Below is a recap of this week’s legislative activity in the Senate. It covers votes by the full Senate and committee hearings, plus a look ahead.
Next week will see the introduction of comprehensive pension reform legislation. This represents a step forward on one of the most pressing issues facing Pennsylvania taxpayers. You can find details below.
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Comprehensive Pension Reform Plan to be Introduced
Senate Republicans will introduce legislation next week to reform Pennsylvania’s costly state pension systems, which are causing increases in school taxes and cuts to school programs, and now threaten to increase state taxes.
Senate Bill 1 restructures the state’s two public employee pension systems – the State Employees’ Retirement System and the Public School Employees’ Retirement System -- in order to make them viable in the long term.
The features of Senate Bill 1 include:
Senate Bill 1 provides choices to current and former employees to create a pension plan that they tailor to suit their needs. Most importantly, it gets the taxpayers out of the pension risk business.
Game and Fisheries Committee Reviews Annual Fish & Boat Commission Report
The report details the implementation and administration of various PGC programs last year, such as enforcement of the Game and Wildlife Code, response to Chronic Wasting Disease in deer, and hunter retention and recruitment efforts throughout the state. You can download the full report here.
On Tuesday, May 12, at 11:30 a.m., the committee will meet to review the 2014 report from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. I’ll report on that in next week’s Session Wrap-Up.
Providing More Openness to Contract Negotiations, Advertising Spending
Continuing efforts to increase accountability and transparency of state and local government entities, the Senate approved measures on Wednesday that will require advertising to be identified when it is paid for by tax dollars and to give the public greater access to contract negotiations involving government and public employees.
Senate Bill 442 requires all Commonwealth agencies under the executive, legislative and judicial branches to clearly note whenever tax monies are spent for advertising purposes. The bill would require all ads on radio, television, newspapers, magazines, billboards and through other media to include the statement “Paid for with Pennsylvania taxpayer dollars.”
This measure will let taxpayers know how their tax dollars are being spent and hopefully will deter the wasteful spending of state resources.
Two bills approved by the Senate will add transparency to negotiations between public sector unions and state and local governments.
Senate Bill 644 requires the Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) to complete a cost analysis of proposed collective bargaining agreements under the Governor’s jurisdiction prior to the execution of those contracts.
Under this measure, the Governor would be required to give the IFO two weeks’ notice of pending contracts so the agency could determine the costs to cover public employee wages, benefits, pensions, and working conditions under the proposed agreement. This will ensure that the public knows how the full costs of these labor agreements would impact the Commonwealth. It is also vital information that we in the General Assembly need to develop a balanced state budget.
Senate Bill 645 requires any proposed state or local collective bargaining agreement be made available on the public employers’ publicly accessible Internet website within 48 hours. An agreement must be posted online two weeks prior and thirty days following the signing of the collective bargaining agreement.
Taxpayers have a vested interest in the labor negotiations between public employers and their employees and deserve the right to review contract agreements. Requiring an online posting of the proposed collective bargaining agreements is a straightforward reform to advance government transparency and ensure taxpayer money is spent effectively
The bills now go to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Other Bills Sent to House this Week
Senate Bill 330, which I am co-sponsoring, expedites the process for dealing with blighted properties.
Senate Bill 622 streamlines the work of the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee.
Senate Resolution 27 directs the Advisory Committee on Public Health Law of the Joint State Government Commission to study the issue of youth immunizations and vaccinations to determine whether the commonwealth’s public health laws should be amended.
Bills Sent to the Governor for Enactment into Law
Two bills received final legislative approval and were sent to the Governor for his signature and enactment into law.
House Bill 152 amends the Emergency and Law Enforcement Personnel Death Benefit Act by extending the filing period for the death benefit.
House Bill 159 authorizes a reciprocal insurance exchange that writes medical liability insurance to convert to a stock insurance agency.
Scavello Honors National Association of Letter Carriers Food Drive
On Tuesday, the Senate passed a resolution sponsored I sponsored with Senator Lisa Boscola (D-18) recognizing May 9, 2015 as National Association of Letter Carriers Food Drive Day in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
The NALC Food Drive is the nation’s largest single-day food drive. In 23 years, local letter carriers have delivered more than 2.1 million pounds of food to Second Harvest and other member agencies for distribution for families in need, the senators said.
Senate Resolution 112 encourages postal patrons to participate by leaving donations by their mailboxes on Saturday, May 9. Letter carriers, as well as volunteers, will collect nonperishable donations as they deliver mail along their postal routes, and donations will be delivered to food banks, pantries and shelters that serve the area where the donations are collected.
The summer months are a particularly critical time as donations and supplies are low and school lunch programs are suspended until fall, leaving millions of children’s families to search for alternate sources of nutrition.
The Senate returns to voting session on Monday. You can watch session live at PASenateGOP.com.
The Senate has several hearings scheduled next week, including those to consider the nominations of secretaries of Aging, Agriculture, and Department of State. You can view hearings live at PASenateGOP.com.
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