I am pleased to present my electronic newsletter. These e-newsletters enable me to provide information about issues, events and activities in Harrisburg and around the 47th Senatorial District to you in a timely manner while saving postage costs.
If you find this e-newsletter useful, I invite you to visit my website www.senatoreldervogel.com for more information about your state government. If you do not wish to receive these e-newsletters, please click the “unsubscribe” button at the bottom of the page.
Panel Approves Regulation Ending Summer Gasoline Mandate
I'm pleased to report that we are one step closer to total elimination of a
hidden tax that folks in Western Pennsylvania pay at the pump—the summer gas
Last week, the Air Quality Technical Advisory Committee approved regulations drafted by the Department of Environmental Protection to eliminate the statutory requirements for low Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) gasoline in Western Pennsylvania. The next step in this process will be approval by the Environmental Quality Board. Be assured that I am advocating for its swift consideration and approval in order to keep the ball rolling. After that, it will come before the Environmental Protection Agency within the federal government.
Act 50 of 2014, signed into law on May 14, 2014, eliminates the requirements for RVP gasoline in Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland Counties during the summer months. This “summer gas” is routinely more expensive than gasoline sold in the rest of Pennsylvania and also in neighboring Ohio and West Virginia.
Since 1999, the state Department of Environmental Protection and federal
Environmental Protection Agency have required that gasoline sold between May 1
and September 15 in the seven-county Greater Pittsburgh Area have a RVP of
7.8psi. Regular gasoline has an RVP of 9.0.
Senate Approves 2015-16 Spending Plan
As you may have heard by now, I voted for and the Senate approved a 2015-16 budget agreement that represents a compromise on both the part of the governor and the legislature. Most importantly, this budget does not include any broad-based increases to the personal income or sales and use taxes that Governor Wolf originally sought.
Since the budget process began earlier this year, my goal has always been to see a responsible, balanced budget passed into law that takes steps to eliminate our structural deficit. Let me be clear, this spending plan is not ideal, but it does make progress on a number of issues of importance—reforming public pensions, increasing funding for education, and taking steps to get Pennsylvania out of the liquor business.
The reforms to public pensions are an historic step forward for the fiscal health of Pennsylvania, removing substantial risk and financial burden off of the backs of taxpayers, now and into the future. Ask any school board member in Pennsylvania what the fastest growing cost-driver in their budget is and they will tell you it’s their skyrocketing pension obligations. Pension costs are the primary cause of property tax increases at the local level and spending increases at the state level. Every dollar spent towards ever-increasing pension obligations is one less dollar available to be spent in the classroom educating students, hiring more teachers, and expanding curriculum and technology. Let me be clear, these reforms do not affect the benefits earned by current employees and keeps our promise to retirees.
The budget that I voted for increased state spending on education by an historic amount, investing an additional $350 million into basic education funding, $60 million into early childhood education, $50 million into special education, and $82 million into higher education. Most importantly, pension reforms taken now will ensure that these dollars are invested in our schools and not simply used to cut into ever-growing pension obligation debt.
Lastly, the agreed-upon budget framework takes the initial steps necessary to reform the way liquor and wine is sold in Pennsylvania. As it is written, this bill will allow wine to be available for purchase at restaurants and grocery stores, give stores greater flexibility in both hours and days of operation, and enacts many other consumer-friendly reforms that have been shown to have considerable public support. Independent estimates find these reforms could generate up to an added $100 million in state revenue. Additionally, a comprehensive study of the valuation of the state system and various privatization proposals will be required by law—a first of its kind. In the past, I voted to eliminate the state store system and replace it with private sector solutions—Governor Wolf has made it clear that he will not support such a bill, for the time being. These steps are a compromise on both sides of the aisle.
Governor Wolf has signaled that he would sign the budget framework that the Senate has approved into law immediately, ending this protracted budget impasse.
Lastly, I recognize the public frustration with what has been a long, drawn-out budget process. I understand the impact that this impasse has had on the lives of the tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians. One of the primary responsibilities of the Legislature and Governor is to pass a budget on time, as required by law. I’m a cosponsor of legislation that suspends all pay for elected officials until a budget is passed. I sincerely hope to see this passed into law to prevent another future, prolonged impasse. Click here to read more about Senate Bill 187.
Senate Approves Horse Racing Industry Measure
Last week, the Senate approved an amended bill that makes substantial regulatory changes necessary to protect and bolster Pennsylvania’s horse racing industry.
House Bill 941 now includes an amendment that I introduced that includes a mechanism to shift essential funds into the State Racing Fund and protect the horse racing industry in Pennsylvania. The bill returns to the House of Representative for concurrence on the amendment.
