In this Edition:
Bill to Restore Vetoed School Funding Sent to Governor
The Senate approved legislation Wednesday to immediately enact into law the school funding formula developed over the past year by the bipartisan, bicameral Basic Education Funding Commission and provide the overdue state reimbursements for school construction projects.
House Bill 1589, which was approved by a strong bipartisan vote of 37-11, directs all new state money for the current 2015-16 school year to be allocated to districts using the new formula and authorizes the release of state reimbursements under the state’s Planning and Construction Workbook, otherwise known as PlanCon.
The state budget approved by lawmakers in March included an additional $200 million in basic education funding and more than $350 million in PlanCon reimbursements. The language to implement the new basic education funding formula and authorize the PlanCon reimbursements was contained in House Bill 1327, the Fiscal Code.
However, on April 4 the Governor vetoed the Fiscal Code and created his own formula to drive out public education funding. As a result, 86 percent of Pennsylvania’s 500 public school districts will receive less money under this plan than they would have received under the Basic Education Funding Formula. The veto also halted the PlanCon reimbursements.
Under the Governor’s basic education funding formula, three of the state's 500 school districts will receive nearly half of the overall increase. Philadelphia schools will receive an additional $78 million, including $34 million that was taken from rural school districts throughout the state.
He deliberately chose not to follow the fair education funding formula. As a result, every single school district in the 24th senatorial district is not receiving the funds that had been allocated by the legislature. This is yet another shameful gimmick by the administration which causes financial concern for schools, students, and parents.
Under the Governor’s funding formula, the school districts in 24th Senatorial district would receive a total of $1.7 million less:
The General Assembly’s action restores the Basic Education Funding increase. As with the Senate, the House of Representatives approved the new Fiscal Code with enough votes to override any veto and sent it to the Governor.
Pennsylvania Poised to Enact Medical Cannabis Legislation
The General Assembly this week gave final approval of legislation to permit the use of medical cannabis in Pennsylvania for limited medical conditions. The bill was sent to the Governor for enactment.
Senate Bill 3 establishes a state program under the Department of Health that creates a network of growers, processors and dispensaries and allows doctors to certify a patient to receive medical cannabis for certain medical conditions, including cancer, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.
The bill was amended in the Senate to give dispensaries clearer authorization to operate and add stronger oversight for employees of medical cannabis organizations.
For many of our fellow citizens, especially children suffering seizures, cannabis provides relief from their conditions.
Senate Approves Special License Plate for Active Duty Military
The Senate on Tuesday approved legislation I’m co-sponsoring that recognizes and honors Pennsylvania’s active duty military personnel.
Senate Bill 1155 establishes a special vehicle license plate for members of the United States Armed Forces adding special recognition for active members of the military, reserves, and Pennsylvania National Guard. This would be an addition to the currently available license plates with special recognition for World War II veterans, Purple Heart recipients and Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans.
The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Bills Sent to the House of Representatives
House Bill 400 establishes the “Work Experience for High School Students with Disabilities Act.” The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.
Senate Bill 1114 amends the Sewage Facilities Act to allow the use of “alternative systems” for planning purposes throughout the Commonwealth. I am co-sponsoring this measure.
House Bill 1319 establishes the Pennsylvania ABLE Savings Program Tax Exemption Act. The act is companion legislation to legislation that would establish the ABLE Act Savings Program in the Treasury Department to encourage eligible individuals with disabilities to save private funds from which the expenses related to their disabilities may be paid. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.
Senate Bill 1152 requires children under the age of one be secured in a rear-facing child seat while traveling in a vehicle. I am co-sponsoring this measure.
Bills Sent to Governor
House Bill 12 amends state law regarding divorce to address situations in which one spouse has committed a personal injury crime against the other.
Senate Bill 879 provides that the Treasury Department may establish a program through which federal Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) savings accounts may be opened for eligible individuals for payment of qualified disability expenses.
House Bill 1329 establishes the Caregiver, Advise, Record, and Enable (CARE) Act, which requires hospitals to allow patients to designate a caregiver prior to discharge from the facility.
House Bill 794 increases the maximum hotel room rental tax in most third through eighth class counties from 3 percent to 5 percent and provides for certification of recognized tourist promotion agencies.
House Bill 1278 amends state law to allow television broadcasts or video images in a moving vehicle as long as the images are not visible to the driver.
Senate Approves Resolution to Review Corrections Department Overtime
The Senate approved a measure Monday authorizing an official study of mandatory overtime in the Department of Corrections. Senate Resolution 263 directs the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee, which I chair, to review costs associated with mandatory overtime for corrections officers versus the costs to hire, train and equip additional corrections officers.
Corrections Secretary John Wetzel testified at a Senate Appropriations Committee budget hearing that overtime costs for his department amount to approximately $90 million annually. The Department of Corrections receives the third largest state appropriation from the General Fund and its overtime costs have outpaced all other state agencies from 2010 through 2014.
On Monday, the Senate also adopted House Resolution 783, which moves a ballot question on raising the mandatory retirement age for judge from 70 to 75 years old from the April primary election to the November general election to provide time to clarify and simplify the language that would appear on the ballot.
Senate Republicans, Democrats Hold Policy Hearing on Job Creation
The Senate Majority Policy Committee and the Senate Democratic Policy Committee held a joint hearing Monday on ideas for boosting economic development and job creation in Pennsylvania.
Representatives of economic development groups and business advocates as well as the head of the state Department of Environmental Protection and officials with the Department of Community and Economic Development offered testimony.
You can find hearing video and written testimony here.
Appropriations Committee Round-Up
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the following bills this week:
Senate Bill 180 updates and revises the law relating to organ and tissue donations.
Senate Bill 359 requires school districts to develop an individualized truancy elimination plan for students who are truant before any referral to a district magistrate.
Senate Bill 910 enacts the basic education funding formula developed by the Basic Education Funding Commission.
Senate Bill 1154 modernizes the Civil Service Act to place the Commonwealth more in line with hiring practices of the private sector and many other civil service-covered states.
House Bill 1589 amends the Fiscal Code to provide FY 2015-16 budget implementation language.
The Senate reconvenes Monday, May 9 at 1 p.m. You can watch session live at PASenateGOP.com.
Twitter and Facebook: I post regular updates on legislative action, committee developments, useful state-related information, happenings in the 24th Senatorial District and more on Twitter @SenatorMensch and on my Facebook page.If you find this e-newsletter useful, I invite you to visit my website www.senatormensch.com for more information about you
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