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In this Email Update:
Senate approves bill to equitably fund Pennsylvania’s schools
The Senate approved legislation Wednesday to immediately enact into law the school funding formula developed over the past year by the bipartisan, bicameral Basic Education Funding Commission and provide the overdue state reimbursements for school construction projects.
House Bill 1589, which was approved by a strong bipartisan vote of 37-11, directs all new state money for the current 2015-16 school year to be allocated to districts using the new formula and authorizes the release of state reimbursements for school construction and renovations under the state’s Planning and Construction Workbook, otherwise known as PlanCon.
The bill is currently on the governor’s desk, awaiting his action.
The state budget approved by the legislature in March included an additional $200 million in basic education funding and more than $350 million in PlanCon reimbursements. The language to implement the new basic education funding formula and authorize the PlanCon reimbursements was contained in House Bill 1327, the Fiscal Code.
However, on April 4 the Governor vetoed the Fiscal Code and created his own formula to drive out public education funding. As a result, 86 percent of Pennsylvania’s 500 public school districts will receive less money under this plan than they would have received under the Basic Education Funding Formula. The impact was even worse for our region. In fact, in the 29th Senatorial District, all but one of the twenty-one school districts would see a reduction under the governor’s formula – 95 percent of the districts would lose out under the governor’s formula!
The veto also halted PlanCon construction/renovation reimbursements.
Under the governor’s basic education funding formula, three of the state's five hundred school districts will receive $100 million of the overall increase. Philadelphia schools will receive an additional $78 million, including $34 million that was taken from rural school districts throughout the state, including Berks and Schuylkill Counties.
In short, with one stroke of a veto pen, the governor’s actions resulted in a $12,721,372.02 LOSS for schools in the 29th Senatorial District between PlanCon reimbursements and a new funding formula to drive out tax dollars to local school districts.
Jobs, jobs, jobs focus of bipartisan hearing
The Senate Majority and Senate Democratic Policy Committees held a joint public hearing last Monday in Harrisburg to take a closer look at Pennsylvania’s burdensome permitting process and a comparison of our economic development incentives compared to neighboring states, focusing primarily on New York and New Jersey.
The second biggest issue I hear about from local residents is about job creation. (First is school property tax elimination!)
As Chairman of the Senate Majority Policy Committee, I wanted to hold a fact-finding hearing with various public and private sector entities to learn more about our economic competitiveness, especially in comparison to our neighboring states.
View photos from the hearing here.
Leaders of the Pennsylvania Economic Development Association, Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, National Federation of Independent Business and the Pennsylvania Business Council testified about the lengthy and non-uniform process necessary to receive state permits.
The goal is to help the private sector to create more jobs in Pennsylvania and I think that is a priority that is shared no matter if you are a Republican or a Democrat.
The hearing focused on streamlining and improving the permitting process developers must go through in order to build new facilities or expand existing facilities in Pennsylvania. We also touched on economic development incentives and reviewed the effectiveness of several state incentives to bring new jobs to the state.
Meeting with Lycoming College officials
Students and leaders of Lycoming College visited me in Harrisburg last week. As a proud alum of the College, I was pleased to talk with Dr. Kent Trachte, President of Lycoming College, and others about the growth of the college.
Senate approves my resolution to review corrections department mandatory overtime
The Senate approved a resolution I authored last Monday authorizing an official study of mandatory overtime in the Department of Corrections. Senate Resolution 263 directs the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to review costs associated with mandatory overtime for corrections officers versus the costs to hire, train and equip additional corrections officers.
Corrections Secretary John Wetzel testified at a Senate Appropriations Committee budget hearings that overtime costs for his department amount to approximately $90 million annually. The Department of Corrections receives the third largest state appropriation from the General Fund and its overtime costs have outpaced all other state agencies from 2010 through 2014.
Learn more about the issue here.
Senate approves special license plate for active duty military
I am pleased to report that the Senate approved a bill on Tuesday that recognizes and honors Pennsylvania’s active duty military personnel.
