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Attempt to Override Veto of Emergency Funding Comes Up Short
Responding to growing pleas from schools and community groups to release overdue state funding, Senate Republicans led an effort to override Governor Wolf’s veto of an emergency budget passed last month by the General Assembly.
The override would have provided badly needed funding while negotiations continue on a final budget agreement. The override required a two-thirds majority, or 33 votes. While all 30 Republican Senators voted for the measure, the emergency funding veto override vote received no Democrat support.
Hours before the vote, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale told members of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee that the lack of state funding is having a devastating financial impact on schools throughout Pennsylvania. School districts have already borrowed nearly a half-billion dollars – plus interest payments of $15 million – because of the budget impasse, and that number may double by Thanksgiving.
The vote marked the fourth time since the original budget deadline that the legislature has attempted to have a fiscally responsible budget enacted and keep money flowing to schools and organizations, including food banks and rape crisis centers.
Again, the Governor is needlessly inflicting pain in order to pressure the General Assembly into supporting what my constituents oppose: massive tax increases. It won’t work, and it’s past time that he begin negotiating in good faith.
Special Committee to Study Possible Senate Action Against Attorney General
Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati on Monday appointed six senators to serve on a Special Committee to pursue possible Senate action against Attorney General Kane, pursuant to Article 6, Section 7 of the Pennsylvania Constitution.
Senator John Gordner was named Chairman of the Special Committee on Senate Address. The Committee is bipartisan and geographically diverse. Republicans include Senators Gordner, Lisa Baker and Gene Yaw. Democratic members include Senators Judy Schwank, Sean Wiley and Art Haywood. Senator Scarnati will serve as a voting ex-officio member.
The scope of the committee is to investigate whether Attorney General Kathleen Kane can continue to do her job with a suspended law license. If it determines she cannot, that finding may be grounds for the Senate to utilize its rarely-tapped constitutional power of removal.
The Committee will issue a written report with its preliminary findings to the full Senate within 30 days.
The Committee website, senateaddress.pasen.gov, will provide key information as well as video of public meetings. Individuals who wish to submit information regarding operations of the Office of Attorney General can do so using the Committee’s new email address, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Utility Worker Protection Bill Headed to Governor
The Senate gave final approval Wednesday to a measure I am co-sponsoring that would add utility workers, either from a municipal government or private company, to the list of protected workers during disaster emergencies. Senate Bill 765 now goes to the Governor for his signature and enactment into law.
Currently, state law provides additional protection for first responders, highway maintenance and construction workers and tow truck operators during emergencies. Motorists are required to travel cautiously at reduced speeds and carefully follow traffic markers, road flares, signs, or directions of emergency responders.
Additionally, emergency service responders may file a written report with the police officer upon observing a violation. Violators may be fined up to $500 per offense and pay restitution costs if warranted.
Also receiving final legislative approval this week was Senate Bill 77, which provides regulatory relief for beagle trainers.
Union Intimidation Bill Sent to Governor’s Desk
The House concurred Tuesday on Senate amendments to legislation that would prohibit harassment, stalking or making threats by parties involved in a labor dispute. House Bill 874 now goes to the Governor’s desk.
The measure does not impact unions engaged in lawful disputes or protests, but addresses issues in previous labor disputes in which violent protests by the union workers ensued, including intimidation and harassment in the form of physical abuse of on-site contractors and property damage.
The measure is supported by the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association and the Pennsylvania Sheriffs’ Association.
Bill Expedites Deadline for Addressing Code Violations
The Senate on Wednesday approved legislation I am co-sponsoring to bolster municipal efforts to combat blight in their communities.
Senate Bill 942 requires the purchaser of any building known to have one or more substantial code violations to bring it into compliance or demolish it within 12 months of the date of purchase. Under current law, the purchaser has up to 18 months to correct the violations or demolish the building.
The Senate approved two additional bills this week.
Senate Bill 526 amends the Second Class Township Code to change the deadlines for completing and publishing the Annual Township Report and Financial Statement.
Senate Bill 857 provides new penalties for illegal household goods movers. I am co-sponsoring this bill.
All three bills now go to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Joint Hearing on Tax Breaks for Disabled Vets
On Monday, I took part in a joint public hearing by the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee and the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee to gather testimony on a proposed state constitutional amendment to expand the Property Tax Exemption Program for Disabled Veterans.
Currently, an honorably discharged veteran must be 100 percent disabled to receive a 100 percent exemption from property taxes. Senate Bill 1039 would provide tax exemptions to all disabled veterans at a percentage corresponding to their level of disability, as determined by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Local Government Committee Approves Sanctuary Cities Bill
The Senate Local Government Committee approved legislation on Wednesday that would prevent municipalities from hindering federal efforts to deport illegal immigrants who pose a danger to Pennsylvania communities.
Under Senate Bill 997, governing bodies such as counties or municipalities would be prohibited from adopting rules or ordinances that contradict federal immigration policy. Municipalities that do not enforce federal immigration policy would not be eligible for state grants for law enforcement purposes and could be sued for negligence for releasing an individual with a detainer who subsequently committed another crime. The measure now goes to the full Senate for consideration.
Click here to view the agenda and meeting video.
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