A Report on the Legislative Session of
April 18, 2017
I am pleased to send you my Session Wrap Up e-newsletter. This
e-newsletter features legislative activities during the Session Week
of April 18, 2017.
If you find this e-newsletter useful, I invite you to visit my website
www.senatordonwhite.com for more information about your state government. If
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Committee Approves My School Safety Bill
On Wednesday, the Senate Education Committee approved
Senate Bill 383, legislation I introduced that would give school
boards the option of allowing licensed and trained staff to carry firearms on
SB 383, which was approved with a 9-3 bipartisan vote of the committee, would
allow school personnel to have access to firearms in school safety zones if
school districts establish proper guidelines and they are licensed to carry a
concealed firearm and have met certain training requirements in the use and
handling of firearms.
Since I first introduced this proposal, there has been much discussion about
what the measure does and how it relates to current Pennsylvania law. To be
clear, this bill is not about the Second Amendment. It’s about permitting the
500 school districts of this Commonwealth to have greater choices when it comes
to protecting our most precious resource – our children.
The measure was proposed to me by Mark Zilinskas, a mathematics teacher with
the Indiana Area School District, following a stabbing in the nearby Franklin
Regional School District in April 2014.
Time is a critical element when a violent incident occurs in a school. Many
schools in rural areas rely on State Police coverage, which means response times
can vary. Senate Bill 383 gives trained school personnel the opportunity to
serve as first responders. There are thousands of armed teachers and
administrators in schools across the country and there has never been an
incident where they have shot the wrong person, had their weapons taken by a
student, or used a weapon inappropriately.
Senate Approves Independent Study of State-Owned Universities
The Senate approved a resolution on Tuesday authorizing an independent study
of the future of the State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) to be completed
by the end of the year.
Senate Resolution 34 requires the Legislative Budget and Finance
Committee (LBFC) to study the future and sustainability of the 14
state-owned universities across the state. The universities include Indiana
University of Pennsylvania, Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East
Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville,
Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester.
Enrollment in Pennsylvania’s four state-related schools (Pitt, Temple,
Lincoln and Penn State) is expected to grow by 10 percent over the next four
years. Community colleges and Thaddeus Stevens College are also expected to see
significant growth over the next four years. Over the same period, PASSHE’s
growth is not expected to reach 1 percent.
The LBFC, a bipartisan research agency, has until December 31, 2017 to report
back to the General Assembly on its findings.
The Senate also approved bills affecting local government and school
districts this week.
Senate Bill 227 gives school boards new options regarding
Senate Bill 365 updates the Second Class Township Code regarding
the selling of township personal property without requesting bids.
Senate Bills 227 and 365 now go to the House of Representatives for
UCC Service Center Relief Bill Sent to Governor
The Senate granted final legislative approval Wednesday to a bill that
provides emergency funding to ease the hardships Pennsylvania’s unemployed
workers have endured since Governor Wolf closed three Unemployment Compensation
Service Centers late last year.
Senate Bill 250 authorizes a $15 million transfer from the
Unemployment Compensation Fund (UCF) to the Service and Infrastructure
Improvement Fund. The bill now goes to the Governor for his signature and
enactment into law.
The Governor ordered the closure of service centers in Allentown, Altoona and
Lancaster after his request for a transfer of $57 million in additional funding
from the UCF failed to receive legislative approval before the end of the
2015-16 Legislative Session on November 30, 2016.
For four years, the Department of Labor & Industry tapped the UCF for a total
of $178 million for technology upgrades. That spending is currently under review
by the state Auditor General and the technology upgrades were not completed.
The unilateral decision by the Governor to close the three service centers
substantially increased the demand on the five remaining centers: Duquesne,
Erie, Harrisburg, Indiana and Scranton. This resulted in thousands of unemployed
Pennsylvanians being forced to endure lengthy waiting times to receive the
services and benefits they deserved.
Senate Bill 250 allocates $10.8 million for personnel related to claims
processing and service to claimants, $2.3 million for personnel related to tax
services, $1.4 million for personnel related to appeals, and $500,000 for any of
the above or personnel related to program integrity and the detection and
prevention of overpayments.
The Appropriations Committee approved four bills Tuesday.
Senate Bill 8 reforms state law regarding the seizure and
forfeiture of property.
Senate Bill 260 addresses representation of crime victims on the
Victims’ Services Advisory Committee within the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime
Senate Bill 554 immunizes child victims of human trafficking from
Senate Bill 560 amends the Wiretap Act to allow police officers to
use body-worn cameras.
Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure
The Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure Committee approved six bills
Senate Bill 25 amends the state’s Professional Nursing Law to
permit qualified Advanced Practice Registered Nurses to practice in their field
of specialty independent of a physician after they fulfill a three-year,
3,600-hour collaboration agreement with a doctor.
Senate Bill 242 transfers enforcement authority for the
Pennsylvania One Call System from the Department of Labor & Industry to the
Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.
Senate Bill 354 strengthens licensee reporting requirements to the
Department of State.
Senate Bill 458 provides new penalties for illegal household goods
Senate Bill 530 updates Act 136 of 1998, the Social Workers,
Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors Act.
Senate Bill 531 updates the Social Workers, Marriage & Family
Therapists and Professional Counselors Act.
Community, Economic & Recreational Development
The Community, Economic & Recreational Development Committee approved
House Bill 271 on Tuesday. The bill authorizes gaming at qualified
The Senate Local Government Committee approved
House Bill 16 on Tuesday. The bill amends the Local Tax Collection
Law to prohibit tax payments to an account in an individual’s name and requires
the creation of a separate account to be used solely for tax purposes.
In addition to Senate Bill 383, my school safety bill, The Senate Education
Committee approved four bills Wednesday.
Senate Bill 88 prohibits censorship of an American or Pennsylvania
historical document based on any religious content.
Senate Bill 93 permits home-schooled or privately tutored students
to have access to courses in schools and departments (i.e., vocational school,
technical school) of a public school district.
Senate Bill 273 prohibits any form of state funding to go to any
institution of higher education that designates itself as a “sanctuary campus,”
refuses to share information about undocumented students, or in any way impedes
the federal government's ability to enforce federal immigration laws.
Senate Bill 592 gives taxpayers an opportunity to examine the terms
of employment contracts that the local school board extends to key district
Rules & Executive Nominations
The Senate Rules & Executive Nominations Committee approved
Senate Bill 250, as amended by the House of Representatives, on
Wednesday. The measure authorizes a $15 million transfer from the Unemployment
Compensation Fund to the Service and Infrastructure Improvement Fund.