Budget Hearings Summary

Senate Appropriations Committee Budget Hearings and Videos
FY 2019-2020

A daily summary of budget hearings, with key issues and hearing video.

Aging

Tuesday, March 5 | 3:00 p.m.

 

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Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee questioned Robert Torres, Acting Secretary of Aging, and Tom Snedden, Director of the PACE program, on several issues important to Pennsylvania’s older residents, including:

  • Guidelines for Senior Community Center grants.
  • A potential decline in Lottery Fund resources.
  • Projected increases in Pennsylvania’s senior citizen population.
  • Elder abuse prevention measures.
  • Waiting lists for PENNCARE programs.
  • Grandparents raising grandchildren because of the opioid crisis.
  • Pharmaceutical cost transparency.
  • Training on opioid prescribing.
  • Statewide funding for Area Agencies on Aging.  

Agriculture

Wednesday, March 6 | 1:00 p.m.

 

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Senate Appropriations Committee members discussed several topics of interest to Pennsylvania’s farmers during the budget hearing with Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding. The topics included:

  • The emerging field of industrial hemp in Pennsylvania.
  • Poultry and wild bird diseases.
  • The PA Preferred program and the value of its trademark.
  • Centers for Agricultural Excellence.
  • Need for a dog licensing fee increase.
  • Long-term fiscal viability of the Farm Show Complex.
  • Efforts to protect livestock and poultry from disease outbreaks.
  • Personnel available for agricultural preparedness and response efforts.
  • Veterinarians’ role in the opioid crisis.
  • The Governor’s proposed elimination of funding for hardwoods research.
  • The state’s frozen dessert license.
  • The impact of commercial travel bans during winter storms.
  • Deer farms’ role in the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease.
  • Crop damage payments and Sunday hunting to control the deer population.
  • Costs of the Homegrown by Heroes program.
  • Response to issues with cicadas.
  • A multi-state dairy summit.
  • Use of third-party inspectors.
  • Revenues from fireworks sales.
  • Performance of the Farmers Market Nutrition Program.

Banking & Securities – (CANCELLED)

Wednesday, February 20 | 3:00 p.m.

Ben Franklin Technology Partners

Wednesday, March 6 | 3:00 p.m.

 

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Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee raised several issues during the budget hearing with Stephen Brawley, President of Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern Pennsylvania; Chadwick Paul, President of Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania; Scott Nissenbaum, Chief Investment Officer of Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania; and Rich Lunak, President of Innovation Works. Issues discussed included:

  • Pennsylvania’s attractiveness to entrepreneurs.
  • The selection process for companies.
  • Technology development programs in other states.
  • Resources that could be developed by additional state funding.
  • Companies and jobs created through Ben Franklin.
  • Innovation Works efforts to develop new companies in southwestern Pennsylvania.
  • Potential spin-off companies from the Beaver County cracker plant.
  • Investments in life sciences and electronics.
  • Regulatory barriers that impede business development.
  • The interstate competition of economic development incentives.

Corrections/Probation and Parole

Thursday, February 28 | 10:00 a.m.

 

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Corrections Secretary John Wetzel fielded questions from members of the Senate Appropriations Committee on a wide range of topics involving state prisons, inmate populations and how to reduce recidivism rates.  Other questions included:

  • Concerns that individuals are being placed in local community corrections centers that are not near where they live.
  • A proposal  to train eligible inmates to become volunteer firefighters. 
  • How medication-assisted treatment works with inmates who are being released and whether statistics find it to be successful. 
  • Using telemedicine as an efficient, affordable way to help treat Pennsylvania’s aging prison population.
  • The high cost of moving a relatively small number of inmates from Graterford, which closed, to the new SCI Phoenix prison.
  • What the Legislature can do to make it easier for those leaving prison to obtain employment.
  • What is being done to help inmates with PTSD, dementia and hospice needs.
  • New security systems and technology being implemented in state prisons.
  • How declining prison populations will affect prison closures in coming years.
  • The impact of Senate Bill 14, which would reform the way probation and parole violations are handled in PA.
  • The threat of inmates being human-trafficked from inside a prison and how that can be prevented.
  • Where prison populations stand in terms of capacity, whether PA accepts inmates from other states, and what cost-savings measures are being implemented.

Community and Economic Development

Thursday, March 7 | 1:00 p.m.

