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Senator Mario Scavello

Free A1C Diabetes Screening March 22

In partnership with Pocono Medical Center, free A1C diabetes screenings will be provided at our Pen Argyl District Office on Tuesday, March 22 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The A1C test is a blood test that provides information about a person’s average levels of blood glucose, also called blood sugar, over the past three months. Sometimes called the hemoglobin A1c, HbA1c, or glycohemoglobin test, the A1C test is the primary test used for diabetes management and diabetes research.

Appointments are necessary. Please call 610-863-1200 to make an appointment.


2016-2017 State Budget Hearings

The Senate Appropriations Committee concluded a second week of hearings on Governor Tom Wolf’s proposed 2016-17 state budget. Below is a recap of this week’s hearing testimony, my questions to department heads, and video of each hearing. (A summary of last week’s hearings is here .)

Monday, February 29, 2016

Corrections/Probation and Parole

Corrections Secretary John Wetzel and Board of Probation and Parole Chairman Michael Green outlined steps to reduce costs. Topics discussed included:

  • Pennsylvania’s corrections system has fewer inmates but costs keep going up, driven by pension and overtime costs.
  • Challenges of handling inmates with mental health issues.
  • The threat to Corrections Officer safety due to overcrowding.
  • SCI Camp Hill now uses natural gas and is saving millions of dollars.
  • The system cannot attract enough psychiatrists and psychologists for prison work.
  • The use of the Vivitrol heroin overdose drug in prisons.
  • The need for legislators and communities to receive advance notice before a prison facility is closed.
  • The high cost of aging, high-risk inmates.
  • State funds used for the diversion of state prisoners to local county facilities for short-term sentences.
  • Transitioning from Graterford Prison to the new SCI Phoenix.
  • Use of tele-medicine and tele-psychiatry, and Community Corrections Centers.
  • The possibility of privatizing institutions to curb skyrocketing personnel costs.
  • The need to maintain the independence of the Victims Advocate Office.
  • The effect of Veterans Courts on corrections system.
  • Abuse of leave time by Corrections personnel.

Full Hearing

Transportation

2/29/16 - Budget Hearing Questions: Transportation

Senator Scavello commends PennDOT Secretary Leslie Richards for implementing cost-cutting measures.

Secretary Richards fielded questions from members of the Senate Appropriations Committee about the state’s new transportation funding program and a plan to eliminate registration stickers in favor of a more modern monitoring system. Other topics discussed included:

  • Status of projects being funded under Act 89, the Transportation Funding Plan, particularly structurally deficient bridges.
  • The elimination of registration stickers and the use of license plate readers by police.
  • A proposal to change driver license renewal from four to eight years to cut costs.
  • Efforts to promote the use of natural gas in Pennsylvania, including the construction of vehicle fueling stations.
  • Legislation that would allow motorists who have minor infractions to avoid losing their license for long periods of time.
  • The need to maintain smaller rural roads.
  • Funding that is being diverted for use by the State Police.
  • The impact of a merger between Norfolk Southern and Canadian Pacific railroads.
  • The cost of responding to Winter Storm Jonas.
  • The decline in the department’s Shared Ride appropriation.
  • Duplication between the services provided by the Department of Transportation and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.

Full Hearing

Labor and Industry

2/29/16 - Budget Hearing Questions: Labor & Industry

Senator Scavello discusses funding for Centers for Independent Living, paying off Unemployment Compensation debt, helping inmates find jobs upon release, and the impact of raising the minimum wage.

During a budget hearing with Secretary of Labor & Industry Kathy Manderino, members of the Appropriations Committee discussed reforms that impacted her Department. Other topics discussed during the hearing included:

  • The Vocational Rehabilitation Fund and potential changes to the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation.
  • Centers for Independent Living and assistive technology.
  • State employment indicators.
  • Unemployment Compensation reform/seasonal workers/call center wait times.
  • The Department’s technological deficiencies.

Full Hearing

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Department of General Services

3/1/16 - Budget Hearing Questions: Dept. of General Services

Senator Scavello discusses DGS funding for the Harrisburg Fire Department, Capitol Complex maintenance and renovations, and hiring preferences for veterans.

Secretary of General Services Curtis Topper was questioned by members of the Senate Appropriations Committee on what his department is doing to cut costs. Other areas of questioning focused on:

  • An update on security efforts across the Commonwealth and within the Capitol Complex as well as concerns about facilities within the Capitol that are in need of constant maintenance.
  • The PA Standards Laboratory and whether it is duplicative with other departments.
  • Reductions in department manpower, the amount of space the department is now using, and an ongoing effort to reduce vacant state property to save tax dollars.
  • The need to improve and better implement technology to cut costs and be more effective.
  • The use of natural gas in state buildings to save money.
  • The sale of the State Hospital in Harrisburg, where employees who previously worked there will go and what costs will be realized.
  • Leasing state vehicles, including reimbursement rates, the cost to maintain and insure leased vehicles and whether they are cost-effective alternatives.
  • Developing new approaches in dealing with the fiscal challenges facing the state.

