In this Edition:
Scavello and Appropriations Committee to Review Proposed State Budget
I will be working over the next several weeks with fellow members of the Senate Appropriations Committee to carefully review the 2017-18 state budget announced Tuesday by Gov. Tom Wolf.
After two years of calling for massive tax increases, the Governor has finally offered what we’ve been requesting: a budget that looks to rein in spending. Now, we have to examine just how the administration arrived at its balanced budget figures and what revenues he proposes raising. The major causes of cost increases, such as public pensions, are not addressed in this plan. Additionally, we have to explore how the Governor’s consolidation of departments will affect delivery of services.
The Governor proposes total spending of $32.337 billion which is an increase of $571.5 million or, 1.8 percent, above the current spending. The Basic Education Funding allocation is proposed at $5.995 billion, an increase of $100 million, or 1.7 percent. The Ready to Learn Block Grant allocation is proposed at $250 million, the same amount as the current year’s budget.
The Senate Appropriations Committee will begin three weeks of public hearings on the proposed budget on February 21.
Scavello, Rep. Hahn Joined by Families, Advocates to Announce Spinal Cord Disability Research Legislation
On Wednesday, I joined Rep. Marcia Hahn (R-138), families and advocates to announce legislation to fund spinal cord disability research in Pennsylvania.
Senate Bill 31 would create the Spinal Cord Disability Research Grant Program aimed at discovering new and innovative treatments and rehabilitative efforts for spinal cord disabilities. The legislation would invest $1 million in existing funds into a grant program that awards grants to research institutions for research into spinal cord injuries.
Pennsylvania would join a dozen other states, including New Jersey, Ohio, New York, Maryland and Virginia, supporting this effort. Many of these states now represent the cutting edge in spinal cord research and have made extensive breakthroughs in a short period of time.
Rep. Hahn is sponsoring similar legislation in the House of Representatives.
People with spinal cord disabilities need our support and one million dollars for research can go a long way in ensuring that these individuals can live a vital life. Pennsylvania has led the charge on many medical breakthroughs with our talented research universities and vibrant medical landscape. If there is a breakthrough out there that will provide boundless opportunities and positive impacts on the lives of people with spinal cord disabilities in Pennsylvania and across the nation, we should provide the tools and take a leading role in this effort.
Senate Votes to Implement Performance-Based Budgeting
On Monday, the Senate unanimously passed Performance Based Budgeting legislation, a measure to streamline and justify discretionary and state government spending. The measure was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Bill 181 would require departments and agencies to justify their budget requests beginning with dollar one -- for all existing and proposed programs for each fiscal year -- before they can receive consideration for budget funding. The bill would create a performance-based budget board to review the performance-based budget plans of Pennsylvania agencies and make recommendations on how each agency’s programs may be made more transparent, effective and efficient.
Senate Acts to Enforce Immigration Laws
The Senate voted 37-12 Tuesday to advance legislation to require municipalities to report illegal immigrants who are arrested and pose a danger to Pennsylvania communities and residents.
Senate Bill 10 addresses “sanctuary cities,” requiring cities and counties to honor detainer requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for those who are arrested by local authorities.
Under the bill, municipalities that do not enforce federal immigration policy would not be eligible for state grants for law enforcement purposes and could be sued for negligence for releasing an individual with a detainer who subsequently committed another crime. The measure was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Legislation Strengthening PA Equal Pay Law Approved by Senate
Legislation to update and strengthen Pennsylvania’s Equal Pay Law was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate on Tuesday.
Senate Bill 241 allows employers to determine wages based on the level or amount of education, training or experience, and prohibits employer discrimination against an employee who files a complaint.
The bill also prohibits employers from requiring that workers not disclose their salary. The measure was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Appropriations Committee Round-Up
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved three bills on Monday:
Senate Bill 10 holds a “municipality of refuge” accountable for not enforcing state and federal laws relating to immigration.
Senate Bill 137 codifies the Civil Air Patrol’s state operations in Title 51 under the leadership of the Adjutant General.
Senate Bill 166 ensures that political campaign funds are not collected by public sector unions through government-provided mechanisms with taxpayer resources.
Senate Bill 167 calls for a Constitutional amendment ending the practice of using taxpayer-funded payroll systems to collect money used for politics.
Transportation Committee Approves Bills, Holds Hearing on Transportation Projects
The Senate Transportation Committee approved four bills on Wednesday:
Senate Bill 251 permits all municipal police to utilize radar for speed enforcement.
Senate Bill 265 designates the Market Street Bridge in Harrisburg as the Senator Harold Mowery Market Street Bridge.
Senate Bill 279 permits full-time municipal police officers employed by full-service police departments or regional police departments in counties of the first class, second class, second class A and third class to use radar or LIDAR for speed enforcement.
Senate Bill 288 increases fines and suspends the licenses of repeat offenders of Pennsylvania’s “Steer Clear” law.
The committee also held a public hearing on ways to improve transportation projects, including environmental permitting reviews and financial statements.
Scavello to Host Tdap Vaccine Clinic
On February 23 from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., I will be hosting a Tdap Clinic in partnership with the PA Department of Health at my Pen Argyl District Office (2 N. Robinson Ave, Pen Argyl, PA).
Tdap is a combination booster vaccine that inoculates against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough). The vaccine will be administered at no cost if you are underinsured (your insurance does not cover the vaccine) or uninsured (you have no insurance).
If you have questions or would like to make an appointment, please call the PA Department of Health at 610-250-1825.
The Senate will hold public hearings on Governor Wolf’s proposed budget from February 21 to March 9. You can watch the hearings live at PASenateGOP.com. I will send out weekly recaps of the proceedings.
The Senate returns to voting session on March 20 at 1 p.m.
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