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Senator Bob Mensch


In this Edition:

  • Mensch Votes for FY 2017-18 General Fund Budget
  • Senator Mensch Introduces “Employment First” Legislation
  • Senate Passes Legislation Holding Drug Dealers Accountable
  • Committee Releases Report on Use of Biosolids
  • Committee Roundup
  • Next Week

Mensch Votes for FY 2017-18 General Fund Budget

Today, I voted to approve a FY 2017-18 General Fund budget that represents a $54.3 million (0.2 percent) increase in spending over the enacted Fiscal Year 2016-17 budget with supplemental appropriations included, and is nearly $650 million less than Governor Wolf’s budget request from February ($32.6 billion). The measure passed the Senate and was returned to the House of Representatives for concurrence.

This budget adheres to the approach demanded by taxpayers by controlling state government spending and cutting through expensive layers of bureaucracy. Along with the fiscally responsible approach to the budget, the spending plan meets the core responsibilities of government and funds the priorities shared by both parties – maintaining a quality education system, promoting job growth and addressing some of the most serious challenges facing our communities.

The Senate-passed version of House Bill 218 optimizes available funding and exercises fiscal restraint. In addition, it restores the drastic cuts and program eliminations that were included in the initial version of the bill.

The FY 2018-18 budget increases the state’s share ofPreK-12 funding to a historic high of $11.8 billion. Basic Education Funding was increased by $100 million (1.7 percent) from $5,895,079 to $5,995,079 in FY 2017-18. It also restores the $50 million that was cut from the School District transportation program, ensuring there will be no funding reduction to school districts in this vital program. The budget also provides an additional $25 million for the Pre-K Counts program (to $172 million), a $25 million boost for special education (to $1.1 billion), an increase of $11.7 million for early intervention programs (to $264 million), and $5 million more for Head Start (to $54 million).

HB 218 allocates $7 million to combat a heroin and opioid epidemic, including funds to expand access to life-saving naloxone and to support additional drug courts. It also restores funding that was eliminated by the Governor for a number of important health programs: Regional Cancer Institutes ($600,000); Lupus ($100,000); Trauma Prevention ($460,000); Epilepsy Support Services ($550,000); Adult Cystic Fibrosis ($750,000); Tourette Syndrome ($150,000); and ALS Support Services ($500,000).

The budget restores funding for key agricultural programs eliminated by the Governor, including the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School. Overall, the Department of Agriculture budget totals $144.1 million for FY 2017-18, an increase of nearly $500,000 from last year’s budget. This includes the restoration and expansion of funding cut by the Governor for Agricultural Excellence ($1.3 million); Agricultural Promotion, Education and Exports ($303,000); Hardwoods Research and Promotion ($424,000); Livestock Show ($215,000); and Open Dairy Show ($215,000). The budget does not include the Governor’s proposal to lease/leaseback the Farm Show Building.

HB 218 provides for a thorough review process to examine the unification of the Departments of Human Services and Health into a single Department of Health and Human Services. This review process will ensure the General Assembly has the opportunity to consider stakeholder input and is given adequate time to review a full implementation plan before making a final decision on unification of the agencies. This budget also assumes the merger of the Department of Corrections and the Board of Probation and Parole, a proposal that was initially offered in February 2016 and reviewed over the last 18 months.

The bill does not include the Governor’s proposal to charge municipalities without polices forces for State Police Coverage.

Senator Mensch Introduces “Employment First” Legislation

This week, I introduced Senate Bill 21, entitled “The Employment First Act,” designed to promote the employment of people with disabilities at competitive wages in Pennsylvania businesses and public agencies.

The Legislature created the MH/MR Act of 1966 to provide a system of home and community-based services for people with disabilities. As a result of this legislation, many people with disabilities, especially those with intellectual disabilities, ended up spending their days working in segregated facilities where they are often paid wages well below the minimum wage.

For quite some time, Pennsylvania has been talking about deinstitutionalization and home and community-based living, where people with disabilities have the opportunity to work at competitive wages in a wide range of jobs in the private and public sectors across the Commonwealth.

Pennsylvania employers are dealing with a serious workforce shortage. On any given day there are more than 200,000 job vacancies are posted on the state’s official job listing. More and more employers in Pennsylvania are finding that people with disabilities are productive, responsible, and dependable employees. National research and pilot programs in Pennsylvania have proven that the employment of people with disabilities at competitive wages benefits both employers and persons with disabilities. It’s a win-win.

This legislation will not require additional state spending. Instead, it will require state agencies to shift priorities within existing budgets. This bill will help people with disabilities end a lifetime of dependence on governmental assistance by focusing state agencies’ efforts on helping them obtain employment.

