Pennsylvania Senate Republican News Brief

“Our roads and bridges continue to crumble, our mass transit systems lack the funds needed to meet continued demand, and our railways, airports and ports struggle to be economic generators for the 21st Century. We simply cannot continue to ignore these pressing needs, which are directly related to public safety and economic development.”

Senate Transportation Committee Chairman John Rafferty (R-Montgomery) unveiling a comprehensive, bipartisan transportation funding proposal on April 16.


Senate Session Monday, Liquor Privatization Hearing Tuesday

The Senate will be in voting session this week, convening Monday at 1 p.m. Bills that could be considered include Senate Bill 177, sponsored by Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery), establishing a Lyme Disease Task Force; Senate Bill 303, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware), providing small business exclusions from the inheritance tax; and Senate Bill 731, sponsored by Sen. John Rafferty (R-Montgomery), closing a retail theft loophole.

The Senate Law and Justice Committee, chaired by Sen. Chuck McIlhinney (R-Bucks), will hold a hearing Tuesday to consider the Governor’s plan on liquor privatization. (9:30 a.m. North Office Bldg. Room 1)

The Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery), will receive a presentation from the Restitution in Pennsylvania Task Force and consider bills on Tuesday. (11:30 a.m. Room 8E-B)

Senate Committee Schedule


Senate Votes to Increase Government Transparency, Efficiency

The Senate unanimously approved three bills April 17 improving and expediting access to lobbying disclosure and campaign finance data, and creating an online voter registration system.

Senate Bill 308, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson), will require lobbyists and principals to register and report expenditures electronically, making this information available quicker and more accurately. The bill also requires the Department of State to post the information on its public website within a week.

Senate Bill 120, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware), will require electronic submission of all campaign finance reports with the Department of State. Only about 35 percent of those reports are currently filed electronically. Any candidate committee or political action committee raising or spending $10,000 or more in a calendar year will be required to submit additional filings.

The third bill, Senate Bill 37, sponsored by Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster), will allow online voter registration up to 30 days prior to an election. About 16 other states now allow online voter registration and most have reported significant cost savings as a result.


Rafferty Unveils Transportation Funding Proposal

Senate Transportation Committee Chairman John Rafferty (R-Montgomery), Transportation Secretary Barry Schoch, the three other chairmen of the Senate and House Transportation Committees and several Republican senators unveiled a comprehensive transportation funding proposal on April 16.

The Bridge to Pennsylvania’s Future,” which will be introduced as Senate Bill 1, would provide $2.5 billion annually.  The proposal includes the major recommendations made by the Governor’s Transportation Funding Advisory Commission. The announcement marked the first step in the process, and the legislation will be subject to committee review before coming to the Senate floor for final consideration. For more on the proposal, please see In the Spotlight and Fast Facts, below.

News Conference

Senate Acts to Boost School Security

The Senate passed legislation April 17 that would provide grants to Pennsylvania schools to reduce school violence and improve the safety of students and teachers.

Senate Bill 10, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson), would expand and enhance the current Safe Schools Grant program in the Pennsylvania Department of Education. In addition, a new program will be established to provide dedicated funding to school districts for the purpose of training and hiring armed guards to provide security for their schools.


Senate Approves Funding Flexibility for Stormwater Projects

The Senate approved legislation April 15 to enable the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST) to more effectively use federal monies for stormwater management projects.

Senate Bill 196, sponsored by Sen. Don White (R-Indiana), expands PENNVEST’s capability to utilize federal monies provided by the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to fund stormwater management and remediation projects.

The Senate also approved Senate Bill 351, sponsored by Sen. Ted Erickson (R-Delaware), allowing the establishment of municipal stormwater authorities, similar to wastewater authorities. Stormwater authorities would help create a stable source of funding for municipal stormwater management planning and projects.

Senate Votes to Allow Counties to Abolish Jury Commissioner Posts

The Senate voted April 16 to approve legislation introduced by Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster) to give county commissioners the option of abolishing the jury commissioner row officer position.

The Jury Commissioner position was originally created more than a century ago to help prepare lists of prospective jurors for criminal and civil trials. Computers now compile these lists much more quickly using the state’s driver license database, which has prompted court officials and county commissioners across Pennsylvania to call for the elimination of the post.

Senate Bill 808was approved by the chamber 37-12 and was sent to the state House of Representatives.


In the Spotlight

Senator Rafferty said increased funding for vital transportation projects is badly needed, noting that 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.

The plan will raise the needed revenue through several 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.

“The Bridge to Pennsylvania’s Future” provides a fair, strategic approach to meeting Pennsylvania’s transportation funding needs. All revenue generated will be dedicated specifically to transportation projects in the commonwealth, creating jobs and boosting the economy.

Senator Rafferty: “Maintaining a safe and reliable transportation network is a core function of state government and necessary to a strong economy. This funding proposal is an investment not only in our transportation infrastructure but in our state’s future.”

Fast Facts

Transportation Infrastructure and Public Safety

  • Pennsylvania leads the nation in structurally deficient bridges. 4,400 (18%) of Pennsylvania’s 25,000 state-owned bridges are rated structurally deficient. Of these bridges, 650 are weight-limited, and another 50 have been closed.
  • If Pennsylvania followed the Connecticut bridge standard, the number of weight-restricted bridges would jump to an alarming 14,000, which represents 56% of all Pennsylvania state-owned bridges.
  • Of the 44,000 miles of state-owned roads in Pennsylvania, 9,000 miles are in poor condition.
  • Pennsylvania’s local governments own and maintain more than 77,000 miles of roads and 12,000 bridges. 34% (4,000) of these locally owned bridges are rated structurally deficient.