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Below is a recap of this week’s legislative activity in the Senate, including some key committee votes.
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Scott R. Wagner
In this Edition:
The Senate Finance Committee approved legislation Tuesday to move all members of the Pennsylvania Legislature from the current state employee pension plan into a 401k-style plan, just like most state citizens.
Senate Bill 401, which I am co-sponsoring, would convert all members of the Pennsylvania Legislature from a defined benefit pension plan to a defined contribution plan. It would make the conversion mandatory for current and future state Senators and Representatives.
The underfunded, bloated pension systems for state and public school retirees have Pennsylvania taxpayers on the hook for billions of dollars in payments for decades to come. This burden is an unsustainable cost that results in tax hikes and cuts to legitimate programs. SB 401 sets the right example for what needs to be done across the board.
The measure was sent to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
The Senate State Government Committee on Wednesday approved legislation I am co-sponsoring that would add greater transparency and openness to negotiations involving public sector collective bargaining agreements by requiring proposed agreements to be posted online for public review.
Senate Bill 645 would require any proposed collective bargaining agreement to be made available on the public employers’ publicly accessible website within 48 hours. An agreement would have to be posted online two weeks prior and 30 days following the signing of the collective bargaining agreement.
Information posted would include a statement of the terms of the proposed collective bargaining agreement and an estimate of the costs to the public employer associated with the agreement. The law would cover union contract agreements negotiated by school districts as well as state, county and municipal governments.
Proposed collective bargaining agreements and any documents presented by the public employer or received from the employee organization in the course of collective bargaining would be considered public records and subject to the Right-to-Know Law.
The committee also approved Senate Bill 643, which would amend the Pennsylvania Sunshine Law to require public notice and access to any meeting where a public sector collective bargaining agreement is negotiated. In addition, Senate Bill 644 was approved and would provide authority to the Independent Fiscal Office to conduct cost analyses of the impacts of collective bargaining agreements before they are approved.
The Senate Finance Committee approved legislation on Tuesday that would restrain the growth of government spending by setting state spending limits in the Pennsylvania Constitution. Senate Bill 70 would limit state spending growth based on inflation and population growth.
The bill would require an amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution, so lawmakers would have to approve the bill in two consecutive legislative sessions before giving voters the final say via referendum. Since the spending controls would be included in the state Constitution, lawmakers would be prevented from breaching or repealing spending limits with a simple majority vote in the future.
The panel also approved Senate Bill 7, legislation that would enact spending controls and ensure any excess funds collected by the state would be used to pay down pension obligations, boost budgetary reserves and reduce the Personal Income Tax rate.
Consumers would be protected against paying multiple copayments for physical therapy, chiropractic and occupational therapy services under a bill unanimously approved by the Senate on Tuesday.
Senate Bill 487 prevents health insurance policies from charging a consumer more than one copayment amount per visit. The bill would also prohibit policies from depleting more than one visit for services provided on a given date.
The bill allows the Pennsylvania Department of Insurance to develop regulations relating to multiple copayments. Violators would be subjected to penalties prescribed in the Unfair Insurance Practices Act.
Senate Bill 385 reforms and modernizes the Transit Revitalization Investment District Act.
Senate Bill 427 requires cash-for-gold dealers to retain each item of precious metal for ten business days, instead of five, after purchasing it. This extension of time will enable burglary victims to discover and report the theft and will enable police to investigate the theft. I am co-sponsoring this bill.
Senate Bill 494 repeals a requirement that the General Assembly be furnished with a printed copy of an annual report required under the Flood Insurance Education and Information Act of 1996. The report and other flood-related insurance data are available online at the Department of Insurance website.
Senate Bill 562 provides additional legislative oversight of the regulatory review process. I am co-sponsoring this bill.
A recap of activity by the Senate committees I serve on.
The Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee, which I chair, held a joint hearing Tuesday with the House Urban Affairs Committee to hear the Community Association Institute present an overview of Title 68 covering condominiums, cooperatives and planned communities. You can watch the hearing and view documents here.
On Wednesday, the committee met and reported out the following bills:
Senate Bill 688 amends the Uniform Condominium Act to clarify that the creation of condominium associations out of existing land or facilities would not require municipal approval unless and until new structures or buildings are constructed within the association or community.
House Bill 341 requires that property disclosure statements, which are required by law as a condition of most residential real property transfers, contain a description of the location and condition of defined “storm water facilities,” as well as a statement disclosing whether the ongoing maintenance of the facilities is the responsibility of the purchaser.
The Senate Transportation Committee met Tuesday to consider the nominations of Leslie Richards as Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and William Lieberman as Pennsylvania Turnpike Commissioner. The panel approved the nominations and the following bills:
Senate Bill 284 authorizes the sale “Honoring Our Veterans” license plates for motorcycles, with the proceeds benefiting veterans in need.
Senate Bill 398 redesigns driver’s license and identification card applications to include the question “Do you wish to have organ donor designation printed on your driver’s license?”
House Bill 150 establishes a bicycle Share-The-Road registration plate.
You can view the meeting here.
The Senate returns to voting session on Monday, May 4. You can watch session live at SenatorWagner.com.