2015 Cosponsored Legislation
As a legislator, I’m asked to support and cosponsor many different bills. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be highlighting legislation that I have cosponsored. These are all measures that I believe are positive steps forward for our Commonwealth.
- The State Vehicle Limitations Act (Senate Bill 865)
Some of the best legislation is short and sweet and Senate Bill 865 is a prime example of this. Simply put: “No state official, judicial official, or State employee may be assigned a State-owned vehicle on a permanent or long-term basis.”
The majority of my constituents that work in the private sector do not have the luxury of driving a company car and I don’t think legislators, cabinet secretaries, and other state government employees should either—especially considering that its taxpayers who foot the bill for this vehicle. Personally, I’ve never used a state-owned vehicle for travel, but there are far too many in state government that do. The State Vehicle Limitations Act puts an end to this practice unless the vehicle in question is used for emergency response.
Senate Bill 865 currently awaits consideration by the State Government Committee.
- Inheritance Tax Phase-Out (Senate Bill 432 & Senate Bill 433)
Pennsylvania is one of only six states that still impose an inheritance tax and, unlike the federal inheritance tax, its assessed beginning with the first dollar—4.5% on property inherited by direct descendants and lineal heirs and 12% on transfers to siblings. I believe inheritance tax amounts to double taxation and further complicates the handling of the estate after the death of a loved one.
Senate Bill 432 phases out the 4.5% descendant/lineal heir tax rate over a ten year period ending in Fiscal Year 2025-26 and Senate Bill 433 eliminated the 12% sibling transfer tax over an eight year period ending in Fiscal Year 2023-24. The gradual phase-out is necessary to adequately ensure that the impact on state services is minimal.
Families grieving the loss of a loved one shouldn’t be hit with an additional financial burden imposed by their state government.
Senate Bill 432 and Senate Bill 433 await consideration by the Senate State Government Committee.
- Drug Testing for Public Assistance (Senate Bill 730)
I often hear from constituents that tell me they are supportive of a social safety net, but do not want their tax dollars supporting someone abusing illegal drugs. I think it’s commonsense that folks choosing to abuse illegal drugs should not receive welfare benefits.
Senate Bill 730 would allow for random screening of illegal drug use by applicants for public assistance as well as provide for a system of testing for individuals already receiving benefits. Refusal to take the drug test will result in loss of benefits.
Similar legislation was signed into law in 13 states already and it currently enjoys bipartisan support in the Pennsylvania legislature.
Senate Bill 730 await consideration by the Senate Public Health & Welfare Committee.
- Prohibition of Per Diems (Senate Bill 1117)
Per diems are a daily food and lodging expense allowance available to lawmakers who travel more than 50 miles to Harrisburg or elsewhere from their home. Receipts are not required—it’s a daily payment of about $160 per day and any money not spent can be pocketed.
It’s not hard to see why this could be problematic. Some lawmakers have racked up per diem bills totaling more than $30,000 per year. This is in addition to their salary.
I’ve never accepted per diems and I never will. Taxpayers deserve more accountability from their legislators. Senate Bill 1117 would prohibit the payment of per diems and require receipts for reimbursements.
Senate Bill 1117 was recently introduced and awaits consideration by the Senate State Government Committee.
- No Budget No Pay (Senate Bill 187)
Senate Bill 187 simply states that if the General Assembly fails to pass, or the Governor fails to sign an on-time (by June 30) budget bill for a fiscal year, then compensation for the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, cabinet officers, and members of the legislature is suspended until one is passed.
Senate Bill 187 currently awaits consideration by the Senate State Government Committee.
- Require Candidates to File Campaign Reports Electronically (Senate Bill 389)
Campaign finance reports are an important tool for increasing accountability and transparency in the political process. Currently, candidates for statewide office and the General Assembly have the option to file electronically, but there is no requirement to do so. At least 30 states require electronic filing. Senate Bill 389 would require candidates to file reports electronically.
Electronic filing improves access to this information and allows citizens to inspect them in real time, saves taxpayer dollars by eliminating the stacks of paperwork that workers must currently sift through, and, and ensures the accuracy of the figures reported. As technology improves, I believe it to be important that government processes adapt to the technology and use it to the taxpayers benefit.
Senate Bill 389 awaits consideration by the Senate State Government Committee.
- Establishing a Do-Not-Call List for Political Robo-Calls (Senate Bill 387)
Current law allows PA residents to prevent unwanted calls from telemarketers by signing up for the Do-Not-Call List. There are a few types of calls exempt from this list, including recorded messages by political candidates, committees, parties, and other organizations.
