Senate News Brief

“As it stands, if a victim of rape decides to keep a child that was conceived as a result of the rape, she could be forced under state law to interact with the perpetrator on a regular basis if he demands his visitation rights.”

Sen. Randy Vulakovich (R-Allegheny) introducing legislation allowing courts to terminate the parental rights of a convicted rapist.


Senate Reconvenes at 1 p.m.

The Senate reconvenes today at 1 p.m.

Bills on today’s calendar that could run this week include:

Senate Bill 4Sen. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster) – purely public charities
Senate Bill 316Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon) – procurement transparency

Bills before the Senate Appropriations Committee that could see floor votes on Wednesday:

Senate Bill 166Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery) – criminal records expungement
Senate Bill 279Sen. Scott Hutchinson (R-Venango)Penn Grade Crude Development Advisory Council
Senate Bill 293Sen. John Eichelberger (R-Blair) – health care navigators and consumer protection
Senate Bill 397Sen. Richard Alloway (R-Franklin) – bail bondsman privatization, regulation

The Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, chaired by Sen. Randy Vulakovich (R-Allegheny), will hold a public hearing on E-911 reauthorization and House Bill 152. (Wed., 9:30 a.m., N. Office Bldg. Room 1)

Senate Committee Schedule
Hearings are streamed live at


Scavello Calls for Select Committee on Purely Public Charities

Sen. Mario Scavello (R-Monroe) announced Wednesday he is introducing legislation, Senate Bill 446, to establish a special legislative committee to study and make recommendations to address the definition and treatment of “Purely Public Charities” in Pennsylvania.

The bipartisan Select Committee on Purely Public Charities will conduct statewide hearings and work with non-profits, elected officials, tax experts, public safety organizations and other stakeholders to determine whether additional legislation is needed and make recommendations relating to legislation or the treatment of purely public charities in Pennsylvania.

Senator Scavello: “I’ve been contacted by many constituents who are concerned that this issue has not been vetted enough, and Senate Bill 446 will ensure that the legislature will take a careful, deliberative approach to considering all sides of this topic.”

For more on this issue, please see  In the Spotlight, below.

MADD Supports Rafferty Ignition Interlock Legislation

Sen. John Rafferty (R-Montgomery) and Mothers Against Drunk Driving National President Colleen Sheehey-Church held a news conference Tuesday to rally support for ignition interlocks for convicted drunk drivers.

Sheehey-Church, whose 18-year-old son, Dustin, was killed by a drunk and drugged driver, called for passage of Senate Bill 290, sponsored by Senator Rafferty, which would require convicted drunk drivers with illegal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .10 or greater to use ignition interlocks for at least six months.

Due in part to similar laws passed in other states, drunk driving deaths have declined dramatically and at a better pace compared to the national average decline. New Mexico and Arizona have seen a 40 percent and 45 percent reduction, respectively, in drunk driving deaths since passing all-offender interlock laws.


Bipartisan Plan to Improve Oversight of Municipal Financial Deals Reintroduced

Sen. John Eichelberger (R-Blair) and Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon) announced the reintroduction of a bipartisan package of bills aimed at curbing risky municipal debt transactions and providing better state oversight of local financing deals.

The legislation originates from the findings of Senate Local Government Committee hearings conducted in 2012 on the fiscal crisis affecting the City of Harrisburg and the debt of its incinerator project.  The incinerator project ended up costing $370 million — and played a major role in the capital city’s fiscal crisis.

The package of bills include: Senate Bill 340, Senate Bill 341, Senate Bill 342, Senate Bill 343 and Senate Bill 344.

Corman Releases 4,900 NCAA Lawsuit Documents, Calls for Probe

Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Centre) on Wednesday released more than 4,900 pages of documents amassed as part of his lawsuit against the NCAA.

Senator Corman called on the NCAA Executive Board to thoroughly investigate the conduct of NCAA President Mark Emmert and his Executive Staff. He said the documents show that Emmert misled the NCAA Executive Board and Penn State by threatening to impose penalties that were “harsher than staff believe can be gained through the standard enforcement process.”

Senator Corman mailed copies of the depositions to the state’s Congressional Delegation with the request that they use the power of Congress to investigate the NCAA’s actions. Copies also will be mailed to the NCAA Executive Committee in order to make certain its members have full access to the information.


Vulakovich Introducing Bill to Protect and Support Rape Victims

Sen. Randy Vulakovich (R-Allegheny) is introducing legislation that will strengthen the rights of rape victims who have conceived a child as a result of the rape.

Under his proposed Rape Survivor Child Custody and Support Act, courts could terminate the parental rights of a convicted rapist, thereby eliminating the abuser’s access to full, partial, or supervised custody of a child conceived by rape.  The measure maintains an offender’s obligation to pay child support even if parental rights are terminated by court order.

An estimated 33,000 victims become pregnant as a result of rape nationwide annually. The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape strongly supports the measure.

In the Spotlight

The state Supreme Court in Mesivtah Eitz Chaim of Bobov, Inc. v. Pike County Board of Assessment (2012) dismantled Act 55 and reinstated the “HUP” test established by the courts as the means to determine the definition of a charity.

The decision has created uncertainty and the potential for increased litigation. The court further held that the legislature was prohibited by the Constitution of Pennsylvania from enacting changes to the law. A constitutional amendment, Senate Bill 4, was introduced to allow the General Assembly to develop a statute that addresses this issue.

Senator Scavello noted that since the adoption of Act 55 in 1997, many non-profit institutions have grown dramatically.  While there is universal agreement that the Commonwealth needs a legal environment in which charities can thrive, municipalities and school districts are struggling with the increasing costs of services and the expansion of charitable tax deductions.

The select committee will consist of legislators appointed by Senate and House leaders, members of the Senate and House Finance committees, members of the Senate and House Local Government committees, and the Secretary of Revenue.

The committee will have six months to report its findings.

Fast Facts

Lottery Fund Update

  • Lottery collections through December 2014 were approximately $79 million below collections for the same period in the prior year.
  • Lottery collections improved in January and at month’s end, the year-to-year collections differential was reduced to about $60 million.
  • Preliminary indications are that this improvement is due to increased sales resulting from significant jackpots in the Mega Millions and other on-line games.

Source: Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh), Chair