The State Racing Fund is depleted and without new money horse racing at Pennsylvania’s six tracks could be suspended. My amendment makes a number of substantial and essential changes to the state’s oversight of the horse racing industry.
If enacted, the bill would result in a surplus of more than $27 million for the State Racing Fund by 2019-20.
There has been a tremendous amount of interest and input from a number of parties involved in the racing industry and from the race horse development business. It had been a long and involved process as we worked to fine tune this proposal. The bottom line is that we face the real possibility of losing a multimillion dollar industry. It was imperative that we take care of the Racing Fund’s current financial instability, but provide for the long-term protection of the racing industry in Pennsylvania.
Legislation Introduced Saving School Districts Thousands in Postage Costs
Last week, I introduced legislation that removes redundant, costly notification requirements for school districts that record audio on school buses, possibly saving school districts thousands of dollars in unnecessary postage.
It was recently brought to my attention by a school transportation administrator that Act 9 of 2014 mandated annual notifications by physical mailing that audio and video were being captured by school bus security cameras. On the face of it, this seems reasonable, and I do believe that parents have the right to know when their children are being recorded; but, many schools now notify parents of these recordings in the student handbook, or on the school web page. Parents are already required to acknowledge they have read and understand the rules and procedures outlined in the student handbook. To require an additional mailing which, for larger school districts, can be quite costly, doesn’t make much sense.
Senate Bill 1077 removes the physical mailing requirement and permits the use of audio and video recording on school buses if that policy is already presented in the student handbook and in any other publication that the school entity publishes outlining rules and procedures.
Legislation Enabling Out-of-State Team Doctors to Treat their Players in PA Signed into Law
Two bills that will allow out-of-state visiting athletic team physicians to treat athletes during athletic events without the need for a Pennsylvania medical license received final legislative approval and were signed into law last week.
Senate Bill 685 and Senate Bill 686 amend state laws to allow visiting team physicians to treat athletes as long as they are licensed in their home state and have an agreement with the visiting sports team to provide care for them while traveling.
Many teams in Pennsylvania and around the country employ medical personnel who travel with the team and coaches for the purpose of providing medical care. These team physicians have established medical relationships with the athletes and are well suited to provide care while teams are competing. 21 states currently allow for visiting team physicians to practice in their state without meeting home state licensing requirements.
New Report Explores Solutions to Heroin Epidemic
Last week, The Center for Rural Pennsylvania announced the release of its most recent report, “Heroin: Combating this Growing Epidemic in PA,” which reflects testimony collected during a second round of statewide public hearings held in July and August.
Focusing on treatment and recovery services in Pennsylvania, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania Board of Directors and legislators heard from 40 experts, including treatment professionals, family, law enforcement officials, government officials, and educators, who presented testimony on a range of issues related to treatment and recovery services, and what could be done to help addicts get the treatment they need.
The Center’s report summarizes the testimony from three public hearings held in July and August 2015 and includes the recommendations and policy considerations offered by the participants.
The Pennsylvania State Coroners Association reported that 2,489 individuals died from drug-related causes in 2014, a 20 percent increase from 2013. The association also reported that initial data for 2015 indicated the number of deaths would continue to increase.
Three Local Child Abuse Victim Support Programs Receive Grants
The Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) today awarded grants to three local agencies to support their efforts to assist victims of child sexual abuse, according to Senator Elder Vogel.
The Children’s Advocacy Center of Lawrence County was awarded $100,000 for Intervention Services; the Crisis Shelter of Lawrence County was awarded $100,000 for its Evidence-Based Therapy Program for Survivors; and the Women’s Center of Beaver County was awarded $62,218 for Children’s Therapy and Services.
The local awards were part of $3.4 million in grant funding presented to 44 entities throughout the Commonwealth that assist victims of child sexual abuse.
These grants will significantly help these local groups in their efforts to provide physical, mental and emotional support to abused children. Unfortunately, we have seen the impact that abuse has in our communities. It is important that we provide assistance, when we can, to agencies like these three fine local organizations. They make a real difference in the lives of abuse victims and I am pleased that the PCCD is providing this financial support for their work.
As part of a settlement agreement, PCCD is charged by the Endowment Act, Act 1 of 20133, to distribute funds for the benefit of the residents of Pennsylvania and for the specific purpose of assisting child sexual abuse victims.
Follow Me on Twitter!
I have a Twitter account to better connect with my constituents and provide daily updates on my voting record, whereabouts, state government, and local news affecting the 47 S.D. To access my Twitter page, click here.
contact me to provide input on any state-related matter, or to
receive help in dealing with a state agency.
Senate Box 203047