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Historic Pension Reform Bill Earns Senate Approval
The public employee pension crisis is one of the biggest cost-drivers for school districts and the state budget, and the uncontrolled growth in pension costs has led to higher property taxes and less investment in worthwhile government programs. I was proud to cast a vote this week on a landmark pension reform bill that will help make Pennsylvania’s pension systems more sustainable, predictable and reliable.
Senate Bill 1, which was approved by a bipartisan 40-9 vote, would save taxpayers at least $5 billion. Perhaps more importantly, the bill limits risk to taxpayers. If our state ever endures another prolonged economic difficulty similar to the 2008 recession, the measure could result in $20 billion or more in savings to taxpayers.
Retirees and current employees would not be affected by these changes; the bill would only apply to newly hired employees. New hires would have the option to choose between several retirement options, including a defined contribution plan similar to the 401(k) options offered by most employees in the private sector.
These changes to public employee pensions are some of the most important reforms enacted by lawmakers in many years. The bill was developed with input from Governor Wolf and leaders in the House of Representatives, and I am cautiously optimistic it could be signed into law soon. Additional details about Senate Bill 1 are available here.
I appreciated the invitation to tour the Pennsylvania Equine Rescue and Retirement Foundation and meet Penn and Penny, Pennsylvania’s horse protection mascots.
Senate Panel Approves Measure Targeting Drug Dealers
The heroin and opioid addiction crisis has devastated families throughout the state, and our region has been particularly hard-hit by a number of deaths and serious injuries resulting from overdoses. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill this week that I introduced to help hold drug dealers more accountable for the injuries they cause.
Senate Bill 662 would strengthen penalties for the delivery or distribution of an illicit drug that results in serious bodily injury to the user, such as a permanent disfigurement or the loss or impairment of a body part or organ. Pennsylvania currently lacks a statute pertaining to serious bodily injury resulting from an overdose.
The lack of this specific statute forces many district attorneys to refer these cases to federal prosecutors who can seek convictions for serious bodily injury under federal law, resulting in a serious backlog of cases. My bill would help local prosecutors seek justice on behalf of victims promptly, and without the need to hand cases off to federal authorities.
In addition, my bill would mandate the creation of sentencing guidelines so judges can increase penalties when the circumstances merit a tougher punishment. More details about my bill are available here.
Next Tele-town Hall Scheduled for June 19
Telephone town halls have proven to be an excellent way to gather feedback from community residents regarding the most important issues facing our region. I hope you can join me for my next telephone town hall event on June 19 from 11 a.m. until noon.
If you would like to participate in this upcoming event, complete details and registration information is available online at http://www.senatorbartolotta.com/tele-town-hall/.
In addition to passing a historic pension reform measure, the Senate approved several other bills of note this week.
House Bill 202 would offer an alternative for career and technical students to demonstrate proficiency for graduation.
Senate Bill 434 would help combat blight by reducing the amount of time necessary to acquire a title through adverse possession.
Senate Bill 497 would eliminate the waste designation for steel slag when it is sold as a commodity.
Senate Bill 589 increases the maximum allowable weight limit for natural gas vehicles.
Senate Resolution 33 creates a task force on lead exposure and the hazards of lead poisoning.
Senate Resolution 76 would conduct a study of the feasibility of providing two additional passenger rail trips daily between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg and its impact on existing freight rail service.
For more information on issues of importance to southwestern Pennsylvania, please visit my website at www.senatorbartolotta.com and connect with me on Facebook (www.facebook.com/senatorbartolotta) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/senbartolotta).
SouthPointe District Office
Greene County Office Building