“Hal was intelligent, knowledgeable and compassionate, and he had a great sense of humor. When you worked with him, you always came away from the process with even more respect for the man and his abilities. He was a consummate professional in every way.”
Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) and Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware) in a joint statement marking the passing of former Senator Hal Mowery (R-Cumberland).
Senate in Session Monday at 2 p.m.
Senators to Announce Legislation to Give PASSHE Universities More Options
Sen. Tommy Tomlinson (R-Bucks) and Senator Andy Dinniman (D-Chester) will hold a news conference to outline legislation that would authorize institutions in the PA State System of Higher Education to become more independent. The news conference will be streamed live at www.pasenategop.com. (Tues., 11 a.m., Capitol Media Center)
Senate Committee Schedule
Watch hearings live at PASenateGOP.com.
Senate Committee Holds Hearings on Proposed State Budget
The hearings, held over three weeks from February 10 to February 27, followed the February 4 unveiling of the $29.4 billion spending plan. (Two additional budget hearings featuring Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology and the Department of State are set for later this month.)
The constitutional deadline to enact a state budget is June 30.
Rafferty Legislation to Toughen Arson Penalties Becomes Law
Legislation sponsored by Sen. John Rafferty (R-Montgomery) to significantly strengthen Pennsylvania’s arson laws and create the new crime of “aggravated arson” was signed into law February 25.
Senator Rafferty worked with Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware), Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan, and community leaders to draft Act 16 of 2014 after serial arsonists set more than 30 fires in Coatesville several years ago. The fires caused more than $3 million in damage, left scores of people homeless and resulted in the death of an 83-year-old woman.
For more on Act 16, please see In the Spotlight, below.
Baker Announces New Veterans Designation on PA Driver’s Licenses
Pennsylvania veterans can now apply for a special designation on their driver’s license to honor their service as one of the Commonwealth’s 950,000 military veterans.
The new designation is the result of passage of Act 176 of 2012, led by Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee Chair Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne).
The veterans’ mark of honor will include an American flag graphic with the word “veteran” printed underneath.
Senator Baker: “Veterans often ask how they can provide proof of military service without having to carry around their formal discharge papers. Local veterans’ service organizations such as the American Legion and VFW often say that veterans frequently come to them to obtain an identification card. The driver’s license with the special designation will not only fulfill that need but also acknowledge the service and sacrifice of our state’s veterans.”
In the Spotlight
Senator Rafferty said the Coatesville arsons demonstrated that arson is not just a form of insurance fraud, but a deadly and costly crime that kills innocent people, puts emergency responders in harm’s way and can devastate neighborhoods and communities.
Act 16 creates a new class of crime known as aggravated arson and set tougher sentencing guidelines. A person can be convicted of aggravated arson if he intentionally starts a fire – or if he aids or pays someone else to start a fire – with the intent to cause bodily injury or knowing that someone was inside the property at the time.
The measure also increases penalties if a firefighter, police officer, emergency responder or civilian sustained injuries as a result of the crime. In addition, stronger sentences could also be imposed if more than three people were inside the property at the time of the crime or the arson resulted in more than $1 million in property damage.
The new law also clarifies that a convicted arsonist could be charged with second degree murder if the fire or explosion unintentionally caused a person’s death and first degree murder if the cause was intentional.
Senator Rafferty: “What happened in Coatesville could happen again in any community – so we need to take action to prevent more needless death and destruction. I am pleased that Pennsylvania is taking a stand against this deadly crime and those who commit it.”
February 2014 Revenue Collections Down