Below is a recap of this week’s legislative activity in the Senate. It covers votes by the full Senate and committee hearings, plus a look ahead.
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In this Edition:
Senate Republicans will introduce legislation next week to reform Pennsylvania’s costly state pension systems, which are causing increases in school taxes and cuts to school programs, and now threaten to increase state taxes.
Senate Bill 1, which I am co-sponsoring, 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.
The features of Senate Bill 1 include:
Senate Bill 1 provides choices to current and former employees to create a pension plan that they tailor to suit their needs. Most importantly, it gets the taxpayers out of the pension risk business.
Continuing efforts to increase accountability and transparency of state and local government entities, the Senate approved measures on Wednesday that will require advertising to be identified when it is paid for by tax dollars and to give the public greater access to contract negotiations involving government and public employees.
Senate Bill 442 requires all Commonwealth agencies under the executive, legislative and judicial branches to clearly note whenever tax monies are spent for advertising purposes. The bill would require all ads on radio, television, newspapers, magazines, billboards and through other media to include the statement “Paid for with Pennsylvania taxpayer dollars.”
This measure will let taxpayers know how their tax dollars are being spent and hopefully will deter the wasteful spending of state resources.
Two bills approved by the Senate will add transparency to negotiations between public sector unions and state and local governments.
Senate Bill 644 requires the Independent Fiscal Office to complete a cost analysis of proposed collective bargaining agreements under the Governor’s jurisdiction prior to the execution of those contracts.
Under this measure, the Governor would be required to give the IFO two weeks’ notice of pending contracts so the agency could determine the costs to cover public employee wages, benefits, pensions, and working conditions under the proposed agreement. This will ensure that the public knows how the full costs of these labor agreements would impact the Commonwealth. It is also vital information that we in the General Assembly need to develop a balanced state budget.
Senate Bill 645 requires any proposed state or local collective bargaining agreement be made available on the public employers’ publicly accessible Internet website within 48 hours. An agreement must be posted online two weeks prior and thirty days following the signing of the collective bargaining agreement.
Taxpayers have a vested interest in the labor negotiations between public employers and their employees and deserve the right to review contract agreements. Requiring an online posting of the proposed collective bargaining agreements is a straightforward reform to advance government transparency and ensure taxpayer money is spent effectively
The bills now go to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Legislation I sponsored, Senate Bill 622, which seeks to remove certain recurring projects from the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LBFC), unanimously passed the Senate on Tuesday and heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.
The LBFC, which I chair, is a bicameral bipartisan legislative service agency consisting of 12 members of the General Assembly. The Committee is responsible for conducting studies and making recommendations aimed at eliminating unnecessary expenditures; promoting economy in the government of the Commonwealth; and assuring that state funds are being expended in accordance with legislative intent and law. To carry out these mandates, the LBFC is authorized to conduct a wide range of research activities pertaining to the operation and performance of state-funded programs and agencies.
The removal of certain recurring projects will enable LBFC to allow personnel to work on new studies. Previous LBFC reports and presentations can be found here.
Senate Bill 330, which I am co-sponsoring, expedites the process for dealing with blighted properties.
Senate Bill 622 streamlines the work of the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee.
Senate Resolution 27 directs the Advisory Committee on Public Health Law of the Joint State Government Commission to study the issue of youth immunizations and vaccinations to determine whether the commonwealth’s public health laws should be amended.
Two bills received final legislative approval and were sent to the Governor for his signature and enactment into law.
House Bill 152 amends the Emergency and Law Enforcement Personnel Death Benefit Act by extending the filing period for the death benefit.
House Bill 159 authorizes a reciprocal insurance exchange that writes medical liability insurance to convert to a stock insurance agency.
The Senate returns to voting session on Monday.
The Senate has several hearings scheduled next week, including those to consider the nominations of secretaries of Aging, Agriculture, and Department of State. You can view Senate session and hearings live at PASenateGOP.com .
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