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HARRISBURG – The State Senate has recently passed bi-partisan legislation to begin reforming Pennsylvania’s pension system by moving members of the General Assembly and other statewide elected officials to a defined contribution plan, according to Senator Joe Scarnati (R-25).

Scarnati explained that last month the Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 922, which takes an important first step to move all elected officials, including members of the General Assembly, out of a defined benefit public pension plan to remove this financial burden from taxpayers.

“Reforming public pension benefits is an important goal that Senate Republicans have been engaged in throughout the current legislative session,” Scarnati said. “Leading by example is what Pennsylvania residents expect and deserve from their elected officials.”

The amended version of Senate Bill 922, which was approved in a historic vote by the full Senate, would remove members of the Senate and House of Representatives as well as the judiciary from the current defined benefit pension plan. The bill would create a defined contribution plan similar to a 401(k) plan for legislators, the Governor, the Attorney General, the Auditor General, and Treasurer upon re-election, as well as the judiciary upon retention.

“Recently the governor has been traveling across our Commonwealth to speak with Pennsylvania residents about the need for pension reform,” Scarnati stated. “I appreciate that the governor shares our concern for the long-term sustainability of our Commonwealth’s pension systems, and look forward to sitting down with him to proactively work as a team to solve this problem.”

Scarnati noted that Members of the Senate decided to change their own pensions first, before asking others to make changes to their plans. If changes are to be made to the retirement system for state employees, then those that vote for those changes should be held to the same standard.

“This issue did not arise overnight and requires that we work together to enact responsible pension reform in a strategic manner,” Scarnati said. “I am very pleased to work with my colleagues in the Senate to take the first steps to address the long-term sustainability of the state’s public employee pension systems.”

Senate Bill 922 is currently before the House Finance Committee.

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CONTACT: Casey Long
clong@pasen.gov
(717) 787-7084

marcellus-shale

State Senator Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) announced the distribution of $361,165 in Marcellus Shale impact fee revenue to county conservation districts in the 25th Senatorial District.

The revenue distributed to the 25th Senatorial District is part of the $2.5 million in Marcellus Shale impact fees designated for county conservation districts. The $2.5 million was collected statewide for calendar year 2011 and distributed to conservation districts by the Public Utility Commission in 2012-2013.

Under the impact fee legislation which was spearheaded by Senator Scarnati, the funds allocated for county conservation districts were split evenly, with $1.25 million in block grants of $18,939 for each of the 66 conservation districts across the commonwealth. The remaining $1.25 million was awarded in supplemental grants for administrative costs and well-impact costs.

According to Scarnati, eligible expenses for the use of these funds can include providing technical assistance and advice to local governments, land and drainage operations, assisting environmental advisory councils and administering natural resource programs.

“Marcellus Shale natural gas development is not only spurring job creation and economic growth in Pennsylvania communities, it is also helping to support the mission of our conservation districts,” Scarnati said. “These funds will assist our county conservation districts with promoting wise use of Pennsylvania’s natural resources, as well as protecting and restoring our natural environment through conservation of soil, water and related resources.”

County Conservation districts in the 25th Senatorial District received the following portion of the distribution:

Cameron County – $34,753
Clearfield County – $44,877
Elk County – $38,516
Jefferson County – $36,007
McKean County – $38,337
Potter County – $39,860
Tioga County – $95,137
Warren County – $33,678
The revenue was distributed by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, which under the Marcellus Shale impact fee, Act 13 of 2012, collects and distributes impact fees. The Marcellus Shale impact fee was established as part of legislation signed by Governor Corbett on February 14, 2012. Act 13 was passed after months of discussion among state government, local government, citizens, representatives of environmental groups and representatives of the industry. The law protects the environment by providing for environmental safeguards, while also imposing a reasonable annual impact fee on each well.

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CONTACT: Drew Crompton dcrompton@pasen.gov (717) 787-7084
Carol Maravic Milligan
Director
Senate Republican Communications
717-787-6725

HARRISBURG – Rep. Gordon Denlinger (R-Lancaster) sent a letter to Gov. Tom Corbett yesterday signed by 47 of his House colleagues urging the governor to use his executive authority to prevent Pennsylvanians from becoming ensnared in a federal health care plan that will place the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on the road to insolvency.

The U.S. Supreme Court on June 28 ruled that compelling Americans in each of the 50 states to pay for the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as ObamaCare, is a new tax – in fact, the largest tax hike in the 237-year history of our country.

That case, the National Federation of Independent Business et al v. Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, et al was merged with Florida et al. v. Department of Health and Human Services et al, of which Pennsylvania was a plaintiff.

