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Senator Scott Wagner

In this Edition:

  • York YMCA Women’s Swim Team Visits the Capitol
  • Governor Wolf Vetoes Teacher Furlough Reform
  • DUI Ignition Interlock Legislation Sent to Governor
  • Other Bills Sent to the Governor
  • Senate Approves Civil Service Modernization Measure
  • Other Bills Approved by the Senate and Sent to the House
  • State Implementation of New Education Standards
  • Hearing Explores Expanded Sunday Hunting
  • Committee Round-Up
  • Up Next

York YMCA Women’s Swim Team Visits the Capitol

On Wednesday, the York YMCA Women’s Swim Team visited the Capitol to be recognized for their achievement of taking first place at the YMCA Short Course Nationals held in April in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Team Members: Leah Braswell, Cami Cook, Marisa Gingerich, Courtney Harnish, Megan Hunt, Emily Ilgenfritz, Kacey Oberlander, Callie Paff, Julia Pokrzywa, Meghan Small, and Riley Trout

Coaches: Michael Brooks and John Nelson

Governor Wolf Vetoes Teacher Furlough Reform

Late Wednesday, Governor Wolf vetoed legislation designed to keep the best teachers in Pennsylvania’s classrooms and boost student achievement by ending the practice of seniority-based layoffs.

In Pennsylvania, teacher layoffs are conducted in order of inverse seniority. The last teacher hired is the first person fired, regardless of job performance. Pennsylvania is one of only a few states that require seniority to be the sole factor in determining layoffs. With the Governor’s action, our Commonwealth will continue this backward approach.

House Bill 805, known as the Protecting Excellent Teachers Act, would have ensured that school districts use teacher performance to guide furlough and reinstatement decisions. Performance ratings would have been based on the comprehensive statewide educator evaluation system adopted in 2012, under which observed educators are assigned a rating of distinguished, proficient, needs improvement or failing.

House Bill 805 prohibited school districts from using a teacher’s pay and benefits as determining factors for any layoff decision.

I co-sponsored the Senate version of this measure because a child’s education matters more than union tradition. Governor Wolf’s refusal to enact pension reform means there will be more teacher furloughs in the future, as school districts trim personnel costs to balance their budgets. And his refusal to sign House Bill 805 means some of our most dedicated, energetic teachers will continue to be the ones losing their jobs. 

DUI Ignition Interlock Legislation Sent to Governor

Legislation requiring most first-time drunk drivers to use ignition interlocks received final legislative approval this week and was sent to the Governor.

Senate Bill 290 would require convicted drunk drivers with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .10 or greater to use ignition interlocks for at least 12 months for first-time offenders. Under current law, the requirement applies only to second and subsequent offenses.

According to statistics compiled by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), nearly two million drunk-driving attempts have been stopped with ignition interlock devices, including more than 78,000 instances in Pennsylvania between 2003 and 2015.

Other Bills Sent to the Governor

House Bill 944 addresses the management of neighborhood improvement districts in the City of Philadelphia.

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 state law.

House Bill 1310 provides privacy of individuals who call 911 to report crimes.

House Bill 1436 provides for the computation of income tax expense for ratemaking purposes.

House Bill 1574 expands Pennsylvania’s college anti-hazing law to apply to grades 7 through 12, as well as to organizations not affiliated with schools in which students still participate, such as private athletic leagues.

Senate Approves Civil Service Modernization Measure

The Senate on Tuesday approved Senate Bill 1154, a measure I am co-sponsoring that would streamline and modernize Pennsylvania’s Civil Service Act.

SB 1154 would allow for “vacancy-based hiring,” which will permit the Civil Service Commission to post actual job vacancies, rather than a general list of job classifications.  Currently a prospective employee applies for job classifications -- not an actual open position -- and is placed on a list. Agencies must review applicant lists to determine availability and interest when a job becomes available.  This creates an unnecessary delay that wastes time for both applicants and agencies.

The legislation also allows applicants to be notified of an open job or test by methods other than the U.S. Mail, such as by email. Additionally, the Commission is currently limited to providing agencies with a list of three applicants to choose from.  SB 1154 grants authority to the Commission to determine the number of candidates to provide to an agency, rather than be limited to three.   

SB 1154 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Other Bills Approved by the Senate and Sent to the House

House Bill 150 creates a “Share the Road” registration plate, with proceeds maintaining PENNDOT’s central office position of Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator and funding highway bicycle signage. The bill returns to the House of Representatives for concurrence on Senate amendments.

