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In this Email Update:
Senate votes on budget veto override
Responding to growing pleas from schools and community groups to release overdue state funding, the Senate voted on an effort to override Governor Wolf’s veto of an emergency budget passed last month by the General Assembly.
Senate leaders emphasized that the override would have provided badly needed funding while negotiations continue on a final budget agreement. The override required a two-thirds majority, or 33 votes. While all 30 Republican Senators voted for the measure, the emergency funding veto override vote received no Democrat support.
Watch my reaction to Wednesday’s vote here.
Hours before the vote, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale told members of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee that the lack of state funding is having a devastating financial impact on schools throughout Pennsylvania. School districts have already borrowed nearly a half-billion dollars – plus interest payments of $15 million – because of the budget impasse, and that number may double by Thanksgiving.
The vote marked the fifth time since June 30 that the legislature has attempted to have a fiscally responsible budget enacted and keep money flowing to schools and organizations.
Special Committee to study possible Senate action against Attorney General
Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati appointed six Senators on Monday to serve on a Special Committee to pursue possible Senate action against Attorney General Kane, pursuant to Article 6, Section 7 of the Pennsylvania Constitution.
Senator John R. Gordner was named Chairman of the Special Committee on Senate Address. The Committee is bi-partisan and geographically diverse. Republicans include Senators Gordner, Lisa Baker and Gene Yaw. Democratic members include Senators Judy Schwank, Sean Wiley and Art Haywood. Senator Scarnati will serve as a voting ex-officio member.
The scope of the committee is to investigate whether Attorney General Kathleen Kane can continue to do her job with a suspended law license. If it determines she cannot, that finding may be grounds for the Senate to utilize its rarely-tapped constitutional power of removal.
The committee will issue a written report with its preliminary findings to the full Senate within 30 days.
You can view the committee’s website here.
Super load transport bill signed into law
Qualified private companies will soon begin to facilitate transportation of super-sized loads now that my legislation was signed into law this morning.
Under existing law, any tractor-trailer transporting a load greater than 201,000 pounds, over 160 feet, and/or 16 feet wide requires a police escort. This requirement places a serious burden on the Pennsylvania State Police, often requiring officers to work overtime.
Senate Bill 748, now Act 55 of 2015, allows super-sized loads to be attended by certified pilot escorts with oversight from PennDOT and the State Police.
Learn more about my reform measure here.
Local Government Committee approves sanctuary cities bill
The Senate Local Government Committee approved legislation on Wednesday that would prevent municipalities from hindering federal efforts to deport illegal immigrants who pose a danger to Pennsylvania communities.
Senate Bill 997 targets “sanctuary cities” that refuse to honor detainer requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement for persons of interest who are arrested by local authorities. The measure now goes to the full Senate for consideration.
Under the bill, governing bodies such as counties or municipalities would be prohibited from adopting rules or ordinances that contradict federal immigration policy. Municipalities that do not enforce federal immigration policy would not be eligible for state grants for law enforcement purposes and could be sued for negligence for releasing an individual with a detainer who subsequently committed another crime.
The issue gained national attention when San Francisco resident Kathryn Steinle was shot by Francisco Sanchez, an illegal immigrant from Mexico with seven felony convictions who has been deported five times. Due to the municipality’s policy not to report Sanchez’s incarceration to the appropriate federal agency, he was promptly released just prior to Steinle’s murder.
Click here for video from the meeting.
Senate approves bill targeting illegal movers
The Senate passed a measure I sponsored on Tuesday that would protect the public and strengthen penalties levied against illegal household goods movers.
Household goods movers in the Pennsylvania are required by law to register and obtain a permit with the Public Utility Commission (PUC). However, a number of companies operate outside the law by failing to register with the PUC. Many companies also fail to carry adequate insurance coverage for the contents they transport, and others do not carry worker’s compensation coverage for employees.
Senate Bill 857 would make it a $5,000 fine and a third degree misdemeanor for illegal household goods movers. Vehicles used in an illegal move would be confiscated and registration would be suspended.
