Feb. 24, 2017

Budget Hearings Update 

The House Appropriations Committee, of which I am a member, opened a series of hearings into the state budget proposal for fiscal year 2017-18. This week, the state’s financial status was the subject of a hearing featuring the Independent Fiscal Office (IFO), a non-partisan state agency.

IFO testifiers confirmed an anticipated shortfall of at least $2.5 billion by July 1, 2018, reflective of sluggish economic growth, rising health care and pension costs, and an aging workforce. That shortfall can be reduced by substantive changes in public policy.

I questioned the IFO on the governor’s proposed natural gas severance tax and was told that the proposed tax would be higher than that of our neighboring producing states of Ohio and West Virginia, and significantly above that of Texas. It would place Pennsylvania in a less competitive position for future exploration and development.

In addition, a hearing was held this week that featured testimony from Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro. Click here to watch a video of my questions to him about natural gas leaseholder royalties.


Next week’s hearings will include appearances by the majority of state departments, along with the judiciary, Public Utility Commission, Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) and the PA Liquor Control Board.

To view the schedule or archived video of the hearings, click here.

Renn Elementary School Education Aid from UGI Energy


This week, a partnership between the East Lycoming School District and UGI Energies-Sunbury Pipeline has resulted in the donation of funds for upgraded science instructional materials and approximately 40 IPads for the Carl G. Renn Elementary School in Lairdsville. Charley Hall, my district office administrator, joined students and UGI personnel during a visit to the school.
Pennsylvania Game Commission Highlights

The Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) announced this week the Seedlings for Schools program is providing tree seedlings to classrooms so students can plant them as part of projects to improve wildlife habitat.

Orders placed as part of the “Seedlings for Schools” program are being accepted from now through Monday, April 24. To order, visit the agency’s website, pgc.pa.gov, and click on “Seedling Sales” in the Quick Clicks column, then select “Seedlings for Schools.”

There is no charge to schools that participate in this program. The seedlings are provided by the Game Commission’s Howard Nursery and shipping costs are offset by donations.

In addition, the PGC announced Pennsylvania hunters harvested 3,529 bears in 2016, the fifth-highest tally in state history. To top it off, 60 of those bears weighed 500 pounds or more – 17 exceeded 600 pounds.

The 2016 overall bear harvest was similar to 2015, when 3,748 bears, including 68 weighing 500 pounds or more, were taken.

The all-time bear harvest high was recorded in 2011, when 4,350 bears were harvested. Hunters harvested 4,164 in 2005.
House Committee Examines EMS Councils, Community College Training Bills

Members of the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee held two meetings this week to discuss further efforts to efficiently deliver emergency medical services, improve fire and EMS training, and meet veterans’ needs.

Tuesday’s meeting involved a discussion of the consolidation plan for the Regional Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Council System, which is overseen by Pennsylvania Department of Health’s Bureau of EMS.

On Wednesday, the committee was updated on the Pennsylvania Military Community Enhancement Commission and discussed the fire/emergency medical services training available through community colleges.

To watch those hearings, click here.
Be Informed of New State Traffic Laws

With this week being observed as Highway Safety Law Awareness Week, PennDOT reminds motorists of several new highway laws.

The Child Passenger Safety law update, which went into effect in August 2016, states that children are required to be buckled into a rear-facing car seat until they are age 2 or meet the maximum weight or height requirements set by the manufacturer of the seat.

“Daniel's Law,” now in effect, increases the penalty for texting while driving resulting in serious bodily injury or death.

To improve pedestrian safety, a driver of a vehicle emerging from or entering an alley, building, private road, or driveway shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian approaching on any sidewalk extending across the alley, building entrance, road, or driveway. Failure to do so could lead to a fine and three points on the driver's license. It is illegal to overtake or pass a vehicle yielding to a pedestrian within a crosswalk.

Under a new law passed by the General Assembly last year, drivers convicted of a first-time offense with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.10 percent or higher after August will be mandated to use ignition interlock for at least a year.
Road Maintenance Info Available Online

To make your travels easier, the weekly road maintenance schedule is available at the PennDOT Regional Office website here. For statewide information, visit 511pa.com.