“After considerable consultation with Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, other members of the Senate and the Governor’s office, it is my view that this step is warranted.”
– Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) on his intention to establish a bi-partisan Special Committee to pursue possible Senate action against Attorney General Kathleen Kane.
Senate Reconvenes at 1 p.m.
The Senate reconvenes today at 1 p.m. Bills on the calendar that may run this week include:
The Senate Education Committee, chaired by Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster), and the House Education Committee will hold a joint public hearing on the growing substitute teacher shortage facing Pennsylvania school districts. (Underway, N. Office Bldg. Room 1)
Hearings are streamed live at PASenateGOP.com.
Scarnati Announces Special Committee on Attorney General Kane
Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) announced his intention to establish a bi-partisan Special Committee to pursue possible Senate action against Attorney General Kane, pursuant to Article 6, Section 7 of the Pennsylvania Constitution.
The “Special Committee on Senate Address” will be established under Rule 5(a)(2) of the Senate Rules. It will be composed of three Republican members and three Democrat members, with the President Pro Tempore serving as an ex-officio member. Appointment of members to the Special Committee will be made next week by the Senate President Pro Tempore, in consultation with Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa.
Members of the bi-partisan committee will be announced and their names read across the desk in the Senate during today’s session. For more on this Special Committee, please see In the Spotlight, below.
Measure Strengthening Right-to-Know Law Sent to House
Legislation that will significantly strengthen Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law was unanimously approved by the Senate on Wednesday. Senate Bill 411, sponsored by Sen. Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware), now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.
The bill clarifies and improves the Open Records Law based on experiences and court decisions since the law went into effect in 2008. The bill makes over 30 changes to the law, including limiting inmate records requests, which make up more 40 percent of the workload of the Office of Open Records; handling commercial requestors; and clarifying that volunteer fire companies are not government agencies and should not be treated as such under the law.
An amendment added to the bill requires state-related universities to create accessible online databases to include budget, revenue and expense-related information.
Senate Passes Bill to End Intimidation by Union Members
The Senate approved legislation on Tuesday that would prohibit harassment, stalking or making threats by parties involved in a labor dispute. House Bill 874 returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.
The measure does not impact unions engaged in lawful disputes or protests, but addresses issues in previous labor disputes in which violent protests by the union workers ensued, including intimidation and harassment in the form of physical abuse of on-site contractors and property damage.
The measure was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery), in June. It is supported by the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association and the Pennsylvania Sheriffs’ Association.
Senate Acts to Prohibit the Sale of Electronic Cigarettes to Minors
A national study, “Monitoring the Future,” found recent e-cigarette use among teens exceeded traditional cigarette smoking in 2014 for the first time. E-cigarette use among 8th and 10th graders was double that of traditional cigarette smoking. E-cigarettes are frequently available in different flavors such as cotton candy, bubble gum, and chocolate which may appeal to children and teens. Today, there are nearly 500 brands of e-cigarettes on the market and they come in over 7,700 different flavors.
The measure is supported by the American Lung Association, the American Heart Association, and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.
Senate Sends Bill to Increase Support for Housing Program to Governor
The Senate gave final approval Tuesday to a House Bill that would increase state support for a program that promotes housing affordability and rehabilitation in communities across the commonwealth.
House Bill 792 would dedicate a portion of funds raised from the state’s Realty Transfer Tax for use by the Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement Fund (PHARE) for projects across the state. The legislation does not increase the RTT rate, but solely changes how the revenues under the existing rate are used. Sen. Elder Vogel (R-Beaver), introduced the measure in the Senate as Senate Bill 566.
House Bill 792 now goes to the Governor for his signature and enactment into law.
Senate Approves Bill Assisting First Responder Fundraising Efforts
Legislation intended to assist local first responders in their fundraising efforts was unanimously approved by the Senate on Wednesday.
House Bill 138 would allow first responders — after getting local approval — to fundraise on local roadways, with programs such as those in which firefighters collect donations in a boot. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.
The measure was approved by the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, chaired by Sen. Randy Vulakovich (R-Allegheny), in September.
In the Spotlight
Article 6, Section 7 of the Pennsylvania Constitution includes the following:
All civil officers elected by the people, except the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, members of the General Assembly and judges of the courts of record, shall be removed by the Governor for reasonable cause, after due notice and full hearing, on the address of two-thirds of the Senate.
The preliminary responsibilities and duties of the Special Committee on Senate Address are:
- Within 30 days following the appointment of Committee members, the Committee will issue a written report to the full Senate with preliminary findings of the Committee, as well as an outline of procedures that the Committee will utilize should they elect to move forward.
- Within the same period of time, the Committee will be tasked with determining if there is sufficient evidence that warrants notice and a hearing as required under the PA Constitution before the Special Committee on Senate Address.
Senator Scarnati: “The Committee will be tasked with examining Ms. Kane’s ability to perform the functions of her position with an indefinitely suspended law license, as well as possible other areas that may impact her performance.”
Pennsylvania School Staffing Levels
- Pennsylvania’s rank in total number of teachers: 6th
- Rank in total number of instruction staff: 7th
- Average Pennsylvania student-to-teacher ratio:14.6
- U.S. average student-to-teacher ratio:15.9
- Rank in average teacher salary: 10th ($62,994)