“We have all recognized the need to make government more accountable and efficient. The public expects it and our economic conditions require it.”
— Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) addressing the Senate following his January 3 re-election to Pennsylvania’s third-highest constitutional office.
Senate Kicks Off 2012 Voting Session
The Senate is scheduled to convene Tuesday at 1 p.m. Among action to be taken will be sending Marcellus Shale drilling fee legislation to a House/Senate conference committee.
Legislation that could be considered by the Senate includes Senate Bill 818 requiring judges to state on the record the reasons behind disposition orders. It’s part of a juvenile justice reform package sponsored by Sen. Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne). The Senate could also consider Senate Bill 995, sponsored by Senator Baker, requiring Marcellus Shale well operators to post signs bearing their GPS coordinates and other emergency response information at all well sites and share those coordinates with appropriate state and local officials.
The Senate is also expected to vote on three State System of Higher Education reform bills: Senate Bill 1133, sponsored by Sen. Don White (R-Indiana), Senate Bill 1308, sponsored by Sen. Tommy Tomlinson (R-Bucks), and Senate Bill 1322, sponsored by Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster).
Unemployment Compensation, Western PA Fuel Costs
The Senate Labor and Industry Committee, chaired by Sen. John Gordner (R-Columbia), will meet Tuesday to consider Senate Bill 1375. Sponsored by Senator Gordner, the bill brings state law in line with changes at the federal level to continue to provide federally funded unemployment compensation benefits through March 10. (Off the floor, Rules Committee Conference Room)
Sen. Elder Vogel (R-Beaver) will hold a news conference Thursday to announce bipartisan legislation addressing the high cost of fuel for Western Pennsylvanians. (1 p.m., Fueland service station, 4750 Tuscarawas Road, Brighton Township)
Scarnati Re-Elected Senate President Pro Tempore
Sen. Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) was sworn in as President Pro Tempore of the Pennsylvania Senate for 2012, the sixth time Senate colleagues have elected him to the third-highest constitutional office in the commonwealth.
In brief remarks to the chamber, the senator said the legislature must continue to focus on creating jobs and making state government live within its means. He also highlighted several cost-saving initiatives that were implemented in the Senate in 2011.
Senator Scarnati is serving his third term in the Senate. He was born and raised in Brockway, Jefferson County, and represents the 25th Senatorial District, which currently includes Cameron, Elk, Jefferson, McKean, Potter, Tioga and portions of Clearfield and Warren counties.
Task Force on Child Protection Members Appointed
Members of a new task force created to conduct a sweeping review of Pennsylvania laws and procedures governing child abuse have been named by Gov. Tom Corbett, Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) and House Speaker Sam Smith.
The Task Force on Child Protection was created through passage of Senate Resolution 250, sponsored by Senate Aging and Youth Committee Chair Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland).
The 11-member task force will issue a final report by November 30 with recommendations to: improve the reporting of child abuse; implement necessary changes in state statutes, practices, policies and procedures relating to child abuse; and train appropriate individuals in the reporting of child abuse.
Senators Pileggi, Erickson to Introduce Environmental Remediation Legislation
Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware) and Sen. Ted Erickson (R-Delaware) announced plans to introduce legislation which will require that the owners of certain commercial properties conduct environmental remediation at those sites.
The measure will require the owners of commercial properties to conduct such remediation when the use of the site changes significantly. The legislation will only impact properties with no ownership change. Existing law adequately addresses environmental remediation standards when a property is sold.
Senator Pileggi: “In Delaware County, we are seeing dramatic changes in the way some very large commercial properties – such as the refineries in Trainer and Marcus Hook – are expected to be used. Ideally, new owners will be found for those sites and they will continue to be used as refineries. But if that doesn’t happen, and the owners significantly change the use of those sites, there should be strong environmental cleanup requirements.”
Senator Erickson: “When the owner of a commercial property significantly changes the use of that site, or discontinues productive use of the site, it is good policy to require that owner to meet certain baseline environmental standards. This will help ensure that the site is left in a condition such that it can be redeveloped for productive use if the owner decides to sell or abandon the property.”
As called for under Senate Resolution 250 and House Resolution 522, the Task Force on Children Protection will:
- Examine and analyze the practices, processes and procedures relating to the response to child abuse.
- Review and analyze law, procedures, practices and rules relating to the reporting of child abuse.
- Hold public hearings and review written comments from individuals and organizations.
- Submit reports which will include recommendations to improve the reporting of child abuse; implement any necessary changes in state laws and practices, policies and procedures relating to child abuse; and train appropriate individuals in the reporting of child abuse.
In 2010, Pennsylvania’s child abuse hotline – ChildLine – received approximately 121,868 calls, including 39,791 referrals for General Protective Services. At least 344 Pennsylvania children died from abuse between 2002 and 2009, with many of them dying before their second birthday and many within families previously known to the children and youth system.
The Senate Aging and Youth Committee has been examining Pennsylvania’s definition of child abuse and mandated reporting of child abuse, holding public hearings in August and October of 2011. The committee found that mandated reporters of suspected child abuse — health care workers, educators, and others — were responsible for 77 percent of all referrals for substantiated child abuse in 2010.
Task Force on Children Protection Members
David W. Heckler, Bucks County District Attorney (Chair)
William Strickland, president and CEO of Manchester Bidwell Corporation
Dr. Cindy W. Christian, M.D., director of Safe Place: The Center for Child
Delilah Rumburg, Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center
Dr. Rachel Berger, member of Child Protection Team at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh
Garrison Ipock Jr., executive director, The Glen Mills Schools, Glen Mills
Carol Hobbs-Picciotto, MHS, Intake Social Worker, City of Philadelphia
Jason Kutalakis, senior partner, Abom & Kutalakis LLP, Carlisle
Jackie Bernard, Chief Deputy District Attorney, Blair County
Judge Arthur Grim, Court of Common Pleas of Berks County