I am pleased to send you my Session Wrap Up e-newsletter. This e-newsletter features events and legislative activities during the Session Week of February 3, 2020.
If you find this e-newsletter useful, I invite you to visit my website www.senatorlaughlin.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. If you would like to contact my office, please go to my web page and click the “contact” button. Please do not “reply” directly to this e-mail.
Governor Presents his FY 2020-21 Budget Request
The Governor unveiled his proposed $36.1 billion state General Fund budget for Fiscal Year 2020-21 on Tuesday during a joint session of the General Assembly.
The Governor’s budget proposal includes a $1.5 billion (4.2 percent) increase in state spending from the current fiscal year. The Governor is not requesting a broad-based tax increase this year, but is continuing to push for a Marcellus Shale extraction tax, a $1 per-ton increase in the tipping fee charged to trash companies, and a fee for all municipalities for State Police services. He also continued his push for a minimum wage increase to $15 per-hour.
We have to go through this budget with a fine-toothed comb. One of the things I want to touch on is the push for the minimum wage increase to $15 per-hour. We all want people to make more money. I have never met anybody that thought they shouldn’t make more and we know it is good for the economy, but when you artificially increase it from where it is now to $15, that’s a detriment to our senior citizens who are already on a fixed income. That never gets talked about. That’s a point that needs to be cleared up. Our senior citizens can’t just go out and say I need an increase in social security, and get it. I am not opposed to raising the minimum wage. I think $9 or $9.50, where it is tied to inflation, is a reasonable number. But, going straight to $15 hurts our older population. Audio
The Governor is requesting a $100 million increase in Basic Education Funding to $6.4 billion, a $30 million increase for early childhood education (Pre-K Counts to $242.3 million and Head Start to $69.2 million), and a $25 million increase in special education funding to $1.2 billion.
The State System of Higher Education would see a $13 million increase to $490 million, while state funding for community colleges and state-related universities is flat-funded in the Governor’s request.
The Governor is proposing to take $204 million out of the Horse Racing Development Fund to fund tuition assistance and $19.7 million from the fund to support other line items in the Department of Agriculture budget. In addition, he proposes to eliminate the transfer of $32.5 million from the fund to support Restricted Racing Programs (the Sire Stakes Fund, the Breeders’ Fund and the Pennsylvania Standardbred Breeders Fund). Under that plan, those programs would be eliminated as the balance of restricted revenue in the Racing Fund is drawn down.
It surprised me that he took $200 million from the Horse Racing Fund. That would directly affect the racing we have out at Presque Isle Downs and those guys are struggling as it is. That was a promise that we as a state made to the horsemen years ago and we keep taking the money out of it. I am opposed to that. We, as a state, should keep our word to those folks. Audio
In addition, the Governor is proposing a substantial funding cut for School Safety grants.
One of the things that surprised me in the Governor’s budget address today was the $50 million that he cut out of the School Safety Program and then, when we got back to our offices, there was a yearbook that he gave out that had a cover letter discussing school safety. The two don’t add up. I was really stunned by that. We need to get to the bottom of that. Audio
I am a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which will hold a three-week series of departmental budget hearings beginning on February 18. The hearings provide us with an opportunity to hear cabinet secretaries and other Administration officials detail their plans for the upcoming fiscal year. The state’s current fiscal year ends on June 30.
Committees Approve My Bills to Improve Day Care Safety
In a rare and unusual series of events, two Senate Committees met back-to-back on Wednesday to approve bills I introduced to improve day care safety in response to a tragic fire that claimed the lives of five young children.
First, the Senate Health & Human Services Committee met in a room just off the floor of the Senate Chamber to consider and approve Senate Bill 934, my measure requiring the Department of Human Services to include the inspection of all smoke detectors in their annual inspection of child care facilities. It was the only bill on the agenda.
Immediately after that committee recessed, the Senate Labor & Industry Committee took over the room to consider and approve Senate Bill 935, my companion bill to Senate Bill 934 that amends the state Fire and Panic Act regarding smoke detectors. It was the only bill on that committee’s agenda as well.
