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Week of September 26, 2016
In this Edition:
“Can You Balance a State Budget?” Workshop on Oct. 12
Rep. Seth Grove (R-Dover) and I invite residents to participate in a “Can You Balance a State Budget?” workshop on Wednesday, Oct. 12 at the Shiloh Fire Hall in West Manchester Township.
Attendees will be given an opportunity to come up with their own version of a state budget, considering various policy options and deciding where to make cuts or raise taxes. You can find more details here.
Seating for this scenario-based group activity is limited, so those interested in attending are asked to RSVP by calling Rep. Grove’s district office at (717) 767-3947 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday, Oct. 7.
Joint Session on Pennsylvania’s Opioid and Heroin Epidemic
September 28, 2016 – Following a Joint Session of the General Assembly, Republican Senators held a press conference to respond to Governor Wolf’s call for legislative action on opioid related legislation.
On Wednesday, I participated in a joint session of the Senate and House of Representatives, during which Governor Tom Wolf called on the General Assembly to pass legislation to address the current opioid and heroin epidemic in Pennsylvania.
Coming from the private sector, I have seen firsthand how generously painkillers are prescribed to individuals hurt on the job. Since coming to Harrisburg I have advocated for prescribing reforms because there is no reason a person should be walking away with a 30-day supply of painkillers. Either that person is going to get addicted, they are going to keep the extra pills – opening the door for someone else to take them, or they are going to recognize the monetary value and sell them. Whatever the path, the end result is most likely not good.
As we have all learned in recent years, an addiction to prescription opioids often leads to the use of heroin. As a member of the York County Heroin Task Force since its inception in 2014, tackling the opioid and heroin epidemic has been a priority of mine. So, I am pleased with the efforts of both the House and the Senate, as well as the Governor to learn about the issue and to take action to address it.
Of course, as is the case with most legislative proposals, there may be differing views about how to solve a problem. The same is true for the Governor’s priorities on opioids. While we are all in support of enacting meaningful reforms, my goal is to ensure we are not doing more harm than good in our efforts to help those with addiction and prevent others from going down that same path.
Senate Approves Legislation to Combat Addiction Crisis
The Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved three measures addressing the state’s growing opioid addiction crisis.
Senate Bill 1212 would establish the School Aged Children Opioid Awareness Education Program. The Departments of Drug and Alcohol Programs, Health, and Education will work together to design a request for proposals for organizations that can provide opioid awareness education programs to be delivered in schools.
Senate Bill 1367 limits the amount of opioids that children may be prescribed, with reasonable exceptions for cases involving chronic pain, cancer treatment, or for palliative care or hospice care. It also requires a health care professional to obtain written consent from a minor’s parent or legal guardian to prescribe a medical treatment containing opioids and provide information on the risks of addiction and dangers of overdose associated with the medication.
Senate Bill 1368 implements the Safe Opioid Prescribing Curriculum in all of Pennsylvania’s medical schools. The plan calls for a focus in four key areas including pain management; multimodal treatments for chronic pain that minimize the use of opioids, or when opioids are indicated, to prescribe them in a way that is safe and that follows guideline-based care; focusing on patients who have been identified as at-risk for developing problems with prescription opioids; and teaching medical students how to manage substance abuse disorders as a chronic disease.
The bills now go to the House of Representatives for consideration.
In June, the Senate approved Senate Bill 1202, legislation I am co-sponsoring to require licensed medication dispensers and prescribers to receive two hours of continuing education in pain management or in the prescribing practices of opioids.
The Senate also approved a Drug and Alcohol Recovery High School Pilot Program to provide instruction in meeting state academic standards for students in grades 9 through 12 who are in recovery from drug or alcohol abuse or addiction. The measure was included as part of the School Code passed with the state budget package.
Senate Votes to Implement Performance-Based Budgeting in State Government
On Wednesday, the Senate approved legislation I am co-sponsoring to require state departments and agencies to justify their budget requests for all existing, as well as proposed programs, for each fiscal year.
This type of policy is called “performance-based budgeting” and it is commonly used in the private sector. Businesses are able to keep control of expenses and outcomes, so their business models remain relevant and they stay afloat.
In contrast, Pennsylvania government continues to add new programs and fund existing programs without critical checks or balances which could help determine the efficacy of a particular program.
Specifically, Senate Bill 1341 would create a board to review the performance-based budget plans of Pennsylvania agencies and make recommendations on how each agency’s programs may be made more efficient. The bill was sent to the House of Representatives.
State government needs to justify every request for additional taxpayer dollars. Performance-based budgeting will require the Administration and Legislature to make the tough decisions necessary to halt the relentless growth of government and its spending.
Panel Explores Effects of Offshoring, Automation on Manufacturing Jobs
On Wednesday, the Economy, Business and Jobs Caucus held a hearing with the Manufacturing Caucus to explore recent developments affecting manufacturing jobs.
Specifically, they discussed reshoring/offshoring, automation, industrial robotics and 3D printing, and the impact on Pennsylvania’s manufacturing industry.
The entire hearing can be viewed here.
Administration Reaches Contract Deal with Largest Government Unions
The Wolf Administration announced it has reached an agreement with the Commonwealth’s largest unions for a three-year contract. The agreement with the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) will provide total wage increases of 11.75% from October 2016 through January 2019.
