A Report on the Legislative Session Week
October 26, 2015
I am pleased to send you my Session Wrap Up e-newsletter. This
e-newsletter features events and legislative activities during the Session Week
of October 26, 2015.
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Senate Republicans Push Budget Veto Override Effort
Responding to growing pleas from schools and community groups to release
overdue state funding, Senate Republicans today led an effort to override
Governor Wolf’s veto of an emergency budget passed last month by the General
Senate leaders emphasized that the override would have provided badly needed
funding while negotiations continue on a final budget agreement. The override
required a two-thirds majority, or 33 votes. While all 30 Republican Senators
voted for the measure, the emergency funding veto override vote received no
Hours before the vote, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale told members of the
Senate Democratic Policy Committee that the lack of state funding is having a
devastating financial impact on schools throughout Pennsylvania. School
districts have already borrowed nearly a half-billion dollars – plus interest
payments of $15 million – because of the budget impasse, and that number may
double by Thanksgiving.
The vote marked the fifth time since June 30 that the legislature has
attempted to have a fiscally responsible budget enacted to keep money flowing to
schools and organizations.
Special Committee to Study Possible Senate Action Against
Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati appointed six Senators on Monday to
serve on a Special Committee to pursue possible Senate action against Attorney
General Kane, pursuant to Article 6, Section 7 of the Pennsylvania Constitution.
Senator John R. Gordner was named Chairman of the Special Committee on Senate
Address. The Committee is bi-partisan and geographically diverse. Republicans
include Senators Gordner, Lisa Baker and Gene Yaw. Democratic members include
Senators Judy Schwank, Sean Wiley and Art Haywood. Senator Scarnati will serve
as a voting ex-officio member.
The scope of the committee is to investigate whether Attorney General
Kathleen Kane can continue to do her job with a suspended law license. If it
determines she cannot, that finding may be grounds for the Senate to utilize its
rarely-tapped constitutional power of removal.
The Committee will issue a written report with its preliminary findings to
the full Senate within 30 days.
Local Government Committee Approves Sanctuary Cities Bill
The Senate Local Government Committee approved legislation on Wednesday that
would prevent municipalities from hindering federal efforts to deport illegal
immigrants who pose a danger to Pennsylvania communities.
Senate Bill 997 targets “sanctuary cities” that refuse to honor detainer
requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement for persons of interest who
are arrested by local authorities. The measure now goes to the full Senate for
Under the bill, governing bodies such as counties or municipalities would be
prohibited from adopting rules or ordinances that contradict federal immigration
policy. Municipalities that do not enforce federal immigration policy would not
be eligible for state grants for law enforcement purposes and could be sued for
negligence for releasing an individual with a detainer who subsequently
committed another crime.
The issue gained national attention when San Francisco resident Kathryn
Steinle was shot by Francisco Sanchez, an illegal immigrant from Mexico with
seven felony convictions who has been deported five times. Due to the
municipality’s policy not to report Sanchez’s incarceration to the appropriate
federal agency, he was promptly released just prior to Steinle’s murder.
for video from the meeting.
Union Intimidation Bill Sent to Governor’s Desk
The House concurred Tuesday on Senate amendments to legislation that would
prohibit harassment, stalking or making threats by parties involved in a labor
House Bill 874 now goes to the Governor’s desk.
The measure does not impact unions engaged in lawful disputes or protests,
but addresses issues in previous labor disputes in which violent protests by the
union workers ensued, including intimidation and harassment in the form of
physical abuse of on-site contractors and property damage.
The measure is supported by the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association,
Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association and the Pennsylvania Sheriffs’
Utility Worker Protection Bill Headed to Governor
The Senate gave final approval Wednesday to a measure that would add utility
workers, either from a municipal government or private company, to the list of
protected workers during disaster emergencies.
Senate Bill 765 now goes to the Governor for his signature and enactment
Currently, state law provides additional protection for first responders,
highway maintenance and construction workers and tow truck operators during
emergencies. Motorists are required to travel cautiously at reduced speeds and
carefully follow traffic markers, road flares, signs, or directions of emergency
Additionally, emergency service responders may file a written report with the
police officer upon observing a violation. Violators may be fined up to $500 per
offense and pay restitution costs if warranted.
Also receiving final legislative approval this week was
Senate Bill 77, which provides regulatory relief for the beagle trainers.
Bill Expedites Deadline for Addressing Code Violations
The Senate approved a measure on Wednesday that would bolster municipal
efforts to combat blight in their communities.
Senate Bill 942 requires the purchaser of any building known to have one or
more substantial code violations to bring it into compliance or demolish it
within 12 months of the date of purchase. Under current law, the purchaser has
up to 18 months to correct the violations or demolish the building.
The Senate approved two additional bills this week.
Senate Bill 526 amends the Second Class Township Code to change the
deadlines for completing and publishing the Annual Township Report and Financial
Senate Bill 857 provides new penalties for illegal household goods movers.
All three bills now go to the House of Representatives for consideration.