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In this Email Update:
“Senator for a Day” seminar at Penn State Schuylkill
On Thursday, high school students from around Schuylkill County came together to learn about the legislative process at Penn State’s Schuylkill campus. The students were divided into four different committees – finance, education, transportation, and state government. After the students were divided into their respective committees, they were then assigned to discuss, debate and vote on several different proposals, including cell phone use while operating a motor vehicle and the possible legalization of marijuana for recreational use. Other bills focused on the elimination of school property taxes and an enactment of a natural gas fracking tax as well as a tax on cigarettes, tobacco, and lottery tickets. The seminar provided the students with a much greater understanding of the legislative process.
Each fall, I hold a similar event for students from Berks County.
Business issues discussed at Greater Reading Chamber of Commerce & Industry roundtable
Senate approves cost-saving legislation for schools
The Senate approved legislation on Tuesday that will allow school districts to save thousands of dollars in annual mailing costs.
Senate Bill 1077 eliminates the state mandate that school districts annually inform parents by physical mailing when the district uses audio and video recording to identify and address discipline issues on school buses.
The mailer mandate was included as part of Act 9 of 2014, which gave school districts the ability to use audio recordings on school buses. Instead of the physical mailing, which can easily cost thousands of dollars each year, schools must post notice of the policy in the student handbook as well as on the school’s website.
Senate Bill 1077 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Also sent to the House for consideration this week were:
Senate Bill 359, which revises Pennsylvania’s truancy laws by providing new procedures to be followed when a child becomes truant and additional procedures if a child becomes habitually truant.
Senate Bill 1062, which increases penalties for home invasion burglaries.
Senate Bill 1144, which prohibits the sale of over-the-counter cough medicines containing dextromethorphan to minors.
Senate Bill 1156, which requires health care personnel and clergy to obtain background checks.
Senate Bill 1229, which corrects technical issues related to the distribution of Pennsylvania Breeding Funds.
Telephone town hall event recap
On Tuesday, I held my telephone town hall event which invites local residents to speak to me directly about issues that are impacting our communities and the state. We focused this event on some key topics including the upcoming budget for Fiscal Year 2016-17, school property tax elimination, education funding and pension reform. 5,706 took part in this, my latest telephone town hall.
These meetings are important for me to hear feedback from local residents regarding as well as their ideas for enhancing the efficiency of state government. A number of participants asked questions regarding funding for our local schools, the status of Senate Bill 76 – the Property Tax Independence Act – and welfare reform initiatives.
At the event, several questions were also posed to participants on a variety of state-related issues. Here is some of the feedback I received:
School property tax reform proposals
FY 2016-17 state budget
A big thanks to everyone who participated and tuned-in! More information about my telephone town hall events can be viewed here.
Committee approves bill addressing pay disparity between managers, officers in state prisons
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved my legislation this week that would address pay differences between corrections managers and lower-ranking officers.
Senate Bill 1112 requires pay increases for captains and lieutenants to keep pace with the increases of sergeants and corrections officers. In current practice, some corrections managers may earn less than certain lower-ranking officers.
Senate Bill 1112 was sent to the full Senate for consideration.
St. Clair Area 6th graders visit Capitol
Senate approves anti-hazing bill
The Senate approved legislation last Monday intended to protect students from harmful hazing rituals at Pennsylvania schools.
House Bill 1574 makes changes to the Anti-hazing Law. Currently, the offense of hazing is limited to offenses at a college or university as a condition for initiation or admission into an organization affiliated with that college or university. House Bill 1574 expands the offense to include hazing done as a condition for initiation or admission into any organization.
Currently, institutions of higher education must adopt written anti-hazing policies and rules for their enforcement. House Bill 1574 expands that requirement to public and private high schools.
The bill returns to the House of Representative for concurrence on Senate amendments.
The Senate also returned House Bill 944 to the House for a concurrence vote. The bill addresses the management of neighborhood improvement districts in the City of Philadelphia.
Also returned to the House for a concurrence vote was House Bill 1310, which provides privacy and protects the safety of individuals who call 911 to report crimes.
Teacher furlough reform bill sent to governor
The Senate gave final approval Monday to legislation that would keep the best teachers in the classroom and boost student achievement by ending the practice of seniority-based layoffs.
House Bill 805, known as the Protecting Excellent Teachers Act, would strengthen the teaching profession and boost student success by ensuring that school districts use teacher performance to guide furlough and reinstatement decisions. Performance ratings would be based on the comprehensive statewide educator evaluation system adopted in 2012, under which observed educators are assigned a rating of distinguished, proficient, needs improvement or failing. House Bill 805 prohibits school districts from using a teacher’s pay and benefits as determining factors for any layoff decision.
Currently, teacher layoffs are conducted in order of inverse seniority. The last teacher hired is the first person fired. Pennsylvania is one of only a few states that require seniority to be the sole factor in determining layoffs.
House Bill 805 now goes to the governor’s desk.
Four additional bills were also sent to the governor this week.
House Bill 400 establishes the “Work Experience for High School Students with Disabilities Act.”
Senate Bill 811 provides for the Fiscal Year 2015-16 Capital Budget.
House Bill 1200 repeals part of an Act from 1903 that requires railroads under bridges or viaducts to pay maintenance fees.
House Bill 1788 clarifies circumstances in Philadelphia in which a Neighborhood Improvement District overlaps with a Tax Increment Financing district.
Senator Killion sworn into office
Senator Tom Killion was sworn into office during a Wednesday ceremony in the Senate Chamber. He was elected to the Senate on April 26 under a special election to represent the citizens of the 9th Senatorial District, which includes portions of Chester and Delaware counties.
Prior to joining the Senate, he served as a State Representative for the 168th Legislative District and was Chairman of the Delaware County Council. He also founded two local small businesses. Senator Killion and his wife Eileen live in Middletown and have two adult daughters.
The Senate returned to its full complement of 50 members: 31 Republicans and 19 Democrats.
The Senate is scheduled to convene on Monday, May 16 at 1 p.m. You can watch session live and view the voting calendar on my website.