The language is consistent with recent changes in federal law governing vocational rehabilitation services and workforce development programs, as well as federal regulations governing services to people with intellectual disabilities.

People with disabilities deserve a real opportunity to be a part of the Pennsylvania workforce and become contributing members of society in their communities.

Senate Passes Legislation Holding Drug Dealers Accountable

District attorneys would be able to hold drug dealers more accountable for the damages they cause under legislation approved Wednesday by the Senate.

Senate Bill 662, which I am co-sponsoring, 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. For that reason, district attorneys often refer these cases to federal prosecutors who can seek tougher penalties under federal law. The added caseload on the United States Attorney’s Office places a severe strain on federal courts and takes away the ability of local prosecutors to pursue convictions in their home jurisdictions.

In addition to creating the new statute, the bill would require the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing to create sentencing enhancement guidelines so judges have the ability to increase punishments when appropriate.

The legislation was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Committee Releases Report on Use of Biosolids

6/27/17 - Legislative Budget & Finance Committee

Directed by House Resolution 60, the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LBFC), which I chair, examined the environmental and health impacts of using biosolids (sewage sludge) for land applications.

In addition to video of Tuesday’s LBFC presentation, you can view testimony presented by the Executive Director of the Committee, the 75-page report, and report highlights.

Committee Roundup

Appropriations

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved seven bills on Monday.

House Bill 218 is the General Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2017-18.

House Bill 239 establishes a Rare Disease Advisory Council in the Department of Health.

House Bill 290 amends the Storage Tank and Spill Prevention Act to address a vacancy on the Underground Storage Tank Indemnification Board.

Senate Bill 325 is Fiscal Year 2017-18 funding for the University of Pennsylvania.

Senate Bill 736 authorizes parking authorities in Second Class A and Third Class cities to enforce and administer parking ordinances and resolutions.

Senate Bill 751 provides for regulation and licensure of mortgage servicers.

House Bill 1269 provides that municipal authorities serving five or more municipalities and imposing tapping fees for a project will have the deadline to start construction on the project increased from 15 years to 20 years.

The Appropriations Committee approved 10 bills on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 680 provides for expenses of the State Employees' Retirement Board for Fiscal Year 2017-18.

Senate Bill 681 provides for expenses of the Public School Employees' Retirement Board for Fiscal Year 2017-18.

Senate Bill 682 provides Fiscal Year 2017-18 funding to the Department of State for use by the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs.

Senate Bill 683 provides Fiscal Year 2017-18 funding to the Department of Labor & Industry and the Department of Community & Economic Development to provide for the expenses of administering the Workers' Compensation Act.

Senate Bill 684 provides Fiscal Year 2017-18 funding for the Public Utility Commission.

Senate Bill 685 provides Fiscal Year 2017-18 funding for the Office of Consumer Advocate in the Office of Attorney General.

Senate Bill 686 provides Fiscal Year 2017-18 funding for the Office of Small Business Advocate in the Department of Community & Economic Development.

Senate Bill 687 makes appropriations from restricted revenue accounts within the State Gaming Fund and from the State Gaming Fund to the Attorney General, the Department of Revenue, the Pennsylvania State Police and the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board for Fiscal Year 2017-18.

Senate Bill 688 makes appropriations from the Philadelphia Taxicab & Limousine Regulatory Fund and the Philadelphia Taxicab Medallion Fund to the Philadelphia Parking Authority for Fiscal Year 2017-18.

Senate Bill 697 is the Capital Budget for Fiscal Year 2017-18.

The Appropriations Committee approved 10 bills on Thursday.

House Bill 59 would allow appeals by adoptive families to the Department of Human Services regarding the adoption subsidy provided by the county Children and Youth Services Agency under the Adoption Opportunities Act.

House Bill 118 encourages health care facilities to convert beds to provide medically supervised detoxification.

House Bill 218 is the General Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2017-18.

Senate Bill 326 is Fiscal Year 2017-18 funding for Penn State University.

Senate Bill 327 is Fiscal Year 2017-18 funding for the University of Pittsburgh.

Senate Bill 328 is Fiscal Year 2017-18 funding for Temple University.

Senate Bill 329 is Fiscal Year 2017-18 funding for Lincoln University.

Senate Bill 431 increases fines for littering.

House Bill 508 bars individuals who are not in compliance with Megan’s Law registration requirements from receiving public assistance.

Agriculture & Rural Affairs

The Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee approved Senate Bill 792 on Monday. The bill sets labeling requirements for lawn fertilizer.

The Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee approved House Bill 1494 on Wednesday. The bill authorizes the Commonwealth to enter into Federal cooperative agreements to conduct forest management activities upon Federal lands.

