A report on the Legislative Session Week of March 15, 2021
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 March 15, 2021.
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Senate Appropriations Committee Budget Hearings on Education, SSHE
The Senate Appropriations Committee continued its review of the Governor’s proposed Fiscal Year 2021-22 budget on Thursday with budget hearings with the Department of Education and the State System of Higher Education.
Department of Education
During the budget hearing with the Department of Education, I questioned the lack of new funding for career and technical schools while other institutions are set to receive a large influx of new dollars. I also posed questions about charter school authorizations and appeals.
Acting Education Secretary Noe Ortega pledged to continue working to return students to in-person instruction as safely as possible and as soon as possible. Less than 31 percent of schools are currently conducting classes fully online. Senate Republicans also raised concerns about the lasting impacts of continued learning disruptions on vulnerable populations caused by the pandemic.
Senators stressed the need for the Department to work with the General Assembly to ensure that the $10.9 billion in federal stimulus funding for education is used for one-time costs and not recurring costs that will leave school districts with future budget deficits.
Senate Republicans questioned the Governor’s proposed $1 billion increase in education funding to eliminate the “hold harmless” provision for school funding and said the proposal disregards the factors and reasons developed by a bi-partisan, bi-cameral Basic Education Funding Commission that based its formula on testimony and input from experts in the education field.
Click here for video of the morning session.
Click here for video of the afternoon session.
State System of Higher Education
State System of Higher Education (SSHE) Chancellor Daniel Greenstein fielded questions on several topics related to long-term affordability and stability of the system. SSHE is making progress on its system redesign plans and expects to unveil a proposal next month — with phased implementation set for fall 2022. Chancellor Greenstein told the Committee that SSHE has relied on “cross subsidization” of assets between the 14 universities over the years to maintain financial stability. Several Senators raised concerns that many overperforming universities are being penalized as more resources go to underperforming schools.
Click here for video of the hearing.
“Recovery to Work” Proposal Sent to House
The Senate approved a bill on Wednesday that will combat the heroin and opioid epidemic in the Commonwealth by helping individuals in recovery receive training and find jobs. Under the “Recovery to Work” pilot program created by Senate Bill 69, the state will coordinate with workforce development organizations, treatment and recovery professionals, and employers and training providers to offer training and employment opportunities to individuals recovering from addiction.
The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration. Other bills approved by the Senate this week include:
House Bill 11, which renames several bridges and highways.
Senate Bill 70, which designates a bridge in East Carroll Township, Cambria County, as the Kenneth John Ivory Memorial Bridge.
Senate Bill 116, which updates and modernizes the History Code.
Senate Bill 120, which addresses the use of an attached blade on certain vehicles.
House Bill 157, which repeals Act 109 of 1978, known as the Milrite Act.
Aging & Youth
The Senate Aging & Youth Committee held a public hearing on Tuesday to review the various programs and services provided by the Department of Aging. Video
In addition to Senate Bill 69, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved Senate Bill 137 on Wednesday. Senate Bill 137 would provide additional funding to the State Police for the training of Drug Recognition Experts. Video
Community, Economic & Recreational Development
The Senate Community, Economic & Recreational Development Committee approved Senate Bill 154 on Tuesday. The bill provides additional funding for distressed municipalities under Act 47. Video
Game & Fisheries
The Senate Game & Fisheries Committee, which I chair, approved two bills on Tuesday.
Senate Bill 241 exempts the cost of fishing licenses for veterans and other individuals taking steps towards physical or mental recovery as part of therapeutic recreation events or programs.
Senate Bill 403 aligns the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s boat registration period with the calendar year.
In addition to Senate Bill 137, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved two bills on Tuesday. Video
House Bill 14 amends the Pennsylvania Constitution to provide for a two-year window in which an individual may file a civil action alleging childhood sexual abuse notwithstanding any otherwise applicable statute of limitations defense.
Senate Bill 411 consolidates the Department of Corrections with the Board of Probation and Parole and transfers the supervision of offenders and certain administrative functions from the board to the department and preserves parole decision–making responsibilities within the board.
Rules & Executive Nominations
The Senate Rules & Executive Nominations Committee approved certain executive nominations on Tuesday. Video
Special Committee on Election Integrity and Reform
The Senate Special Committee on Election Integrity and Reform met on Monday to begin a comprehensive review of the 2020 General Election and to review best practices of election integrity and security from other states. Video
The Senate State Government Committee approved two bills on Wednesday. Video
Senate Bill 274 conveys a property in Coraopolis, Allegheny County.
House Bill 284 updates and modernizes the History Code.
The Senate Transportation Committee approved six bills on Wednesday. Video
Senate Bill 89 repeals the Balanced Multimodal Transportation Policy Commission, a panel authorized by statute but not established.
Senate Bill 114 requires the removal of snow and ice from vehicles before driving.
House Bill 186 exempts milk haulers from travel restrictions on highways during a declaration of disaster emergency.
Senate Bill 282 designates a bridge in Jackson Township, Cambria County, as the Sgt. Harry Lewis Amigh Memorial Bridge.
Senate Bill 382 reforms the Public-Private Transportation Partnership statute.
Senate Bill 410 reinstates the requirement for registration stickers on license plates.
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