 

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Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee questioned Secretary Dennis Davin about the state’s film tax credit program and other initiatives during the budget hearing on the Department of Community & Economic Development. Topics discussed included:

  • Offering incentives to Amazon, but not to Urban Outfitters.
  • Reduced state support for public television.
  • Regulation reform.
  • Filling existing job vacancies.
  • Best ways to invest economic development funding. 
  • State tax credit programs.
  • Early Intervention and CRIZ programs.
  • The economic impact of the Shell cracker plant.
  • Workforce development.

Conservation and Natural Resources

Monday, March 4 | 3:00 p.m.

 

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Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee asked Secretary of Conservation and Natural Resource Cindy Dunn for more information about Governor Wolf’s plan to raise for $4.5 billion in spending over four years for infrastructure improvements through a bond that would be repaid through the imposition of a Marcellus Shale extraction tax. They also posed questions about:

  • The large amount of leased land in Pennsylvania and the revenue it could generate for the Commonwealth.
  • Complicated fund transfers within the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and flat timber sales.
  • Efforts to stem the spread of the invasive spotted lanternfly.
  • The economic impact of state parks and forests, and the trickle down impact they have on communities throughout PA.
  • The status of sand replenishment efforts at Presque Isle Bay and other efforts to improve this important recreational resource.
  • Fund transfers from the Keystone Recreation and Environmental Stewardship Fund.
  • Funding for the Statewide Radio System.

Drug & Alcohol

Monday, March 4 | 11:00 a.m.

 

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Members of the committee questioned Department of Drug and Alcohol  Secretary Jen Smith to explain about the following topics:

  • Steps the department takes to monitor prescription drug abuse and coordinate with other agencies.
  • The demographic breakdown and types of substance abuse.
  • The effectiveness of methadone clinics across PA.
  • The process of identifying possible alternatives to methadone treatment.
  • The length of methadone treatment and the role of Centers for Excellence in treatment.
  • Department funding requests and federal funding.
  • The lack of accountability with the department’s unprecedented acceptance of a $10 million grant from the Bloomberg Family Foundation.
  • Social stigma and the influence of brain chemistry on addiction, and how both affect drug treatment in PA.
  • Steps to weed out unscrupulous recovery home operators prior to implementation of legislation to establish regulations.
  • Repeat use of naloxone on certain overdose victims.  
  • Details on the department’s spending plan and projected outcomes
  • The need for an assessment of non-medical treatment necessities across PA.

Education

Tuesday, March 5 | 10:00 a.m. Continued at 1:00 p.m.

 

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Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee discussed a wide variety of topics that affect students and taxpayers during a hearing with the Department of Education. Topics of discussion with Secretary Pedro Rivera included:

  • Efforts to recruit and retain high-quality educators.
  • The impact of Governor Wolf’s plan to raise the minimum teacher salary from $18.5k to $45k.
  • Concerns about the costs associated with cyber charter schools.
  • Funding needs for technical and vocational education.
  • Transportation costs for students.
  • Telepresence education for students who face an extended absence from school.
  • Further steps to strengthen school safety.
  • Steps taken to address the backlog of school construction cost reimbursements.
  • Restrictions on school safety grants.
  • The benefits of allowing school districts to utilize flexible instruction days.
  • The importance of funding Pennsylvania’s libraries.
  • Mandatory training for students in hands-only CPR.
  • How the internet and digital technology affects the need for funding for libraries.
  • Ways to improve the education funding formula.
  • Governor Wolf’s veto of legislation last year that would have provided resources for agriculture education.
  • The impact of the additional funding dedicated to the Erie School District.
  • Ways the Department could intervene before school districts become insolvent.
  • How to improve the teacher evaluation system.
  • Providing education about the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
  • Desired outcomes and performance of adult literacy programs.
  • Concerns about early childhood education and community college funding.
  • An update on career and technical education grants for equipment purchases.
  • Funding disparities between programs for public and non-public schools.
  • The need to reevaluate all aspects of education funding and ensure fair funding between school districts.

Education Part 2

 

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Environmental Protection

Thursday, February 28 | 3:00 p.m.

