Senate Democratic Wrap-up for the week of May 3, 2015

 

The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 330 which will provide harsher consequences for property negligence.

This bill lowers the required number of code violations from four to two, before a code violation becomes a criminal offense. Law also requires that a landowner make reasonable attempts to correct violations; and increases the fines for failing to correct code violations.

Proponents noted that dilapidated buildings often pose a health risk to the community and that building owners need to be more accountable.

Last session, similar legislation was introduced (SB 1242), but died in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The bill was enacted as Act 34 of 2015.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 442, which would require that all branches of the commonwealth publicly disclose when a commercial is paid for using state tax dollars. This legislation is aimed at providing transparency and informing taxpayers as to where their taxes are being used.

Senate Bill 442 now goes to the House State Government Committee.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 622, which removes certain reporting responsibilities from the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee.

The three reports are a performance audit of PennDOT, a cost benefits analysis of health insurance policies, and a study on the impact of slots on the State Lottery. This legislation saves money by cutting the reoccurring costs of producing these reports.

The bill was enacted as Act 13 of 2015.

 

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In a party line vote, the Senate voted 29-19 for Senate Bill 644, which would require the Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) to provide a cost analysis of the governor’s labor bargaining agreements before they are enacted.

Traditionally, the governor unilaterally, and in private, negotiates such deals.

Republicans claim the bill would better prepare Pennsylvania for future budgets and help guide the budgeting decision making process. They said they want to make the bargaining process more transparent.

Democrats called the legislation a veiled attempt at “union busting.” They criticized Republicans for trying to weaken Gov. Tom Wolf’s negotiating power. In the floor debate, Democrats asked their GOP colleagues why they didn’t express the same concerns under former Republican Gov. Tom Corbett. Democrats added that sensitive negotiating positions should stay private and that baseless public complaints could delay or scuttle solid employer-employee negotiations and agreements.

Typically contracts are negotiated and then enacted immediately. However, this bill would mandate at least 10 business days before contract enactment to allow time for public input and fiscal evaluation.

Senate Bill 644 now goes to the House.

 

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The Senate voted 29-19 in favor of Senate Bill 645, the companion bill to Senate Bill 644 that would require that the public receive notice of any state employee collective bargaining agreements.

Under the bill, commonwealth employers would be required to post a statement of the terms of the agreement and an estimate of the cost on their websites at least two weeks before the agreement is signed.

Republicans claim bill is aimed at taxpayer protection by providing transparency and time for public reaction. Democrats said the bill is aimed at sidetracking legitimate union negotiations.

Senate Bill 645 now goes to the House.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 699, which will remove the Project 70 restrictions on property in Luzerne County. Project 70 deals with public lands acquisition law and this bill releases property in Luzerne County from the state’s restrictions.

The bill was enacted as Act 14 of 2015.

 

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