Hello! Thank you for subscribing to my E-newsletter. I am honored to serve the 23rd Senate District and look forward to working with you toward building a better future for Pennsylvania!
This E-newsletter serves to keep you updated on what is happening throughout Bradford, Lycoming, Sullivan, Susquehanna and Union counties and what I am doing as your state senator in Harrisburg. I hope that you will find this E-newsletter helpful, and if you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me.
Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you're climbing it."
Senate Session Reconvenes This Week
Legislation that could be considered by the Senate this week includes:
Senate Bill 496 – authorizes evaluations for gambling disorders for those who are convicted of criminal trespass at a gaming facility after self-excluding from such facilities. Sen. Mario Scavello (R-Monroe)
Senate Bill 561 – requires the General Assembly and the Governor to approve all regulations with an economic impact or cost to the Commonwealth, political subdivisions and the private sector exceeding $1 million. Sen. John DiSanto (R-Dauphin)
Senate Bill 630 – reforms the insurance licensure requirements for Pennsylvania travel agents by reducing unnecessary burdens and offering greater protection to Pennsylvania residents. Sen. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Allegheny)
Senate Bill 242 – extends the sunset provision of the Underground Utility Protection Law to December 31, 2024 and moves oversight of the One Call System to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. Sen. Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne)
Committee Hearings Streamed Live at PASenateGOP.com:
Tuesday 9 a.m. N. Office Building, Hearing Room 1
Tuesday 9 a.m. East Wing, Hearing Room 8E-B
Tuesday 11 a.m. East Wing, Hearing Room 8E-A
Wednesday 9 a.m. N. Office Building, Hearing Room 1
Senate Approves Sweeping Pension Reform
The Senate approved legislation June 5 to reform Pennsylvania’s public pension plans for state and public school employees.
Senate Bill 1 offers all new public-sector employees three 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 a variation of the current defined benefit plan. Pension benefits already earned by current employees and retirees would not be affected.
Senate Bill 1, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Centre), 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 plans could pay slightly higher contribution rates. However, if investments perform better than projections, employees would pay a lower rate for their benefits.
The measure 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.
Senate Bill 1 will be signed by the Governor today. More
Senate Approves Langerholc Bill to Promote Use of Natural Gas-Burning Vehicles
A bill introduced by Sen. Wayne Langerholc (R-Cambria) to promote the use of cleaner-burning natural gas in larger vehicles was unanimously approved by the Senate on Tuesday.
Senate Bill 589 increases the maximum allowable weight for motor carrier vehicles that are powered by natural gas from 80,000 pounds to 82,000 pounds, to accommodate the heavier equipment needed for natural-gas burning vehicles. Senate Bill 589 now goes to the House for its consideration.
Senator Langerholc: “This legislation is a win-win for Pennsylvania. It encourages the use of natural gas to power our larger trucks and updates our laws to ensure that federal transportation funds continue to flow to our Commonwealth, which is the hub of interstate commerce for the entire East Coast.” More
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 needed 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 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.
June 10th – Pictured with David Keane, Korean War Veteran Rod O'Brien and Rep. Jeff Wheeland.
June 2nd - 2017 Short Line Railroad of the Year Celebration
ICYMI: Op-Ed: Pension Reform Measure Represents Historic First Step
My recent OpEd piece appeared in the Sunbury Daily Item and the Towanda Daily Review
Pennsylvania’s public employee pension crisis is a calamity nearly two decades in the making. Rising pension costs have put an extreme amount of pressure on school districts and state budgets, resulting in higher property taxes and less money for worthwhile programs. It is not an exaggeration to say that, at the state level, the pension problem is the most important public policy priority in a generation.
The scope of this problem is staggering. Unfunded liabilities in the state’s two largest public pension systems now total more than $60 billion. For the sake of comparison, that is almost double the amount of state taxpayer dollars required to fund the entire state budget. SERS and PSERS employer contributions have skyrocketed from $1 billion in Fiscal Year 2010-11 to more than $6 billion for Fiscal Year 2017-18.
Due to the pension problem, the state has been hemorrhaging money for nearly a decade. The Senate took the important step this week to stop the bleeding and create a system of retirement benefits for school and state employees that makes sense in today’s economy, and for today’s workforce.
Senate Bill 1 creates a new retirement system for newly hired employees that mirrors the benefits offered by most employers in the private sector. Perhaps more importantly, it removes a large portion of the risk to taxpayers during an economic downturn. It is estimated the bill will save at least $5 billion, but that total could quickly climb to $20 billion or more if state investments fail to reach projections.
While a high priority has been placed on protecting taxpayers, the plan also is sensitive to the needs of public-sector employees. Our economy is changing, and it is now rare to see employees spending 20, 30 or even 40 years in the same job. The new system we have created will ensure employees can explore different career options without jeopardizing a comfortable retirement.
The final product of our concerted pension reform efforts is a plan that accomplishes more than any other state in the nation – a monumental improvement that could serve as a national model for other states struggling with pension costs.
Too often in Harrisburg and in Washington, lawmakers look to fix the problems of today without looking to what might happen tomorrow. The modernization of Pennsylvania’s pension systems bucks this trend and sets our commonwealth on a more sustainable path for the future.
Recognizing Grange Youth Leaders
June 7th – Senators Schwank, Senator Bartolotta, Senator Aument and I stood with Grange Leaders from across the state. I was pleased to welcome Outstanding Young Patron Philip Vonada from the 23rd District.
Williamsport Regional Airport Receives State Funding
Nine statewide airports, including the Williamsport Regional Airport, will make safety upgrades and expand operation opportunities with the assistance of $10 million in state investments.
Williamsport Regional will receive $350,000 for a total project cost of $700,000 to relocate their airport fuel farm.
The funds are administered by PennDOT’s Bureau of Aviation through the Aviation Transportation Assistance Program, which is a capital budget grant program funded with bonds. The program complements the state Multimodal Fund, which dedicates $6 million to aviation in this fiscal year alone. The fund was created by Act 89, a far-reaching transportation funding program that clears the way for significant investments in all transportation modes.
Bradford County Constituents Visit the State Capitol
It was a pleasure to welcome Canton Jr./Sr. H.S. student Will Gowin, his mother Shelly and her parents Jerry and Elsie Ross, all of Bradford County, to the floor of the Pennsylvania Senate last week. Will is a future PA Senator! I enjoyed having them visit!
Celebrating June as Dairy Month
Celebrating Dairy Month with local royalty from Bradford and Sullivan counties
Department of Health Screening
The Pennsylvania Department of Health will be conducting a free blood pressure screening clinic on Wednesday, June 14th at the Trehab Food Bank, 81 Industrial Drive, Montrose, PA 18801. The clinic will take place from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Please contact the Susquehanna County State Health Center at 570-278-3889 if you have any questions.