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Senator Scott Hutchinson

Dear Friend,

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 May 11, 2015.

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Senate Approves Public Pension Reform Measure

Recognizing that increasing public pension costs are creating an unsustainable burden on state government and local school districts, the Senate approved on Wednesday a reform measure drafted by Senate Republicans that is projected to produce $18.3 billion in savings over 30 years.

Senate Bill 1 restructures the state’s two public employee pension systems – the State Employees’ Retirement System and the Public School Employees’ Retirement System – in order to make them viable in the long term.

This bill recognizes the basic, undisputable fact that increasing pension costs must be addressed. This is not an easy task. It is important to stress that the benefits already earned by employees and retirees are protected. They are unchanged by Senate Bill 1. Instead, this bill provides an equitable way to address pension costs beginning in 2016 and moving forward from there.

Economic conditions in the Commonwealth have significantly changed since the current style of pension plan was established, and travelling the current course is unsustainable for the taxpayers and property owners of Pennsylvania. Private employers moved in this direction long ago.

The features of Senate Bill 1 include:

  • All new state and public school employees will be enrolled in a mandatory, 401k-type Defined Contribution Plan similar to those used by private sector workers.
  • Members of the General Assembly, upon election or re-election, will be enrolled in the same Defined Contribution Plan as state and public school employees.
  • Current employees will be able to choose between increasing their pension contribution and lowering their future benefits.
  • No changes to current retiree benefits.
  • A Public Pension Management and Asset Investment Review Commission made up of investment professionals and retirement advisors will be established to make recommendations to the General Assembly and the Governor. Among their duties will be to evaluate the performance of current investment strategies and procedures of both state retirement systems regarding rates of return and associated fees paid for fund management.

Senate Approves New Motorcycle License Plate to Support Veterans

The Senate approved legislation on Tuesday intended to help needy veterans through the sales of a special motorcycle license plate.

Senate Bill 284 authorizes the special “Honoring Our Veterans” license plate for motorcycles and Senate Bill 285 allocates a portion of the funds raised through sales of the plate to the Veterans Trust Fund. The trust fund assists veterans in need of help with food, utilities, mortgage or rent payments, health care and other necessities of life.

The bills now go to the House of Representatives for consideration. Other bills approved by the Senate and sent to the House this week include:

Senate Bill 264 bans the sale, possession, or distribution of shark fins.

Senate Bill 514 amends the Generic Equivalent Drug Law to provide for the substitution of an interchangeable biological product for a brand name biologic.

Senate Bill 678 clarifies the arrest powers and jurisdiction of campus police officers employed by Pennsylvania’s 14 State System of Higher Education universities.

Senate Confirms Nine Cabinet Secretaries

The Senate confirmed nine cabinet nominations this week.

On Monday, the Senate approved the nominations of Major General James Joseph to serve as state Adjutant General, Dennis Davin to serve as Secretary of Community & Economic Development, Curtis Topper to serve as Secretary of General Services and Leslie Richards to serve as Secretary of Transportation.

On Wednesday, the Senate approved the nominations of Teresa Osborne to serve as Secretary of Aging, Russell Redding to serve as Secretary of Agriculture, Gary Tennis to serve as Secretary of Drug & Alcohol Programs, Dr. Karen Murphy to serve as Secretary of Health and Kathy Manderino to serve as Secretary of Labor & Industry.

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