 

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The Senate Appropriations Committee discussed the following issues with Secretary Patrick McDonnell during the budget hearing with the Department of Environmental Protection:

  • DEP restrictions on gas drilling.
  • Varying times for permit processing by DEP regions.
  • The EPA’s Chesapeake Bay regulations.
  • Grant programs to help farmers.
  • Proposed fund transfers in the budget.
  • A reduction in the Recycling Fund.
  • Removing some counties from vehicle emissions testing requirements.
  • Funding for hazardous site cleanup operations.
  • Pennsylvania’s plans for the cleanup of Chesapeake Bay.
  • The impact of the closure of nuclear facilities on reaching carbon emission goals.
  • Funding for the Susquehanna River Basin Commission.
  • The sustainability of Pennsylvania’s various environmental funds.

General Services

Monday, February 25 | 1:00 p.m.

 

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The Senate Appropriations Committee discussed the following issues with Secretary of General Services Curt Topper:

  • Efforts to achieve costs savings, promote contracts with small businesses, and increase energy use efficiency.
  • Contracts, bidding and the purchasing of voting machines.
  • Increased spending for utility costs and efforts to reduce energy consumption.
  • Borrowing to fund the Bureau of Public Works.
  • The Farm Show leaseback contract.
  • Improving access to high-speed internet.
  • Information technology improvements.
  • The state’s property insurance coverage.
  • Efforts to address costs from vacant state office space.
  • Streamlining the disbursement of surplus state-owned properties.
  • Vender selection and licensing for medical marihuana sales.
  • A proposed staffing increase.

Health

(Dept. of Health)

Wednesday, February 27 at 10:00 a.m.

 

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The status of efforts to fight the opioid crisis and help those with addiction highlighted committee questioning during the budget hearing with Health Department Secretary Rachel Levine.  Other topics discussed included:

  • A recent study which found that recreational marijuana, like opioids, can lead to addiction for certain people.
  • The use of drug treatment plans and drug testing when providing prescriptions for opioid use.
  • The health risks posed to adolescents who smoke recreational marijuana and the need to get that message out to young people.
  • Legislation to speed up the processing of rape evidence kits is not being followed by the department, and the health care provider hotline established by that law must be improved.
  • Efforts to address delays in providing birth certificates and other vital records to state residents.
  • The overprescribing of opioids for routine procedures, such as the removal of wisdom teeth.
  • Misinformation concerning childhood vaccination and its role in the resurgence of diseases such as polio and measles.
  • The shortage of vital ambulance staff and services, particularly in rural Pennsylvania.
  • How the governor’s emergency declaration on opioid abuse is impacting small towns, where the crisis is particularly severe.
  • Recent efforts to update hospital regulations relating to the providing of anesthesia.
  • The PA Rural Health Model, which is vital to providing patient access and care, and to saving health care jobs in rural areas of the state.

Human Services

(Dept. of Human Services)

Wednesday, February 27 at 1:00 p.m. continued at 3:00 p.m.

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Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee discussed several of cost-saving ideas and ongoing reform efforts with representatives of the Department of Human Services.

Topics of discussion included:

  • The sustainability of Medicaid and expectations for recipients.
  • The effectiveness of the current framework of public assistance programs in helping people transition from welfare to work.
  • Ways to eliminate barriers that prevent individuals from climbing out of generational poverty.
  • New approaches to improve health care options elderly Pennsylvanians.
  • Steps the Department is taking to reduce pharmacy benefit manager costs and increase transparency of prescription costs.
  • The Governor’s proposal to create a new tax on ambulatory surgery centers.
  • Potential fee changes that could jeopardize services provided to local individuals who have disabilities.
  • Waiver requests that would allow able-bodied individuals without dependents to receive SNAP benefits without meeting work and job search requirements.
  • The timeline for changes to the Medical Assistance Transportation Program.
  • Loopholes to child abuse reporting requirements.
  • How DHS is working to address the growth in neonatal abstinence syndrome due to the opioid epidemic.
  • The performance and models for Centers of Excellence.
  • Ways to help organizations that provide early intervention services for at-risk children.
  • How to better meet the health care needs of older Pennsylvanians with serious medical needs.
  • Ways the state can better meet the needs of older Pennsylvanians and prevent elderly state residents from falling through the cracks in the system.
  • How the state could improve long-term care for older Pennsylvanians.
  • Cooperation between DHS and L&I in terms of workforce training and development.
  • Updates on a number of different programs designed to protect vulnerable populations, including low-income Pennsylvanians, older state residents and children.

