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Senator Don White

Harrisburg Happenings
A Report on the Legislative Session Week
March 21, 2016

Dear Friend,

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 March 21, 2016.

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Don White

Governor Agrees To Republican Fiscal Year 2015-16 Budget

Governor Wolf announced Wednesday his intention to allow a Fiscal Year 2015-16 budget approved by the Legislature last week to become law without his signature or veto -- bringing an effective end to a nine-month impasse over his insistence on massive tax and spending increases.

House Bill 1801, as approved by the Senate on March 16, is a $30.031 billion spending plan that restores much of the $6 billion in funding for essential programs and services that were line-item vetoed by the Governor from the FY 2015-16 budget enacted last December. The budget includes the highest education spending in state history without the need for tax increases.

I am pleased that the Governor has finally agreed to close this shameful chapter in Pennsylvania’s history. It is past time to lift the uncertainty from Pennsylvania’s schools and end the threat of closures due to a lack of funding. We can now move forward with deliberations and consideration of the Fiscal Year 2016-17 budget. We are all aware of the financial challenges ahead and the need to make some very tough choices. The budget in HB 1801 gives us the starting point for those discussions.

Basic Education will see $5.95 billion in funding, an increase of $200 million from Fiscal Year 2014-15 including Ready-to-Learn Block Grant money. The total also represents a $50 million increase over the funding vetoed by the Governor.

HB 1801 reverses the Governor’s line-item vetoes of funding for community colleges and the State System of Higher Education, while providing full funding for Pennsylvania’s state related universities: Penn State, Pitt, Temple and Lincoln. The bill provides funds to preserve programs such as agricultural extension and research and 4-H that are currently in jeopardy since they were defunded by the Governor’s line-item vetoes.

While the Governor will let HB 1801 pass, he vetoed the accompanying Fiscal Code measure, House Bill 1327. I am extremely disappointed with this action. As it was sent to the Governor’s desk, the Fiscal Code would have provided important safeguards that protect local energy producing industries and the thousands of workers they employ from overreaching regulations that could come with Pennsylvania’s compliance with the federal Clean Power Plan. The Fiscal Code, as passed by the Legislature, would also have removed Pennsylvania’s conventional well operations from the impending burden of the Administration’s new oil and gas well regulations. Senate Leadership is considering what actions are needed and appropriate in the wake of the Governor’s veto and I will continue to push for the safeguards for our energy producers and their employees to be included in that package.

Senate Approves Six Bills

The Senate approved and sent to the House of Representatives six bills this week.

Senate Bill 983 allows parents and/or guardians of disabled adult children, who are in their care, to receive disability license plates.

Senate Bill 1108 defines in state statute a new subtype of federally certified motorcycle -- a three-wheeled vehicle with two forward wheels -- as an “autocycle” and creates a special designation under the existing motorcycle definition in Title 75 (Vehicles).

Senate Bill 1122 addresses membership on the board of trustees of a community college.

Senate Bill 1123 corrects a regulatory issue relating to gasoline in Pennsylvania.

Senate Bill 1142 amends the Storage Tank and Spill Prevention Act by making changes to the makeup of the Underground Storage Tank Indemnification Board.

House Bill 1638 amends state law to permit appraisers to appraise physical damage to a vehicle using personal inspection or by photographs, videos, or telephonic means. Currently, appraisers can only conduct appraisals by personal inspection. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

Committee Supports Measure to Protect Privacy, Safety of 911 Callers

The Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee approved legislation on Tuesday that would provide privacy and protect the safety of individuals who call 911 to report crimes.

House Bill 1310, introduced by Representative Maria Donatucci (D-185), bans the public release of “identifying information” from a 911 caller, which includes the caller’s name, telephone number, address and location.

The fear of reprisal should never be a factor that stops someone from reporting a crime or criminal activity. This measure ensures anonymity that will further protect and safeguard callers and victims.

The Committee also approved Senate Bill 847, a measure introduced by Senator Ryan Aument (R-36), adding a representative from the Korean War Veterans Association to the State Veterans Commission, a panel comprised of representatives from Pennsylvania’s major veterans associations.

Both bills now go to the full Senate for consideration. Click for audio from the hearing.

Senate “Welcomes Home Vietnam Veterans” with a Resolution

The Senate adopted Senate Resolution 316, a measure proclaiming March 30, 2016, as “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day” in Pennsylvania.

More than 304,000 American service members were wounded in Vietnam and of the 58,193 service members who lost their lives, 3,144 were from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. March 29 was the date that the last of our U.S. troops left Vietnam in 1973. And as such, the resolution marks March 30 is the date by which we commemorate their return home.

Therefore, it is appropriate that Pennsylvania and the United States of America pay tribute on that day to the unsung heroes of the Vietnam War. Let us offer a special prayer of gratitude to those men and women who served in Southeast Asia and never forget those whose dreams were left unfulfilled.

Joint Committee Reviews PA’s E-Recycling Law

The Joint Legislative Air and Water Pollution Control and Conservation Committee held a public hearing on Monday to review Act 108 of 2010, the Covered Device Recycling Act.

This law was enacted with the intent of promoting the recycling of electronic devices, such as televisions and computer components, as a way to keep many hazardous and toxic materials from ending up in landfills.

However unforeseen economic issues and the growing problem of illegal dumping have sparked an interest in the General Assembly in reviewing the current Act to determine what refinements can be made to address those matters.

The committee heard from Representative Chris Ross, the prime sponsor of Act 108. Representative Ross is planning to introduce legislation that would address shortcomings in the current law and promote electronics recycling in Pennsylvania.

Other testifiers at the hearing included: Ken Reisinger, Deputy Secretary for Waste, Air, Radiation and Remediation with the Department of Environmental Protection; Walter Alcorn from the Consumer Technology Association; Ned Eldridge of eLoop; Bekki Titchner, Elk County Recycling and Solid Waste Coordinator; Dave Vollero, York County Solid Waste Authority Executive Director; Shannon Reiter of Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful; and Bob Bylone from the Pennsylvania Recycling Markets Center.

Click here for video of the complete public hearing.

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