More importantly in that case, the justices also decided that the federal government may not withhold Medicaid funds from the states in an effort to force them to compel their taxpayers to participate in this scheme by creating “health insurance exchanges,” and thus each state may now decide whether or not to become part of the Washington bureaucrat-controlled ObamaCare network.

“It is now widely known that the original cost of $940 billion for the first 10 years of ObamaCare was grossly inaccurate,” Denlinger said. “Updated estimates by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) now peg the cost to taxpayers at $1.76 trillion, a price tag that does not even include the cost of shifting the unreimbursed costs of Medicaid patients onto those who have insurance – a financial burden that will fall predominantly on the middle class and small business owners.”

That is why Denlinger’s letter urges Corbett to use the power the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling grants the states to reject health care exchanges and also prevent ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion from taking place in Pennsylvania.

“Beyond the cost, expanding Medicaid to such levels will drag down the finest health care delivery system the world has ever known,” Denlinger said. “We know what happens when government attempts to control markets best managed by the private sector. The proposed expansion of Medicaid and the move toward a state government-designed health insurance exchange represents a tragic end to consumer control. I call on Governor Corbett to stand strong for individual freedom, and to stand against ObamaCare.”

To view the letter from Rep. Denlinger to Gov. Corbett click here.

Representative Gordon Denlinger
99th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Charles Lardner
717.260.6443
clardner@pahousegop.com
www.RepDenlinger.com

The State Senate approved and sent to the Governor on June 29th, a fiscally conservative, sustainable state budget that includes no new taxes and restores funding for key education and human services programs, according to Senator Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson).

Senate Bill 1466, the Senate Budget Proposal was signed by Governor Corbett on June 30th. “This spending plan reflects the revenues we have available and does not mortgage our future to pay for programs and services we cannot afford,” Scarnati said. “The budget limits state spending but maintains strong state support for education at all levels and ensures that we have a safety net in place to help those in need.”

Senate Bill 1466 fully restores funding for Pennsylvania’s state-related universities and State System of Higher Education schools. In return, the presidents of these institutions have agreed to keep tuition increases to a minimum – no higher than the Consumer Price Index.

The bill also includes more than $149 million in additional support for local school districts over what the Governor requested in February. It increases funding for the Education Improvement Tax Credit program by $25 million. The EITC offers the business community a tax credit for contributions made to scholarship and educational organizations, enabling parents to choose the best educational setting for their children.

Senate Bill 1466 also restores significant funding to help counties and local agencies provide essential social and health services and programs for Pennsylvanians with physical and mental disabilities, senior citizens and families.

“In these tough economic times you have to make difficult choices, but we also recognize that providing a quality education to kids and lending support to our neediest residents is a core responsibility of state government,” Scarnati said. “This budget reflects our continued commitment to reject excessive spending and tax hikes that could hurt our state’s economic future and our ability to compete. Instead, we are doing what working families do every day – living within our means.”

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CONTACT: Drew Crompton (717) 787-7084

ltgovscarnatiAn Op-Ed by Senator Joe Scarnati — President Pro Tempore (R-Jefferson)

When Governor Corbett signed Act 13 into law on February 14th of this year, it marked the culmination of three years of work by the Legislature in crafting a comprehensive Marcellus Shale legislative package. The final legislation contained strong environmental safeguards, a mechanism for fair and predictable municipal regulation of the industry and a robust, yet competitive, impact fee.

Perhaps the most closely scrutinized aspect of the Marcellus Shale legislation was the establishment of a local impact fee. The Governor and legislative leaders, including myself, spent a great deal of time discussing and debating this critical topic. The outcome of this process was the creation of a local impact fee, with the amount set by the state and proceeds collected by the Public Utility Commission (PUC). Counties and municipalities where Marcellus Shale drilling is taking place would be given the option to adopt the fee or risk losing their share of the revenue generated by the fee statewide.

Many in the legislature and the media criticized the local impact fee at the time of its passage. Some doubted whether counties would ever impose a fee, labeling the legislation “the art of maybe” and questioning whether it would ever provide the necessary revenue to state and local governments. One member of the House Democratic leadership even went so far as to call the impact fee a “sham.” Thanks in part to the actions of County Commissioners all over the Marcellus Shale region, the past two months have proven those criticisms, and others like them, not only unfounded, but flat-out wrong.

The agreed-to compromise contained in Act 13 was a fair and effective method of enacting a significant but competitive impact fee, by which the Marcellus Shale industry would supply much needed revenue to local governments whose constituents have been affected by the growth of the industry while also addressing statewide environmental and infrastructure needs.