Independent Fiscal Office

Tuesday, February 19 | 1:00 p.m.

 

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Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee questioned Independent Fiscal Office Director Matthew Knittel about:

  • Growing concerns about the national economic outlook and how that slowdown could impact PA.
  • Special funds that function outside of the state budget and what happens when reserves are built up.
  • What Pennsylvania is doing in terms of tax policies to attract and retain businesses and create new jobs.
  • The effect of using newly implemented performance-based budgeting.
  • The impact of a minimum wage increase on first-time job holders, including high school and college students.
  • The impact of public policy decisions on population demographics and economic development.
  • How new video gaming terminals will affect lottery sales.
  • How changes in federal tax law has impacted state programs.

Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission/Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency

Thursday, February 28 | 4:00 p.m.

 

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Committee members discussed school safety and juvenile justice with Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency Acting Director Derin Myers and Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission Executive Director Richard Steele. Topics included:

  • An update on implementation of the Legislature’s school safety initiatives.
  • Questions about the use of school safety grants to hire armed security guards.
  • The reduction in school safety funding in the governor’s proposed budget.
  • The need to review PA’s juvenile justice placement process.
  • An update on the status of Children’s Advocacy Centers to help child abuse victims.
  • Progress on the Juvenile Justice System Enhancement Strategy data review.

Judiciary

Tuesday, February 26 | 1:00 p.m.

 

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Representatives of the judicial branch detailed the impact of Governor Wolf’s budget proposal on the court system. Topics of discussion included:

  • The impact of flat funding for the judicial branch and the amount of funds held in reserve.
  • Additional funding necessary to implement the state’s Clean Slate law.
  • The decision to delay consideration of a proposed rule change in regards to venue shopping.
  • Efforts of the judicial branch to reexamine office space and leases.
  • The number and effectiveness of problem-solving courts.
  • The impact of justice reinvestment and specialty courts and how these strategies have affected judicial costs.
  • Steps the judicial branch is taking to improve cybersecurity and protect against the threat of data breaches.
  • Possible changes to continuing legal education requirements.
  • How the use of criminal history reports is evaluated.
  • The caseload and cost of the Judicial Conduct Board.
  • Policies related to gifts to members of the judiciary.
  • The effect of keeping vacant judgeships open.

Labor and Industry

Monday, February 25 | 10:00 a.m.

 

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Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee questioned how the state can better connect individuals to high-paying jobs during a hearing with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry Secretary Jerry Oleksiak.

Other topics of discussion included:

  • How to encourage more students to pursue career and technical training for available manufacturing jobs.
  • Improvements to the benefits modification system for Workers’ Compensation.
  • Problems regarding Unemployment Compensation call centers.
  • The need to make apprenticeships more widely available for skilled labor positions
  • The importance of helping able-bodied Medicaid recipients find long-term employment.
  • Eliminating redundancies and improving outcomes for individuals in job training programs.
  • The economic impact of the premature closure of nuclear plants in Pennsylvania.
  • Coordination of state agencies relating to workforce development
  • The need to revisit prevailing wage requirements for taxpayer-funded projects.
  • The number of hourly workers who earn the current minimum wage.
  • How a minimum wage increase would affect higher-earning employees.
  • Programs and outreach to help lower-earning employees access job training and skills.
  • How the governor’s PA Farm Bill would improve job training in the agriculture industry.
  • Ways to help incarcerated individuals gain the job skills they need to reintegrate into the workforce.
  • The differences between the funding requested by the Department and the funding Governor Wolf actually proposed.
  • The number of jobs that could be eliminated due to an increase in the minimum wage.
  • The performance of vocational rehabilitation programs and the number of people that would be served by the additional funding proposed by the Governor.

Life Sciences Greenhouses/Life Sciences PA

Monday, March 4 | 1:00 p.m.

