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On Tuesday, January 6th, I was sworn-in for my first full term as Senator for the 28th District, and I am ready to get down to business and continue tackling the issues that voters sent me to Harrisburg to address.
With the change in Senate leadership there is a different feel in the Capitol – one of inclusiveness and determination. I am not naïve to think there will not be challenges in gaining consensus on legislative matters, but our new leadership continues to reiterate their desire to work together to advance issues important to our caucus and our constituents – not their own agenda.
Among the updates below is a summary of my legislative priorities for the new session, as well as a piece on my first co-sponsorship memo which I circulated this week. I have several other proposals in the works, and l will be circulating memos for those in the coming weeks.
Scott R. Wagner
In this Edition:
Considering my background as a small business owner, I foresee being able to apply that knowledge to my role as Chairman to advance initiatives that encourage job growth and economic vitality in every community in our state.
I will be meeting with prior Chairman, Senator Dave Argall, to gain insight into the issues the Committee has dealt with in the past, which have included fighting urban blight, resolving landlord-tenant issues, and promoting downtown development and community revitalization.
Once we receive our full committee assignments, I will also be reaching out to members on the Committee to gauge what their priorities are, so we can utilize the Committee to its fullest potential.
This week I circulated a co-sponsorship memo for legislation that would close a loophole in state law that allows unions to engage in bullying, harassment, and intimidation when involved in a labor dispute.
State law makes it very clear that this activity is illegal, but three sections of the Crimes Code provide exceptions to the crimes of harassment, stalking, and threatening to use a weapon of mass destruction if the perpetrator is involved in a labor dispute as defined in the Labor Anti-Injunction Act.
As we have seen in the news coming out of Philadelphia regarding the trial of members from Ironworkers Local 401, union intimidation and harassment are still very real threats. We have continued to allow unions to engage in criminal activity, and it is time to close this loophole to make sure the law protects workers and their families.
Similar legislation was sponsored last session by now-retired State Representative Ron Miller. Versions of the bill passed both chambers, but disagreements over language prevented it from being sent to the Governor. I anticipate swift passage this legislative session.
Mark your calendars for Wednesday, January 28th at 6pm for my next Tele Town Hall meeting. We will be calling out to roughly 25,000 constituents, but you are welcome to call in to participate. The number is: 877-229-8493, and you will need to use pin #: 113022.
So far I have held three telephone town hall meetings, and participants have provided great feedback on how much they like them. These calls have proven effective for keeping constituents updated, learning what issues are important to them, and answering questions they have regarding legislative matters we are working on in Harrisburg. If you haven’t had the opportunity to participate in one yet, I encourage you to do so.
Click here to listen to the last tele town hall meeting I held in December.
The last several months of the 2013-2014 session saw great progress in the effort to enact Paycheck Protection legislation. With new leadership and new members I am confident we can garner the votes needed to pass this important reform measure. I am one of 11 Senators who have joined Senator John Eichelberger in circulating a co-sponsorship memo for a paycheck protection bill to be called “Mary’s Law.”
Pennsylvania’s public pension systems for state workers and public school employees face an unfunded liability of nearly $50 billion, and paying for it is diverting state funding from other priorities and driving up school property taxes. In the new session, I will continue to push for a defined contribution pension plan for new hires, one that is similar to the 401k plans that are prevalent in the private sector, rather than the defined benefit plan current employees are enrolled in. There can be no long-term fiscal stability or elimination of property taxes without pension reform.
York County Hotel Tax
I am confident that the legislature will pass legislation to give York County the option to increase the hotel room tax in order to fund tourism. The Senate passed such legislation last session, but it was bogged down with other amendments, which kept the House of Representatives from taking action. Boosting tourism funding will attract more visitors to York County and pump additional dollars and tax revenue into local communities. You can read coverage here by the York Dispatch from an event in York where I spoke on this issue.
Prevailing Wage Elimination on All School Projects
One way to reduce school taxes and dedicate more funding to classrooms is to eliminate the prevailing wage requirement for all school construction projects. The rates established under the outdated Prevailing Wage Act of 1961 reflect union wage rates which are not often representative of the actual prevailing wage rates paid in a school district. This law is costing our schools thousands in additional unnecessary costs. A prime example in York County came from a school that had to replace a roof, which cost them $40,000 just in prevailing wage expenses.
Pennsylvania is one of the last few states that regulate the sale of alcohol across the board. Government control of beer, wine and spirits sales limits consumer choice and convenience, enables a bloated taxpayer-funded bureaucracy and drives up costs. This century-old approach to liquor sales has outlived its purpose and ending it is one of my top 2015-16 priorities.
Property Tax Elimination
The bipartisan, grassroots effort to eliminate school property taxes made more progress in the last session than ever before, with Senate Bill 76 being approved by the Senate Finance Committee. The goal for 2015-16 is to carry that momentum forward to passage by the General Assembly. I will continue to be a leader in the battle to eliminate this burdensome tax.
The influx of new senators means some relocations of Capitol offices. My staff and I are now located in Room 187 of the Main Capitol.
The mailing address and phone number remain the same, as does our district office information.
January 19th - Senate offices will be closed in observation of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
January 20th - Senate reconvenes and Governor-Elect Tom Wolf will take the oath of office
January 28th - Tele Town Hall Meeting