Following the Luzerne County Council’s approval of the local impact fee on April 16th, all 37 counties in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that contain drilled Marcellus Shale wells have now enacted local impact fees. Although the legislation allows for a majority of municipalities in a county to adopt the impact fee if a county government fails to do so, that option will not be necessary as not a single county in the Marcellus Shale region has failed to adopt the ordinance in the allowable amount of time.

By September 1st of this year, hundreds of millions of dollars in impact fee revenue will have begun flowing into the PUC for disbursement to county and municipal governments and state agencies. These funds will support a wide range of important programs and positively affect all Pennsylvanians in some shape or form.

In areas affected by the Marcellus Shale play, counties and municipalities will receive an influx of revenue to be used for infrastructure improvements and environmental remediation projects. In addition, much-needed funding will also be available for law enforcement and judicial costs, as well as housing and rental assistance and vital social services programs.

Citizens across the state will also benefit. Businesses will save millions on fuel costs and improve the environment by converting vehicles to operate on compressed natural gas, a much cheaper and cleaner fueling option. Emergency responders will receive additional planning and training. Structurally deficient bridges will be repaired and replaced. Parks and greenways will be developed. Watershed and flood control projects will move forward. Acid mines will be remediated, abandoned wells plugged, and the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund will again have a sustained revenue source.

Pennsylvanians will soon discover, what some originally doubted, that Act 13 is an incredibly positive step in the right direction for our Commonwealth’s energy independence, our environment and our future.

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati is currently serving his 3rd term in the Pennsylvania Senate. As President Pro Tempore of the Senate, Joe holds the third-highest constitutional office in the State. He was born and raised in Brockway, Pennsylvania and represents the 25th Senatorial District, which includes Cameron, Elk, Jefferson, McKean, Potter, Tioga and portions of Clearfield and Warren Counties.

www.senatorscarnati.com

Carol Milligan
Director – Senate Republican Communications
cmilligan@pasen.gov
(717) 787-6725

WARREN–Senator Joe Scarnati (R-25) and Representative Matt Baker (R-68) announced that a $3 million state grant has been released by the Corbett Administration for the Mansfield Central Business District Revitalization Project.

The funding is being made available through the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, which is intended to assist in the immediate creation of quality, family-sustaining jobs.

The funding will be used to make improvements to the downtown area, as part of an effort to bring new jobs and businesses to Mansfield.

“Revitalizing our downtown areas helps to preserve our sense of community and bring opportunities back to the area,” Scarnati said. “This investment by the state in Mansfield will help to create jobs, encourage economic development and improve the quality of life for area residents.”

“I am pleased that the Corbett administration realized the value of this grant and expedited the release of funds to aid in the revitalization efforts of the community,” said Baker. “This funding will go a long way in helping the community incorporate more cultural and recreational facilities that will attract more visitors to the area and provide more job opportunities for the local residents and university students who call Mansfield home.”

The Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program requires applicants to demonstrate they have secured non-state project funding as well.

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CONTACT:  Tim Nyquist (814) 726-7201

WARREN – Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati was pleased to see that Governor Tom Corbett included an impact fee on Marcellus Shale drilling in his recently announced comprehensive proposal.  However, Scarnati recognizes there are obstacles yet to be overcome as negotiations continue on this highly significant plan.

 “It was vital that the Governor weighed in on his recommendations for regulating and overseeing the Marcellus Shale industry,” Scarnati stated.  “There seems to be general agreement among all parties involved that there needs to be an impact fee that will not only assist local communities affected by drilling activities, but fund important related statewide environmental programs as well.”

 Scarnati expressed a strong willingness to negotiate the various proposals outlined in the Governor’s plan with the legislation he proposed six months ago.  With that said, Scarnati believes the final package must include a reasonable fee, increased environmental safety measures and incentives to use natural gas.  Also, there will be ongoing discussions with local officials and industry representatives to ensure that there is a balanced approach to zoning so that both sides do not continue to spend resources on legal costs.

 “As we move toward ensuring that communities across the Commonwealth are protected from the impacts of drilling, there will be discussion on the percentage that goes to local jurisdictions and what environmental programs will be funded and at what level,” Scarnati added.  “The most important thing is that we get some consistency, some confidence, and some reliability that the Commonwealth is moving in a direction that will foster growth in the industry while protecting our water, our neighborhoods, and our roads.”

“Negotiations between all parties will continue as we look to pass a final Marcellus Shale measure out of the Senate by the end of October, Scarnati concluded.  “I am confident that the final package will be reflective of our understanding of the need to balance the economic growth of this booming industry with the environmental health and well-being of the citizens of the Commonwealth.”

