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Senator Bob Mensch


In this Edition:

  • Mensch Supports Historic Pension Reform Bill
  • Other Bills Approved by the Senate and Sent to the House
  • More Options for Career and Technical Education Students
  • Committee Round-Up
  • Mensch Chairs Hearing on State Police Coverage Fee
  • Next Week

Mensch Supports Historic Pension Reform Bill

The Senate approved a historic pension reform bill Monday that will transform public employee retirement benefits for the 21st Century and limit future financial risks for taxpayers.

Senate Bill 1 is projected to save more than $5 billion and shield taxpayers from $20 billion or more in additional liabilities if state investments fail to meet projections. In addition, the bill creates a new Pension Management and Asset Investment Review Commission to study ways to reduce investment costs with the goal of saving an additional $3 billion.

Pension benefits already earned by current employees and retirees would not be affected.

The legislation would offer all new public-sector employees one of three different retirement planning options – a defined contribution plan similar to the 401(k) system offered by most 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 already enjoy.

The new system would only apply to new hires, but current employees could voluntarily opt into the new system if they so choose upon the plans’ start dates. The new options would provide greater flexibility for employees who do not spend their entire career in public service while still providing good retirement security for career workers. Most employees who leave the service with 20 years or less of service time would see a better benefit under the new system than they would have earned under the current system due to the portability of the 401(k) style plan.

The legislation also includes a shared risk and shared gain provision further protecting taxpayers. If investment returns fail to meet projections over a long enough period of time, employees in the defined contribution system could pay slightly higher contribution rates. However, if investments perform better than projects, employees would pay a lower rate for their benefits.

Senate Bill 1 was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Other Bills Approved by the Senate and Sent to the House

Senate Bill 353 is a Chester County land conveyance bill.

Senate Bill 434 reduces the allotted period of time that is necessary in order to acquire a title of a blighted or abandoned property through adverse possession under various situations and circumstances.

Senate Bill 497 eliminates the “waste” designation for steel slag when it is sold as a commodity and is not a discarded material.

Senate Bill 589 increases the maximum allowable gross weight for commercial vehicles powered by natural gas from 80,000 pounds to 82,000 pounds.

Senate Bill 624 amends the Bituminous Mine Subsidence and Land Conservation Act, providing for planned subsidence and for retroactivity.

More Options for Career and Technical Education Students

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.

Committee Round-Up

Mensch Chairs Hearing on State Police Coverage Fee

6/7/17 - Municipal Fee for State Police Coverage

At a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Infrastructure, Environment and Government Operations on the Governor’s proposed municipal fee for State Police coverage, Senator Mensch questions the panel of testifiers.

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Infrastructure, Environment & Government Operations, which I chair, held a public hearing Wednesday to discuss Governor Tom Wolf’s proposed municipal fee for State Police coverage.

Part of the Governor’s proposed state budget includes a plan to impose a $25 per-capita fee on municipalities without their own police force. Testifiers included representatives of the Pennsylvania State Police, the PA State Association of Township Supervisors, the PA Municipal League and PA State Association of Township Commissioners, and the PA State Association of Boroughs.

Hearing Video

Appropriations

The Senate Appropriations Committee met Sunday and approved Senate Bill 1, legislation to alter public pensions for state workers and school employees.

On Monday, the committee approved six additional bills.

House Bill 202 eliminates the statutory requirement for the development and implementation of Keystone Exams in English Composition, Algebra II, Geometry, U.S. History, Chemistry, Civics and Government, and World History.

Senate Bill 458 provides new penalties for illegal household goods movers.

Senate Bill 561 would require the approval of the General Assembly and the Governor for all new regulations with an economic impact or cost exceeding $1 million to the Commonwealth, its political subdivisions, and the private sector.

Senate Bill 624 amends the Bituminous Mine Subsidence and Land Conservation Act, providing for planned subsidence and for retroactivity.

Senate Bill 630 reforms insurance licensure requirements for travel agents.

Senate Bill 646 amends Act 101 of 1988, the Municipal Waste Planning Recycling and Waste Reduction Act.

Communications & Technology

6/7/17 - Statewide Radio System

Senator Mensch questions Major Diane Stackhouse, Bureau of Communications & Information Services, Pennsylvania State Police, about the statewide radio system.

The Senate Communications and Technology Committee, the Senate Law and Justice Committee and the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee held a public hearing Wednesday on the status of the statewide emergency radio system. First authorized in 1996, the system was to allow state and county emergency responders, as well as local police, fire and EMS, to communicate with each on a shared network. However, the mobile radio component has been plagued with problems and remains unreliable. Hearing Video & Testimony

Education

On Monday, the Senate Education Committee held a public hearing on the use of graduation requirements as a tools for teacher evaluation and accountability.

Among the 40 states implementing multi-measure teacher evaluation systems that include objective measures of student learning and growth, six states, including Pennsylvania, are implementing systems that may include graduation rate data and that reference specific standardized, national exams. Hearing Video & Testimony

Finance

The Senate Finance Committee approved three bills on Monday.

House Bill 453 requires any agency receiving state funds to respond to an audit by the state Auditor General or future funding may be suspended.

Senate Bill 515 raises the cap on the Net Operating Loss carryforward amount to 45 percent of taxable income.

House Bill 1071 prohibits political subdivisions from imposing a recyclable plastic bag ban or levying a fee, surcharge or tax on plastic bags.

The committee also considered the nomination of Dan Hassell for Revenue Secretary. Video

Judiciary

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved three bills on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 529 provides those with low-level, nonviolent criminal records a mechanism to have their record sealed from public view.

Senate Bill 662 establishes a second degree felony for the delivery or distribution of an illicit drug that results in "serious bodily injury" to the user.

Senate Bill 741 addresses sunset provisions related to funding for the courts and indigent legal services.

Labor & Industry

The Senate Labor and Industry Committee approved Senate Bill 183 on Tuesday. The bill creates a state plumbers licensing program.

Local Government

On Tuesday, the Senate Local Government Committee, approved three bills on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 690 establishes a mechanism for the initial apportionment of any home rule or optional plan municipality without a mayor that will be dividing into wards either partially or totally.

Senate Bill 691 establishes uniform residential qualifications of office for persons seeking election to, or appointment to fill a vacancy in, a municipal elected office where recent service in the military might interfere with the person’s ability to satisfy the relevant residency requirements.

Senate Bill 693 allows political subdivisions and authorities to enter into contracts for services when two consecutive advertisements fail to induce bids.

State Government

The Senate State Government Committee approved two bills on Monday.

Senate Bill 527 creates an independent Office of Inspector General.

Senate Bill 595 authorizes the electronic notarization of documents in cases where the signer appears before the notary by means of real-time audio-video communication.

On Tuesday, the committee held the first of a series of public hearings on Pennsylvania election issues. Topics included alternative methods of voting and delivery, and the use of poll workers.

Hearing Video & Written Testimony

Urban Affairs & Housing

The Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee approved Senate Bill 446 on Monday. The bill provides for the regulation and certification of addiction recovery houses. 


Next Week

The Senate will reconvene on Monday at 1 p.m. You can watch live at PASenateGOP.com.


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