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Welcome to "Mike's Memo," an update on what's happening in the 48th Legislative District, the State Capitol, and the progress of my legislative priorities. If you haven't done so already, please take a few moments to visit my website at www.senatorfolmer.com to learn more about issues that may affect you and your family.

Week of October 24, 2016

Bills Pass Senate, Go to House for Further Consideration
All bills passed unanimously unless otherwise noted.
Senate Bill 535 – (47-3) permits municipal police to use radar for speed enforcement;
Senate Bill 840 – active work zone safety pilot program on limited access highways;
Senate Bill 976 – (45-5) enables police officers to use body cameras;
Senate Bill 1266 – updates the Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act;
Senate Bill 1271 – requires courts ensure children in foster care remain in the same school district for educational stability unless a child’s safety or well-being is at risk;
Senate Bill 1300 – establishes uniform residency requirements for military personnel seeking elected office;
Senate Bill 1313 – clarifies the Guaranteed Energy Savings Act;
Senate Bill 1330 – (30-19) restricts local jurisdictions from imposing firearm ordinances more restrictive than state laws;
Senate Bill 1365 – (46-2) adds a Court of Common Pleas judge in Bucks, Montgomery, Washington and Wayne counties;
House Bill 869 – requires animals of convicted animal abusers be forfeited to a shelter and not returned to the abuser.

Bills Pass Senate, Go to Governor for Further Action
All bills passed unanimously unless otherwise noted.
Senate Bill 286 – (37-13) Delaware River Port Authority reforms;
House Bill 49 – extends emergency responder death benefits to the PA Civil Air Patrol;
House Bill 447 – protects tenants and their families from “death penalty” contracts;
House Bill 683 – eliminates veterans’ disability payments in calculating eligibility under the Property Tax Rent Rebate Program;
House Bill 1581 – creates the crime of felony strangulation;
House Bill 1619 – allows Pennsylvania to join the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact;
House Bill 1734 – one year extension of the continuing professional education compliance deadlines for public schools, teachers and administrators;
House Bill 1841 and House Bill 1842 – changes to perfusionist permits under the Medical Practice Act of 1985 and the Osteopathic Medical Practice Act.

Adoption of Senate Resolutions 385 and 448
The Senate adopted SR 385 (27-21) directing the Joint State Government Commission to study which PA environmental laws and regulations have more stringent standards than required by federal Law. The Senate unanimously adopted SR 448 commemorating the 200 th legislative session of the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

Thank America’s Teachers: Support for Mr. Ludwig, Lebanon High School!
Farmers Insurance is giving $1 million to teachers through the Thank America’s Teachers program with 180 $2,500 grants, and six $100,000 grants. Fifteen teacher proposals are posted on the Thank America’s Teachers website and the community can vote on who should be awarded the grant. One of 15 finalists for the $100,000 Dream Big Teacher Challenge is Dale Ludwig, a teacher at Lebanon High School. Vote for Mr. Ludwig daily! Voting tabulation will be done the first week of November.

Highlights of Mr. Ludwig’s proposal include: “The Great Lebanon Community Project” is to work closely with the Lebanon Mayor on a community-wide waterway and watershed project that would benefit both the PA Department of Environmental Protection and the Environmental Protection Agency. Students would test water quality, assist with storm water drains, and public service announcements developing the skills necessary to be good citizens in the 21st century.

Column: The Impact of Small Reforms
One of the key principles of my “Promise to Pennsylvania” is improving state government openness, transparency, and accountability. That’s why I’m pleased one of my reform measures (Senate Bill 644) was signed into law as Act 15 of 2016.

This law focuses on the costs – not the details – associated with the Commonwealth’s collective bargaining agreements. The goal is to ensure both elected officials and taxpayers have information on the costs before these agreements are signed. It does this by empowering the Independent Fiscal Office to provide cost analyses of each proposed agreement 20 days prior to their execution. Previously, whatever was negotiated by a Governor was ultimately covered by budget appropriations paid for by taxpayers.

The first of the Independent Fiscal Office’s analyses was recently released for two of the largest state unions, AFSME Council 13 and SEIU Local 668 (http://www.ifo.state.pa.us/Releases.cfm).

These reports analyze both contracts, which have the same basic changes:

  • 2.75% pay increase October 1, 2016;
  • 2% pay increase effective July 1, 2017;
  • A biweekly increase in the employer healthcare contribution (from $455 to $473) in July 2017;
  • An increase in the employee contribution rate for healthcare benefits from 2% to 2.25% in July 2017;
  • 2.25% step increase effective January 1, 2018;
  • A biweekly increase in the employer healthcare contribution (from $473 to 486) in July 2018;
  • An increase in the employee contribution rate for healthcare benefits from 2.25% to 2.5% in July 2018;
  • 2.5% pay increase effective July 1, 2018, and;
  • 2.25% step increase effective January 1, 2019.

Over the next three years, these changes will total $525.2 Million: $53.2 Million this fiscal year, $167.1 Million next fiscal year, and $304.9 Million the budget year after that.

The reports also note benefits paid to employees result in about 40% in indirect costs (40.7% for AFSME and 40.2% for SEIU): employer pension contributions, Social Security and Medicare taxes, and Workers’ Compensation payments. So, for each $1 increase in wages, there’s an additional 40% in additional indirect costs.

Thanks to Act 15, the General Assembly and the general public have more information on the potential impacts these agreements will have.

I look forward to future Independent Fiscal Office analyses for the other collective bargaining agreements and I thank them for their efforts to bring more openness, transparency, and accountability to state government actions.

Prior to passage of my legislation, opponents claimed these changes were not broad solutions to reforming state government. I disagree; every effort to improve openness, transparency, and accountability helps to ensure government is being a better steward of taxpayers’ moneys.

I also look forward to advancing additional reforms during the 2017–2018 legislative Session.

Nominations Now Being Accepted for the Lebanon County Women’s Hall of Fame
The Lebanon County Commission for Women is accepting applications through November 30 for the Women’s Hall of Fame, which honors women who have made significant contributions to Lebanon County through their profession and/or volunteerism while serving as role models. Women being considered must live or work in Lebanon County, or; have played an integral part in the implementation of project(s) benefiting the Lebanon Valley, or; have worked as hidden heroes touching lives in a positive way. Nominees may be living or deceased, and previous inductees and Commission members are not eligible. The categories include: Leadership; Creating Community; Promoting Agriculture; Advocating Athletics; Working for Justice; Promoting Healthy Lifestyles or Healthcare; Contributing to the Arts; Innovating in Education; Serving the Military, and; Fostering Advancements in Science/Technology. Click here for the nomination form.


Contact Information
Please feel free to contact me at any time on state-related issues that are of concern to you. I may be reached through my website or my Lebanon or Harrisburg offices.

When contacting my office by e-mail, mail, or telephone, please be sure to share your e-mail, telephone number, and address so that we can follow up with you in a timely manner. Many inquiries can be handled with a phone call or email.

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