Senate Bill 387 establishes a Do-Not-Call-List, administered by the Attorney General’s Office, specifically these types of phone calls.
Senate Bill 387 currently awaits consideration by the Senate State Government Committee.
- Zero-Based Budgeting
Traditionally, the starting point for budget negotiations is the previous year’s budget for that department. Typically, this means that the growth of budgets can be slowed, but that cutting spending is tremendously difficult. The solution to this is already widely-used in the private sector: zero-based budgeting.
Zero-based budgeting means that every line-item in the budget begins at $0 and would require all departments and agencies to justify their budget requests beginning with dollar one.
The Governor’s latest budget proposal is an unprecedented increase in state spending, and he’s asking for tax increases to pay for it. A better idea would be to start over at square one and examine each and every line-item request before ever considering asking for more money from Pennsylvanians taxpayer pockets. I believe zero-based budgeting could be a crucial tool to cut government overspending.
This legislation has not yet been introduced and does not have a bill number.
- GPS-Tracking of State-Owned Vehicles (Senate Bill 864)
For years, private sector companies have been putting global positioning system (GPS) units in company cars to ensure proper use of the fleet vehicles and monitor employees for abuse of their privilege. Senate Bill 864 would translate this practice into the public sector by requiring Commonwealth-owned vehicles to be fitted with a GPS. The mere presence of a GPS could discourage any extracurricular use of the vehicle and save taxpayer money.
Senate Bill 864 awaits consideration by the Senate State Government Committee.
- Elimination of Legislator COLA (Senate Bill 184)
Budgets are incredibly tight from year to year, yet legislators usually receive cost-of-living-adjustments (COLAs) on top of their salaries. In fact, there is no legal mechanism to turn down this COLA—many legislators choose instead to donate it. Senate Bill 184 eliminates mid-term COLAs and ensures that a legislator’s salary on the first day of their term is the same salary they earn for the duration of the term.
Legislators must lead by example if we ever hope to cut costs at all levels of state government.
Senate Bill 184 awaits consideration by the State Government Committee.
- Taxpayer Protection Act (Senate Bill 7)
Most states have some sort of legal limitation on the growth of their budget; Pennsylvania is in the minority of states that do not.
Senate Bill 7 limits the growth of total state spending by the lesser of two options: (1) the average percentage change in income for the previous three years, or (2) the average percentage change in inflation for the previous three years plus the average percentage change in population.
Because of these limits on spending, it’s possible that there will be a considerable amount of surplus taxes collected by the state. These collections are to be distributed in the following ways: 25% to the Taxpayer Protection Fund for return to taxpayers; 25% to our Rainy Day Fund to help balance future budgets; 50% to pay down the unfunded liabilities of our public pension systems.
I support concrete, statutory limits that will curb state spending and help ensure fiscal stability for the years ahead.
Senate Bill 7 awaits consideration by the Senate Appropriations Committee.
- Corporate Net Income Tax Reduction (Senate Bill 597)
Pennsylvania’s 9.99% corporate income tax rate is the 2nd highest rate in the nation next to Iowa. Our neighbor to the west, Ohio, has no corporate net income tax. I strongly believe that our punishingly high rate of taxation on businesses hurts Pennsylvanians and negatively impacts our competitiveness with other states.
Senate Bill 597 incrementally reduces our corporate net income tax to 4.99% by the year 2018—making Pennsylvania one of the most business-friendly states in the nation and a magnet for job growth, wage growth, and expansion.
Senate Bill 597 awaits consideration by the Senate Finance Committee.
- Firefighter Relief Package (Senate Bills 1127, 1126)
These are two bills that will provide relief to volunteer firefighters and volunteer fire companies and first responders.
Senate Bill 1127 exempts firefighters from the sales and use tax when purchasing protective gear and communications equipment using their own personal money. The cost of protective equipment alone is in the thousands of dollars. We should do whatever we can to make it more affordable to be a volunteer firefighter.
Senate Bill 1126 will help volunteer firefighters companies, ambulance companies, and rescue squads fundraise by making it easier for them to obtain Special Occasion Liquor Permits for fundraisers.
We’ve seen a steady decline in the number of volunteer firefighters serving in Pennsylvania for years. I think state government should do whatever we can to make it easier for volunteer firefighter companies to continue to serve their communities.
