings to be attached to the original, so a viewer can readily see what has changed. There is an e-mail notification option for individuals who want to be alerted to new filings.
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Brubaker “Responsible Reporting” Bill to Address Animal, Farm Safety

Sen. Mike Brubaker (R-Lancaster) announced plans to unveil legislation that would create a “responsible reporting process” to prevent the misuse of unauthorized video and photos taken of farm operations by requiring any undercover tapings to be shared exclusively with law enforcement.

Senator Brubaker’s proposal contains a significant modification to legislation he introduced last session by explaining that if the images are shared solely with the proper authorities (police and Humane Society police officers) to investigate, the act is not considered a crime.

Current state law offers no recourse for farm owners who are targeted by unauthorized photos or video taken on their property, which can cause irreparable harm to their business and ultimately impact food supply.
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In the Spotlight

In addition to tightening reporting requirements, SB 114 also requires the Governor’s Office of Administration to develop and implement a policy to govern the proper storage of data which include personally identifiable information. The policy must take into account best practices from other states, with the goal of reducing the risk of any future data breaches.

In 2012, numerous serious data breaches were reported in other states. A hacker stole a database including 3.6 million Social Security numbers from South Carolina’s Department of Revenue. In Utah, hackers downloaded 780,000 Medicaid records. In Tennessee, a hacker group accessed 110,000 records including Social Security numbers from a school district computer system.

Senator Pileggi: “There’s no good reason to delay public notification after a data breach. Potentially affected residents should know what happened as soon as possible when personal information is stolen so they can take steps to protect themselves from identity theft.”

Fast Facts

April Revenue Figures

  • Pennsylvania collected $3.6 billion in General Fund revenue in April, which was $31.7 million, or 0.9 percent, more than anticipated.
  • Fiscal year-to-date General Fund collections total $23.9 billion, which is $67.2 million, or 0.3 percent, above estimate.
  • Sales tax receipts totaled $752.4 million for April, $64.8 million below estimate. Year-to-date sales tax collections total $7.3 billion, which is $309.2 million, or 4 percent, less than anticipated.
  • Personal income tax (PIT) revenue in April was $1.9 billion, $86 million above estimate. This brings year-to-date PIT collections to $9.5 billion, which is $113.8 million, or 1.2 percent, above estimate.
  • April corporation tax revenue of $524.9 million was $11.8 million below estimate. Year-to-date corporation tax collections total $4.5 billion, which is $243 million, or 5.7 percent, above estimate.
  • Inheritance tax revenue for the month was $86.3 million, $15.4 million above estimate, bringing the year-to-date total to $670.1 million, which is $31.6 million, or 4.5 percent, below estimate.
  • Realty transfer tax revenue was $28.8 million for April, $2.9 million above estimate, bringing the fiscal-year total to $275.2 million, which is $20.3 million, or 8 percent, more than anticipated.