Community, Economic & Recreational Development

The Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee approved House Bill 782 on Wednesday. The bill adds new definitions of “Gaming floor,” “Gaming–related restricted area” and “Nongaming service provider” to existing state law.

Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure

The Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee approved two bills on Wednesday.

House Bill 105 prohibits telephone solicitation calls on legal holidays and provides for robocall requirements.

House Bill 1490 places the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority under the oversight of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.

Education

The Senate Education Committee approved two bills on Wednesday.

House Bill 97 makes extensive changes to the Public School Code concerning charter schools.

Senate Bill 723 requires students to pass a civics test as a condition of high school graduation

Finance

The Senate Finance Committee approved two bills on Monday.

House Bill 542 requires a remote seller making a sale in Pennsylvania to notify the purchaser that sales or use tax is due on the nonexempt purchase and that Pennsylvania requires the purchaser to pay the tax due on the purchaser’s tax return.

House Bill 866 amends the Local Tax Enabling Act to clarify certain provisions related to the consolidated collection of local income taxes and delinquent taxes.

The Finance Committee approved House Bill 1285 on Thursday. The bill is a constitutional amendment that would allow for the elimination of residential school property taxes through the homestead exclusion.

Game & Fisheries

The Senate Game and Fisheries Committee approved two bills on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 135 would permit the use of a leashed tracking dog to track white-tailed deer to recover an animal which has been legally harvested or wounded.

Senate Bill 240 would make non-resident disabled veterans and former prisoners of war eligible for reduced-fee hunting and fur-taking licenses.

Health & Human Services

The Health and Human Services Committee approved two bills on Monday.

House Bill 59 would allow appeals by adoptive families to the Department of Human Services regarding the adoption subsidy provided by the county Children and Youth Services Agency under the Adoption Opportunities Act.

House Bill 508 bars individuals who are not in compliance with Megan’s Law registration requirements from receiving public assistance.

The Health & Human Services Committee approved House Bill 211 on Thursday. The bill establishes a statewide 2-1-1 System Grant Program.

Judiciary

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved six bills on Friday.

House Bill 234 requires counties that do not currently outsource their collections of restitution, costs and fees, to establish a collections enforcement unit in order to collect and track payments of restitution, costs and fees.

House Bill 236 prioritizes wage attachment for restitution, court costs and fines.

House Bill 280 requires that any money deposited as cash bail, which would be otherwise returnable, will be applied to the payment of restitution, fees, fines and costs imposed upon the defendant.

House Bill 285 requires the Department of Corrections or a correctional facility deduct a portion of an offender’s wages and other deposits in order to satisfy any restitution, costs and fines.

House Bill 631 requires those convicted of a Tier 3 sexual offense be sentenced to a mandatory period of probation of three years consecutive to and in addition to any other sentence issued by the court.

House Bill 1523 modernizes and reforms the state DNA database.

Labor & Industry

The Senate Labor and Industry Committee approved two bills on Monday.

House Bill 409 makes comprehensive changes to the process used by the Uniform Construction Code Review and Advisory Council to evaluate and adopt building code updates.

Senate Bill 676 addresses ongoing funding deficiencies in the Workers’ Compensation Uninsured Employers Guarantee Fund.

Law & Justice

The Senate Law and Justice Committee approved House Bill 1033 on Wednesday. The bill amends the Liquor Code.

Rules & Executive Nominations

The Senate Rules & Executive Nominations Committee approved Senate Bill 560, as amended by the House of Representatives, on Monday. The bill amends the state Wiretap Act regarding the use of body-worn cameras by police officers.

State Government

The Senate State Government Committee approved Senate Resolution 154 on Tuesday. The measure repeals the part of the Real Property Disposition Plan Number 1 of 2013 that authorized the Department of General Services to sell the New Castle Youth Development Center property.

Transportation

The Senate Transportation Committee approved House Bill 1426 on Wednesday. The bill allow trucks to haul certain heavier loads during holiday periods, while keeping the current restriction regarding inclement weather.

The Transportation Committee approved two bills on Friday.

Senate Bill 781 would allow constituents to obtain handicap parking placards in their respective legislative district offices rather than waiting to receive them in the mail.

House Bill 831 amends several sections of the Vehicle Code providing for organized motor processions.

Urban Affairs & Housing

The Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee approved House Bill 653 on Monday. The bill provides for an accelerated foreclosure process for vacant and abandoned property.


Next Week

The Senate is adjourned to the call of the President Pro Tempore and will return to voting session following the July 4th holiday. You can watch session live at PASenateGOP.com.


Stay Connected

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