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Senate Returns to Session, Budget Talks Resume
On Tuesday the Senate returned to session but with little progress made to resolve the ongoing budget debate. Legislative leaders met with Governor Wolf on Tuesday evening, and the Senate Appropriations Committee passed a bill to provide funding for the Department of Corrections to run the state prisons, which the Governor vetoed in the last budget sent to him in December.
Senator Pat Stefano is circulating a co-sponsorship memo for legislation he plans to introduce that would establish the Commonwealth Budget Impasse Act. I have signed on as a co-sponsor of this bill, which creates a designated list of line items to receive funding during an impasse. Restrictions on travel by state officials and employees would also be imposed, and per diems and expense reimbursements would be halted during an impasse – with no retroactive payment upon completion of the budget.
Wagner Launches SavePA to Collect Ideas for Cutting Costs
It is no surprise where I stand on how to address the budget – we need to control spending and not raise taxes, bottom line. I continue to hear from constituents to stay strong against the Governor’s demands, including one gentleman who succinctly stated “Wolf thinks my money is his money.”
My colleagues and I in the Republican House and Senate are standing up to Governor Wolf’s demands for more of your tax money. We’re calling on the Governor to first address the spending side of the equation before reaching into the wallet of taxpayers.
That’s where we would like your input. I’ve created the SavePA page at my website so you can send me your suggestions for ways to reduce government spending and save tax dollars.
Like all families and businesses, state government needs to cut costs and set priorities, rather than spending more and more every year. I welcome your input, will review all suggestions and will highlight them on this site.
Delay of Keystone Exam Graduation Requirement Sent to Governor
The Senate concurred Wednesday on House amendments to legislation delaying the graduation requirement associated with the state’s end-of-course tests.
Senate Bill 880, which I co-sponsored, delays the implementation of the Keystone Exams as a graduation requirement until the 2018-2019 school year. It now goes to the Governor for his signature and enactment into law.
Currently, the class of 2017 is required to pass the Keystone Exams in Algebra I, Literature, and Biology in order to graduate. The Keystone Exams were intended to ensure that Pennsylvania schools are preparing students effectively and efficiently for postsecondary education or the work force. However, the tests have raised concerns from educators, students and parents. The delay will give the state time to refine the tests to address those concerns.
Bill Provides Options for Schools to Meet State 180-Day Requirement
The Senate approved a measure on Wednesday that would give schools greater flexibility to meet the state’s 180-day requirements for classroom instruction after emergency and weather-related closings.
House Bill 158 would provide potential scheduling options for school entities facing extended closings that include a school year with a minimum number of hours of instruction, in lieu of the 180-day requirement, and approving additional instruction days on not more than one Saturday a month.
The bill returns to the House of Representatives for concurrence on Senate amendments.
The Senate also approved and sent to the House Senate Bill 936, which provides for a one-time fee of $50 to cover an employer’s costs in setting up the wage garnishment to comply with the enforcement of a child support order.
Committee Approves Bill Reducing General Assembly Size
The Senate State Government Committee approved legislation that would reduce the size of the Pennsylvania General Assembly.
Senate Bill 488 would decrease the Senate from 50 to 45 Senatorial Districts and the House of Representatives from 203 to 153 districts. The proposed change requires an amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution, which means the same bill must be debated and passed by both the House and Senate in two consecutive sessions and subsequently approved by referendum vote of the people of Pennsylvania.
The committee also approved House Bill 153, a Constitutional amendment to reduce the size of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives to 153 members, and House Bill 1484, legislation to further preserve Soldiers’ Grove, located across the street from the Capitol Complex.
All three bills now go to the full Senate for consideration.
Click here to watch the meeting and review testimony.
A recap of activity by the Senate committees I serve on.
The Senate Appropriations Committee met Tuesday and approved:
Senate Bill 1106 restores the $939.4 million needed to run state prisons that Gov. Wolf slashed on Dec. 29, 2015, when he vetoed portions of a balanced budget passed by the General Assembly.
The Senate Transportation Committee approved the following bills on Wednesday:
Senate Bill 1086 allows the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to suspend the registration of motorists who fail to pay tolls on the PA Turnpike until the motorist makes the payment.
Senate Resolution 247 urges the U.S. Department of Transportation to adopt a higher pool fire survivability standard and to assist with additional federal funds to maintain the training of emergency first responders to sustain the safe transportation of crude by rail shipments in Pennsylvania.
Senate Resolution 262 calls on the U.S. Surface Transportation Board to carefully review any plans submitted by Canadian Pacific Railway to acquire Norfolk Southern Corporation.
Senate Bill 1108 defines newly developed three-wheeled vehicles with two forward wheels as an autocycle and registers and titles them by creating a special designation under the existing motorcycle definition.
House Bill 1199 repeals an outdated 1965 law that allows the Department of Highways, with approval of the Governor, to erect and maintain a bridge over the Monongahela River in Washington and Allegheny counties.
The Senate returns to session on Monday. You can watch session live at my website.
I welcome your feedback and input. Please don’t hesitate to contact me via my website.