In the past, the three-year agreement with the state’s largest unions has typically become the wage pattern for most other unions operating in state government, with the exception of public safety unions. Historically, the AFSCME agreement has been applied to the Commonwealth’s 13,000 management employees as well, which the Administration indicates will occur.
The Senate Appropriations Committee estimates the agreement will increase union employee costs by $568.2 million, plus an additional $241.3 million for management and other non-represented employees. You can read more about this and other state financial news in the committee’s monthly report.
Special License Plate for Military Members Sent to Governor
The Senate gave final approval on Monday to a bill that recognizes and honors Pennsylvania’s military personnel and sent the measure to the Governor for enactment into law.
Senate Bill 1155 establishes a special vehicle license plate for members of the United States Armed Forces adding special recognition for current members of the military, reserves, and Pennsylvania National Guard. This would be in addition to the currently available license plates with special recognition for World War II veterans, Purple Heart recipients and Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans.
Two additional bills received final legislative approval this week and were sent to the Governor.
House Bill 380 reduces the mandatory separation period that is required prior to entry of a no-fault divorce from two years to one year.
House Bill 665 makes technical changes to Title 20 (Decedents, Estates and Fiduciaries) concerning powers of attorney.
Senate Approves Cybersecurity Bill
With reports of hacking appearing in the news on an almost daily basis, the Senate acted on Wednesday to ensure citizens will be expeditiously notified if their information in state databases is compromised.
Senate Bill 1048, which updates Pennsylvania’s Breach of Personal Information Notification Act, now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration. Specifically, the measure sets the following notification requirements:
Senate Bill 1048 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Additional Bills Approved by the Senate and Sent to the House
Senate Bill 340 amends the Local Government Unit Debt Act to provide adequate oversight and enforcement.
Senate Bill 341 amends the Municipality Authorities Act and the Public Official and Employee Ethics Act to coordinate the conflict of interest provisions covering municipal authorities.
Senate Bill 344 requires 100 percent security from a contractor prior to the awarding of a contract for the construction, reconstruction, alteration or repair of any public building or other public work or public improvement where the contract exceeds $10,000.
Senate Bill 869 amends Titles 4 (Amusements), 18 (Crimes and Offenses), 30 (Fish), 42 (Judiciary and Judicial Procedure) and 75 (Vehicles) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes to address the seizure and forfeiture of property that is related to criminal offenses.
Senate Bill 1086 allows the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to suspend the registration of motorists who fail to pay tolls on the Pennsylvania Turnpike until the motorist makes the payment.
Senate Bill 1235 extends the sunset provision of the Underground Utility Protection Law from December 31, 2016 to December 31, 2021 and moves oversight of the One Call System from the Department of Labor and Industry to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC).
Senate Bill 1352 provides a rate increase for the river pilots who navigate along the Delaware River and its navigable tributaries.
Senate Bill 1353 permits the Navigation Commission for the Delaware River and its Navigable Tributaries to increase fees for the issuance of original and renewed pilot’s licenses.
A recap of activity by the Senate committees I serve on.
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved nearly two dozen bills during meetings on Monday and Tuesday, including:
Senate Bill 525 authorizes joint ventures between correctional facilities and private industry.
Senate Bill 851 addresses procedures applicable to victims of human trafficking.
Senate Bill 1048 amends the Breach of Personal Information Notification Act (Act 94 of 2005) to require notification within a specific time period.
Senate Bill 1086 prohibits inhibiting the operation of electronic toll collection systems and provides for the suspension of a driver’s registration for unpaid tolls.
Be sure to check the full list of bills approved by the Committee each day this week:
Urban Affairs and Housing
The Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee, which I chair, amended and approved the following bills Tuesday:
House Bill 1437 reduces the time from 18 to 12 months that the purchaser of a blighted building would have to either bring the structure into compliance or demolish it.
House Bill 1774 provides alternative dispute resolution options for complaints regarding condominiums, cooperatives, or planned communities.
The Senate Transportation Committee approved the following bills Tuesday:
Senate Bill 1354 requires protective fencing on state-owned bridges located over an Interstate highway.
Senate Bill 1357 establishes a pilot program allowing the expanded use of golf carts on private roads and public-highway crossovers.
Senate Bill 1366 increases penalties for repeat offenders of state law requiring drivers to slow down and to move into a lane not adjacent to an emergency response area, if possible.
Senate Bill 1369 updates Title 75 (Vehicles) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, in certificate of title, covering transfer to or from manufacturer or dealer.
House Bill 813 amends the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Compact between Pennsylvania and New Jersey to provide the Governor with veto power over the Commission members.
House Bill 1779 adds optometrists in the list of medical providers who may certify to a disability for the purpose of issuing a handicapped plate or placard for a person with a disability.
House Bill 1838 provides for specialty motorcycle license plates to honor our firefighters.
House Bill 1923 designates a portion of State Route 2005 in Drexel Hill, Delaware County as the Officer Dennis McNamara Memorial Highway.
The Senate Majority Policy Committee held a public hearing Tuesday on state and national demographic changes and their potential impact on public policy.
You can view the hearing and written testimony here.
The Senate returns to voting session on Monday, October 17th at 1 p.m. You can view session at SenatorScottWagner.com.
I welcome your feedback and input. Please don’t hesitate to contact me via my website.