A report on the Legislative Session Week of May 4, 2015
Majority Policy Committee Considers Senate Bill 724
The Senate Majority Policy Committee held a public hearing on Wednesday to hear testimony on Senate Bill 724, my legislation that would help the state comply with federal nutrient management requirements without the need for expensive stormwater and wastewater upgrades.
Testifiers at the hearing included Mike McCloskey, representing the National Milk Distributors Association; Ron Kreider, President of Kreider Farms; Ed Schafer, Chairman of the Coalition for an Affordable Bay Solution; Elliot Keller, General Manager of JBS; and, Phil Durgin, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Legislative Budget and Finance Committee.
Policy Committee Chairman Senator David G. Argall said the hearing would help lawmakers explore solutions to help Pennsylvania meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) clean water goals within the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
“The EPA’s pollution reduction goals are ambitious, and meeting these goals will also be expensive both for taxpayers and private sector employers,” Senator Argall said. “We need to explore every potential avenue for savings as we work to reduce run-off pollution throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed.”
Providing More Openness to Contract Negotiations, Advertising Spending
Continuing the Senate Republican Caucus’s ongoing 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 would 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 (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 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. Other bills sent to House this week include Senate Bill 330, which expedites the process for dealing with blighted properties, and Senate Bill 622, which removes certain recurring projects from the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee.
The Senate also approved Senate Resolution 27, which directs the Advisory Committee on Public Health Law of the Joint State Government Commission to study the issue of youth immunizations and vaccinations for the purpose of determining whether the Commonwealth’s public health laws should be amended.
Bills Sent to the Governor for Enactment into Law
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. This bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.
House Bill 159 Authorizes a reciprocal insurance exchange that writes medical liability insurance to convert to a stock insurance agency.