“Throughout the redistricting process, my primary concern has been that residents in every area of the Commonwealth are fairly represented and that district lines are based on accurate population fluctuations. I commend Judge McEwen, Senator Pileggi and House commission members for supporting a Senate map that is balanced and well within the parameters set forth in the Constitution.”

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) on the Legislative Reapportionment Commission’s adoption of a revised final plan on Friday.


Preview

Senate Session: Monday 1 p.m.

The Senate is in session this week, with the following bills expected to be considered:

Senate Bill 8Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon) — eHealth Partnership

Senate Bill 866Sen. Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland) — volunteer firefighter grants

Senate Bill 1090, Senate Bill 1135Sen.  Jake Corman (R-Centre) — Tuition Account Program

Senate Bill 1255Sen.  Bob Robbins (R-Mercer) — overseas military voting

Senate Bill 1265Sen.  Jane Earll (R-Erie) — angel investment tax credit

Senate Bill 161Sen. Mike Brubaker (R-Lancaster) — criteria for public charity

Senate Bill 941, Senate Bill 943Sen.  Jake Corman R-Centre) — underage drinking

Senate Resolution 322Sen. Pat Vance (R-Cumberland) — EBT card use

On Thursday, the SR 250 Task Force on Child Protection will hold a public hearing on potential amendments to the Child Protective Services Law and mandatory reporter training. (10 a.m. N. Office Bldg. Rm 1)

Review

Senate Acts to Keep the Unemployment Compensation Fund Solvent

Legislation sponsored by Senate Labor and Industry Committee Chairman John Gordner (R-Columbia) to provide for the long-term solvency of the state’s Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund passed the Senate Tuesday in a bipartisan vote.

Senate Bill 1310 received concurrence from the House of Representatives and was sent to the governor for enactment.

Senator Gordner: “This legislation will provide for solvency of the Fund by 2019 and, more importantly, provide for long-term solvency in the Unemployment Compensation system. Senate Bill 1310 will eliminate our debt to the federal Unemployment Trust Fund, allow us to stop borrowing from the federal Fund, and in the long-term, provide for important systemic changes that will ensure the continued financial health of the system.”

For more on Senate Bill 1310, please see In the Spotlight, below.

Update of Special Education Funding Formula Approved by Senate

The Senate approved legislation June 4 to make state special education funding more closely tied to actual costs.

Pennsylvania’s funding formula doesn’t take into account the actual number of students needing specialized education services or the type and intensity of assistance that is required. State funding is currently based on broad percentages instead of actual need. That means local taxpayers must foot the bill for those additional costs in schools where the actual need for services exceeds the percentage.

Senate Bill 1115, sponsored by Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh), would allocate any new state special education funding in a manner that recognizes the actual number of physically and mentally challenged students in a school and the various levels of their need for services. The legislation would not impact the current level of special funding received by local school districts, but rather apply to future budgetary increases in special education funding. For more on Senate Bill 1115, please see Fast Facts, below.

Senate Votes to Expand Reduced Hunting License Fees for Military Members

The Senate approved legislation June 4 that would expand the fee reductions for hunting licenses for members of the Pennsylvania National Guard and reserve components of the Armed Forces who have recently completed overseas deployments.

Current law mandates that members of the Army and Air National Guard or reserve components of the Armed Forces must serve 180 days of deployment overseas within the previous 24 months to qualify for the fee reduction.

House Bill 1237 would reduce the required days of deployment from 180 to 60 days. The measure was previously approved by the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee, chaired by Sen. Richard Alloway (R-Franklin).

Committee Approves Measure to Support the State Police Academy

The Senate Appropriations Committee, chaired by Sen. Jake Corman (R-Centre), approved legislation June 4 that would shift fine money collected in municipalities to pay for future State Police Academy classes.

Under Senate Bill 237, municipalities that provide less than 40 hours of local police coverage will lose their share of fines collected through State Police traffic stops. Current law provides that revenue collected due to prosecution related to State Police enforcement is shared equally between the Motor License Fund and municipalities.

Of the 2,562 municipalities in Pennsylvania, 1,017 have “traditional” police departments and 1,258 utilize the Pennsylvania State Police exclusively for law enforcement coverage. Although this legislation exempts municipalities with a population of up to 3,000, the Pennsylvania State Police have reported that 187 municipalities in the Commonwealth with a population exceeding 4,000 rely solely on the State Police for their services.

The Governor’s Budget Office projects that the change would provide $3.8 million to $4 million for State Police academy operations. The bill is now before the full Senate for consideration.

In the Spotlight

Pennsylvania has borrowed about $3.9 billion from the federal Trust Fund to cover benefits for the unemployed during the recent recession.

Senate Bill 1310 allows the commonwealth to borrow up to $4.5 billion in a bond issue to pay the debt. Currently, employers are paying an interest surcharge to the federal government to cover the debt, and issuance of the bond to satisfy that debt will mean employer contributions will remain in Pennsylvania to pay the bond issue.

Unemployment benefits will not be reduced for current beneficiaries. Eligibility and growth of benefits will be reformed beginning in 2013, and are targeted to higher wage earners. Additionally, funding is provided for a new Re-employment Fund that is geared toward those who are affected by the reforms.

From 2006 through 2011, Pennsylvania paid out the second most amount of unemployment compensation benefits in the nation, despite being the sixth most populous state and maintaining a rate that has been consistently below the federal unemployment rate since late 2006.

Senator Gordner: “Even without the recession and increased unemployment, our system was headed for a structural deficit because revenues to the Fund were capped while benefits increased based upon the average weekly wage. This legislation corrects the imbalance.”

Fast Facts

Senate Bill 1115: Special Education Funding

Would establish a 12-member Legislative Commission on Special Education Funding to develop a funding formula for any increase in special education funding above the base year (Fiscal Year 2010-2011 or another year designated by statute).

Prior to the development of the formula, the Commission would be required to hold no fewer than three public hearings in different regions of the commonwealth to receive input and testimony from interested parties.

The funding formula would have to incorporate, among other items, three cost categories for students receiving special education services based on the intensity of the services.

The Commission would also be required to receive input and gather information on charter and cyber charter school funding reimbursements for eligible students and draft proposed regulations and legislation based on its findings.