 

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Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee heard testimony from representatives of the Life Science Greenhouse Initiative, which is funded by the annual Master Settlement Agreement

payment for the Tobacco Settlement. Three regional biotechnology research centers play a critical role in linking research and development with investment to create jobs and fuel innovation and technology.  Senators asked representatives from those centers about:

  • The high cost of prescription drugs and what can be done to make them more affordable for Pennsylvanians.
  • Concerns that some areas of the state do not have Life Sciences greenhouse, which would help to bring jobs, venture capital and economic development.
  • How many jobs are created by the pharmaceutical industry, particularly in research and development, and the pay scale for those jobs. 
  • Whether Pennsylvania’s decision to borrow against the tobacco settlement fund several years ago had an impact on revenues generated by the Life Sciences industry.
  • How Pennsylvanian’s Life Sciences greenhouses determine what companies and technologies to invest in and how successful that process is.
  • The high cost of developing pharmaceuticals, what can be done to control that pricing, and how rigorous our standards are.
  • Why many innovative trials on devices are funded in the United States but then take place first in Europe.
  • The return on investment for Life Sciences spending.

Liquor Control Board

Thursday, February 28 | 1:00 p.m.

 

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Several committee members challenged members of the Liquor Control Board about why state store workers are not being informed about their ability to opt out of paying dues to a government union, based on the U.S. Supreme Court JANUS decision.  They said the workers should be able to receive information and make a decision based on that data.  Senators also raised questions about :

  • Wine sales versus liquor sales and growth projections in the years ahead.
  • The potential for a trade deal to sell excess PA dairy products to Cuba in exchange for rum.
  • The number of Pennsylvania wines are featured in state stores and how well they sell.
  • Profits made by auctioning off liquor licenses and how many licenses have been sold.
  • Whether money used to advertise state stores and alcohol sales should be put to better use.
  • The number of stores have the lottery machines and if sales are profitable.

Military and Veterans Affairs

Wednesday, March 6 | 10:00 a.m.

 

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PA Adjutant General Anthony Carrelli fielded questions from members of the Senate Appropriations Committee about issues relating to Pennsylvania’s military community during a hearing on the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, including:

  • A proposal to enable re-enlisting members of the PA National Guard to earn free college tuition for their families.
  • Suicide rates among veterans in PA and what is being done to provide more mental health resources.
  • Transferring military service skills for certification in private industry.
  • Efforts to move away from traditional institutional care for veteran senior citizens to community-based settings and how that will impact veterans homes.
  • Proposed cuts in mental health funding.
  • Construction and rehabilitation efforts at the Soldiers and Sailors Home in Erie
  • Efforts to make certification requirements easier and more timely for military spouses.
  • What Pennsylvania can do to further help members of the military and their family transition to private industry.

PA College of Technology

Tuesday, February 26 | 3:00 p.m.

 

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The Senate Appropriations Committee discussed the following issues with Pennsylvania College of Technology President Davie Jane Gilmour:

  • The need for a higher education funding commission.
  • Preparing students to meet employers’ needs.
  • Programs for veterans.
  • Improvements to the school’s welding program.
  • The school’s brewing and fermentation program.
  • The average level of student debt.
  • The inclusion of liberal arts classes in a technical education program.
  • Graduation rates and students who leave early for job opportunities.
  • The school’s relationship with the Shell cracker plant
  • Retention of graduates in Pennsylvania.
  • Programs and positions eliminated by the school.
  • The state’s financial support of the school.

PA Gaming Control Board

Thursday, March 7 | 10:00 a.m.

 

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The committee hearing with PA Gaming Control Board featured Executive Director Kevin O’Toole, Chief Counsel Douglas Sherman and Chairman David Barasch, and covered the following topics related to the expansion of gaming in the commonwealth:

  • Monitoring video game terminals via a central control system.
  • Legislation allowing municipalities to opt out of truck stop VGTs.
  • An update on the status of the Big Beaver mini-casino application.
  • Regulations for video gaming at truck stops.
  • Gaming’s impact on horse racing.
  • The health of PA’s horse racing industry following the expansion of gaming in the commonwealth.
  • Bill requiring that revenue from gaming expansion be used to provide long-promised property tax relief.
  • iGaming’s impact on gambling addiction & local share assessments. 
  • Safeguards to keep children from gambling online.
  • The fees paid by gaming institutions to fund regulatory actions.
  • The need for a long-term gaming strategy for Pennsylvania.

PA Historical & Museum Commission – (CANCELLED)

Wednesday, February 20 | 1:00 p.m.

PEMA/Fire Commissioner

Thursday, February 21 | 3:00 p.m.