Senate Bill 180 updates state law relating to organ and tissue donations.

House Bill 608 adds the term “precursor substances” to the list of chemicals that are illegal to possess if the possessor’s intent is to illegally manufacture a controlled substance. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

Senate Bill 837 provides title protection to Marriage and Family Therapists licensed by the State Board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors to ensure that only those with a professional license be permitted to fashion themselves as a marriage and family therapist in Pennsylvania.

Senate Bill 1031 allows for the appointment of independent counsel to investigate alleged wrongdoing by an Attorney General, employees of the Office of Attorney General, or chairman or treasurer of a political campaign of the Attorney General.

Senate Bill 1038 adds a judicial position to juvenile detention boards in third class counties.

Senate Bill 1194 removes the sunset date of June 30, 2016 from the “State Military College Legislative Appointment Initiative,” which allows members of the General Assembly to appoint annually an eligible student from their legislative districts.

House Bill 1196 provides special liquor code provisions for the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia this summer. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

House Bill 1552 provides for student-weighted basic education funding and for supplemental payment of basic education funding for the 2014-15 school year. 

State Implementation of New Education Standards

The Senate Education Committee held a public hearing Wednesday on Pennsylvania’s implementation of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

The ESSA presents opportunities to move away from the prescriptive requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act and strengthen the ability of states and local school districts to set new policies and priorities in the best interests of their students, teachers, and communities.

The hearing focused on ESSA’s potential impact on:

  • Student Assessment
  • Low-Performing Schools
  • Educator Effectiveness
  • Charter School Issues

You can watch the hearing and read testimony here.

Hearing Explores Expanded Sunday Hunting

The Senate Game and Fisheries Committee held a public hearing Wednesday to gather testimony on a proposal to expand hunting on Sundays.

The first panel to testify included representatives from the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, the Keystone Trails Association, the Pennsylvania Equine Association, the Pennsylvania State Grange, and the Humane Society.

The second panel included representatives from the National Rifle Association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the Pennsylvania Game Commission, the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, and the United Sportsmen of Pennsylvania.

You can watch the hearing and read testimony here.

Committee Releases Reports on Long-Term Care for Veterans, Impact of Tavern Gaming on Lottery

The Legislative Budget and Finance Committee met Wednesday to release reports on the following topics:

You can watch the meeting here.

Committee Round-Up

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

Appropriations Committee

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the following bills Tuesday:

Senate Bill 163 clarifies that parental rights may not be terminated solely because a parent is incarcerated and addresses services available to those children.

Senate Bill 1159 provides for legislative review of the state plan required under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.

Senate Bill 1227 repeals the Public Employee Retirement Commission Act and transfers responsibilities of PERC regarding pension legislation to the Independent Fiscal Office and Auditor General.

House Bill 59 requires health care providers to offer Hepatitis C testing to persons born between 1946 and 1964.

House Bill 147 proposes an amendment to the state Constitution to extend the General Assembly’s authority to grant homestead exclusions.

House Bill 264 establishes the Care Facility Carbon Monoxide Alarms Standards Act.

House Bill 414 exempts municipal pension plans with less than 100 members from procurement requirements of the Municipal Pension Plan Funding Standard and Recovery Act and adds a new chapter providing for pension stabilization and future pension designs.

House Bill 1436 requires that a public utility’s federal income tax expense must be calculated separate from any gains or losses of annual regulated affiliate in rate cases before the Public Utility Commission.

Appropriations Infrastructure, Environment & Government Operations Subcommittee

The Senate Appropriations Infrastructure, Environment and Government Operations Subcommittee held a hearing Monday on the Commonwealth’s information technology programs and the Office of Information Technology.

The hearing focused on:

  • A better understanding of the Commonwealth’s investments in information technology (IT).
  • Opportunities to drive business operations efficiency through IT investments.
  • Coordination of efforts and resources between the agencies and the Office of Administration.

(Technical problems prevented recording this hearing.)

Subcommittee meetings are held Mondays of session weeks and are tasked with:

  • Performing increased administrative and program area analysis.
  • Developing initiatives to promote efficiencies in program administration and delivery.
  • Developing and analyzing Unified Program Area Budget Statements.

Up Next

The Senate reconvenes Monday, June 6. You can watch session live at my website.

Stay Connected

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

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

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