Senator John DiSanto E-Newsletter

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In this Edition:

  • DiSanto Bill Expanding Public Employee Pension Forfeiture Act Approved by Senate
  • Senate Approves Proposal to Improve Special Emergency Response Times
  • Other Bills Approved by the Senate
  • Committee Roundup
  • Next Week 

DiSanto Bill Expanding Public Employee Pension Forfeiture Act Approved by Senate

Legislation I introduced to ensure that public employees who commit job-related felonies are stripped of their taxpayer-funded pension was approved Tuesday by the Senate and sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Currently, the Public Employee Pension Forfeiture Act requires a public employee to forfeit his or her pension only for certain crimes listed in the act. In practice, this law allows public employees charged with a forfeiture crime to plead guilty to a different non-forfeiture crime in order to avoid pension forfeiture.

Senate Bill 611 would require pension forfeiture if a public employee or public official is convicted, pleads guilty, or pleads no contest to any felony offense related to his or her employment.

The measure also closes the “Mellow Loophole,” through which former State Senator Bob Mellow of Lackawanna County had his $245,000 a year pension restored despite pleading guilty and being sent to prison on federal conspiracy charges.

This was the most egregious example — but not the only one – of unscrupulous public officials betraying citizens with their actions and being handsomely rewarded for it – with those same citizens being forced to pick up the tab. It’s beyond adding insult to injury. It’s outright contempt for the people. This needs to end now.

In addition, the legislation ensures that criminal convictions involving public officials are reported to state pension boards. Current law does not require the employee, courts, or state agencies to send copies of court records upon conviction. Instead, pension boards learn of pension forfeiture cases through agency websites and newspaper articles. Under Senate Bill 611, courts would now be required to notify state pension systems of all pension forfeiture cases.

The skyrocketing costs of public pensions in Pennsylvania have turned the state budget into a mess and have driven up school property taxes, while taxpayers are continuing to fund the pensions of public employees who commit felonies on the job. It is well past time to require all egregious offenders to face a financial penalty for violating the public trust. We need to get this done for the taxpayers of Pennsylvania.

Senate Approves Proposal to Improve Special Emergency Response Times

Off-duty police officers who serve on Special Emergency Response Teams (SERTs) could respond to incidents quicker and more safely under legislation unanimously approved Tuesday by the Senate.

Senate Bill 1015, which I am co-sponsoring, would allow SERT officers to use flashing lights and sirens when using their private vehicles to respond to incidents, much like firefighters now do.

Local officials estimate that the use of lights and sirens on personal vehicles could save 10 to 15 minutes in assembling a SERT team for incidents requiring special training, such as kidnappings, barricaded gunmen and hostage negotiations.

Other Bills Approved by the Senate

Senate Resolution 32 directs the Joint State Government Commission to study the use of youth courts in Pennsylvania’s education and juvenile justice systems.

Senate Bill 52 establishes the National Guard Youth Challenge Program.

Senate Bill 234 establishes the Property Assessed Clean Energy program. I voted against this measure because I believe the private sector, without this proposed government involvement, can appropriately allocate resources to meaningful energy efficiency, renewable energy, and water conservation upgrades of commercial and industrial properties.  

Senate Resolution 237 urges counties and local law enforcement, public safety and emergency services to work with the State Police to facilitate the rollout of the new P25 Pa-Star Net radio system.

House Bill 359 addresses penalties for hunters who mistakenly kill an animal. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

Senate Bill 775 establishes the Pennsylvania Museum Preservation Fund.

Senate Bill 799 creates a program for municipalities to meet their taxpayer-funded Chesapeake Bay nutrient reduction mandates. I voted against this measure because no funding source was identified and I believe this new program requires further vetting and stakeholder input.

Senate Bill 898 exempts municipal trucks from state bonding requirements when these vehicles are traveling in order to maintain local roads. 

Senate Bill 1034 addresses Congressional redistricting.

House Bill 1653 makes students enrolled in distance or online education programs eligible for state grants.

Committee Roundup 

Agriculture & Rural Affairs

The Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee approved three bills on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 816 increases the penalties for owners when their dangerous dogs cause severe injury to another person.

House Bill 1550 amends the Agricultural Area Security Law (Act 43 of 1981) to further provide for restrictions and limitations on preserved farms.

House Bill 1917 strengthens the training and oversight requirements of humane society police officers. 

Appropriations

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved six bills on Monday.

Senate Bill 21 promotes the employment of people with disabilities.

Senate Bill 234 establishes the Property Assessed Clean Energy program.

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

Senate Bill 611 amends the Public Employee Pension Forfeiture Act to require pension forfeiture if a public employee or public official is convicted, pleads guilty, or no defense to any felony offense related to his or her employment.

