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Senator Scott Wagner

Dear Friend,

Below is a recap of last week’s legislative activity in the Senate.

Two major pieces of legislation were approved by the Senate and sent to the House for consideration – SB 1, which reforms our public pension systems, and SB 3, legalizing medical marijuana. Read on for more details on both of these issues.

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


Scott R. Wagner

In this Edition:

Senate Approves Public Pension Reform Legislation

Recognizing that increasing public pension costs are creating an unsustainable burden on state government and local school districts, the Senate approved a reform measure Wednesday that is projected to produce $18.3 billion in savings over 30 years.

Senate Bill 1, which I am co-sponsoring, 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 401k-type Defined Contribution Plan similar to those used by private sector workers.
  • Members of the General Assembly, upon election or re-election, will be enrolled in the same Defined Contribution Plan as state and public school employees.
  • Current employees will be able to choose to increase their pension contribution or lower their future benefits.
  • No changes to current retiree 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.

Skyrocketing pension costs are driving up school property taxes and draining resources from classrooms. Reforming this outdated system has been a top priority of mine, and I hope the House of Representatives now addresses it with the same urgency as the Senate.

Click here to read my editorial on SB 1 and the current pension system that appeared in the York Daily Record.

CORRECTION: Last week’s Session Wrap-Up mistakenly indicated that SB 1 provides choices to current and former employees. It should have read “current and future employees” seeing as SB 1 does not affect current retirees’ pensions.

Medical Cannabis Bill Achieves Senate Passage

The Senate on Tuesday approved another significant piece of legislation I am co-sponsoring that would legalize the use of cannabis for medical purposes.

Senate Bill 3 would allow individuals who suffer from certain medical conditions to apply for a medical cannabis access card from the Department of Health. A licensed health care practitioner would be required to provide written certification in order for an application to the Department of Health to be considered. The legislation creates a new Board of Medical Cannabis Licensing within the Department of State that will be responsible for regulating growers, dispensers and processors.

Senate Bill 3 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

 Legislation for New Motorcycle License Plate Honoring Veterans Passes Senate

The Senate approved legislation Tuesday intended to help needy veterans through the sale of a special motorcycle license plate.

Senate Bill 284 authorizes the special “Honoring Our Veterans” license plate for motorcycles and Senate Bill 285 allocates a portion of the funds raised through sales of the plate to the Veterans Trust Fund. The trust fund assists veterans in need of help with food, utilities, mortgage or rent payments, health care and other necessities of life.

The bills now go to the House of Representatives for consideration.

 Other Bills Approved by the Senate and Sent to the House

Senate Bill 264 bans the sale, possession, or distribution of shark fins.

Senate Bill 514 amends the Generic Equivalent Drug Law to provide for the substitution of an interchangeable biological product for a brand name biologic.

Senate Bill 678 clarifies the arrest powers and jurisdiction of campus police officers employed by Pennsylvania’s 14 State System of Higher Education universities.

Senate Confirms Nine Cabinet Secretaries

The Senate confirmed nine cabinet nominations last week:

Major General James Joseph – State Adjutant General
Teresa Osborne - Secretary of Aging
Russell Redding - Secretary of Agriculture
Dennis Davin - Secretary of Community and Economic Development
Gary Tennis - Secretary of Drug and Alcohol Programs
Curtis Topper - Secretary of General Services
Dr. Karen Murphy - Secretary of Health
Kathy Manderino - Secretary of Labor and Industry
Leslie Richards - Secretary of Transportation

Committee Round-Up

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

Appropriations Committee

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

Senate Bill 1 reforms the pension systems for state and public school employees.

Senate Bill 514 amends the Generic Equivalent Drug Law to provide for the substitution of an interchangeable biological product for a brand name biologic.

As noted above, both of these bills were approved by the full Senate and sent to the House for consideration.

Transportation Committee

The Senate Transportation Committee held a public hearing Tuesday on PennDOT’s budget and program priorities. You can watch the hearing here. The committee also approved Senate Bill 438 designating the Lance Corporal Joseph E. Roble Memorial Bridge in Westmoreland County.

Labor and Industry Committee

The Senate Labor and Industry Committee on Tuesday voted to recommend the confirmation of Kathy Manderino as Secretary of Labor and Industry. It also reported out two bills:

Senate Bill 404 ensures that corrections officers maintain certain rights and have the ability to appeal during disciplinary proceedings.

Senate Bill 655 extends the expiration date for the State Workers’ Insurance Fund to invest in equities from June 30, 2015 to June 30, 2019.

You can watch the meeting here.

Up Next

The Senate returns to voting session on Monday, June 1. You can watch session live at my website.

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

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