A report on the Legislative Session Week of September 16, 2015
Senate Approves $11.2 Billion “Stop Gap” Budget
Working to provide financial relief to school districts and social service agencies impacted by the prolonged budget impasse, we approved a three-bill “stop gap” budget package on Friday and sent the measures to the House of Representatives for consideration.
The move is the latest effort by Republicans to help schools, counties, municipalities, agencies and contractors that saw their state payments end on July 1 after Governor Wolf vetoed House Bill 1192 (the Fiscal Year 2015-16 general fund spending bill) on June 30 — almost immediately after its passage by the General Assembly.
The root of the two-and-a-half month budget impasse is the Governor’s proposed $3.8 billion tax increase, which has little support in our local community.
Obviously there are differences between the Republicans and Democrats. The Governor wants a huge tax increase to fund more programs that I don’t think we can afford because our economy hasn’t come out of the recession totally.
As I go around my district and talk to people, they don’t want their taxes raised. More people come up to every day and say “Don’t raise our taxes. Don’t raise out taxes because we’re being taxed enough as it is.”
The three-bill package — Senate Bill 1000 (Stop Gap Appropriations Act), Senate Bill 1001 (Fiscal Code Budget Implementation) and House Bill 224 (Public School Code) – provides $11.2 billion in state allocations. That represents one-third (four months) of the state funding as authorized by HB 1192 with limited exceptions.
The stop gap budget also allocates the federal money Pennsylvania administers for schools and local governments.
Now that we have had a budget impasse going on for over two months a lot of service programs for the elderly and disabled are being hurt. They don’t have the money to continue to fund the programs. Some have to take out loans.
While most expenditures in the stop gap budget are set at one-third of the amount in HB 1192, SB 1000 provides:
- 100 percent of the state funding ($2.8 million) in HB 1192 to combat Avian Influenza.
- 100 percent of the state funding ($5 million) in HB 1192 for Regional Events Security related to the upcoming papal visit.
- 100 percent of HB 1192 funding for debt service.
- 50 percent of the state funding in HB 1192 for PHEAA, representing one semester’s worth of state funding.
- 50 percent of state funding in HB 1192 for County Child Welfare to meet requirements set by state law.
Other bills sent to the House of Representatives this week include:
House Bill 175 extends the application filing deadline for the 1990-91 Persian Gulf Conflict Veterans’ Bonus Program to August 31, 2018. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.
Senate Bill 290, which makes the ignition interlock program mandatory for first-time DUI offenders with high blood alcohol levels while at the same time reducing suspension requirements in certain cases.
Senate Bill 773 bans the sale of powdered alcohol to minors.
Senate Bill 872, which amends the Second Class Township Code to allow for small gifts to recognize the service or passing of township officials, employees or volunteers.
Senate Bill 873, which amends Title 8 (Boroughs and Incorporated Towns) to allow for small gifts to recognize the service or passing of borough officials, employees or volunteers.
Senate Bill 879 provides that the Treasury Department may establish a program through which federal Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) savings accounts may be opened for eligible individuals for payment of qualified disability expenses.
Measure Supporting Rape Victims Sent to Governor
The Senate concurred Thursday on House Amendments to Senate Bill 663, legislation introduced by that will strengthen the rights of rape victims who have conceived a child as a result of the rape. The bill now goes to the Governor’s desk for his signature and enactment into law.
Under the legislation, also known as the Rape Survivor Child Custody and Support Act, courts could terminate the parental rights of a convicted rapist, thereby eliminating the abuser’s access to full, partial, or supervised custody of a child conceived by rape. The measure maintains an offender’s obligation to pay child support even if parental rights are terminated by court order.
Current law only allows for the termination of parental rights of convicted rapists pending adoption. Furthermore, if the parental rights of the offender are terminated, the obligation to pay child support is also terminated.
Other bills sent to the Governor this week include:
House Bill 75 requires out-of-state pharmacies to register with the State Board of Pharmacy if they fill prescriptions for Pennsylvania residents.
House Bill 315 amends the Child Labor Act to permit an individual who is at least 12 years old to be employed as a “youth sports official.”
Senate Bill 678 clarifies the arrest powers and jurisdiction of campus police officers employed by Pennsylvania’s 14 State System of Higher Education universities.
Senate Adopts Resolution Supporting PA Coal, Timber Industries
The Senate adopted two Resolutions this week intended promote the state’s coal and timber industries and the thousands of family-sustaining jobs they provide.
Senate Resolution 54, adopted by the Senate on Wednesday, calls on Congress and the President to review an issue that is currently crippling domestic coal production: Government-sponsored anthracite coal production in China, Russia and Ukraine provides unfair competition with domestically mined coal, providing government subsidies which reduce their prices far below market rates.
Senate Resolution 55, adopted on Thursday, reinstates the Forestry Task Force under the administration of the Joint Legislative Air and Water Pollution Control and Conservation Committee. The bicameral and bipartisan task force will investigate and look to improve the current state of Pennsylvania’s forests and provide long-term forest management strategies.