“We’ve been traveling the state to assess transportation needs to make sure that when we put together a transportation package it would be one that would be thorough and viable for the entire commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”

Senate Transportation Committee Chairman John Rafferty (R-Montgomery) opening the May 30 hearing in Monroeville on western Pennsylvania transportation funding needs.


Preview

Senate Session, Liquor Privatization, Labor, Child Protection Hearings

The Senate convenes today at 1:30 p.m. Among the bills that could be considered by the full Senate this week are: Senate Bill 34, sponsored by Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster), amending the Professional Educator Discipline Act; Senate Bill 681, sponsored by Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery), enacting the Sexual Violence Victim Protection Act; and Senate Bill 46, school employment legislation targeting the practice of “Passing the Trash.”

On Tuesday, the Senate Law and Justice Committee, chaired by Sen. Chuck McIlhinney (R-Bucks), will hold a public hearing on the governor’s plan for liquor privatization. (9:30 a.m. N. Office Bldg. Room 1)

The Senate Labor and Industry Committee, chaired by Sen. John Gordner (R-Columbia), will hold a joint public hearing Tuesday with the House Labor and Industry Committee on Senate Bill 476, sponsored by Sen. David Argall (R-Schuylkill), and House Bill 976. (10 a.m. Room 8E-A)

The Senate Aging and Youth Committee, chaired by Sen. Bob Mensch (R-Montgomery), will hold a public hearing Wednesday on Senate Bill 20 and its proposed changes to the definition of “child abuse” within the Child Protective Services Law. (9 a.m. N. Office Bldg. Room 1)

For the complete list of bipartisan bills to overhaul Pennsylvania’s child protection laws, please see Fast Facts, below.

Senate Committee Schedule

Watch hearings live at PASenateGOP.com.

Review

Senate & House Urban Affairs Committees Evaluate Future of PA Cities

The Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee, chaired by Sen. David Argall (R-Schuylkill), on Wednesday held the first of three joint statewide public hearings with its House counterpart on the future of Pennsylvania’s large and small cities.

The joint hearing took place at the Allegheny County Courthouse and included mayors, council members, state officials, advocates and urban policy experts.

Senator Argall: “Most of the focus of the hearing was on jobs, improving property values and finding efficiencies in our city governments. With 41 percent of Pennsylvanians living in a distressed municipality, it is our goal to find solutions to help these economic engines recover across the state.”

For more on the joint hearing, please see In the Spotlight, below.

Hearing Testimony, Audio

Committee Examines Western PA Transportation Funding Needs

The Senate Transportation Committee, chaired by Sen. John Rafferty (R-Montgomery), met Thursday in Allegheny County to discuss transportation funding needs in western Pennsylvania.

Gathering on the Boyce Campus of the Community College of Allegheny County in Monroeville, the panel heard from Transportation Secretary Barry Schoch and Allegheny County officials, as well as chambers of commerce officials.

Senator Rafferty is the sponsor of Senate Bill 1, a $2.5 billion funding plan aimed at upgrading Pennsylvania’s transportation infrastructure.

Hearing Testimony, Video

Finance Committee to Hold Hearing on Pension Reform

The Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Sen. Mike Brubaker (R-Lancaster), held a public hearing Wednesday on comprehensive pension reform.

Testifiers included Budget Secretary Charles Zogby, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, the Pennsylvania State Education Association, financial services providers, and others.

Hearing Testimony, Video

Vulakovich Announces Waterfront Development Legislation

Sen. Randy Vulakovich (R-Allegheny) introduced legislation Wednesday establishing a Waterfront Development Tax Credit as a way to encourage private investment and spur economic development, environmental improvements and public recreational enhancements along waterfront properties.

Under Senate Bill 968, the Waterfront Development Tax Credit — capped at $10 million annually — would be available to individuals or businesses that contribute to non-profit waterfront improvement organizations. The organizations and the projects would need approval by the state Department of Community and Economic Development prior to participation in the program.

Under Senator Vulakovich’s measure, contributions would be used for specific waterfront development projects, such as streets and public rights-of-way; waterfront parks, gardens and open spaces; access to public utilities, erosion control, storm water management and other environmental projects which promote economic development; water transportation facilities for use by the public, including water transit landings and boat docking; and amenities, including infrastructure and recreational projects.

In the Spotlight

At the joint hearing on the future of Pennsylvania cities, Duquesne Mayor Phillip Krivacek said his city’s future depends on continued access to several state initiatives, such as the Enterprise Zone Program, to spur economic development. With state Enterprise Zone resources, the city assisted American Textile Company, Duquesne’s largest employer with over 200 employees, Thermal Transfer Corporation and most recently Dura-Bond Industries, Inc. who invested over $12 million, directly creating 75 new jobs.

The future of Pennsylvania’s cities will vary due to the fact that there are a wide variety of characteristics of those cities, according to Eric Montarti, Senior Policy Analyst. Factors such as where the city is located, the prospects for job opportunities and growth, and the performance of its schools are just a handful of influences that impact the future of a city.

Brian Jensen of the Pennsylvania Economy League of Greater Pittsburgh said many of the commonwealth’s cities, as well as boroughs and townships, are struggling to maintain financial health because of outdated and intrusive state laws. Other speakers focused on housing needs and cultural attractions, as well as city-university partnerships.

The next joint hearing with the Senate and House Urban Affairs committees will be held on Thursday, June 13 at York College of Pennsylvania in York.

Fast Facts

Bipartisan Package to Overhaul PA Child Protection Laws

  • Senate Bill 20 Updates the definition of “child abuse” and provides exclusions.
  • Senate Bill 21 Clarifies who is a “mandatory reporter” of child abuse.
  • Senate Bill 22 Increases penalties for failure to report child abuse.
  • Senate Bill 23 Updates the definition of “perpetrator” and expands definition of “person responsible for a child’s welfare.”
  • Senate Bill 24 Requires the Department of Public Welfare to establish a Statewide Database of Protective Services.
  • Senate Bill 25 Updates procedures used to report child abuse and neglect.
  • Senate Bill 26 Requires DPW to establish a three-digit statewide number for reporting child abuse or for children in need of protective services.
  • Senate Bill 27 Improves the exchange of information among medical practitioners and county agencies.
  • Senate Bill 28 Amends Title 18 (Crimes and Offenses) to comprehensively strengthen Pennsylvania’s child abuse laws.
  • Senate Bill 29 Requires health care providers to immediately report if a newborn is identified as being affected by prenatal exposure to illegal substances.
  • Senate Bill 30 Establishes accountability and due process protections for individuals working with delinquent children in juvenile detention facilities and residential rehabilitative institutions.
  • Senate Bill 31 Eliminates the separate system for reporting abuse by school employees.
  • Senate Bill 32 Requires a school district to notify the county agency when a child is enrolled in a home-school or cyber-school program, only when the household has been the subject of a founded or indicated child abuse report.
  • Senate Bill 33 Provides employee whistleblower protection for child abuse reporting.
  • Senate Bill 34 Establishes a comprehensive system for professional educators who are investigated and disciplined for misconduct in Pennsylvania.
  • Senate Bill 46 Prevents “passing the trash” — hiring educators who have been investigated, dismissed or disciplined for abuse or sexual misconduct.