Senate Bill 1127 awaits consideration by the Senate Finance Committee.
Senate Bill 1126 awaits consideration by the Senate Law & Justice Committee.
- Professional Licensure Portability for Military Spouses (Senate Bill 796)
The life of a military spouse is marked by frequent deployments and relocations. This can sometimes pose a significant obstacle when they hold a professional license in one state but then move to another which does not recognize that license.
Senate Bill 796 streamlines the process and assists military spouses in obtaining an expedited transfer of their professional license into Pennsylvania.
Senate Bill 796 awaits consideration by the Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee.
- Local Earned Income Tax Exemption for Active-Duty Military Pay (Senate Bill 652)
Senate Bill 652 amends the Local Tax Enabling Act to exempt wages paid to individuals on active duty military service from local income tax.
These soldiers are often required to take leave from their families and their careers to serve our country, often at a lower pay than they made in their civilian careers—I think we should cut them a break on local income taxes.
Senate Bill 652 was approved by the Senate and awaits consideration by the House Finance Committee.
- Continue Education Funding during Budget Impasse (Senate Bill 807)
Disagreements between the Governor and the Legislature delayed the completion of a budget for many months, and those disagreements still exist today. Before the partial-budget was signed, schools were in danger of shutting down and many had to take out loans. Governor Wolf vetoed billions in education funding, and schools are now at risk of shutting down again. No matter which side of the aisle you’re on, that isn’t acceptable.
Our children’s education should not be used as a bargaining chip in budget negotiations. The legislature and Governor Wolf have serious disagreements over policy and the way forward for Pennsylvania, but let’s leave the kids out of it and make sure that schools are funded.
Senate Bill 807 ensures that if a budget is not agreed to, school districts will receive at least the same amount of funding that they received in the prior year.
Senate Bill 807 awaits consideration by the Senate Education Committee.
- Saving School Districts Money on Publication Requirements (Senate Bill 1027)
Under current law, school districts are required to publish notices in a newspaper of general circulation or circulated within the school district. This can be quite costly for a district, especially if they’re required to print multiple notices. I think we can give schools more flexibility to fulfil this requirement and save money in the process, especially given technological advances in where folks go to get their news.
Senate Bill 1027 would allow school districts to choose among several means of publishing notices, including a newspaper of general circulation in the school district, a legal newspaper, or on the website of a newspaper of general circulation or legal newspaper. The laws regarding the publication of notices were written many years ago, before internet use became widespread. With school districts facing increased costs, I think it’s important to provide them flexibility to save money in any way possible.
Senate Bill 1027 awaits consideration by the Senate Education Committee.
- Limits on Simple Resolutions (Senate Resolution 292)
Simple resolutions are introduced nearly every day in the legislature; they often mark milestones, honor people for achievements, designate awareness days, and more. These are usually uncontroversial and a way for Senators to bring attention to causes or folks from their district. But, each resolution costs taxpayer money—time spent by staff writing the resolution, tax dollars spent printing them, executing them, and publicizing them.
Senate Resolution 292 changes Senate rules to limit each member to a maximum of 10 simple resolutions per session. This limit would not apply to resolutions proposing amendments to the Constitution.
I appreciate the value of resolutions that commemorate achievements, bring awareness to important issues, etc. But I believe, as legislators, we can spend time and dollars elsewhere.
Senate Resolution 292 awaits consideration by the Senate Rules & Executive Nominations Committee.
- EITC Program Protection Legislation (Senate Bill 1161)
Since its creation, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) has provided hundreds millions of dollars in scholarships to help send Pennsylvania children in low and middle class families to educational institutions of their choice. Businesses that donate to the EITC scholarship organizations are eligible to receive a 75% tax credit on their donation amount. That tax credit amount rises to 90% if they make a two-year pledge. It’s a win-win for Pennsylvania families and businesses.
In order to make the donation and receive the tax credit, a business must receive their tax credit approval letter. For the most recent tax year, these approval letters were not sent out until the end of calendar year 2015—a significant delay compared to prior years. As a result, businesses only had 4 days to make these donations to scholarship organizations for tax credit for 2015.
Businesses need to be given adequate time to plan their donations. The delayed approval letters have resulted in lower donation amounts than prior years. Less donations means less educational opportunities available for Pennsylvania children. Senate Bill 1161 ensures that businesses will be given ample time to make their donations and maximize the educational opportunities available to children.
Senate Bill 1161 awaits consideration by the Senate Finance Committee.