Senate Approves Senate Bill 1153 Commemorating the “Battery B Memorial Highway” in Lawrence County
On the morning of June 8, 1861, the Mount Jackson Guards of Mount Jackson, Lawrence County, gathered at the Mount Jackson Methodist Episcopal Church on present-day State Route 108 to bid goodbye to loved ones before going off to fight in the Civil War. This group of more than 80 young men started off on foot for the nine-mile journey to the railroad station in Enon, traveling on present-day State Routes 108 and 551, being hailed by local supporters as they began their journey. The Mount Jackson Guards, later designed Battery B, First Pennsylvania Light Artillery, boarded the train to Camp Wright, Camp Wilkins, and other camps in the Pittsburgh area to prepare to fight the bloodiest battles of the Civil War.
Recently, the Enon Valley Community Historical Society brought to my attention an old New Castle News article reporting that on September 26, 1925, a parade was given to celebrate the completion of a concrete road from Derringer’s Corners, North Beaver Twp., continuing to the village of Enon Valley. The article suggested on that historic occasion that State Routes 108 and 551 from Mount Jackson to Enon Valley be named the “Battery B Highway.”
I’m pleased to report that my bill (Senate Bill 1153) designating the section of State Routes 108 and 551 in Lawrence County from the intersection of State Route 108 and Old Hickory Road at the Battery B Monument to State Route 551 ending at the railroad tracks of the Pennsylvania Railroad in Enon Valley as the “Battery B Memorial Highway” was passed on Tuesday and now goes to the House for consideration.
Senate Approves Bill to Equitably Fund Pennsylvania’s Schools
The Senate approved legislation Wednesday to immediately enact into law the school funding formula developed over the past year by the bipartisan, bicameral Basic Education Funding Commission and provide the overdue state reimbursements for school construction projects.
House Bill 1589, which was approved by a strong bipartisan vote of 37-11, directs all new state money for the current 2015-16 school year to be allocated to districts using the new formula and authorizes the release of state reimbursements under the state’s Planning and Construction Workbook, otherwise known as PlanCon.
The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for a concurrence vote.
The state budget approved by lawmakers in March included an additional $200 million in basic education funding and more than $350 million in PlanCon reimbursements. The language to implement the new basic education funding formula and authorize the PlanCon reimbursements was contained in House Bill 1327, the Fiscal Code.
However, on April 4 the Governor vetoed the Fiscal Code and created his own formula to drive out public education funding. As a result, 86 percent of Pennsylvania’s 500 public school districts will receive less money under this plan than they would have received under the Basic Education Funding Formula. The veto also halted the PlanCon reimbursements.
Under the Governor’s basic education funding formula, three of the state’s five hundred school districts will receive $100 million of the overall increase. Philadelphia schools will receive an additional $78 million, including $34 million that was taken from rural school districts throughout the state.
Senate Approves Special License Plate for Active Duty Military
I am pleased to report that the Senate approved a bill on Tuesday that recognizes and honors Pennsylvania’s active duty military personnel.
Senate Bill 1155 establishes a special vehicle license plate for members of the United States Armed Forces adding special recognition for active members of the military, reserves, and Pennsylvania National Guard. This would be an addition to the currently available license plates with special recognition for World War II veterans, Purple Heart recipients and Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans.
The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration. We also approved and sent to the House six other bills this week.
House Bill 400 establishes the “Work Experience for High School Students with Disabilities Act.” The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.
Senate Bill 1114 amends the Sewage Facilities Act to allow the use of “alternative systems” for planning purposes throughout the Commonwealth.
House Bill 1319 establishes the Pennsylvania ABLE Savings Program Tax Exemption Act. The act is companion legislation to legislation that would establish the ABLE Act Savings Program in the Treasury Department to encourage eligible individuals with disabilities to save private funds from which the expenses related to their disabilities may be paid. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.
Senate Bill 1152 requires children under the age of one be secured in a rear-facing child seat while traveling in a vehicle.
Committee Approves Bills to Protect Energy Related Jobs
The Senate Environmental Resources & Energy Committee approved, with strong bipartisan support, two bills intended to protect family-sustaining Pennsylvania jobs placed at risk by Governor Wolf’s veto of the Fiscal Code, House Bill 1327.
Senate Bill 1011 would spare Pennsylvania’s conventional oil and gas well operations from the Administration’s onerous new regulations intended for Marcellus Shale gas extraction operators. The Committee also voted to send a letter to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission recommending the panel completely reject the new oil and gas regulations proposed to Chapter 78.
Senate Bill 1195 includes provisions addressing Pennsylvania’s compliance with the federal Clean Power Plan. Specifically, the bill provides procedures for the General Assembly’s consideration of the implementation strategy developed by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for the federal Clean Power Plan before its submission to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
The bills now go to the full Senate for consideration.
Five Bills Sent to Governor
Five bills received final legislative approval and were sent to the Governor this week.
House Bill 12 amends state law regarding divorce to address situations in which one spouse has committed a personal injury crime against the other.
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.
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.
House Bill 794 increases the maximum hotel room rental tax in most third through eighth class counties from 3 percent to 5 percent and provides for certification of recognized tourist promotion agencies.
House Bill 1278 amends state law to allow television broadcasts or video images in a moving vehicle as long as the images are not visible to the driver.
Senate Approves Resolution to Review Corrections Department Overtime
The Senate approved a Resolution on Monday authorizing an official study of mandatory overtime in the Department of Corrections. Senate Resolution 263 directs the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to review costs associated with mandatory overtime for corrections officers versus the costs to hire, train and equip additional corrections officers.
Corrections Secretary John Wetzel testified at a Senate Appropriations Committee budget hearing that overtime costs for his department amount to approximately $90 million annually. The Department of Corrections receives the third largest state appropriation from the General Fund and its overtime costs have outpaced all other state agencies from 2010 through 2014.
On Monday, the Senate adopted House Resolution 783, which moves a ballot question on raising the mandatory retirement age for judge from 70 to 75 years old from the spring primary election to the November general election to provide time to clarify and simplify the language that would appear on the ballot.