As of December 2020, my official annual salary for the start of my term was $90,335. I have promised not to accept the annual cost of living increase granted automatically to legislators, so I donate any increases, after taxes, to charitable causes (the current salary for legislators is $102,844). I also do not participate in the state retirement system and will not receive a state pension.
Mileage and Expense Reimbursement
I have never used a state-owned or state-leased vehicle. I do not submit for any mileage that I incur driving within the 15th Senatorial District. I do not receive per diems.
I’m always looking for opportunities to save taxpayer dollars, so I decided not to incur the additional expense of renting a separate district office when we can provide a full range of constituent service by phone, online, and in-person at the Capitol Office as well as local libraries and municipal facilities with free meeting rooms (see my mobile offices). My predecessor had three offices in addition to the Capitol, but I decided to save those dollars for taxpayers.
Also, to save taxpayer dollars and operate efficiently, I employ the fewest staff of any of the 50 state senators.
Several resources are available to find information about state government, including:
Open Records Law
Pennsylvania’s new Open Records Law (Act 3 of 2008), makes many government records easily available to interested residents. Information about how to request records from any state executive branch office or local government office is available from the Office of Open Records. Information about requesting records from the Senate, the House, and the state Judiciary is also available.
Online Contract Database
Pennsylvania’s new Open Records Law also created an online contract database. State contracts valued at $5,000 or more are included in this database, which can be searched by agency, contracting party, contract amount, date, and subject matter.
PennWATCH: Online Budget Database
Act 18 of 2011 required the creation of a complete online state budget database known as PennWATCH. This database, designed to make details of state spending easily and freely accessible, became available on December 20, 2012.
Live Senate Video Feeds
Senate sessions can be viewed from any computer with an Internet connection using the Senate Session Live feed at the Senate’s website. A similar feed is available for House sessions.
Online Bill Room: Roll Call Votes and Fiscal Notes
The General Assembly’s website now includes links to fiscal notes for those bills that have been considered by the Senate or House Appropriations Committee. You can also access the roll call votes for every bill considered in a Senate committee, in a House committee, on the Senate floor, or the House floor.
Website for Mobile Devices
You can also access legislation and other information through a General Assembly website for mobile devices such as the iPhone, iPad, Android-based devices, and the BlackBerry. Visitors can use the site to search for bills by number or keyword, to read bill text, to access information about legislative committees, to watch or listen to Senate and House sessions, and to contact members of the General Assembly.
Sunshine Law: Tougher Penalties
Act 56 of 2011 strengthens penalties for violating Pennsylvania’s Sunshine Law, which requires public access to open meetings and the opportunity for public comment.
Senate Rules of Ethical Conduct
On June 15, 2010, the Senate adopted a set of Rules of Ethical Conduct to make the division between legislative and campaign work clear, to provide annual ethics training, and to establish strong penalties for violations.
Independent Fiscal Office
Pennsylvania’s Independent Fiscal Office was created by Act 120 of 2010 to improve the state budget process. The office’s responsibilities include preparing annual revenue estimates, providing an annual assessment of the state’s fiscal condition, developing performance measures for state programs, and analyzing tax and revenue proposals made by the Governor or the Office of the Budget. More information is available at the IFO’s website.
Office of Inspector General
Pennsylvania’s Office of Inspector General, created by Act 29 of 2017, works to ensure the appropriate use of Pennsylvania taxpayer dollars by working to prevent, investigate, and eradicate fraud, waste, abuse, and misconduct in the programs and agencies under the Governor’s jurisdiction. More information about the Office of Inspector General can be found on the OIG’s website.
OTHER SOURCES OF INFORMATION
In addition to those listed above, the following resources provide additional information designed to make the operation of state government more transparent and accountable.
Lobbyist Disclosure Reports
Pennsylvania’s Lobbying Disclosure Law, Act 134 of 2006, requires lobbyists and principals (the companies and individuals who hire lobbyists) to file quarterly reports. The Department of State maintains an online database of lobbyists, principals and the required reports.
Statements of Financial Interest
The Governor, members of the General Assembly, and other public officials are required to file Statements of Financial Interest with the State Ethics Commission. The Statements of Financial Interest are all available on the Commission’s website.