 

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Acting PEMA Secretary Randy Padfield and Fire Commissioner Bruce Trego were questioned about issues relating to public safety, including:

  • The use of online training for volunteer firefighters to save costs and make it available to more responders. 
  • Providing incentives, including grant funding, to encourage volunteer fire companies to consolidate.
  • The need for counseling resources for volunteer fire and EMS personnel, who often face severe trauma when responding to calls. 
  • The governor’s recent emergency declarations restricting commercial vehicles on major roads and the impact those closures have had on businesses that can’t get goods to market
  • The use of sprinklers versus monitored smoke detectors in preventing fire-related deaths.
  • Funding for disaster relief and other fund balances under PEMA that are being carried forward but are unencumbered.

PA State System of Higher Education

Thursday, February 21 | 10:00 a.m.

 

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Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee discussed the need to reexamine the cost and mission of the State System of Higher Education with PASSHE Chancellor Dan Greenstein. Other topics of conversation included:

  • How to reach additional students in light of declining PASSHE enrollment.
  • The financial and accreditation challenges facing Cheyney University.
  • Personnel and staffing reductions as a result of declining enrollment throughout the system.
  • How PASSHE can stay relevant and give students a good return on investment.
  • Ongoing efforts to improve student safety.
  • Ways PASSHE is working to meet the needs of the workforce.
  • Changing the way universities are advertised and marketed.
  • Different strategies to prevent a future work stoppage with PASSHE faculty.
  • How to improve retention and graduation rates.
  • Efforts to provide greater incentives for Pennsylvania students to enroll at in-state schools.
  • Regulatory reforms necessary to support PASSHE.

Public Utility Commission

Tuesday, February 19 | 3:00 p.m.

 

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The Senate Appropriations Committee discussed the following issue with Public Utility Commission Chair Gladys Brown and commissioners:

  • Assessment fees on the regulated utilities, which funds the PUC.
  • The ongoing need for reliable broadband in rural areas.
  • Outdated regulations on telecommunication carriers of last resort.
  • Nuclear energy, and the effect of not including nuclear energy in state Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards.
  • Steps being taken to ensure the safety of communities located near natural gas pipelines.
  • The high cost of renewable energy and how making energy more expensive would make Pennsylvania businesses less competitive and cost local jobs. 
  • What the PUC can do for PA residents without access to high-speed internet.
  • Increasing the number of gas pipeline safety inspectors.
  • The collection and dispersal of natural gas impact fees, and the installation of utility “smart meters.”
  • The cost of the PUC taking over the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority and the response by customers.
  • The level of investment by gas companies in upgrading pipelines delivering gas to homes.

Revenue/Lottery

Tuesday, February 19 | 10:00 a.m.

 

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The Senate Appropriations Committee opened its three-weeks of hearings on the Governor’s proposed 2019-20 budget with a session with state Revenue Secretary Dan Hassell. Topics discussed during the hearing include:

  • Cost savings from the Revenue Department’s technology modernization project.
  • The Governor’s proposed combined reporting requirement for businesses.
  • Public confidence in the lottery system.
  • Taxation of craft brewers.
  • Request for Proposals (RFPs) for I-lottery and scratch-off games.
  • The state’s vendor for lottery printing services missing deadlines for products.
  • Income limits for the Property Tax Rent Rebate program.
  • Job losses from the Governor’s proposal to increase the minimum wage.
  • Tax collection from online sales
  • Advertising costs for lottery scratch-off tickets.
  • Minimum salary of $45,000 for teachers.
  • The impact of federal tax changes on the PA 592 and ABLE programs.
  • Taxes on marijuana.
  • Pennsylvania’s tax credit programs
  • Changes in the enhanced revenue account since it was set up.
  • The feasibility of economic development incentives, such as tax credits, that are revenue-neutral.
  • Updates to the tax code and keeping it current with the modern economy.

State

Wednesday, February 20 | 10:00 a.m.

 

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The committee discussed the following topics with Acting Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar:

  • The Administration’s mandate that counties replace voting machines, reimbursement to counties, and the makeup of the group advising the department on the issue. 
  • Changes to the state licensing system aimed at decreasing processing times, and help for veterans transitioning to civilian life.
  • The possibility of providing voters with post-vote verification at the polls.
  • The need to make the lobbying disclosure process fully-funded by fees paid by lobbyists, and eliminate the use General Fund tax dollars.
  • Background checks for former inmates seeking a state barber license and the need to provide access to jobs to reduce recidivism.
  • The need to review the state Election Code for updates and improvements.