House Bill 653 provides for an accelerated foreclosure process for vacant and abandoned property.

Senate Bill 898 exempts municipal trucks from state bonding requirements when these vehicles are traveling in order to maintain local roads. 

The Appropriations Committee approved three bills on Tuesday.

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

Senate Bill 1034 addresses Congressional redistricting.

House Bill 1653 makes students enrolled in distance or online education programs eligible for state grants.

Banking & Insurance

The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee approved two bills on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 780 promotes telemedicine in Pennsylvania as a way to overcome barriers to quality patient care created by distance and reduce the costs of those services.

Senate Bill 1031 requires the Department of Insurance to submit an annual report detailing its spending for third-party contractors to conduct fiscal examinations of insurance companies doing business in Pennsylvania.

Community, Economic & Recreational Development

On Tuesday, the Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee held a public hearing on Senate Bill 721, funding Pennsylvania tourism promotion.

Hearing Video & Written Testimony

Education

The Senate Education Committee approved three bills on Monday.

Senate Bill 776 extends the Dyslexia and Early Literacy Intervention Pilot Program.

House Bill 1305 sets a training requirement for special education teachers who provide secondary transition services.

House Bill 1653 makes students enrolled in distance or online education programs eligible for state grants.

Environmental Resources & Energy

The Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee approved four measures on Tuesday.

Senate Resolution 104 urges the Governor to end the moratorium on non-surface disturbance natural gas drilling on state forest land. 

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. 

House Bill 1341 amends the Bituminous Coal Mine Safety Act to allow emergency medical responders to be employed at mines. 

House Bill 1486 exempts “high tunnels” from the requirements of the Storm Water Management Act.

Finance

The Senate Finance Committee approved three bills on Wednesday.

House Bill 291 provides for an exemption from the inheritance tax for a transfer of property to a child age 21 or younger, from a parent, adoptive parent or stepparent.

Senate Bill 370 removes future non-public employees of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association from being eligible for public pension benefits. 

Senate Bill 952 exempts volunteer fire companies from remitting sales tax on food and beverages sold for fundraising efforts. 

Judiciary

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Senate Bill 1011 on Tuesday. The bill amends the state Constitution to create a crime victims’ “Bill of Rights.”

Labor & Industry

The Senate Labor and Industry Committee approved House Bill 566 on Tuesday. The bill provides for suspension of performance if payment is not received by a contractor or a subcontractor in accordance with the terms of a construction contract. I voted against this measure because I do not believe the government should impose these additional requirements on contracts negotiated by private parties.

Local Government 

The Senate Local Government Committee approved 10 bills on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 114 enables a sewer authority to obtain a court order allowing it to terminate sewer service to commercial customers who are delinquent at least 6 months in payment of sewer bills

Provide for concise publication of annual financial reporting information

House Bill 104 amends Title 53 to require a municipal authority to publicly discuss all acquisitions and the sale or transfer of authority-owned water and sewer infrastructure and how the acquisition or sale will benefit the authority’s existing ratepayers; and requires annual reports within 180 days of the end of an authority’s fiscal year.

Authorize local governments to implement storm water management ordinances and to assess a fee to fund the planning, management, implementation, construction and maintenance of storm water facilities.

House Bill 1364 amends Act 78 of 1979 (“No Bid” Law) to provide for the award of contract for services when no bids are received 

Transportation

The Senate Transportation Committee approved six bills on Wednesday.

House Bill 26 allows for abbreviated portions of an organization’s name on motorcycle special plates.

House Bill 783 exempts manufactured homes not previously titled in Pennsylvania from the tax certification requirement.

House Bill 1239 increases the fine for driving a vehicle without the proper class or type of license from $25 to $200.

House Bill 1845 renames a bridge in Indiana County.

House Bill 1854 renames a portion of Route 522 in Snyder County.

House Bill 1926 renames a portion of Fort Washington Avenue in Montgomery County.

State Government

The Senate State Government Committee approved four measures on Monday.

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

Senate Resolution 258 urges Congress to remove marijuana from Schedule I under the Controlled Substances Act.

Senate Bill 748 establishes notice guidelines regarding the proposed closure of state prisons.

Senate Bill 1034 addresses Congressional redistricting.

On Tuesday the committee held a public hearing on voting technology in Pennsylvania.

Hearing Video & Written Testimony

Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness

On Monday, the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee held a second public hearing on Senate Bill 1019, a rewrite of Title 35, the state Emergency Management Code. Hearing Video & Written Testimony 

Next Week 

The Senate returns to voting session Monday at 1 p.m. Gov. Wolf will present his proposed 2018-19 state budget to a joint session of the Legislature on Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. You can watch session and the budget address live at SenatorDiSanto.com.

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