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Senator Scott Wagner

Dear Friend,

Below is a recap of this week’s legislative activity in the Senate, including an overview of pension reform legislation to be introduced next week.

I always welcome your feedback and input. Please don’t hesitate to contact me via my website.

Sincerely,

Scott R. Wagner


In this Edition:


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:

  • All new state and public school employees will be enrolled in a mandatory, 401k-type Defined Contribution Plan similar to those used by private sector workers.
  • Members of the General Assembly, upon election or reelection, will be enrolled in the Defined Contribution Plan. The plan provision will be consistent with state and public school employees.
  • Current employees must choose between increasing their pension contribution or reducing their future benefits.
  • A Public Pension Management and Asset Investment Review Commission made up of investment professionals and retirement advisors will be established to make recommendations to the General Assembly and the Governor. Among their duties will be to evaluate the performance of current investment strategies and procedures of both state retirement systems regarding rates of return and associated fees paid for fund management.

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.

Click here to read the co-sponsorship memo that is currently circulating.

Opening Up Government 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 insight into 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 additional 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 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 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 the House This Week

Senate Bill 330, which I am co-sponsoring, expedites the process for dealing with blighted properties.

Senate Bill 622 removes certain recurring projects from the work of the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee. Chairman of the Committee, Senator Gene Yaw, has been working to streamline the studies they are tasked with doing.

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.

Committee Round-Up

A recap of activity by the Senate committees I serve on.

APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE

On Monday, the Senate Appropriations Committee reported out the following bills:

Senate Bill 3 provides a mechanism to allow health care providers to recommend the use of cannabis for medical purposes.

Senate Bill 644 requires the Independent Fiscal Office to complete a cost analysis of proposed collective bargaining agreements under the Governor’s jurisdiction prior to the execution of those contracts.

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. As indicated above, SB 644 and 645 went on to be approved by the full Senate and now go to the House for consideration.

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. SR27 was adopted by the full Senate.

House Bill 221 requires that police officers and district judges receive training regarding persons with mental illness, intellectual disabilities and autism and the availability of diversionary options for such individuals.

LABOR AND INDUSTRY COMMITTEE

The Senate Labor and Industry Committee, which I vice-chair, held a public hearing Tuesday on raising the minimum wage in Pennsylvania.

I have introduced legislation to raise the minimum wage in Pennsylvania, but in a manner that is different from the one advocated by the new governor and others.

Senate Bill 610 would raise the minimum wage by 50 cents a year over three years to $8.75 per hour. It would also provide for a “training wage” for everyone age 18 and under equal to the current federal minimum wage, which at this time is $7.25 per hour.

Other proposals call for raising Pennsylvania’s minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour by 2016 – an approach I believe is unreasonable. My proposal to increase the minimum wage 50 cents a year over three years would give workers a boost but not overly burden employers. The rate would also align Pennsylvania with surrounding states.

You can view hearing video and written testimony here.

MAJORITY POLICY COMMITTEE

The Senate Majority Policy Committee held a public hearing Wednesday on wastewater/stormwater issues and Senate Bill 724.

The Susquehanna Watershed is currently under a Total Maximum Daily Load requirement from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency mandating a reduction in nutrient runoff from farms. The legislation is designed to provide a low-cost process for meeting the mandate.

You can view the hearing agenda and video here.

URBAN AFFAIRS AND HOUSING COMMITTEE

On April 29, the Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee, which I chair, held a public hearing in Monongahela, Washington County on neighborhood blight and revitalization.

We heard from representatives of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania, the Washington County Redevelopment Authority and the Mon Valley Progress Council, as well as county commissioners and mayors.

Blighted neighborhoods and the need to revitalize them are problems affecting every county in Pennsylvania, and it is important for the state to do what it can to remove barriers facing municipalities trying to deal with this long-standing problem.

You can read the testimony and view the hearing here.

Up Next

The Senate returns to voting session on Monday. You can watch session live at SenatorWagner.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.


Twitter and Facebook: You can find me on Twitter at @SenScottWagner as well as on Facebook.
 

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