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 January 23, 2017.
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Venango Sewer Project Receives Nearly $2.4M in PENNVEST Funding
A Venango County sewer project was awarded funding totaling nearly $2.4 million from the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST) on Wednesday.
The Clintonville Borough Sewer and Water Authority in Venango County was awarded a $1,031,115 grant and a $1,352,967 low-interest loan to re-line 18,400 feet of sewer pipe and rehabilitate 81 manholes to address sewage discharge problems during wet weather events.
The Authority is currently under a Consent Order and Agreement with the Department of Environmental Protection stemming from the discharge of partially treated sewage during wet weather times into the Scrubgrass Creek. This PENNVEST funding will help the Authority to address that issue and ease the financial burden that otherwise would have fallen on ratepayers.
PENNVEST financing is provided through the use of federal funding and prior bond issues by the state. It is not supported by the state’s General Fund budget, which covers the daily operations and services of the Commonwealth.
Chairmen Announce New Effort to Assist PA’s First Responders
As the Pennsylvania General Assembly kicked off the 2017-18 Legislative Session on Monday (January 23), the leaders of the Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee and House Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee announced a renewed effort to assist Pennsylvania’s first responders.
The four chairmen were joined by first responders from across the state to unveil Senate Resolution 6, a “reboot” of Senate Resolution 60 of 2003 – the comprehensive study of fire & EMS issues completed in 2004 – and to discuss a 16-bill package of legislation to complement and build on previous efforts to help Pennsylvania’s first responders address key issues such as recruitment and retention.
Finding and keeping personnel is a key issue facing many departments as the ranks of volunteers in Pennsylvania have dwindled from about 300,000 in the 1970s to around 50,000 today.
Facing similar concerns a decade ago, the General Assembly approved Senate Resolution 60, a concurrent resolution that created a bi-partisan commission to study emergency services across the Commonwealth.
The 25-member commission released a report that focused on specific concerns such as recruitment and delivery of services, issues that seemed to be most common among fire departments and ambulance corps across the state. Through that focus, the Commission developed a set of recommendations that were intended to provide needed assistance to Pennsylvania’s emergency service providers.
The fire and EMS support measures unveiled by the Chairmen on Monday include bills to promote recruitment and retention, such as offering online training to make the process more convenient, providing loan forgiveness to attract volunteers, and developing a pilot program to offer firefighter training in secondary schools. Other measures would provide tax credits to businesses that excuse their employees when they need to respond to emergencies or undergo training and provide new billing options for fire departments and EMS organizations.
Committees Review Possible State Prison Closures
Three Senate committees held a joint public hearing on Monday to review the Wolf administration’s decision to potentially close two state prisons.
The Senate Majority and Democratic Policy Committees and Senate Judiciary Committee held the hearing to look at various aspects of the proposed closings including cost to taxpayers, public safety, transparency, prison overpopulation and the impact on local communities.
On January 6, the Department of Corrections announced that it would close two state prisons in June. Five state prisons are currently under consideration, including SCI Frackville, SCI Mercer, SCI Pittsburgh, SCI Retreat and SCI Waymart.
Senate Standing Committee Roundup
The Senate TRANSPORTATION Committee held a public hearing on winter preparedness and modernization on Tuesday and approved three bills.
Senate Bill 170 requires comprehensive reform measures at the Delaware River Port Authority.
Senate Bill 171 requires Senate confirmation of the Chief Executive Officer of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.
Senate Bill 172 provides a five-year trial period for PENNDOT to place speed cameras in active work zones on limited access highways.
Environmental Resources & Energy
The Senate ENVIRONMENTAL RESOURCES & ENERGY Committee, which I serve on, approved two bills Tuesday.
Senate Bill 138 gives royalty interest owners the opportunity to inspect records of the gas company to verify proper payment.
Senate Bill 139 prohibits gas companies from retaliating against a royalty interest owner by terminating the lease agreement or ceasing development because a landowner questions the accuracy of the royalty payments.
The Senate JUDICIARY Committee approved five bills Tuesday.
Senate Bill 42 imposes criminal penalties for those who falsely wear military awards and decorations.
Senate Bill 59 authorizes joint ventures between correctional facilities and private industry.
Senate Bill 60 requires cash-for-gold dealers to retain each item of precious metal for 10 business days, instead of five, after purchasing it. The extension will allow burglary victims to discover and report the theft and will enable police to investigate the theft.
Senate Bill 62 protects and provides services for children of incarcerated parents.
Senate Bill 69 addresses the enforcement and application of Pennsylvania’s cruelty laws as they pertain to horses.
The Senate LOCAL GOVERNMENT Committee, which I serve on, approved two bills Wednesday.
Senate Bill 10 prevents municipalities and counties from designating themselves as “sanctuary cities” in order to thwart federal efforts to combat illegal immigration.
Senate Bill 128 provides for clear state preemption of local mandated leave ordinances.
Urban Affairs & Housing
The Senate URBAN AFFAIRS & HOUSING Committee approved two bills Wednesday.
Senate Bill 50 requires disclosure of a property's flood history.
Senate Bill 51 amends the Landlord and Tenant Act to require disclosure of a property's flood history.
Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness
The Senate VETERANS AFFAIRS & EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS Committee, which I serve on, approved two measures on Wednesday.
Senate Bill 137 codifies the Civil Air Patrol’s state operations in Title 51 under the leadership of the Adjutant General.
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