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Senator Don White

Harrisburg Happenings
A Report on the Legislative Session Week
April 11, 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 April 11, 2016.

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


Senate Approves Bill to Equitably Fund Pennsylvania’s Schools

The Senate approved legislation Wednesday to immediately enact into law the school funding formula developed over the past year by the bipartisan, bicameral Basic Education Funding Commission and provide the overdue state reimbursements for school construction projects.

House Bill 1589, which was approved by a strong bipartisan vote of 37-11, directs all new state money for the current 2015-16 school year to be allocated to districts using the new formula and authorizes the release of state reimbursements under the state’s Planning and Construction Workbook, otherwise known as PlanCon.

The bill was passed later on Wednesday by the House of Representatives (149-45) and now is on the Governor’s desk.

The bill passed in both chambers by a margin well beyond what would be needed for a veto override, which is a clear indicator of where the Senate and House stand on the issue of providing this money to local schools. I was pleased to be a part of that strong majority.

This bill sets clear guideline for how state money will be distributed to local school districts. By virtue of using his veto power, the Governor tossed out the fair funding formula and instead used his own discretion on how the money would be sent out. That plan would benefit a very few at the expense of a vast majority of districts, including most of our local schools.

It is also worth noting that House Bill 1589 provides for the long awaited reimbursement payments to local schools for the state share of construction costs. This is money that the state legitimately owes these districts and many have been waiting for way too long for those payments. It is imperative that we honor those obligations as soon as possible.”

House Bill 1589 now goes to the House of Representatives for a concurrence vote.

The state budget approved by lawmakers in March included an additional $200 million in basic education funding and more than $350 million in PlanCon reimbursements. The language to implement the new basic education funding formula and authorize the PlanCon reimbursements was contained in House Bill 1327, the Fiscal Code.

However, on April 4 the Governor vetoed the Fiscal Code and created his own formula to drive out public education funding. As a result, 86 percent of Pennsylvania’s 500 public school districts will receive less money under this plan than they would have received under the Basic Education Funding Formula. The veto also halted the PlanCon reimbursements.

Under the Governor’s basic education funding formula, three of the state's five hundred school districts will receive $100 million of the overall increase. Philadelphia schools will receive an additional $78 million, including $34 million that was taken from rural school districts throughout the state.

Below is a breakdown of how school districts serving students living in the 41st Senatorial District will be impacted by the governor’s funding formula compared to the Basic Education Funding Formula approved by the General Assembly:

School District BEFC Funding Governor’s Funding Difference PlanCon Owed

Armstrong County

 

Apollo-Ridge $8,827,459 $8,228,815 ($58,644) $256,087
Armstrong $30,029,026 $29,629,001 ($400,025) $3,598,923
Freeport $6,764,577 $6,714,372 ($50,205) $374,244
Leechburg Area $4,286,976 $4,239,202 ($47,774) $210,027

Butler County

 

Butler Area $25,847,977 $25,618,643 ($229,333) $2,446,196
Karns City Area $9,817,312 $9,771,689 ($45,624) $558,146
Mars Area $6,061,439 $5,977,464 ($83,974) $877,564
Moniteau $7,871,598 $7,966,854 $95,256 $427,886
South Butler County $7,819,551 $7,771,616 ($47,935) $1,221,753

Clarion County

 

Allegheny-Clarion Valley $5,936,604 $5,918,652 ($17,952) $196,553
Redbank Valley $8,668,796 $8,597,470 ($71,326) $382,628

Clearfield County

 

Harmony Area $2,759,894 $2,752,439 ($7,454) $611,193

Indiana County

 

Blairsville-Saltsburg $9,577,957 $9,501,613 ($76,344) $607,775
Homer-Center $5,578,635 $5,492,525 ($86,109) $384,557
Indiana Area $9,338,031 $9,179,939 ($158,091) $370,816
Marion Center Area $9,520,002 $9,447,953 ($72,049) $505,250
Penns Manor Area $7,395,954 $7,333,013 ($62,942) $297,402
Purchase Line $8,896,865 $8,840,912 ($55,953) $222,192
United $8,904,701 $8,859,220 ($45,481) $889,906

Jefferson County

 

Punxsutawney Area $15,587,803 $15,615,449 $27,646 $485,485

Westmoreland County

 

Burrell $5,970,846 $5,887,007 ($83,839) $610,699
Franklin Regional $7,117,936 $7,026,448 ($91,488) $155,996
Kiski Area $16,105,473 $15,961,875 ($143,598) $733,868

Committee Approves Bills to Protect Energy Related Jobs

The Senate Environmental Resources & Energy Committee approved, with strong bipartisan support, two bills intended to protect family-sustaining Pennsylvania jobs placed at risk by Governor Wolf’s veto of the Fiscal Code, House Bill 1327.

