Senate Weekly Session Wrap
Important Harrisburg Happenings:
Senate Approves Bill on Community Fundraisers
The Senate unanimously approved legislation on Monday barring the state from citing groups that sell commonly prepared baked goods.
Senate Bill 828 is now headed to the state House of Representatives for consideration. The measure eliminates the ability of the Department of Agriculture to cite non-profit community groups such as volunteer fire companies, churches and school booster clubs for selling home-baked food at fundraisers.
Last year the Department of Agriculture cited a Beaver County church for selling homemade baked goods prepared by ladies of the church at a Lenten fish fry.
Legislation to Impose Court Costs on Defendants Clears Senate
Senate Bill 1169, which would require defendants to repay their court costs, was unanimously approved by the Senate on Wednesday.
The basis for the legislation, which I co-sponsored, was a recent Commonwealth Court ruling involving Mark Spotz, who is on death row at a state correctional institution for a 1995 multi-county murder spree. Spotz filed suit against the Commonwealth for deducting 20 percent of the money coming into his inmate account to pay the costs of his prosecution. He claimed that the trial court's sentencing order did not include any specific language assessing fines, costs or restitution.
Act 84 of 1998 provided for such deductions, but in their ruling on the Spotz case, the Commonwealth Court held that Act 84 required the court to specifically impose these costs through an order. The Commonwealth Court further held that the inmate could potentially seek repayment of money already paid.
SB 1169 would statutorily establish a procedure for the imposition of costs. The bill now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Committee Backs Bill Helping Veterans Homes
The Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee today approved legislation intended to alleviate the nursing shortage in Pennsylvania's six veterans' homes. Senate Bill 1076 would exempt direct care positions in veterans' homes operated by the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) from the Civil Service Act.
This change in Civil Service status of veterans' home nurses would enable the facilities to make faster selections of personnel, place them in positions of service to our veterans more quickly and hire individuals with the most current training and enthusiasm for new careers.
The facilities operated by DMVA include: the Delaware Valley Veterans Home in Philadelphia, the Hollidaysburg Veterans Home in Hollidaysburg, the Gino J. Merli Veterans Center in Scranton, the Pennsylvania Soldiers and Sailors Home in Erie, the Southeastern Veterans Center in Spring City and the Southwestern Veterans Center in Pittsburgh.
Experts Testify on Proposed Senate Rules of Ethical Conduct
Five experts testified Wednesday, during a hearing held by the Senate Rules Committee, in support of a proposal to implement Rules of Ethical Conduct for the Senate. Senate Resolution 228, which I am a co-sponsor of, was introduced earlier this year.
Appearing before the Committee was:
The proposed Senate Rules of Ethical Conduct include:
Senate, House Committees Hold Joint Hearings
The Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee and the House Gaming Oversight Committee held a joint hearing on Tuesday. The purpose of the joint hearing was to clarify relevant provisions of the Lobbying Disclosure Law of Pennsylvania and take testimony concerning the make-up, mission and activities of the Pennsylvania Casino Association (PCA).
The Senate Finance Committee, which I chair, and the House Finance committee held a joint public hearing on Wednesday on the Independent Fiscal Office. The fiscal office was created as part of the budget agreement last year and is intended to bring parity to the budget process.
Contact: Matt Moyer (610) 366-2327