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In this email update:
Senate approves bipartisan pension reform bill
The Senate approved a historic pension reform bill by a bipartisan vote of 40-9 on Monday.
Given the unsustainability of our current pension system, local taxpayers are continually threatened with staggering increases in property taxes as a direct result of pension costs. Hundreds of millions of new dollars invested in our schools from recent state budgets have also been redirected to meet the rising pension obligations rather than being used for our children inside the classroom.
The latest pension bill, Senate Bill 1, addresses our growing pension problem by limiting future financial risks for taxpayers and transforming retirement benefits for teachers and other public servants in order to better meet their needs. According to the Pew Charitable Trusts, their analysis indicates that this bill would be the most comprehensive and impactful reform that any state has implemented.
Senate Bill 1 is projected to save Pennsylvania $5-15 billion over the course of 30 years. The bill also creates a new Pension Management and Asset Investment Review Commission to study ways in which to reduce investment costs with the goal of saving an additional $3 billion.
Under Senate Bill 1, the changes will only apply to new hires. Pension benefits already earned by current employees and retirees would not be affected.
The pension reform bill allows all new public-sector employees to choose from three different retirement planning options – a defined contribution plan similar to the 401(k) system offered by the majority of employers in the private sector or one of two hybrid plans that combine a 401(k)-style system with the defined benefit system that state employees and school employees are already accustomed to.
The Pew Charitable Trusts also notes that, although the reform bill doesn’t fully remove politics from pensions, any reform that reduces the influence of politics on the pension system – while creating a model for further improvement – represents a step in the right direction. They go on to say that this pension crisis is only getting worse, and we can’t wait another decade to take action.
The goal of these new retirement plan options is to provide greater flexibility for employees who do not spend their entire career in public service while still providing retirement security for workers.
Senate Bill 1 is now under consideration in the House of Representatives.
Celebrating Act 152, funding for demolition in the battle against blight
On Monday, I joined Governor Wolf, Senator Bartolotta, Representative Masser, members of the PA Downtown Center and the PA Boroughs Association to celebrate Senate Bill 486, which I introduced during the 2015-16 legislative session.
Senate Bill 486, which the governor approved as Act No. 152 on November 4, 2016, allows counties to obtain additional funding for demolition projects in their communities.
This is another big step in combatting blight across the state!
Protecting highway workers
Last week, PennDOT set-up their Workers Memorial in Schuylkill Haven as a reminder to motorists to be safe, cautious and alert while driving through work zones.
The memorial consists of 87 reflective vests and hardhats set upon stands, each representing the lives of PennDOT employees that were lost while on duty since 1970.
According to data from PennDOT, in 2016 there were 2,075 crashes and 16 fatalities that occurred within work zones.
Read more about the memorial from the Republican Herald here.
In order to reduce the significant number of accidents and fatalities that have occurred on our highways due to reckless driving and speeding, Senator Judith Schwank (D-Berks) and I re-introduced legislation that would protect motorists and reduce speeding on our roads. Senate Bill 172 would place speed cameras in active work zones along limited access highways. We introduced a similar bill last session which passed the Senate unanimously.
Bills passed by the Senate
The Senate passed the following bills this week:
Legislation sent to the governor
The Senate approved a measure on Tuesday that provides career and technical education (CTE) students with additional options to meet state graduation requirements.
House Bill 202, which amends state law regarding Keystone Exams and alternative testing for CTE students, now goes to the Governor for his signature and enactment into law. House Bill 202 would allow CTE students to show career readiness through measures such as industry-based competency certifications.
REAL ID extension for access to federal facilities
The Department of Homeland Security recently announced a REAL ID enforcement grace period through July 10, 2017 for access to federal facilities.
This grace period prevents Pennsylvanians from encountering access issues when entering federal facilities through July 10, 2017.
The grace period went into effect on Wednesday, June 7 for all states, including Pennsylvania, who were granted with compliance extensions which expired on Tuesday, June 6.
Last month, the governor signed Senate Bill 133 into law as Act No. 3, which moves Pennsylvania into compliance with the federal REAL ID Act. Preliminary work has started on the REAL ID program, and PennDOT predicts that REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses and ID cards will be available beginning in 2019, at the customer’s choice.
For more information about REAL ID enforcement, please click here.
Recognizing the 2017 Schuylkill County Heroes
Last Friday, I presented citations on behalf of the Pennsylvania Senate recognizing this year’s Schuylkill County Heroes. The event was held by the American Red Cross Tri-County Chapter at the Schuylkill Country Club.
This year’s honorees were recognized for their selfless service in helping their fellow citizens during times of need and their dedication to making their communities stronger.
The 2017 Schuylkill County Heroes awards were presented to the following:
A special congratulations and thank you to these exceptional men and women!
Seminar regarding gun laws and firearms safety
This past Wednesday, Representative Goodman and I sponsored a concealed carry seminar law/firearms safety seminar at Minersville Area High School.
A special thanks to all those who attended and Schuylkill County Sheriff Joseph Groody and Berks County Sheriff Eric Weaknecht for speaking with hundreds of local residents about the state’s concealed carry laws and providing gun safety tips!
Our Town Tamaqua premiere
On Monday, June 12, WVIA-TV will be premiering the Our Town Tamaqua show which highlights the town’s rich heritage, accomplishments and developments over the course of several decades, as well as the town’s future plans.
Throughout the show, viewers will get a glimpse into the history of Tamaqua and hear from several individuals who will share their personal stories and ties to the town.
The show will premiere at 7 p.m. on WVIA-TV.
Hope you can tune-in to watch!
The Senate is scheduled to convene on Monday, June 12 at 1 p.m. You can watch session live and view the voting calendar on my website.