In this Edition:
Senate Passes Mensch Bill to Continue State Military College Legislative Appointment Program
Legislation I introduced, Senate Bill 1194, to remove the sunset date of June 30, 2016 from the “State Military College Legislative Appointment Initiative” (Act 29 of 2012) passed the Senate unanimously.
Act 29 of 2012 was enacted in order to allow members of the General Assembly to appoint annually an eligible student within their legislative district for initial enrollment at Valley Forge Military Academy & College.
Valley Forge Military Academy & College (VFMA&C) has a long tradition of providing character-based education within an academic and military environment to young men and women who have gone on to become military leaders, industry executives, government officials, professional athletes, Rhoades Scholars, and White House Fellows. Valley Forge Military College (VFMC) is a two-year, transfer program from which almost all students go on to attend four-year colleges and universities.
The bill now goes to the House for consideration.
Mensch Resolution Urging Administration to Update Statewide Radio Network System Adopted by Senate
The Senate adopted my Senate Resolution 325 which urges the administration to fix the problematic, tax payer funded statewide radio system also known as STARNet.
The administration has the opportunity to implement a plan to create a unified radio system that works. Pennsylvania taxpayers have invested over $750 million dollars into STARNet and it remains unreliable often preventing our agents in the field from doing their job safely and effectively. Most recently, it has proven to be a liability in the search for Eric Frein who ambushed and murdered one State Trooper and gravely injured another.
Repeated efforts have tried and failed to fix the problems with the radio system. Now is the time to make real progress on a solution. There have been many committee meetings and hearings in which officials have testified over and over again that our statewide radio system is broken. Through that testimony we have gathered ideas and created studies that we need to use to implement a new system.
Listen: Senator Mensch on the Statewide Radio System
Gov. Wolf Vetoes Teacher Furlough Reform
Late Wednesday, Gov. 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 strengthened the teaching profession and boost student success by ensuring 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.
DUI Ignition Interlock Legislation Sent to Governor
Legislation that would require most drivers convicted for a first time drunk driving violation to use ignition interlocks for at least a year received final legislative approval this week and was sent to the Governor.
Senate Bill 290 would require convicted drunk drivers with illegal 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, 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’m co-sponsoring that would streamline and modernize Pennsylvania’s Civil Service Act.
With 70 percent of the Commonwealth’s workforce classified as civil service employees, Senate Bill 1154 will ensure that vacancies are filled with qualified people in a timely manner. The bill would allow applicants to be notified of an open job or test by methods other than the U.S. Mail, such as by email. It would also expand the “Rule of Three” by giving the commission the option to provide agencies with a list of more than three applicants.
Senate Bill 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 applicants’ time and the agency’s time, which can be eliminated by posting specific jobs and allowing prospective employees to apply for them.
The bill 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.
Committee Releases Reports on Long-Term Care for Veterans, Impact of Tavern Gaming on Lottery
The Legislative Budget and Finance Committee, which I chair, met Wednesday to release reports on Pennsylvania's Current and Future Need for Long-term Care Services for Veterans and The Impact of Tavern Gaming on the Pennsylvania State Lottery.
You can watch the meeting here.
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:
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.
Appropriations Committee Round-Up
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:
Subcommittee meetings are held Mondays of session weeks and are tasked with:
(Technical problems prevented recording this hearing.)
The Senate reconvenes Monday, June 6. 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
Red Hill Office
Lansdale District Office
If you do not wish to receive this email, click here to unsubscribe.
2016 © Senate of Pennsylvania