I appreciate that these committees held special meetings to advance these bills. I joined with the Erie community in mourning for the children whose lives were cut short by that fire in August. What made it even more tragic was the fact that it may have been prevented if the home had been properly equipped with more smoke detectors. Only one smoke detector was found in the home and it was in the attic. It is government’s responsibility to learn from these tragic cases and act to prevent them in the future.
My legislation designates the locations where smoke detectors must be installed and requires that they are interconnected so that if one is triggered, they all go off. Child care facilities will be subject to legal penalties in cases where a smoke detector is found to have been tampered with or disabled.
The bills now go to the full Senate for consideration.
Committee Holds Hearing on Information Security
The Senate Communications & Technology Committee held a public hearing on Wednesday on data privacy, which gave me an opportunity to discuss Senate Bill 487, my bill setting specific steps that state, county and local governments must immediately take when there is a breach of personal information.
Game & Fish Committee Approves Measure for Game Land Purchases
The Senate Game & Fisheries Committee, which I chair, approved House Bill 752 today (February 5). The bill removes the current price per acre restriction on Game Fund money used for the purchase of land to be used as game lands in a Second Class County.
The bill now goes to the full Senate for consideration.
Committee Approves Bill to Support Farmers
On Wednesday, the Senate Transportation Committee approved a measure I introduced to help Pennsylvania’s farmers by updating state law regarding multipurpose agriculture vehicles (MAV).
Currently, state law allows Pennsylvania farmers to use MAVs — commonly known as all-terrain vehicles and “side by side” vehicles — of up to 62 inches wide on public roads provided that they are only traveling a very limited distance from their farms.
However, many newer MAVs measure out at 64 inches wide. Senator Laughlin’s measure, Senate Bill 995 would permit the use of MAVs of up to 66 inches.
That two-inch difference may not seem to be drastic, but by using these vehicles on roadways, our farmers are now finding themselves in a potential violation of the vehicle code. This bill is part of our continuing efforts to help Pennsylvania farmers by updating state statutes to reflect changes in the agricultural industry.
Senate Bill 995 does not increase the distances that farmers are able to travel, nor does it roll back any safety measures that farmers must comply with in order to use these vehicles on the road.
The Transportation Committee approved two additional bills on Wednesday.
Senate Bill 565 requires vehicles parking along a curbside bike lane to park parallel with their right-hand or left-hand wheels within 12 inches of the outside line of the buffer area between the bike lane and parking in the direction of traffic flow.
House Bill 1907 designates a bridge over U.S. Route 11/15 in East Pennsboro Township, Cumberland County, as the Senator Hal Mowery Memorial Bridge.
The bills now go to the full Senate for consideration.
Bill Increasing Prescription Drug Oversight Sent to Governor
Legislation improving the oversight of prescriptions to reduce the risk of opioid abuse received final legislative approval this week and was sent to the Governor.
Under Senate Bill 432, Medicaid Managed Care Organizations (MCOs) would have access to the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP). The PDMP was created in 2014 in an effort to provide greater monitoring over prescription drugs and potential abuse. Allowing the MCOs to query the PDMP will provide greater collaboration and data when it comes to prescription drug abuse and misuse. The bill includes a provision that requires an MCO to notify the Attorney General and the Department of Human Services if it is believed that a controlled substance was prescribed or dispensed fraudulently.
Two additional bills were sent to the Governor this week.
House Bill 330 amends the Taxpayer Relief Act making editorial changes to incorrect references.
House Bill 1578 amends Title 68 regarding the Uniform Condominium Act, the Real Estate Cooperative Act and the Uniform Planned Community Act to make technical changes and clarifications.
Senate Approves Workers’ Comp Bill for First Responders
Critical members of volunteer fire companies, ambulance corps and rescue squads who are injured in the line of duty would qualify for workers’ compensation coverage under a bill approved Monday by the Senate.
