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Activity at the Capitol has slowed since the Senate passed a budget bill on June 30th that was vetoed by the Governor. The Senate reconvened this week for session on Monday and Tuesday, but now we do not plan to return until August at the earliest.
An update on budget negotiations and other Senate activity this week can be found below, and I will continue keeping you apprised of additional happenings in the coming weeks.
As always, I welcome your feedback and input. Please donít hesitate to contact me via my website.
Scott R. Wagner
In this Edition:
Update on State Budget Negotiations
In March, Governor Wolf proposed a state budget that raised spending by $4.7 billion. To fund his lavish plan, he proposed to increase taxes by $4.7 billion. This tax and spend mindset is irresponsible and unfair to Pennsylvania taxpayers.
The General Assembly sent the Governor a budget bill that held the line on taxes while providing some increases, including an additional $370 million dollars for education. Unfortunately, the Governor vetoed the entire budget plan, placing funding for many of the programs he himself advocated increased funding for in jeopardy.
We had an agreement on two-thirds of the line items, yet he chose to veto all of it. Our proposal included funding for school districts that have been waiting years for reimbursement from the state on school construction projects, but with the stroke of his pen he obliterated that plan.
He also vetoed: $50 million more for higher education; $130 million in assistance for veterans; new funding for public libraries, the first increase in years; funding for the Grants to the Arts program; funds for the State Police to train new cadets; and $2.8 million to combat the spread of the avian influenza virus.
Now, the Governor is using an out-of-state Political Action Committee in a desperate attempt to convince taxpayers to support his budget. Sending campaign-style mailers, which I am sure many of you have received, and traveling the state for press conferences at schools to tout his budget proposal only drives home the point that the Governor is still in campaign mode and has no desire to work towards a resolution.
The bottom line? As I said from the beginning of the year, it is going to be a long summer and, quite possibly, fall.
Copayment Protection Measure Sent to Governor
A bill protecting consumers against paying multiple copayments for physical therapy, chiropractic and occupational therapy services received final legislative approval Tuesday and was sent to the Governor.
The Senate concurred on House amendments to Senate Bill 487, which prevents health insurance policies from charging a consumer more than one copayment amount per visit. The bill also prohibits policies from depleting more than one visit for services provided on a given date.
Senate Passes Bill Protecting Utility Workers during Emergencies
The Senate passed legislation on Tuesday that would add electric utility workers to the list of protected workers during disaster emergencies. Senate Bill 765 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Currently, state law provides additional protection for first responders, highway maintenance and construction workers and tow truck operators during emergencies. Motorists are required to travel cautiously at reduced speeds and carefully follow traffic markers, road flares, signs, or directions of emergency responders.
Additionally, emergency service responders may file a written report with the police officer upon observing a violation. Violators may be fined up to $500 per offense and pay restitution costs if warranted.
Other Bills Approved by the Senate this Week
Senate Bill 404 sets guidelines and procedures for the investigation and interrogation of correctional officers by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections as a result of a complaint of alleged misconduct.
Senate Bill 430 expands access to the State Intermediate Punishment Program to those convicted of crimes due to a gambling addiction.
Senate Bill 474 requires Senate confirmation of the Chief Executive Officer of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.
Senate Bill 652 ensures that all active-duty military pay remains exempt from local income tax.
Senate Bill 683 expands the list of criminal offenses for which DNA testing is required upon arrest. I voted against this measure.
Senate Bill 925 updates the qualification standards for the commercial driver learnerís permit and the commercial driverís license.
A recap of activity by the Senate committees I serve on.
The Senate Transportation Committee on Tuesday held a joint public hearing with the House Transportation Committee on efforts to improve safety for highway workers, motorists and pedestrians.
Topics included construction zone safety, distracted driving and speed limit enforcement. You can view the hearing and written testimony here.