Senate Bill 1195, which I sponsored, includes provisions addressing Pennsylvania’s compliance with the federal Clean Power Plan. Specifically, the bill provides procedures for the General Assembly’s consideration of the implementation strategy developed by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for the federal Clean Power Plan before its submission to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

The U.S. Supreme Court has suspended the implementation of the Clean Power Plan rules for further discussion and evaluation, so it only makes sense for Pennsylvania to follow that approach. The language in Senate Bill 1195 would allow the General Assembly to give Pennsylvania’s plan thoughtful consideration before it is submitted. It is essential that the Legislature be proactive in protecting our industries and the thousands of workers they employ. The state regulations to comply with this federal edict could have a devastating impact on those employers.

Audio and video of my comments on the bill.

Senate Bill 1011 would spare Pennsylvania’s conventional oil and gas well operations from the Administration’s onerous new regulations intended for Marcellus Shale gas extraction operators.

The committee also voted to send a letter to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission recommending the panel completely reject the new oil and gas regulations proposed to Chapter 78.

The bills now go to the full Senate for consideration.

Audio and video of the entire meeting.

Senate Approves Special License Plate for Active Duty Military

I am pleased to report that the Senate approved a bill on Tuesday that recognizes and honors Pennsylvania’s active duty military personnel.

Senate Bill 1155 establishes a special vehicle license plate for members of the United States Armed Forces adding special recognition for active members of the military, reserves, and Pennsylvania National Guard. This would be an addition to the currently available license plates with special recognition for World War II veterans, Purple Heart recipients and Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration. We also approved and sent to the House six other bills this week.

House Bill 400 establishes the “Work Experience for High School Students with Disabilities Act.” The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

Senate Bill 1114 amends the Sewage Facilities Act to allow the use of “alternative systems” for planning purposes throughout the Commonwealth.

House Bill 1319 establishes the Pennsylvania ABLE Savings Program Tax Exemption Act. The act is companion legislation to legislation that would establish the ABLE Act Savings Program in the Treasury Department to encourage eligible individuals with disabilities to save private funds from which the expenses related to their disabilities may be paid. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

Senate Bill 1152 requires children under the age of one be secured in a rear-facing child seat while traveling in a vehicle.

Five Bills Sent to Governor

Five bills received final legislative approval and were sent to the Governor this week.

House Bill 12 amends state law regarding divorce to address situations in which one spouse has committed a personal injury crime against the other.

Senate Bill 879 provides that the Treasury Department may establish a program through which federal Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) savings accounts may be opened for eligible individuals for payment of qualified disability expenses.

House Bill 1329 establishes the Caregiver, Advise, Record, and Enable (CARE) Act, which requires hospitals to allow patients to designate a caregiver prior to discharge from the facility.

House Bill 794 increases the maximum hotel room rental tax in most third through eighth class counties from 3 percent to 5 percent and provides for certification of recognized tourist promotion agencies.

House Bill 1278 amends state law to allow television broadcasts or video images in a moving vehicle as long as the images are not visible to the driver.

Senate Approves Resolution to Review Corrections Department Overtime

The Senate approved a Resolution on Monday authorizing an official study of mandatory overtime in the Department of Corrections. Senate Resolution 263 directs the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to review costs associated with mandatory overtime for corrections officers versus the costs to hire, train and equip additional corrections officers.

Corrections Secretary John Wetzel testified at a Senate Appropriations Committee budget hearing that overtime costs for his department amount to approximately $90 million annually. The Department of Corrections receives the third largest state appropriation from the General Fund and its overtime costs have outpaced all other state agencies from 2010 through 2014.

On Monday, the Senate adopted House Resolution 783, which moves a ballot question on raising the mandatory retirement age for judge from 70 to 75 years old from the spring primary election to the November general election to provide time to clarify and simplify the language that would appear on the ballot.

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