My New Role as Chairman of Senate State Government Committee
I have been appointed by President Pro Tempore Jake Corman to chair the Senate State Government Committee for the 2021-22 session. I will also continue to serve as a part of the Senate Majority leadership team during this session, the first Senator from the 29th Senate district in Schuylkill and Berks Counties to serve in Senate leadership since the 1860s.
The State Government Committee has broad oversight over the executive branch, including the Office of the Governor, the Departments of State and General Services, as well as the Civil Service and State Ethics Commissions. The State Government Committee is also responsible for developing and approving legislation relating to elections, ethics in state government, constitutional amendments, and redistricting.
In the past, in the House and Senate, I have chaired bipartisan committees to consider budget, conservation, and blight issues and I look forward to the major challenges facing this new assignment to reform our state government and hold it accountable to the citizens of Pennsylvania.
In recent months, the Senate State Government Committee has approved bills which delayed the primary election due to COVID-19, froze legislative, court, and cabinet salaries during the pandemic, and a constitutional amendment to reform how the Lieutenant Governor is elected in Pennsylvania.
You can learn more here.
I will be joined by the Democratic Chair of the Committee Senator Sharif Street (D-Philadelphia), Vice Chair of the Committee Senator Chris Dush (R-Cameron, Clearfield, Clinton, Elk, Jefferson, McKean, Potter & Tioga), Senator Dan Laughlin (R-Erie), Senator Doug Mastriano (R-Adams, Cumberland, Franklin, & York), Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York), Senator Pat Stefano (R-Fayette, Somerset, & Westmoreland), Senator John Blake (D-Lackawanna, Luzerne, & Monroe), Senator Katie Muth (D-Berks, Chester, & Montgomery), and Senator Anthony Williams (D-Philadelphia & Delaware).
First Hearing of the State Government Committee: A Bill to Reform Lt. Governor Selection
In my first meeting as chair of the Senate State Government Committee, the committee passed legislation by a bipartisan vote of 10-1 to amend the state constitution to change how the lieutenant governor is selected in Pennsylvania.
Senate Bill 106, which I sponsored, would amend the state’s constitution to permit candidates for governor to choose their lieutenant governor candidate after the primary election – a process that mirrors how presidential candidates currently select their vice-presidential running mates.
This legislation has attracted a wide coalition of bipartisan support since it was first introduced. The first time I spoke in favor of this bill in the Senate State Government Committee I was joined by three former lieutenant governors who also supported this legislation, Republican Jim Cawley, Republican Robert Jubelirer, and Democrat Mark Singel. Additionally, this bill was supported by former Chairman of the PA Republican State Committee Alan Novak, former Chairman of the PA Democratic State Committee T.J. Rooney, and is cosponsored by current Vice Chairman of the PA Democratic State Committee Sharif Street. Regardless of their political views, all these former and current officials supported this legislation due to its ability to reduce conflict in our government.
You can learn more here.
Congratulations to New Policy Chair- Mario Scavello
Due to my new roles, I will no longer chair the Senate Majority Policy Committee. Senator Mario Scavello (R-Monroe & Northampton) is the new chair of the Policy Committee for 2021-22. Senator Scavello and I have been good friends since our days serving together in the House of Representatives, and I have no doubt he will do an excellent job in his new role.
Legislation to Support the Continuing Clean-up of Old Coal Mining Sites
In the past few decades, in Schuylkill County and across many coal-mining sites throughout Pennsylvania, extensive efforts by the public and private sectors have succeeded in cleaning up decades of environmental damages. Many communities have seen gray and black landscapes transformed back to green meadows and forests. I see people catching fish in what were dead streams just a few years ago. Working with Senator Yudichak (I-Carbon & Luzerne) we recently included an amendment in the fiscal code to support our coal refuse plants, so this incredible progress can be continued for years to come. You can learn more here.
Update: Work Zone Speed Cameras
According to the Morning Call, since the 1970s, PennDOT has lost 89 workers due to accidents at construction sites. In 2018, five construction workers died in highway work zone accidents. A change was necessary to help prevent such tragic losses of life.
PennDOT’s new Automated Work Zone Speed Enforcement system has proven to be effective in the first eight months of its implementation. Now, 17 white Jeep Grand Cherokees are parked near construction sites across Pennsylvania equipped with sensors and cameras that will flag drivers going 11 miles per hour over the speed limit and higher.
You can read more here from the Morning Call.
Pennsylvania Unemployment Rate Update
According to labor reports, Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate has continued to fall. Joblessness in the state recently fell from 7.4 percent to 6.6. percent.
Though this statistic looks promising, it’s important to note than only 15,000 people secured employment during the month while 40,000 people dropped out of the civilian labor force – those either working or looking for work.
Employers throughout Pennsylvania added 21,000 jobs in the same period. However, when you compare the jobs numbers to one year ago, it means 452,000 fewer jobs.
The 2021-2022 legislative session must focus on creating an environment in Pennsylvania which creates and maintains family-sustaining jobs for our residents.
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