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In this Email Update:
Committee approves Rep. Knowles’ measure to reduce size of state legislature
The Senate State Government Committee approved two measures that would reduce the size of the Pennsylvania General Assembly.
The committee approved Rep. Jerry Knowles’ House Bill 153, a Constitutional amendment to reduce the size of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from 203 to 153 members.
I applaud Rep. Knowles’ leadership on this major reform. While not a new concept – it was extensively debated at the 1968 Constitutional Convention – this is the furthest progress ever on this issue. During this difficult state budget impasse, I think it’s important to lead by example and this is another way to reduce the size and cost of your state government.
Senate Bill 488, which would decrease the Senate from 50 to 45 Senatorial Districts and the House of Representatives from 203 to 153 districts, was also approved by the committee.
The proposed changes require an amendment to the state constitution, which means the same bill must be debated and passed by both the House and Senate in two consecutive sessions, and subsequently approved by referendum vote of the people of Pennsylvania.
The committee also approved House Bill 1484, legislation to further preserve Soldiers’ Grove, located across the street from the Capitol Complex.
All three bills now go to the full Senate for consideration.
Click here for video from the committee meeting.
Study to examine corrections spending, overtime costs
Earlier this week, I introduced a resolution to study the cost of mandatory overtime costs and staffing shortages within the Department of Corrections. In 2014-15, the department spent over $85 million in overtime costs.
On Tuesday, the governor touted a reduction of 850 inmates in Pennsylvania for 2015, representing the largest decrease in 40 years. However, overtime spending has increased more than 57 percent between 2009-10 and 2013-14 despite historic inmate population reductions.
My goal is to find out if we can save tax dollars without jeopardizing public safety.
Read more about my efforts in the Senate here.
Delay of Keystone Exam graduation requirement sent to governor
The Senate concurred Wednesday on House amendments to legislation delaying the graduation requirement associated with the state’s end-of-course tests.
Senate Bill 880, which delays the implementation of the Keystone Exams (algebra, biology and literature) as a graduation requirement until the 2018-2019 school year, now goes to the governor for his signature and enactment into law.
Currently, the class of 2017 is required to pass the Keystone Exams in Algebra I, Literature, and Biology in order to graduate. The Keystone Exams were intended to ensure that Pennsylvania schools are preparing students effectively and efficiently for postsecondary education or the work force. However, the tests have raised concerns from educators, students and parents. The delay will give the state time to refine the tests to address those concerns.
Bill provides options for schools to meet state 180-day requirement
The Senate approved a measure on Wednesday that would give schools greater flexibility to meet the state’s 180-day requirements for classroom instruction after emergency and weather-related closings.
House Bill 158 would provide potential scheduling options for school entities facing extended closings that include a school year with a minimum number of hours of instruction, in lieu of the 180-day requirement, and approving additional instruction days on not more than one Saturday a month.
The bill returns to the House of Representatives for concurrence on Senate amendments.
The Senate also approved and sent to the House Senate Bill 936, which provides for a one-time fee of $50 to cover the employer’s costs in setting up the wage garnishment to comply with the enforcement of a child support order.