Senator Don White E-Newsletter

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Senate Ready to Review Governor’s FY 2018-19 Budget Request

The Senate will carefully study the $33.2 billion state General Fund budget for Fiscal Year 2018-19 unveiled by Governor Tom Wolf on Tuesday before a joint session of the General Assembly.

The Governor’s budget proposal includes a $1.2 billion (3.7 percent) increase in state spending from the current fiscal year. The Governor is not requesting a broad-based tax increase this year, but is continuing to push for a Marcellus Shale extraction tax and a $25 per-capita fee for municipalities that rely on the State Police for local police coverage.

The Governor is requesting a $100 million increase in Basic Education Funding ($6.09 billion); a $40 million increase for early childhood education; and a $20 million increase in special education funding. The State System of Higher Education would see a $15 million increase, while state funding for community colleges and state-related universities is flat-lined in the Governor’s request.

The Senate Appropriations Committee will hold a three-week series of Departmental Budget Hearings beginning on February 20.  The hearings provide an opportunity for the Appropriations Committee to hear cabinet secretaries and other Administration officials detail their plans for the upcoming fiscal year. The state’s current fiscal year ends on June 30.

This budget, like every one that is presented by a Governor in February, is basically just a starting point. We have the usual road ahead of us as we travel the review process — and it’s usually a bumpy ride. This year the ride – and the review — may be a bit smoother since the state is looking at ending the current fiscal year in the black for a change. That seems to be a good indicator that the economy is responding to President Trump’s economic policies and hopefully is an indicator of better things in the coming months as the changes under the federal tax reform bear fruit.

It is no surprise that the Governor has reintroduced his Marcellus Shale tax plan and is again calling for an increase in the minimum wage with this budget package. Those were basic planks in his first campaign for Governor, so there is no way he can back off of them now.

Of course, having Indiana University of Pennsylvania almost literally in my backyard, I am extremely pleased that the Governor is proposing a $15 million increase in state funding for the State System of Higher Education. It is also good to see additional money for basic education and for technical and apprenticeship programs.

However, all the goodies in the proposed budget come at a cost and this year the price tag represents a $1.2 billion increase in state spending. That is something that we will definitely be taking a very close look at over the coming weeks and months.

Bill Increasing Government Transparency Sent to Governor

Legislation increasing government transparency and cracking down on violations of the state Lobbying Disclosure Act received final legislative approval this week and was sent to the Governor for enactment into law.

House Bill 1175 increases the maximum penalty imposed by the Ethics Commission for violations of the Lobbying Disclosure Act from $2,000 to $4,000. The bill increases the maximum administrative penalty for negligent failure to report from $50 per-day to $50 per-day for the first 10 days, $100 per-day for days 11 – 20 and $200 per-day after 20 days.

The bill improves the current electronic filing system for lobbyists by requiring all filings to be posted on the Department of State’s publicly accessible website within seven days of receipt.

Four additional bills received final legislative consideration and were sent to the Governor.

Senate Bill 354  strengthens licensee reporting requirements to the Department of State.

House Bill 359 addresses penalties for hunters who mistakenly kill an animal.

Senate Bill 894 renames roads and bridges.

House Bill 1602 renames several bridges. 

Senate Approves Measure Addressing Sex Offender Court Ruling

The Senate approved legislation this week addressing a state Supreme Court ruling that – if not corrected – could require more than 10,000 sexual offenders to be removed from the state sexual offender registry.

The Supreme Court ruled in Commonwealth v. Muniz that the state sexual offender registration act, commonly known as Megan’s Law or the Adam Walsh Act, could not be applied to defendants who committed their crimes before the enactment of the Adam Walsh Act in 2012 based on both the U.S. Constitution and the Pennsylvania Constitution.

House Bill 631 makes the registration and reporting requirements less onerous by permitting offenders whose offenses occurred before the Adam Walsh Act to petition the court for relief from those requirements.

Five other measures were approved by the Senate this week.

Senate Bill 21 promotes the employment of people with disabilities.

Senate Resolution 226 requires the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to conduct an independent performance evaluation of the largest statewide environmental permitting programs administered by the Department of Environmental Protection. 

Senate Resolution 253 calls on Congress to amend the Gun Control Act of 1968 to protect the gun rights of medical cannabis users.

Senate Bill 796 exempts CDL licensees from the change of address fees if they have not actually moved from their home and the change of address is due to a governmental action beyond their control.

Senate Bill 955 establishes a pilot program providing grants to community colleges to partner with secondary schools to train students in fire services.

Committee Roundup

Judiciary

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved House Bill 1952 on Monday. The bill addresses a state Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision that impacts Pennsylvania’s sexual offender registration act. 

Rules & Executive Nominations

The Senate Rules & Executive Nominations Committee approved two bills on Monday.

Senate Bill 354  strengthens licensee reporting requirements to the Department of State.

Senate Bill 894 renames roads and bridges.

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