State Police/Homeland Security

Thursday, February 21 | 1:00 p.m.

 

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The Appropriations Committee questioned Acting Commissioner Lieutenant Colonel Robert Evanchick and other officials about several topics:

  • Proposed state fee for State Police coverage of municipalities without full-time police departments.
  • The next cadet class and overall State Police complement
  • The array of services PSP provides to all Pennsylvania municipalities.
  • Establishment of State Police Risk and Vulnerability Assessment Teams to boost school safety, and the backlog in safety assessments.
  • State Police crime lab costs and backlogs.
  • Trooper overtime costs and pension costs.
  • The costs and policy associated with PSP body cameras.
  • Status of the new statewide public radio system and the status of an audit conducted on procurement process for the project.
  • State Police efforts to combat human trafficking.

State Related Universities

Tuesday, February 26 | 10:00 a.m.

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The Appropriations Committee reviewed proposed spending by state related universities with Penn State President Eric Barron, University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Patrick Gallagher, Temple University President Richard M. Englert and Lincoln University President Brenda Allen. Topics included:

  • The missions of the state related schools in relation to the schools in the State System of Higher Education.
  • The value of a possible Higher Education Funding Commission.
  • The problem of declining college-age population and higher ed enrollment.
  • Steps being taken by universities to help combat Pennsylvania’s opioid crisis.
  • Student mental health and suicide prevention plans
  • The work of the PA Commission for Agricultural Education Excellence.
  • The economic impact of college campuses on surrounding communities.
  • An update on anti-hazing initiatives following passage of the Timothy J. Piazza Anti-Hazing bill.
  • The impact of the Governor’s flat funding will have on tuition.

Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology

Tuesday, February 26 | 4:00 p.m.

 

Social media share link: https://pasen.wistia.com/medias/bs10dfk5jo

Lawmakers discussed the importance of higher education and workforce development during a hearing with the Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology. Topics of discussion included:

  • Ways the school works to meet the educational needs of low-income students.
  • The metrics that should be considered in funding higher education.
  • How the school has bucked recent trends of reduced enrollment at other universities.
  • The process of adding and removing programs.
  • Potential pathways to help a larger number of unemployed individuals transition into the workforce.
  • Programs that could be expanded to train students from low-income families for high-paying careers.
  • The makeup and demographics of the school and the programs that are most popular and successful for students.
  • The value of creating partnerships between higher education and the business community.

Transportation

Monday, February 25 | 3:00 p.m.

 

Social media share link: https://pasen.wistia.com/medias/lnc9wz71pt

The committee questioned Secretary Leslie Richards about the following topics:

  • Uses of the Motor License Fund, including State Police funding.
  • New personnel to process REAL ID applications ahead of October 2020 deadline.
  • Rehabilitation of Driver’s License Centers.
  • An update on the Delaware River dredging project.
  • Vehicle registration applications now that stickers have been eliminated.
  • Funding for license plate-reading technology.
  • The importance of the transportation system to farmers.
  • Legislation expanding farm vehicle width.
  • The impact of Act 89 transportation funding increases.
  • Steps PennDOT can take to ensure contractors do a good job.
  • Efforts being taken to fill open PennDOT positions.
  • Costly new emissions testing equipment mandated by the Enhanced Vehicle Emissions Program.
  • The economic impact interstate truck bans during storms on farmers and nearby communities.
  • An update on replacement of structurally deficient bridges.
  • Steps being taken after it was revealed non-citizens were registering to vote via the Motor Voter Law.
  • PennDOT’s involvement in combating human trafficking.
  • The possibility of revising the 30-year-old formula for funding transportation projects.
  • The need for more federal transportation funding.

Budget Secretary/Gov’s Executive Office

Thursday, March 7 | 3:00 p.m.

 

Social media share link: https://pasen.wistia.com/medias/vrzio86lj0

Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee closed out three weeks of budget hearings with a session with Budget Secretary Jen Swails. Topics discussed included:

  • Transfers between funds and transparency issues.
  • Reduced funding for school safety.
  • Performance-based budgeting.
  • Employee benefits and pension costs.
  • Film tax credits.
  • Debt and borrowing.
  • Special funds in the budget.
  • The year-end revenue estimate for FY 2018-19.
  • Projections for the Lottery Fund.
  • The state’s fiscal outlook