Senate Bill 94 would ensure coverage for all active volunteers and integral members of a volunteer fire, ambulance or rescue company insured through the State Workers Insurance Fund (SWIF). The legislation would apply to 1,550 volunteer fire companies and 92 ambulance organizations that are insured by SWIF.
The bill would only apply to active volunteers. Social members would not be included. The legislation is part of a broader focus by lawmakers on the challenges facing fire and EMS companies throughout the state. Senate Bill 94 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration. Other bills sent to the House this week include:
Senate Bill 309, which creates First-time Homebuyers Savings Accounts.
Senate Bill 640, which authorizes the Commonwealth to join the interstate Physical Therapist Compact.
Senate Bill 850, which establishes the Community Integrated Schools for Success pilot program.
House Bill 1001, which establishes standards for the licensure and regulation of human milk banks. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.
House Bill 1100, which establishes the Energy and Fertilizer Manufacturing Tax Credit program. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.
Agriculture & Rural Affairs
The Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee approved Senate Bill 915 on Tuesday. The bill amends the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes to set clear standards for the application of fertilizer to turf and provide for labels and labeling and the disposition of funds.
Community, Economic & Recreational Development
The Community, Economic & Recreational Development Committee approved Senate Bill 863 on Wednesday. The bill defines “recreational campgrounds” under Title 48 (Lodging and Housing) in order to provide campground owners with certain rights, similar to the rights of hotelkeepers, and help protect their businesses.
Environmental Resources & Energy
The Senate Environmental Resources & Energy Committee approved two bills on Wednesday.
House Bill 342 would authorize the City of Philadelphia to impose a fine or penalty of no more than $500 per-tire for the improper disposal of waste tires.
Senate Bill 1030 amends the Pennsylvania Sewage Facilities Act (Act 537).
The Senate Finance Committee approved House Bill 732 on Wednesday. The bill exempts volunteer first responders from the Pennsylvania realty transfer tax.
The Senate Local Government Committee approved three bills on Wednesday.
Senate Bill 207 closes a loophole in the Public Works Contractors’ Bond Law.
Senate Bill 958 amends the Borough Code to state that all electric energy supplied to borough electric systems for sale within borough limits is exempt from the imposition of Pennsylvania’s Gross Receipts Tax.
House Bill 1751 amends Title 8 (Boroughs and Incorporated Towns) and Title 11 (Cities) to provide for reimbursement of newly elected officers prior to officially taking office to attend any conference, institute, school or convention dealing with the duties and functions of their office.
Rules & Executive Nominations
The Senate Rules & Executive Nominations Committee approved House amendments to Senate Bill 432 on Monday. The bill allows Medicaid Managed Care Organizations to have access to information in the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.
The Rules & Executive Nominations Committee approved eight Resolutions on Wednesday.
Senate Resolution 300 designates February 22 – 29, 2020, as “FFA Week” in Pennsylvania.
Senate Resolution 301 recognizes February 15, 2020, as “International Childhood Cancer Day” in Pennsylvania.
Senate Resolution 302 designates March 2020 as “Disabilities Awareness Month” in Pennsylvania
Senate Resolution 303 observes March 1, 2020, as “St. David’s Day” in Pennsylvania and honors Pennsylvanians of Welsh heritage.
Senate Resolution 304 designates February 9 – 15, 2020, as “Cardiac Rehabilitation Week” in Pennsylvania.
Senate Resolution 305 designates February 7 – February 14, 2020, as “Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week” and February 14, 2020, as “Emersyn’s Day” in Pennsylvania.
Senate Resolution 306 designates February 21, 2020, as “Keith Valley Challenge Day” in Pennsylvania.
Senate Resolution 308 recognizes February 2 – 8, 2020, as “National Future Business Leaders of America-Phi Beta Lambda Week” in Pennsylvania.
Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness
The Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee approved Senate Resolution 291 on Wednesday. The resolution recognizes Pennsylvania’s contribution to Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
If you do not wish to receive this email, click here to unsubscribe.