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Wagner Votes to Bring End to Budget Stalemate
On Wednesday I shared with you the press release I sent to the media regarding the Senate’s approval of a supplemental appropriation bill for the unresolved 2015-2016 Fiscal Year budget.
House Bill 1801 brings total spending for the 2015-2016 Fiscal Year to $30.031 billion, an $872.6 million (3 percent) increase over the 2014-2015 budget.
As you know, reining in spending and bringing accountability to the tax dollars we are already spending is a top priority for me. While I recognize that this spending plan is not perfect because it does not address the cost drivers like pensions and health care benefits, we are doing more harm to our schools and community service providers by dragging this process out any longer.
Governor Wolf has already indicated he will veto this most recent proposal – the legislature’s fourth spending plan we have sent him for the 2015-2016 Fiscal Year. He claims it is irresponsible and is not balanced, leaving it to schools and counties to make up the difference.
Has Governor Wolf forgotten about the amount of damage he has already done to our schools and counties by causing them to take out interest-laden loans that taxpayers have to repay?
At the end of the day HB 1801 provides increased education funding, restores $6.05 billion in cuts made by the Governor, and ultimately, gets money out to our schools.
Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Holds Follow-Up Budget Hearing
The Senate Appropriations Committee has formed several subcommittees to provide more detailed scrutiny of proposed state spending.
On Monday, the Infrastructure, Environment, and Government Operations Subcommittee, which I serve on, met to review the Environmental Programs Management and Operation functions within the Department of Environmental Protection.
I questioned DEP Secretary John Quigley about his lobbying for a natural gas severance tax, skyrocketing personnel costs, delays in processing permits, using DEP staff to work on implementing federal coal regulations that have been stayed by the courts, Chesapeake Bay nitrogen credits, and Governor Wolf’s proposed tax increase on waste collection.
Senate Approves Veterans Hiring Preference Measure
The Senate approved a bill on Tuesday that would let Pennsylvania employers adopt and use a veterans’ preference employment policy.
Senate Bill 1013 would exempt employers with a written veterans’ employment policy from violations of state and local equal employment opportunities law. Legislation allowing veterans’ preference has been signed into law in a number of states including: California, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky and Oklahoma. The bill was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Other Bills Approved by the Senate
Senate Bill 50 provides for an industrial hemp industry in the Commonwealth through the establishment of a permitting process within the Department of Agriculture to license and regulate the cultivation, growth and sale of industrial hemp. The 2014 Federal Farm Bill permits industrial hemp research if it is authorized by a state.
Senate Bill 1056 updates the law on the assignment of custody and visitation rights of deployed parents.
Both bills go to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Ag Committees Hold Hearing on Cuts to Agriculture Funding
With an increasing groundswell of public outcry regarding the Governor’s slashing of $72 million in state funding for agricultural programs, the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee and its House counterpart held a public hearing on Tuesday on the impact of those cuts on Pennsylvania’s farmers and the various programs that support their livelihood.
Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding testified at the hearing. Penn State discussed the school’s agricultural extension and promotion programs. Officials from the University of Pennsylvania discussed the university’s School of Veterinary Medicine. Other testifiers included officials representing the Pennsylvania 4-H, the Westmoreland County Extension, the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, and the PennAg Industries Association.
Committees Review Replacement of No Child Left Behind
This week the Senate Education Committee and the House Education Committee held a joint public hearing on the Federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). ESSA is touted as a more state-centered and flexible replacement to the No Child Left Behind Act.
The committees will be developing policies and legislation to implement this new federal accountability measure in Pennsylvania.
A recap of activity by the Senate committees I serve on.
The Appropriations Committee reported out the following bills on Tuesday:
Senate Bill 340 amends the Local Government Unit Debt Act providing for regulatory oversight by DCED and restrictions on municipal borrowing and project financing.
Senate Bill 341 amends Titles 53 and 65 providing for restrictions on municipal borrowing and prohibited conflicts of interest by municipal authority members.
Senate Bill 342 restricts local governments (counties, cities, boroughs, townships and school districts) from entering into interest rate management agreements, commonly known as “swaps” or “derivatives.”
Senate Bill 343 enacts the First Class City and County Interest Rate Management Agreement Act.
Senate Bill 344 amends the Public Works Contractors’ Bond Law to further provide for the duty of a prime contractor to provide financial security for certain contracts.
Senate Bill 983 allows parents and/or guardians of adult children, who are in their care, to receive disability license plates.
Senate Bill 1014 repeals optional biennial vehicle registration.
Senate Bill 1108 establishes a legal definition for increasingly popular, three-wheeled “autocycles”.
House Bill 1154 repeals the elimination of vehicle registration stickers.
House Bill 1319 establishes the Pennsylvania Able Savings Program Tax Exemption Act.
House Bill 1801 implements the supplemental 2015-16 state budget.
Senate Bill 52 requires that window tinting be included as part of the vehicle inspections and subjects businesses to the unfair trade practices law if they fail to inform a purchaser that window tinting services will cause the motor vehicle to be out of compliance with the Vehicle Code.
Senate Bill 973 increases state fines for littering.
Senate Bill 1040 names the bridge over Armstrong Creek in Halifax Township, Dauphin County, The Staff Sergeant Brian K. Mowery Memorial Bridge.
Senate Bill 1152 requires that children under the age of one be secured in a rear-facing child seat while traveling in a vehicle.
Senate Bill 1155 authorizes PennDOT to issue license plates giving special recognition to active members of the military, reserves and Pennsylvania National Guard.
Senate Resolution 261 calls on Congress to support an increase to the Passenger Facilities Charge (PFC) for commercial airports controlled by public agencies.
House Bill 1087 provides veto power to the Governor of Pennsylvania over the actions of Pennsylvania’s Commissioners on the Delaware River Port Authority Board.
Senate Majority Policy
The Senate Majority Policy Committee held a public hearing Tuesday to examine the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) in Pennsylvania. The hearing included a broad array of testifiers from state and national organizations.
Among the topics discussed were the impact of drones on privacy and businesses, and legislation that would place a two-year Pennsylvania moratorium on the use of government unmanned aircraft.
The Senate returns to session on Monday. You can watch session live at my website.
Committee action includes two public hearings on Monday.
At 9 a.m., the Joint Legislative Air and Water Pollution Control & Conservation Committee will review Act 108 of 2010, the Covered Device Recycling Act.
At 10 a.m., the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services will examine the budget for long-term care programs.
You can view the hearings live at PASenateGOP.com .
I welcome your feedback and input. Please don’t hesitate to contact me via my website.