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CONTACT: DREW CROMPTON: 717-787-7084

Rep. Bill Adolph (R-Delaware) and a majority of members in the House of Representatives passed the 2011-12 state budget Wednesday evening. With the approval of both the House and Senate the budget will go to the governor for his signature.

“This is a very difficult budget year with the expiration of $3 billion in federal stimulus funds. These funds artificially inflated state spending, and we are now forced to realign state government spending based on sustainable revenue,” said Adolph.

“The House and Senate worked with the administration to make adjustments to the governor’s proposed budget and used the limited resources for next fiscal year to redirect funding to education and demand more efficiency and accountability from the Department of Public Welfare,” Adolph continued.

The state budget of $27.148 billion represents a reduction of $1.1 billion or 4 percent compared to the 2010-11 budget. There are no tax increases on Pennsylvania families or businesses included in this budget.

“This budget is a historic budget in that it is only the third time in nearly 40 years we are spending less than the prior year, and it is done on-time for the first time in eight years. Now Pennsylvanians can be sure state government will continue uninterrupted on a sustainable path that does not spend more money than it takes in,” said Adolph .

Contact: Mike Stoll
mstoll@pahousegop.com
717.787.1711

HARRISBURG – The Senate today approved legislation supported by Sen. Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) that would expand the Castle Doctrine in Pennsylvania, sending the bill to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.

House Bill 40 would protect gun owners who act in self-defense by removing the “duty to retreat” clause when an individual is threatened by an attacker in any place that individual has a right to be, including his or her home or vehicle. The bill would provide important protections against criminal prosecution or civil litigation for those who act in self-defense.

“Law-abiding citizens should not have to fear prosecution when they protect themselves and their families from criminals,” Scarnati said. “This measure, which only needs the governor’s signature to become law, will protect responsible gun owners and ensure that their Second Amendment rights are preserved.”

The General Assembly passed legislation expanding the Castle Doctrine in 2010 by an overwhelming margin, but then-Governor Rendell vetoed the bill. Governor Tom Corbett has voiced support for expanding the Castle Doctrine to protect law-abiding gun owners.

Under House Bill 40, an individual would need to demonstrate a reasonable belief that he or she was in imminent danger in order to use lethal force. The legislation was amended to ensure that the Castle Doctrine applies only to individuals who legally possess a firearm, and the legal protection for gun owners does not apply if used against a peace officer.

The bill also includes tougher penalties for individuals involved in trafficking stolen firearms.

CONTACT: Casey Long (717) 787-7084

State Rep. Kathy Rapp (R-Warren/Forest/McKean) today announced her support of the House Republican state budget proposal (House Bill 1485)  that would shift fiscal priorities to education over welfare by cutting wasteful spending and dropping ineffective programs.

“I support the House Republican counter-proposal to Governor Tom Corbett’s original 2011-12 budget proposal because it succeeds in not increasing the tax burden on Pennsylvania’s working citizens and job creators, while restoring $100 million for Accountability Block Grants that are extremely important to the rural school districts I represent to spend as they see fit on pre-K, all-day kindergarten and after-school tutoring programs,” said Rapp.   “It also benefits our regional Higher Education Council by increasing funding to the State System of Higher Education and state-related universities by $380 million.” 

While matching the $27.3 billion spending limit of the original Corbett budget proposal, which is nearly $1 billion less than the final 2010-11 state budget, the House Republican budget proposal would also: 

  • Increase K-12 education funding by more than $200 million to restore Basic Education Funding for all school districts to pre-federal stimulus (2008-09) levels. 
  • Cut Department of Public Welfare (DPW) spending by an additional $470 million from Corbett’s proposed budget, while continuing support for those residents who truly need that safety net-all totaled, the DPW line item in the House Republican budget amendment is still 1 percent above last year’s spending level. 

 “Having rejected six consecutive unsustainable Rendell state budgets and although the negotiating process for the 2011-12 state budget is far from over, I applaud House Bill 1485 for properly prioritizing our state’s limited revenues in a fiscally responsible manner that puts Pennsylvania taxpayers first and excessive government spending even further out of bounds,” said Rapp.   “Again, whether it’s broad-based or otherwise, a tax increase is a tax increase, and an economic recession is the worst time for state government to take away and redistribute even more income from taxpayers, consumers, property owners or job-creating employers.”     

For the latest legislative updates, visit RepRapp.com

Contact: Ty McCauslin
tmccausl@pahousegop.com
717.772.9979

State Representative Kathy Rapp (R-Warren/Forest/McKean) joined in a state Capitol press conference with House members, leading Right to Work advocates from across the state and several negatively impacted individuals committed to ending the practice of compulsory unionism on Tuesday to officially reintroduce the Pennsylvania Open Workforce Initiative (House Bills 50-53).

