“In 2014 it is my pledge to continue to work with my Senate colleagues to make decisions that will strengthen our communities, provide for family-sustaining jobs and ensure Pennsylvania will remain a strong commonwealth for future generations.”

Senator Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson), re-elected Tuesday as President Pro Tempore of the Pennsylvania Senate for 2014.


Preview

2014 Senate Voting Session Kicks Off Monday at 1 p.m.

Crafting a fiscally responsible budget and enacting pension reform are two Senate priorities as the chamber kicks off the 2014 voting session. Also on the agenda is passage of further measures to strengthen Pennsylvania’s child protection laws.

Among Senate committee meetings this week, the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery), will meet to consider bills and to receive a report of the Advisory Committee on Violence Prevention from the Joint State Government Commission. (Tues., 11:30 a.m., Room 8E-B)

Senate Committee Schedule

Review

Argall, Scarnati: Public Assistance Programs Need More Integrity

Sen. David Argall (R-Schuylkill) and Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) are crafting a proposal that would strengthen the integrity of several areas within the state’s welfare department.

The senators are taking concerns voiced by their constituents to include in a proposal that addresses several areas of misuse of taxpayer-funded benefits. Specifically, the Argall/Scarnati proposal will address several key issues to promote integrity of the public benefits. Argall and Scarnati will introduce a formal bill in a few weeks for the Senate’s consideration.

“Our concern is that these valuable taxpayer dollars are being misused when the programs are set to help those with a genuine need,” Senator Argall said. “We need to make sure we protect our most vulnerable citizens while letting the system abusers know the free ride is over. I’ve heard at town hall meetings some outrageous examples of misuse of taxpayer dollars occurring, but after further review, have found it is legal under the current system. This drives hardworking taxpayers crazy.”

For more on the proposal, please see In the Spotlight, below.

Scarnati Re-Elected Senate President Pro Tempore

Senator Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) was sworn in Tuesday as President Pro Tempore of the Pennsylvania Senate for 2014.

This is the eighth time Senate colleagues have elected Senator Scarnati to the third-highest constitutional office in the Commonwealth. State Supreme Court Justice Thomas Saylor administered the Oath of Office. Senator Scarnati is currently serving his fourth term in the Senate. He was born and raised in Brockway, Jefferson County, and represents the 25th Senatorial District, which includes Cameron, Elk, Jefferson, McKean, Potter, Tioga and portions of Clearfield and Clinton counties.

The senator said that one of the largest tasks this year will be to complete Pennsylvania’s budget.

Senator Scarnati: “I have confidence that the Senate will be a leader in ensuring our state budget is balanced in a responsible manner, while working hard to find a solution that will allow us to increase funding for our public schools, institutions of higher education and programs that help the elderly and our most needy citizens.”
Watch

Senator Bob Robbins Announces Retirement

After a career of public service, including thirty-two years in the state legislature, Sen. Bob Robbins (R-Mercer) announced that he will retire at the end of his current term.

First elected to the House of Representatives in 1982, Senator Robbins represented the citizens of the 17th House District for eight years until his election to the 50th Senatorial District in 1990 following the retirement of Senator Roy Wilt.

Senator Robbins: “It has truly been an honor and pleasure to represent the great people of our area as a member of the House and Senate. While the decision to retire has been a difficult one, I now look forward to spending more time with my family and friends as I move into the next phase of my life.”

For more on Senator Robbins, please see Fast Facts, below.

Joint Hearing on Endangered and Threatened Species

The Senate Game and Fisheries Committee , chaired by Sen. Richard Alloway (R-Franklin), and the Senate Majority Policy Committee held a public hearing Friday to receive testimony on proposed Threatened and Endangered Species legislation.

Senate Bill 1047, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson), would establish the Endangered Species Coordination Act.

Senate Bill 1047 creates a greater level of transparency regarding the classification of endangered species in Pennsylvania by requiring the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission to submit proposed designations to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC). IRRC already reviews regulations from every other state agency, including endangered species designations made by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and most stream designations made by the Department of Environmental Protection. DCNR will be required to maintain a centralized database containing a list of all designated species and critical habitats within the Commonwealth.

In the Spotlight

The proposal from Senator Argall and Senator Scarnati would require the Pennsylvania Lottery to report individual winnings to the Department of Public Welfare when determining eligibility for public assistance.

The proposal will also include a provision to place a cap on the amount of a primary vehicle’s worth when determining eligibility for programs at $35,000. Currently, there is no limit.

Under their plan, replacing lost Electronic Benefits Transfer cards would be a flat $5 for the first replacement card, and $100 for any replacement card after that in the same calendar year.

Finally, the senators seek to increase and standardize the grading and penalties for individuals who commit welfare fraud. A serious offense which leads to the receipt of fraudulent benefits valued at over $1,000 would be graded as a 3rd degree felony. It is currently considered a misdemeanor.

Senator Scarnati: “Pennsylvania taxpayers deserve to know that their tax dollars are being invested wisely and that state funds for public assistance programs are being given to those who truly have a need. As our economy continues to recover, it is imperative that we utilize our state’s limited resources in a responsible manner. Our comprehensive legislation will be aimed at ensuring that only our citizens who are legitimately in need of assistance receive benefits.”

Fast Facts

The Senate Career of Senator Bob Robbin

  • A graduate of West Point Military Academy, decorated combat veteran of two tours of duty in Vietnam and last combat veteran serving in the Senate.
  • Instrumental as past Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee in establishing the National Guard’s Educational Assistance Program and securing its dedicated funding.
  • Honored as the first inductee of the Army National Guard Hall of Fame and subsequently received induction in the Air National Guard Hall of Fame.
  • Nationally recognized as a recipient of the Charles Dick Medal of Merit, which is awarded to elected officials for exceptional contributions to the National Guard.
  • Led the effort to consolidate the Department of Community Affairs and the Department of Commerce into the modern Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED).
  • Instrumental in establishing the Governor’s Center for Local Government Services within DCED, which serves as a resource for thousands of local government officials throughout Pennsylvania.