Senate Bill 1155 establishes a special vehicle license plate for members of the United States Armed Forces adding special recognition for active members of the military, reserves, and Pennsylvania National Guard. This would be an addition to the currently available license plates with special recognition for World War II veterans, Purple Heart recipients and Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans.
The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration. We also approved and sent to the House six other bills last week.
House Bill 400 establishes the “Work Experience for High School Students with Disabilities Act.” The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.
Senate Bill 1114 amends the Sewage Facilities Act to allow the use of “alternative systems” for planning purposes throughout the Commonwealth.
House Bill 1319 establishes the Pennsylvania ABLE Savings Program Tax Exemption Act. The act is companion legislation to legislation that would establish the ABLE Act Savings Program in the Treasury Department to encourage eligible individuals with disabilities to save private funds from which the expenses related to their disabilities may be paid. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.
Senate Bill 1152 requires children under the age of one be secured in a rear-facing child seat while traveling in a vehicle.
Troop celebrates 83rd Eagle since 1960 – Congrats to Bradley McAloose of Tamaqua
On April 10, Representative Jerry Knowles and I had the distinct pleasure of congratulating Bradley McAloose of Tamaqua for earning his Eagle. Bradley installed a Peace Pole in Tamaqua for his community service project.
Bradley is the 83rd Eagle since 1960 for the local Troop. As this troop’s 15th Eagle, it was a pleasure for me to say, “Congrats, Bradley!”
Committee approves bills to protect energy related jobs
The Senate Environmental Resources & Energy Committee approved, with strong bipartisan support, two bills intended to protect family-sustaining Pennsylvania jobs placed at risk by Governor Wolf’s veto of the Fiscal Code, House Bill 1327.
Senate Bill 1011would exempt Pennsylvania’s conventional oil and gas well operations from the Administration’s new regulations intended for Marcellus Shale gas extraction operators. The Committee also voted to send a letter to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission recommending the panel completely reject the new oil and gas regulations proposed to Chapter 78.
Senate Bill 1195 includes provisions addressing Pennsylvania’s compliance with the federal Clean Power Plan. Specifically, the bill provides procedures for the General Assembly’s consideration of the implementation strategy developed by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for the federal Clean Power Plan before its submission to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
The bills now go to the full Senate for consideration.
Five bills sent to governor
Five bills received final legislative approval and were sent to the governor last week.
House Bill 12 amends state law regarding divorce to address situations in which one spouse has committed a personal injury crime against the other.
Senate Bill 879 provides that the Treasury Department may establish a program through which federal Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) savings accounts may be opened for eligible individuals for payment of qualified disability expenses.
House Bill 1329 establishes the Caregiver, Advise, Record, and Enable (CARE) Act, which requires hospitals to allow patients to designate a caregiver prior to discharge from the facility.
House Bill 794 increases the maximum hotel room rental tax in most third through eighth class counties from 3 percent to 5 percent and provides for certification of recognized tourist promotion agencies.
House Bill 1278 amends state law to allow television broadcasts or video images in a moving vehicle as long as the images are not visible to the driver.
Last Monday, the Senate adopted House Resolution 783, which moves a ballot question on raising the mandatory retirement age for judge from 70 to 75 years old from the spring primary election to the November general election to provide time to clarify and simplify the language that would appear on the ballot.
Productive meetings with constituents on various issues
I recently had the privilege of meeting with several young men and women from the 29th Senatorial District. On April 6, I met with several pharmacy students who are studying at Wilkes University and the University of Pittsburgh as part of their advocacy day in Harrisburg.
I also had the chance to chat with Josh Stranix and Pam Zotynia of the Schuylkill County ARC program to discuss growing jobs and creating opportunities for local residents. I’m always inspired after meeting with Josh because of his continued passion and leadership as a role model in his community and across the state for the “I Want to Work” movement.
Supporting Earth Day Resolution for 2016
April 22, 2016 is the 46th anniversary of Earth Day. I’m pleased to join my colleagues in supporting Senate Resolution 348, which commemorates and celebrates the 46th anniversary of Earth Day.
To read more about the resolution, please click here.