In this Edition:
Mensch Joins Call for Support of PA Community Colleges
As co-chair of the bipartisan Community College Caucus, I participated in the Pennsylvania Commission for Community College’s news conference Tuesday at the Capitol to bring awareness to community colleges and their need for increased funding.
Pennsylvanians who obtain education through community colleges obtain skills that allow them to remain marketable and relevant in the workplace. One of the many benefits to earning a community college degree or certificate is that graduates tend to excel professionally.
Students with a degree or certificate earn $500,000 more over a lifetime than someone with only a high school degree. In less than five years, 65 percent of all new jobs will require a postsecondary credential.
I was proud to highlight Montgomery County Community College’s cutting edge Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) innovation and the upcoming opening of its Sustainability and Innovation Hub at the West Campus in Pottstown. A key feature of the Hub is an aquaponics teaching laboratory, which will support the college’s new, interdisciplinary Environmental Studies degree program.
I also noted Bucks County Community College, which is expanding its Newtown campus to better serve students in the STEM field. In addition, BCCC offers a Center for Workforce Development that provides customized onsite training for area corporations and businesses.
Finally, I commended the recent “Reverse Transfer” initiative announced by the PA Community Colleges and State System of Universities last week. The Reverse Transfer program will enable students who have earned at least 60 total credits to apply for an associate’s degree from the community college where they started.
Community colleges have a tremendous economic impact on their local communities and the Commonwealth. Every $1 of state and local tax money invested today will yield a cumulative $21.60 in benefits that accrue to all Pennsylvania residents in terms of added taxable income and avoided social costs.
Mensch, Wiley Introduce Legislation to Promote Employment of Pennsylvanians with Disabilities
I have worked with Senator Sean Wiley (D-49) to introduce of the “Employment First Act,” legislation which will promote the employment of people with disabilities at competitive wages in Pennsylvania businesses and public agencies.
Fifty years ago, the Legislature created the MH/MR Act of 1966 to provide a system of home and community-based services for people with disabilities. One of the results was that many people with disabilities — especially those with intellectual disabilities — ended up spending their days working in segregated facilities where they are often paid wages well below the minimum wage.
For quite some time, Pennsylvania has been talking about deinstitutionalization and home and community-based living, where people with disabilities have the opportunity to work at competitive wages in a wide range of jobs in the private and public sectors across the Commonwealth. Pennsylvania employers are dealing with a serious workforce shortage. On any given day there are more than 200,000 job vacancies posted on the state’s official job listing. Individuals with disabilities are productive, responsible, and dependable employees that can fill these vacancies and they deserve competitive wage benefits.
National research and pilot programs in Pennsylvania have proven that the employment of people with disabilities at competitive wages benefits both employers and persons with disabilities.
The legislation will not require additional state spending. Instead, it will require state agencies to shift priorities within existing budgets.
The Employment First Act is also consistent with recent changes in federal law governing vocational rehabilitation services and workforce development programs, as well as federal regulations governing services to people with intellectual disabilities.
Mensch Introduces Resolutions to Update Statewide Radio Network System, Continue State Military College Legislative Appointment Program
I have introduced Senate Resolution 325 which would urge the Administration to fix the problematic, taxpayer funded statewide radio system also known as STARNet.
Pennsylvania taxpayers have invested over $750 million dollars in 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, and 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. The Administration has the opportunity to implement a plan to create a unified radio system that works.
In addition, I introduced Senate Resolution 1194, which would remove the sunset date of June 30, 2016 from the “State Military College Legislative Appointment Initiative” (Act 29 of 2012). 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 is a two-year, transfer program from which almost all students go on to attend four-year colleges and universities.
It 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.
Bill Providing More Openness to Contract Negotiations Sent to Governor
Continuing efforts to increase accountability and transparency of state government activities, the Senate gave final approval on Wednesday to a measure that will give the public greater access to contract negotiations involving government and public employees.
Senate Bill 644 now goes to the Governor’s desk. The bill requires the Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) 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 advance 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.
Two other bills received final legislative approval this week and were sent to the Governor.
Senate Bill 526 amends the Second Class Township Code regarding completion and publication of the annual township report and financial statement. The measure allows second class townships to publish more concise financial information which will reduce advertising expenses.
House Bill 1340 amends Title 68 (Real and Personal Property) with technical clarifications to the Uniform Planned Community Act and the Uniform Condominium Act.
Bills Approved, Sent to the House for Consideration
Senate Bill 374 allows the Game Commission to establish time frames for the tagging and reporting of big game harvests.
Senate Bill 579 consolidates several statutes into Title 44 (Law and Justice Code) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes.
Senate Bill 847 adds a representative from the Korean War Veterans Association to the State Veterans Commission, a panel comprised of representatives from Pennsylvania’s major veterans associations.
Senate Bill 881 amends the definition of “public utility” in state statute to provide an exception for a resort offering water or sewer services to private homes who take service at a point within the property boundaries of the resort.
Senate Bill 973 increases fines for littering.
Senate Bill 1104 implements changes from a June 2010 report issued by the Joint State Government Commission entitled, “The Probate, Estates and Fiduciaries Code: Proposed Amendments to Title 20 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes.”
I was honored to introduce guest chaplain Rev. Linda Lennon of St. John’s United Church of Christ in Richlandtown, who visited the Capitol with parishioners Kerry Schaffer and Brady Thompson. Rev. Lennon opened session with a prayer.
Appropriations Committee Round-Up
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the following bills on Tuesday:
Senate Bill 910 implements the school funding formula recommended by the Basic Education Funding Commission.
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 chairs and treasurers of political campaigns of the Attorney General.
Senate Bill 1155 establishes a special registration plate for active members of the U.S. Armed Forces.
Senate Bill 1156 requires health care personnel and clergy to obtain criminal background checks to protect children.
House Bill 794 increases the maximum hotel room rental tax permitted in most Third through Eighth Class counties from 3 percent to 5 percent to fund tourism development.
House Bill 1329 establishes the Caregiver Advise, Record, and Enable (CARE) Act which requires hospitals to allow patients to designate a caregiver prior to discharge from the facility.
Subcommittee Hearing Focuses on Charter Schools, Cyber Charter and Special Ed
The new Senate Appropriations Education, Workforce, Community and Economic Development Subcommittee held its first hearing on Monday.
The hearing focused on:
Watch the hearing and find more information here.
The Senate reconvenes Monday, April 11 at 1 p.m. 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
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