January 28, 2013

A Report on the Legislative Session Week of January 28, 2013

Important Harrisburg Happenings:

Bill Would Ensure PSU Fine Money Benefits Pennsylvanians

The Senate passed legislation on Wednesday, January 30 to ensure that fines paid to the NCAA by Penn State would benefit Commonwealth residents. Senate Bill 187 would place the fine money in a trust fund administered by the state Treasury and appropriated to the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency for child advocacy programs and to combat child sex abuse.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

STEB Measure is First Senate Bill to Clear the Chamber

The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 66 on Tuesday, January 29 making it the first such measure to be sent to the House during the 2013-14  Legislative Session. This bill will complete the process of formally moving the State Tax Equalization Board (STEB) into the Department of Community and Economic Development.

This move, which actually was included as part of the 2012-13 state budget, is intended to save taxpayer money while streamlining and enhancing STEB operations. Because of the Constitutional requirement for uniform taxation, it is necessary that locally assessed millage is equalized when entities, such as school districts, encompass municipalities in multiple counties. It is STEB’s responsibility to conduct this equalization on an annual basis.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Violent Crime Task Force to be Empanelled

The Senate adopted Senate Resolution 6 on Tuesday, January 29. This measure, which I co-sponsored, directs the Joint State Government Commission to establish an advisory committee to review proposals that address the issue of violent crime. The Task Force on the Prevention of Violence will study the underlying causes of mass shootings and other violent crimes. The panel will consider the various gun regulation proposals that are being introduced, weigh in on proposals to strengthen Pennsylvania’s mental health laws so that people receive treatment before they commit criminal acts and determine if more can  done to combat bullying including cyberbullying.

Committee Report:

Legislation Strengthening DNA Laws Approved by Committee

A modernization of the laws governing the collection and use of DNA technology to fight crimes in Pennsylvania was unanimously approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, January 29.

Senate Bill 150 will allow law enforcement agencies to make better use of DNA evidence by requiring individuals arrested for serious crimes to submit DNA samples. The bill also authorizes a new type of DNA search to help identify suspects in unsolved crimes, strengthens privacy protections and requires DNA laboratories and technicians to meet national standards.

The Judiciary committee also approved Senate Bill 75, a measure I co-sponsored, that extensively revises state law on human trafficking and Senate Bill 304, which amends Titles 15 (Corporations and Unincorporated Associations) and 54 (Names) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes to make extensive revisions, additions and deletions to laws governing corporations.

Committee Hearing Report:

Committees Review Unemployment Compensation Call Centers

The Senate Labor and Industry Committee, on which I serve as a member, held a joint hearing with the House Labor and Industry Committee on Tuesday, January 29 to review issues related to unemployment compensation call centers.

The committees held the hearing in response to complaints, primarily in Philadelphia, about difficulties some individuals have had in contacting the centers. This and other issues were discussed by state Labor and Industry Secretary Julia Hearthway and other testifiers at the hearing.

During the hearing, Secretary Hearthway stated that they continue to work on internal improvements to the website and their processes to help claimants get
the answers they need.

She gave a few examples of what they have done:

  • Called-back 117 temporary UCSC workers.
  • Established a dedicated fax line for claimants.
  • Established a direct and dedicated phone line to the service centers at CareerLinks.
  • Changed the core hours of operation to Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. to provide the highest staffing level available to take calls.
  • Monitor talk and wrap-up times in order to process calls more efficiently to reduce busy signals.
  • Improved recruitment for intermittent intake interviews by requiring minimum experience and training to apply for the position.

Secretary Hearthway went on to say that they are working aggressively to find solutions to these challenges and that they want to ensure claimants receive the benefits they deserve and also that they have access to opportunities for gainful employment.

For more information on the hearing or Secretary Hearthway’s testimony, visit http://laborindustry.pasenategop.com/joint-public-hearing-with-the-house-labor-and-industry-committee/where Video, audio and testimony from the joint hearing is available.

Contact:

Matt Moyer
(610) 366-2327