Pennsylvania Senate Republican News Brief


“I am very pleased by the collaborative effort of members from rural, suburban and urban communities in crafting this legislation. It received such strong bipartisan support because it will benefit residents in every area of our state.”

Senate Transportation Committee Chairman John Rafferty (R-Montgomery) on Senate passage of a comprehensive transportation improvement funding package.


Preview

Senate Convenes Monday at 1 p.m.

The Senate will convene today at 1 p.m. Bills that could be considered this week include Senate Bill 334, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware), abolishing the scandal-plagued Traffic Court in Philadelphia; Senate Bill 738 and Senate Bill 739, sponsored by Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming), implementing the Pennsylvania Natural Gas Expansion and Development Initiative; and Senate Bill 145, sponsored by Sen. Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland), amending the mechanics’ lien law.

Senate Committee Schedule

Watch hearings live at PASenateGOP.com.

Review

Senate Approves Transportation Improvement Funding Package

The Senate on Wednesday approved a comprehensive transportation improvement funding package sponsored by Senate Transportation Committee Chairman John Rafferty (R-Montgomery) to provide approximately $2.5 billion in sustainable annual funding by fiscal year 2017-18.

In addition to providing additional funding for Pennsylvania’s crumbling highway and bridge infrastructure and 36 transit agencies, Senate Bill 1 addresses rail, aviation, ports, and bicycle/pedestrian funding needs.

The measure raises funds through a number of sources including adjusting 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 Senate Bill 1, please see In the Spotlight, below.

Watch

Senate Sends Ban on Taxpayer-Funded Elective Abortions to Governor

The Senate approved a measure on Wednesday that would prohibit the use of taxpayer dollars for elective abortions under ObamaCare. House Bill 818 now goes to Governor Corbett for his signature and enactment into law.

HB 818 includes the same language as Senate Bill 3, sponsored by Senate Banking and Insurance Committee Chairman Don White (R-Indiana) . It provides exceptions in cases of rape, incest or when the mother’s life is in danger.
Watch

Educator Misconduct Measures Approved by the Senate

The Senate on Monday approved two bills to protect children from teacher misconduct. Both bills are now before the House of Representatives for consideration.

Senate Bill 34 , sponsored by Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster), would protect students by expanding mandatory reporting requirements for schools to include reports of child abuse and “grooming” behaviors by educators, such as the use of sexually explicit text messages.

Senate Bill 46 would prevent the hiring of educators who have been investigated, dismissed or disciplined for abuse or sexual misconduct by requiring more thorough employment background checks of applicants for school positions involving direct contact with children.
Watch

Senate Approves Bill Honoring Wishes of Fallen Soldiers

The Senate approved legislation on Tuesday that would require the Commonwealth to recognize the federal Department of Defense form which documents the wishes of a service member regarding the handling of his remains should that person die in the line of duty.

Because some states do not recognize the federal DD Form 93 as an acceptable form for military personnel, there have been instances of civil actions between family members over the ultimate disposition of a fallen service member’s remains. Senate Bill 586 , sponsored by Sen. Mike Brubaker (R-Lancaster), would require Pennsylvania to recognize a service member’s wishes included in the federal form, clarifying that these decisions be determined based upon the wishes of the person in military service as authorized on the form.

Senate Passes Greenleaf Measure to Protect Victims of Sexual Violence

The Senate approved legislation Tuesday that would provide court-ordered protection for victims of sexual assault.

Senate Bill 681 , sponsored by Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery), would authorize a sexual assault victim to petition the court requesting protection from the defendant regardless of whether the victim seeks criminal prosecution. Under current state law, orders of protection are available to sexual assault victims only if a criminal case has been initiated.

The legislation would allow a court to order a defendant from having any contact with the victim directly or through a third party. This same protection is currently available to victims of domestic violence.

Hearing Considers Changes to PA Definition of “Child Abuse”

The Senate Aging and Youth Committee , chaired by Sen. Bob Mensch (R-Montgomery), held a public hearing Wednesday on legislation aimed at improving child protection in Pennsylvania by changing the legal definition of “child abuse.”

Under Senate Bill 20 , child abuse would be defined as recklessly or intentionally acting against a child causing bodily injury or serious bodily injury. In addition, the bill would list a number of acts that would constitute child abuse, such as kicking, burning, forcefully shaking or slapping a child less than one year old, and physical neglect.

Testifiers included attorney Jason Kutulakis, a member Pennsylvania Task Force on Child Protection; Sean McCormack, Chief Deputy District Attorney in Dauphin County; and Cathy Utz, Acting Secretary of the Office of Children, Youth & Families within the Department of Public Welfare. The panelists said changing the definition of child abuse will go far in capturing cases, treating victims and prosecuting perpetrators.

Hearing Video & Testimony

In the Spotlight

Senate Bill 1 represents a bipartisan effort to fund transportation projects throughout the state and address critical safety issues. 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.

A recent report by a national transportation group found that the poor state of Pennsylvania’s roads and bridges costs state residents $9.4 billion annually in vehicle operating costs, congestion delays and traffic accidents.

Senator Rafferty: “Our roads and bridges continue to crumble, our mass transit systems lack the funds for expansion needed to meet continued demand, and our railways, airports and ports struggle to be economic generators for the 21st century. This bill will enable us to begin investing in our transportation network now – rather than putting off much-needed maintenance, construction and safety upgrades that are crucial to our state’s future.”

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) : “Senate Bill 1 takes a crucial step towards solving the current demand to fund our rapidly deteriorating roads and bridges across Pennsylvania. Transportation Secretary Barry Schoch’s advocacy and determination to find a fair and well-thought-out funding plan was instrumental to the passage of this bill.”

Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware) : “Transportation funding is a core responsibility of state government, and it has been 16 years since Pennsylvania enacted a meaningful transportation funding program. The time for action is now.” Watch

Fast Facts

May Revenue Collections Increase

Pennsylvania collected $2 billion in General Fund revenue in May, which was $35.1 million, or 1.8 percent, more than anticipated.

Fiscal year-to-date General Fund collections total $26 billion, which is $102.3 million, or 0.4 percent, above estimate.

Sales tax receipts totaled $752.7 million for May, $1.3 million above estimate. Year-to-date sales tax collections are 3.7 percent less than anticipated.

Personal income tax (PIT) revenue in May was $825.9 million, $10 million below estimate. Year-to-date PIT collections are 1 percent above estimate.

May corporation tax revenue of $134.8 million was $30.4 million, above estimate. Year-to-date collections are 6.2 percent, above estimate.