Rapp’s Right to Work legislation, (House Bill 51) would repeal Pennsylvania’s School Employee “Agency Shop” Law (Act 84) to return the individual decision of whether or not to join or support a labor union to teachers and all other public education employees.

“It is unconscionable for any level of government to allow union leaders to profit or maintain their existence by leeching off the earnings of another,” said Rapp, the 2008 recipient of the Pennsylvanians for Right to Work Statesmen of the Year Award. “Approximately 75 percent of Pennsylvania school districts operate under forced union contracts, which means that 75 percent of all public school teachers must join or pay union dues in order to keep their jobs. With nearly 85 percent of teacher strikes occurring in districts with forced union dues contracts, clearly Act 84 or Pennsylvania’s Agency Shop Law has done absolutely nothing to improve labor relations in our public schools.”

Designed to protect the individual freedoms of Pennsylvania’s working citizens, schools and the economy by ending the practice of compulsory unionism, other specific legislation and bill sponsors comprising the Pennsylvania Open Workforce Initiative are as follows:

House Bill 50 Freedom of Employment Act-Representative Metcalfe

During the past decade, real personal income rose 28.3 percent in America’s 22 Right to Work states as compared to 14.7 percent in forced unionism states, such as Pennsylvania. During the same time frame, the number of welfare recipients per 1,000 residents was 17.3 in forced unionism states, compared to just 7.6 in Right to Work states.

Under Metcalfe’s free-standing Right to Work legislation, employment will no longer be conditional upon paying dues to a union.

House Bill 52 Repeal of Act 84-(State Employee “Agency Shop” Law)-Representative Tom Creighton (R-Lancaster)

Since 1988, nearly 20,000 non-union state employees have lost their individual freedom to decide whether or not to join and support a union. As a result, millions of dollars are collected annually by the state from non-union members in the form of compulsory union fees and sent directly to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and other state employee union coffers at the expense of Pennsylvania taxpayers.

House Bill 53 Repeal of Act 15-(Local Employee “Agency Shop” Law)-Representative Jim Cox (R-Berks)

This Right to Work protection bill would return the individual freedom of choice to all local, municipal, county and township employees to decide for themselves which private organizations they wish to support and prevent the collection of compulsory union dues.

“As the power of labor leaders grows through the collection of forced union dues, students, parents and citizens from all walks of life are held hostage to their demands and almost always end up paying the ransom through even higher taxes,” said Rapp. “Each of the Right to Work bills we’re introducing here today has the potential to provide all working Pennsylvania citizens with the freedom to join and support only those organizations that promote and share their values.”

Governor Tom Corbett has recently indicated that he would sign into law, Rapp’s and all other Right to Work legislation that is sent to his desk For the latest legislative updates, visit RepRapp.com.

Contact: Ty McCauslin
tmccausl@pahousegop.com
717.772.9979

WARREN-State Senator Joe Scarnati of the 25th Senatorial District has been nominated by his Republican colleagues to once again be President Pro Tempore in the Pennsylvania State Senate. 

“I am honored and humbled by the trust that my colleagues have shown in giving me the opportunity to continue to lead this great institution,” Scarnati stated.  “Without question, there is much work to be done and by working together with members on both sides of the aisle, I am confident we will be successful in our intended endeavors.”

It was clearly evident that voters across the Commonwealth found merit in the platform of lower taxes, less regulation that the Senate Republicans have taken the lead in over the past several years.  With that said, Republicans in the Senate were again successful in maintaining control of this body with a 30-20 margin.

“Certainly, the General Assembly must persist in moving forward in creating an environment where businesses are doing business and workers are working,” Scarnati said.  “In addition, we must also walk down the path of making government more open, more transparent.  While much has been accomplished in these areas, many challenges remain.”

“Working with the basic premise of no tax increases, no new taxes, and no excessive spending, Pennsylvania, quite frankly can take the next steps toward making our state a better place to live, work, and raise a family,” Scarnati added.  “I look forward to working with members of the caucuses and Administration to further this agenda.  More specifically, I would like to congratulate Sam Smith as the next Speaker of the House.  I have long considered Sam a friend and wish him nothing but the best.”

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati will continue his role in the Senate for the 2011-2012 session.  However, he will no longer carry duel positions with the election of Governor-elect Tom Corbett and Lieutenant Governor-elect Jim Cawley.

Contact: TIM NYQUIST: (814-726-7201)