Full Hearing

Department of Aging

3/1/16 - Budget Hearing Questions: Aging

Senator Scavello tells Secretary of Aging Teresa Osborne that he appreciates the department doing the most it can to assist seniors with a limited budget.

Secretary of Aging Teresa Osborne discussed the state services provided to the 2.7 million Pennsylvanians over the age of 60 during a budget hearing on her Department with the Senate Appropriations Committee. Topics discussed during the hearing included:

  • Services provided by senior centers and Area Agencies on Aging.
  • PennCare and home- and community-based services.
  • Decreasing Lottery reserve funds.
  • Support and demand for PACE/PACENET and prices charged for drugs.
  • Increasing the retirement age.
  • The property tax burden on senior citizens.
  • The growing impact of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Lottery machines in state stores.

Full Hearing

Agriculture

Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding discussed the Governor’s proposed zero funding in Fiscal Year 2016-17 and line-item vetoed funding in Fiscal Year 2015-16 for key agriculture programs and initiatives during a budget hearing with the Senate Appropriations Committee. Other topics discussed during the hearing included:

  • The Race Horse Development Fund and the horse racing industry in Pennsylvania.
  • Chesapeake Bay Watershed strategies and their impact on farmers.
  • The role of Conservation Districts.
  • Flat state funding of agriculture research and extension.
  • Avian influenza.
  • State support for fairs and the Pennsylvania Farm Show.
  • The Homegrown by Heroes program supporting veterans.
  • Food safety inspections.

Full Hearing

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

State-Related Universities

3/2/16 - Budget Hearing Questions: State-Related Universities

Senator Scavello requests a breakdown of the number of in-state and out-of-state students at each university and seeks assurances that in-state students would get preferences for state aid and access to main campus. He also requested details of Lincoln University’s state appropriation.

Presidents of the State-Related Universities took questions from members of the Senate Appropriations Committee on a number of issues related to higher education, including:

  • The affordability of college education and the large amount of debt students are incurring.
  • The amount of funding requested by the state –related universities, particularly during the current budget crisis.
  • A status report of trends in enrollment rates at various campuses.
  • The significant role that universities play in economic development and their ability to attract and retain quality faculty and staff.
  • The amount of financial aid that the institutions offer and the percentage that is awarded to in-state students.
  • The rationale for admissions decisions and whether in-state students are treated equitably.
  • The return Commonwealth residents see from their investment in universities, including health care.
  • A status report on retention and graduation rates.
  • Concerns about adequate funding for agricultural research and development.
  • A lack of state control over benefits and compensation and the need for greater transparency in compensation decisions.
  • Pension costs and how much they have increased in recent years.

Full Hearing

Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education

3/2/16 - Budget Hearing Questions: State System of Higher Education

Senator Scavello welcomes input from East Stroudsburg University senior Drew Johnson, notes that stronger schools are subsidizing those with declining enrollment, and urges administrators to cut overhead to save tax dollars.

State System of Higher Education Chancellor Frank Brogan, Indiana University of Pennsylvania President Michael Driscoll, and East Stroudsburg University senior Drew Johnson discussed programs and initiatives underway at PASSHE’s 14 member universities. Specific issues discussed during the budget hearing included:

  • Strategic planning for the system’s future.
  • The size of universities’ reserve funds.
  • Impacts of subsidizing underperforming universities.
  • The ability to eliminate redundancies of services.
  • The impact of rising pension and benefit costs.
  • The per-credit tuition initiative.
  • Percentages of graduates working in their field of study and staying in Pennsylvania.
  • PASSHE programs for veterans.
  • Initiatives to improve campus safety.

Full Hearing

Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency

PEMA Director Richard Flinn fielded quires on questions related to the state’s ability to prepare for and respond to emergencies, including:

  • An update on PEMA’s new facility and when the move will be completed.
  • Questions about hiring a state meteorologist and whether it is duplicative, costly and unnecessary.
  • Coordination among county emergency management planners.
  • Outreach efforts to disabled individuals during disasters.
  • The high cost to municipalities of paid fire and police personnel.
  • The renewal of county hazard mitigation plans.
  • Training to first responders in train derailments involving hazardous chemicals.

Full Hearing


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Offices

Senate Box 203040
Harrisburg, PA 17120-3040
Phone: (717) 787-6123

Monroe County Office
DePue Plaza
2989 Route 611, Suite 103
Tannersville, PA 18372
Phone (570) 620-4326
FAX (570) 620-4379
9 a.m.- 5 p.m.

Northampton County Office
2 North Robinson Avenue
Pen Argyl, PA 18072
Phone (610) 863-12001200
FAX (610) 863-1214
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