Repeat offenders would be subject to a $10,000 fine.
The bill only applies to commercial, for-hire entities.
Read more about my legislation here.
Argall testifies at DEP Public Listening Session at Penn State Schuylkill on EPA Clean Power Plan
On Wednesday, the Department of Environmental Protection held a listening session at Penn State Schuylkill. The purpose of Wednesday’s listening session is to receive feedback on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan. During my comments, I reminded Secretary Quigley of the DEP that our environment is very important to us. But so are good-paying, local jobs due to the anthracite coal industry. You can read my testimony here.
Union intimidation bill sent to governor’s desk
The House concurred Tuesday on Senate amendments to legislation that would prohibit harassment, stalking or making threats by parties involved in a labor dispute. House Bill 874 now goes to the Governor’s desk.
The measure does not impact unions engaged in lawful disputes or protests, but addresses issues in previous labor disputes in which violent protests by the union workers ensued, including intimidation and harassment in the form of physical abuse of on-site contractors and property damage.
The measure is supported by the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association and the Pennsylvania Sheriffs’ Association.
Fourth grade students from Hegins-Hubley Elementary, Blue Mountain East Elementary visit Capitol
This week, I had the privilege of meeting with students and teachers from Hegins-Hubley Elementary and Blue Mountain East Elementary in Harrisburg. During their visit, the students and teachers met with Representatives Jerry Knowles and Mike Tobash and received a tour of the state Capitol building.
The fourth grade class of Blue Mountain East Elementary in the Capitol Rotunda.
You can see my entire photo gallery here.
Bill expedites deadline for addressing code violations
The Senate unanimously passed a proposal on Wednesday I sponsored to shorten the timeframe in which property owners must bring their property into compliance with property maintenance codes.
Blight is a pervasive problem that can spread block by block, so it is critical to ensure we prevent that problem before it starts. I’m hopeful that this additional tool will help local municipalities address the problem as quickly as possible.
Read more about my proposal here.
Reviewing state-owned and leased property to save state tax dollars
As part of our ongoing efforts to find ways to eliminate unnecessary state spending, Senator Randy Vulakovich (R-Allegheny) and I want to know if the state’s office space holdings have matched the downward trend in the number of people employed by the state.
Toward that end, we recently introduced a Senate Resolution directing the Joint State Government Commission (JSGC) to study how the Department of General Services utilizes space within the Commonwealth in both leased and owned buildings, garages, storage facilities and all other property.
The study would also direct the JSGC to compare how the Commonwealth procures, leases, and utilizes space from the private sector in the hopes of finding efficiencies in current policies.
Read more about our efforts here
Berks County Superintendents visit state Capitol
On Wednesday, Superintendents from Berks County area school districts visited the state Capitol and met with several officials, including me. During their visit, I met with them in the Senate Chamber to discuss the state budget impasse. View my entire photo gallery here.
Senate hearing examines foreclosure process in Pennsylvania
On Tuesday, the Senate and House held a joint public hearing with three panels representing national banks, community banks, federal housing financing and housing advocates to discuss the foreclosure process in Pennsylvania. The hearing focused on issues related to blight and abandonment in communities all across Pennsylvania due to foreclosed and vacant properties.
Utility worker protection bill headed to governor
The Senate gave final approval Wednesday to a measure that would add utility workers, either from a municipal government or private company, to the list of protected workers during disaster emergencies. Senate Bill 765 now goes to the Governor for his signature and enactment into law.
Currently, state law provides additional protection for first responders, highway maintenance and construction workers and tow truck operators during emergencies. Motorists are required to travel cautiously at reduced speeds and carefully follow traffic markers, road flares, signs, or directions of emergency responders.
Additionally, emergency service responders may file a written report with the police officer upon observing a violation. Violators may be fined up to $500 per offense and pay restitution costs if warranted.
Also receiving final legislative approval this week was Senate Bill 77, which provides regulatory relief for beagle trainers.
This week, the Senate also approved Senate Bill 526, which amends the Second Class Township Code to change the deadlines for completing and publishing the Annual Township Report and Financial Statement.