Harrisburg Happenings

A report on the Legislative Session Week of June 2, 2014

Committee approves bills reducing size of state government

I am pleased to report that the Senate State Government Committee approved two bills on Tuesday that would reduce the size of state government.

Senate Bill 324, which I introduced and as amended by the committee, would decrease the Senate from 50 to 45 Senatorial Districts.

The bill also includes an amendment by Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati that would eliminate the office of Lieutenant Governor and reduce the state Superior Court from 13 to 11 members and the state Supreme Court from seven to five members. Senator Scarnati previously served as Lieutenant Governor following the passing of Lieutenant Governor Catherine Baker Knoll.

The committee also approved House Bill 1234, legislation reducing the number of districts in the House of Representatives from 203 to 153.

I want to applaud and congratulate the committee for supporting these bills to reduce the size of state government.  I am well aware of how difficult it is to get legislators to vote for bills that could in reality get rid of their own jobs. However, I have received overwhelming support from my constituents on this issue.

The proposed changes require an amendment to the state constitution, which means the same bill must be debated and passed by both the House and Senate in two consecutive sessions, and subsequently approved by referendum vote of the people of Pennsylvania.

Basic education funding commission bill sent to Governor

The Senate approved legislation Tuesday that will create a new panel to study state support for basic education programs in Pennsylvania’s schools and recommend ways to improve the system to help students. The bill now goes to the Governor for his signature and enactment into law.

House Bill 1738 creates a Basic Education Funding Formula Commission comprised of equal representation from the House and Senate majority and minority caucuses, along with representatives from the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the governor’s administration.

The bill requires the commission to develop a basic education funding formula and identify factors that may be used to determine the distribution of basic education funding to school districts. The bill specifies that the factors may include the following:

  • market value/personal income aid ratio;
  • equalized millage;
  • geographic price differences;
  • growth;
  • local support;
  • the number of students living in poverty as identified as eligible for free and reduced price meals under the National School Lunch Program;
  • the number of students identified as limited English proficient;
  • population scarcity and density in relation to district size; and,
  • other factors related to basic education funding.

The commission will develop recommendations that will be sent to the General Assembly for consideration.

Other bills receiving final legislative approval and sent to the Governor this week include:

Senate Bill 1045  amends the Pennsylvania Securities Act to reflect changes necessitated by the consolidation of the Pennsylvania Securities Commission into the Department of Banking and also updates the law to be more consistent with federal securities law, existing state regulations, and appropriate sections of the Uniform Securities Act.

Senate Bill 1254 updates Pennsylvania’s Plumbing System Lead Ban and Notification Act to comply with recent changes in federal law.

House Bill 2081 amends the Workers Compensation Act to exclude from the act workers who are covered by the federal Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act and the federal Merchant Marine Act. 

Committee considers casino gaming industry in PA

The Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee held a public hearing Tuesday to consider the current state and potential for growth with regard to the Pennsylvania casino gaming industry in an increasingly competitive atmosphere.

The committee considered a range of issues, including the potential impact of new revenue sources (i.e., iGaming/online gaming), nongaming amenities and the regulatory landscape.

Click here for video of the committee hearing.

Senate approves bill to improve construction code review process

The Senate approved legislation on Tuesday to improve the process used to amend and update Pennsylvania’s Uniform Construction Code.

Every three years, the International Code Council (ICC) offers hundreds of recommendations to government agencies for potential improvements to construction codes. Under current law, the Review and Advisory Council (RAC) in the Department of Labor and Industry is responsible for reviewing ICC recommendations.

Senate Bill 1023 increases the amount of time in which the RAC is required to submit a report to the Secretary of Labor and Industry, from 12 months to 24 months after the publication of the latest ICC recommendations. This additional time will offer the advisory council the opportunity to fully review and debate the various proposals before reaching a final decision.

It would also improve the process by adding members to the council with additional areas of expertise that will lend new perspectives to the review process. In addition to other technical changes included in the bill, these measures will help ensure a stronger review process and better construction codes in Pennsylvania.

Other bills approved by the Senate this week include:

House Bill 112 amends the Crimes Code by adding sexual assault by a sports official and volunteer or employee of a nonprofit association as a felony of the third degree. Under current law the offense may be only a misdemeanor or even non-criminal if it involves a minor who is 16 or 17 years old. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

Senate Bill 1001 eliminates the requirement that Notary Public applications be endorsed by the Senator of the district in which they reside or work.

Senate Bill 1341 consolidates several statutes into Title 44 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes.

House Bill 1460 requires an educational institution to give any member of the Pennsylvania National Guard or other reserve component of the armed forces of the United States, or the member’s spouse, an “M” or “Military” on their grade transcript for all classes they are unable to complete due to a military leave of absence. The bill returns to the House of Representatives for concurrence on Senate amendments.


Joe Weidner  (724) 774-0444   jweidner@pasen.gov

Back to Top