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Governor Allows Supplemental Spending Bill to Become Law
Governor Wolf announced Wednesday his intention to neither sign nor veto the supplemental spending bill approved by the legislature last week, thus allowing the bill to become law. His inaction effectively brings an end to a nine-month impasse over his insistence on massive tax and spending increases.
House Bill 1801, as approved by the Senate on March 16, brings total spending for Fiscal Year 2015-2016 to $30.031 billion and restores much of the $6 billion in funding for essential programs and services that were line-item vetoed by the Governor in December. It does so without a tax increase.
While the Governor is allowing the spending plan to go through, he has indicated that he will veto the Fiscal Code bill, House Bill 1327, which specifies how the funding appropriated in HB 1801 is to be spent. Two major aspects of the Fiscal Code are a new education funding formula and money dedicated to reimbursing schools for construction projects through what is termed PlanCon.
Overall, I am glad the Governor has conceded and will no longer be holding students, community service providers, and frankly, all Pennsylvanians hostage by prolonging this debacle any further while continuing to demand his tax increases.
Senate Observes Moment of Silence for Turnpike Shooting Victims
Following the tragic shooting this past weekend at a Pennsylvania Turnpike interchange, which took the life of Ron Heist, a York County resident, and Danny Crouse from Fulton County, the Senate observed a moment of silence for these two gentlemen.
Senate Transportation Committee Chairman, Senator John Rafferty, rose to speak on the incident and extend his sympathies to the families. Following Senator John Eichelberger who honored his good friend, Mr. Crouse, a toll collector, I rose to pay respects to Mr. Heist, a retired York City Police officer who was working for Schaad Detective Agency. His and Mr. Crouse’s family and friends have been in my thoughts this week as they say goodbye to their loved ones.
Senate Labor and Industry Committee Holds Hearing on Apprenticeship Programs
The Senate Labor and Industry Committee, which I am Vice Chairman of, convened a public hearing to examine the issue of apprenticeship programs in Pennsylvania.
As a business owner I have firsthand experience of the difficulty employers are having in hiring qualified individuals for open positions. Because of this, improving workforce development efforts has been a priority for me since coming to Harrisburg. Compounding the existing worker shortage are the retirements of the Baby Boomer generation, which leave an employer with job openings, as well as years of knowledge that walk out the door with that person.
In addition to the hearing, the Committee approved Senate Bill 703 to create a state plumbers licensing program to regulate who can call themselves a state-licensed plumbing contractor.
Joint Committee Reviews PA’s E-Recycling Law
The Joint Legislative Air and Water Pollution Control and Conservation Committee, held a public hearing on Monday to review Act 108 of 2010, the Covered Device Recycling Act.
This law was enacted with the intent of promoting the recycling of electronic devices, such as televisions and computer components, as a way to keep many hazardous and toxic materials from ending up in landfills.
However, recent issues have led to e-recycling programs shutting down, as we saw in York County, ultimately causing a growing problem of illegal dumping. As a result, the General Assembly is reviewing the current Act to determine what refinements can be made to address those matters.
Senate Approves Six Bills
The Senate approved and sent to the House of Representatives six bills this week.
Senate Bill 983 allows parents and/or guardians of disabled adult children, who are in their care, to receive disability license plates.
Senate Bill 1108 defines in state statute a new subtype of federally certified motorcycle -- a three-wheeled vehicle with two forward wheels -- as an “autocycle” and creates a special designation under the existing motorcycle definition in Title 75 (Vehicles).
Senate Bill 1122 addresses membership on the board of trustees of a community college.
Senate Bill 1123 corrects a regulatory issue relating to gasoline in Pennsylvania.
Senate Bill 1142 amends the Storage Tank and Spill Prevention Act by making changes to the makeup of the Underground Storage Tank Indemnification Board.
House Bill 1638 amends state law to permit appraisers to appraise physical damage to a vehicle using personal inspection or by photographs, videos, or telephonic means. Currently, appraisers can only conduct appraisals by personal inspection. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.
A recap of activity by the Senate committees I serve on.
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the following bills this week:
House Bill 928 controls the rate that the Commonwealth accumulates Capital Facilities debt and reduces General Obligation debt and debt service over time.
House Bill 930 continues the lowering of the statutory debt ceiling on Redevelopment Assistance Capital Projects (RACP) initiated in the 2013-14 legislative session.
Senate Bill 180 establishes a framework for public education about organ and tissue donations, clarifies the methods for making such donations, and updates the law to reflect the best practices to support anatomical donations for transplantations.
Senate Bill 289 allows municipalities to use public funds for the improvement, extension, repair or rehabilitation of private lateral sewage lines connected to public sewer systems.
House Bill 31 updates the Real Estate Appraisers Certification Act to require continuing education for licensed appraiser trainees, require appraiser applications to include criminal history background checks, and allow reciprocity for licensed appraiser trainees from other states.
House Bill 1552 authorizes the Department of Education to enter into an interstate reciprocity agreement governing interstate offerings of postsecondary distance education courses and programs.
House Bill 1802 restores $1 million in funding to Child Advocacy Centers which was recently eliminated as part of Gov. Tom Wolf’s veto of House Bill 1460.
The Senate Transportation Committee approved the following bills on Tuesday:
Senate Bill 1032 makes it a summary offense to smoke in a vehicle in which children 12 years of age and younger are being transported.
Senate Bill 1153 designates a portion of State Routes 108 and 551 in Lawrence County as the Battery B. Memorial Highway.
House Bill 970 requires DCNR to create within an existing restricted account two separate funds, one for snowmobile revenue and expenditures and another for ATV revenue and expenditures.
House Bill 1200 repeals state law requiring a railroad to contribute to maintenance costs of bridges or viaducts before it can run its lines of track under the bridge or viaduct. This provision can be found elsewhere in other Pennsylvania Statues.
House Bill 1407 designates a bridge on State Route 2014 over the Muncy Creek in Muncy Creek Township, Lycoming County, as the Private Walter L. Smith Spanish-American War Memorial Bridge; and designates a portion of State Route 2044 in Lycoming County as the Lance Corporal William F. Merrill Vietnam Veterans Highway.
House Bill 1709 designates the Bingaman Street Bridge in the City of Reading, Berks County, as the 65th U.S. Infantry Regiment, “The Borinqueneers” Memorial Bridge.
The Senate returns to session on Monday, April 4. You can watch session live at my website.
I welcome your feedback and input. Please don’t hesitate to contact me via my website.