I am pleased to send you my Session Wrap Up e-newsletter. This e-newsletter features events and legislative activities from the session week of October 26, 2015.
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Senate Republicans Push Budget Veto Override Effort
Responding to growing pleas from schools and community groups to release overdue state funding, Senate Republicans today led an effort to override Governor Wolf’s veto of an emergency budget passed last month by the General Assembly.
Senate leaders emphasized that the override would have provided badly needed funding while negotiations continue on a final budget agreement. The override required a two-thirds majority, or 33 votes. While all 30 Republican Senators voted for the measure, the emergency funding veto override vote received no Democrat support.
The citizens of Pennsylvania want us to live within our means and pass a budget that does not take all of the money out of their pockets. They want us to act responsibly to take the tax dollars that are already being collected and get those out the door to needy services like education, rape crisis centers and child care centers that are being forced to borrow money because of disagreements in Harrisburg.
We had a chance to vote and send money out the door, but unfortunately that failed and that is very frustrating to those of us who want to help those organizations on the street with the money we have today.
Hours before the vote, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale told members of the Senate Democrat Policy Committee that the lack of state funding is having a devastating financial impact on schools throughout Pennsylvania. School districts have already borrowed nearly a half-billion dollars – plus interest payments of $15 million – because of the budget impasse, and that number may double by Thanksgiving.
Our schools are really at the end of their cash. Many are going to banks as we speak, getting ready for lines of credit. I am hearing a lot from other social services agencies that rely on state government money. Nobody is disputing that they deserve that money, but unfortunately it is unable to get out the door unless we pass this emergency funding bill.
The vote marked the fifth time since June 30 that the legislature has attempted to have a fiscally responsible budget enacted and keep money flowing to schools and organizations.
Click for video of my comments on the budget impasse and the veto override.
Special Committee to Study Possible Senate Action Against Attorney General
Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati appointed six Senators on Monday to serve on a Special Committee to pursue possible Senate action against Attorney General Kane, pursuant to Article 6, Section 7 of the Pennsylvania Constitution.
Senator John R. Gordner was named Chairman of the Special Committee on Senate Address. The Committee is bi-partisan and geographically diverse. Republicans include Senators Gordner, Lisa Baker and Gene Yaw. Democratic members include Senators Judy Schwank, Sean Wiley and Art Haywood. Senator Scarnati will serve as a voting ex-officio member.
The scope of the committee is to investigate whether Attorney General Kathleen Kane can continue to do her job with a suspended law license. If it determines she cannot, that finding may be grounds for the Senate to utilize its rarely-tapped constitutional power of removal.
The Committee will issue a written report with its preliminary findings to the full Senate within 30 days.
Local Government Committee Approves Sanctuary Cities Bill
The Senate Local Government Committee, which I chair, approved legislation on Wednesday that would attempt to prevent municipalities from hindering federal efforts to detain illegal immigrants who pose a danger to Pennsylvania communities.
Senate Bill 997 targets “sanctuary cities” that refuse to honor detainer requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement for persons of interest who are arrested by local authorities. The measure now goes to the full Senate for consideration.
Under the bill, governing bodies such as counties or municipalities would be prohibited from adopting rules or ordinances that contradict federal immigration policy. Municipalities that do not enforce federal immigration policy would not be eligible for state grants for law enforcement purposes and could be sued for negligence for releasing an individual with a detainer who subsequently committed another crime.
The issue gained national attention when San Francisco resident Kathryn Steinle was shot by Francisco Sanchez, an illegal immigrant from Mexico with seven felony convictions who has been deported five times. Due to the municipality’s policy not to report Sanchez’s incarceration to the appropriate federal agency, he was promptly released just prior to Steinle’s murder.
The committee also approved five additional bills:
Senate Bill 340 strengthens regulatory oversight by DCED and restricts municipal borrowing and project financing.
Senate Bill 341 prohibits a conflict of interest by a member of a municipal authority in the award of any contract or agreement and empowers appropriate agencies with enforcement and prosecutorial powers.
Senate Bill 342 amends Title 53 (Municipalities Generally) to restrict the use of interest-rate management agreements, otherwise known as "swaps."
Senate Bill 343 enacts the First Class City and County Interest Rate Management Agreement Act restricting the use of interest-rate management agreements, otherwise known as "swaps."
Senate Bill 344 amends the Public Works Contractors' Bond Law of 1967 to insure one hundred percent project performance security for local governments.
Click here for video from the meeting.
Union Intimidation Bill Sent to Governor’s Desk
The House concurred Tuesday on Senate amendments to legislation that would prohibit harassment, stalking or making threats by parties involved in a labor dispute. House Bill 874 now goes to the Governor’s desk.
The measure does not impact unions engaged in lawful disputes or protests, but addresses issues in previous labor disputes in which violent protests by the union workers ensued, including intimidation and harassment in the form of physical abuse of on-site contractors and property damage.
The measure is supported by the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association and the Pennsylvania Sheriffs’ Association.
Utility Worker Protection Bill Headed to Governor
The Senate gave final approval Wednesday to a measure that would add utility workers, either from a municipal government or private company, to the list of protected workers during disaster emergencies. Senate Bill 765 now goes to the Governor for his signature and enactment into law.
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.
Also receiving final legislative approval this week was Senate Bill 77, which provides regulatory relief for the beagle trainers.
Bill Expedites Deadline for Addressing Code Violations
The Senate approved a measure on Wednesday that would bolster municipal efforts to combat blight in their communities.
Senate Bill 942 requires the purchaser of any building known to have one or more substantial code violations to bring it into compliance or demolish it within 12 months of the date of purchase. Under current law, the purchaser has up to 18 months to correct the violations or demolish the building.
The Senate approved two additional bills this week.
Senate Bill 526 amends the Second Class Township Code to change the deadlines for completing and publishing the Annual Township Report and Financial Statement.
Senate Bill 857 provides new penalties for illegal household goods movers.
All three bills now go to the House of Representatives for consideration.
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