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Argall to serve on seven committees in 2015-16 legislative session
The 2015-16 Legislative Session kicked off last week with the announcement of Senate committee assignments on Monday, January 19, and the inauguration of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor on Tuesday, January 20.
As a new member of the Senate's leadership, serving as the Chairman of the Senate Majority Policy Committee, I will also serve as Vice Chairman of the Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee. I chaired the committee in the 2013-14 session and look forward to working with the new chairman, Senator Scott Wagner (R-York).
We made some considerable progress on several issues, including providing some new tools for municipalities and counties needed to eradicate blight.
I will continue to serve Senate Appropriations Committee, which is tasked with reviewing the annual state budget.
The taxpayers I represent have told me that when it’s a choice between cutting spending or raising taxes, they want us to cut spending. You can only cut spending if you look at each department and agency to identify opportunities to create more efficiencies and to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse in state spending. This will be our main task in 2015.
Other committee appointments include the Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee, which oversees important job-assistance programs; the Senate Aging and Youth Committee, which had a key role in strengthening child protection laws across the state last year; the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, which handles important issues for farmers of Schuylkill and northern and western Berks Counties; and the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee which looks at issues related to finding efficiencies among various levels of government.
Taxpayers tell new governor – school property tax elimination is number one issue
This past week, the Lehigh Valley Express-Times conducted a survey on their website asking what Governor Wolf should focus on first – An overwhelming majority (66 percent) of those who answered the poll said “Eliminate the school property tax.” Read the complete story here.
Below is a chart I came across this past week showing the overreliance on school property taxes over the last 47 years.
A conversation with Peter Bortner of the Pottsville Republican Herald
On Tuesday, I sat down with Republican Herald reporter Peter Bortner to discuss my role in the Senate, as well as the local history behind my new office in the Capitol. In the 1980s, my predecessor, the late Senator Jim Rhoades, was located in the same office – 171 Main Capitol.
Read his story, which appeared in Thursday’s newspaper, here.
Committee approves oil and gas lease protection bills
The Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee approved two bills on Wednesday aimed at expanding the rights of landowners who currently hold leases with natural gas companies.
Senate Bill 147 would expand the Oil and Gas Lease Act by allowing royalty interest owners the opportunity to inspect records of natural gas companies to verify proper payments. The bill also requires all royalty payments to be made within 60 days of production unless otherwise stated in the contract. Any delinquent payments would be paid with interest.
Senate Bill 148 would prohibit a gas company from retaliating against any royalty interest owner by terminating their lease agreement or ceasing development on leased property because the owner questions the accuracy of royalty payments. Companies violating the provisions of this bill would face civil penalties of up to $1,000 per day.
The committee also approved Senate Bill 279, legislation establishing the Penn Grade Crude Development Advisory Council, which would study existing regulations and assist the Department of Environmental Protection in making changes that better address the differences between conventional and unconventional oil and gas production.
All three bills are now before the full Senate for consideration.
Bill would expand ignition interlock requirement
The Senate Transportation Committee approved a measure on Wednesday aimed at reducing drunk driving offenses in Pennsylvania. Senate Bill 290 would make the ignition interlock program mandatory for first-time DUI offenders with high blood alcohol levels. Currently, the ignition interlock requirement only applies to second offenses.
SB 290 would allow some individuals to operate a vehicle while under suspension and license restriction provided that they have an approved interlock device and meet other requirements.
The committee also approved Senate Bill 286 and Senate Bill 287, measures that are part of a bi-state legislative package intended to bring greater transparency and accountability to the Delaware River Port Authority.
The bills are now before the full Senate for consideration.
Committee approves age exemption for jury duty
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a measure on Thursday that would provide an age exemption from jury duty.
Senate Bill 210 would exempt those persons 75 years of age or older who wish to be excused from jury duty. At least 26 states exempt elderly persons from serving on juries. Generally, states have set the age qualifying for the exemption at 65, 70 or 75. For example, in West Virginia the age is 65, in Maryland the age is 70, and in New Jersey the age is 75.
Other bills approved by the committee and sent on to the full Senate for consideration include:
Senate Bill 161 would provide immunity from civil liability for hospitals that donate for humanitarian aid medical equipment and supplies which are in good condition.
Senate Bill 166 would allow courts to grant expungement if the crime is a misdemeanor of the third or second degree and the individual has not been arrested or prosecuted for seven to ten years following the completion of the sentence or judicial supervision.
Senate Bill 180 updates and revises state law relating to organ and tissue donations.
Senate Bill 283 continues the process to amend the state Constitution to eliminate the Philadelphia Traffic Court.
Senate Bill 301 consolidates various statutes into the Administrative Procedure Code.