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Senator Don White

Harrisburg Happenings
A Report on the Legislative Session of
April 18, 2017

Dear Friend,

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 you do not wish to receive these e-newsletters, please click the "unsubscribe" button at the bottom of the page. If you would like to contact my office, please go to my web page and click the "contact" button. Please do not "reply" directly to this e-mail.

Sincerely,

Don White


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 school property. Audio

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 superintendent contracts.

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 consideration.

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.

Committee Roundup

Appropriations

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 and Delinquency.

Senate Bill 554 immunizes child victims of human trafficking from criminal prosecution.

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 Tuesday.

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 movers.

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 airports.

Local Government

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.

Education

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 employees.

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.

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