Senate Local Government Committee Votes to Update County Code, Municipal Advertising Rules

HARRISBURG – The Senate Local Government Committee has reported to the full Senate two bills aimed at improving local government operations, said Sen. Cris Dush (R-25), chairman of the committee.

Senate Bill 831, sponsored by Dush, is the product of a multi-year effort by the Local Government Commission (LGC) to update Pennsylvania’s County Code and convert it into consolidated statute form for insertion into Title 16. 

While the bill is substantively identical to The County Code, there are several changes that will be incorporated in the Title 16 language, including such things as:

  • Authorizing county commissioners, with the approval of the respective officers, to provide additional space outside the county seat for the auditors, commissioners, controller, treasurer or recorder of deeds;
  • Authorizing county commissioners, with the approval of the respective officers and the president judge, to furnish additional space outside the county seat for the sheriff, prothonotary, clerk of courts, clerk of orphan’s court, register of wills or district attorney;
  • Clarifying that nothing in The County Code precludes the use of electronic bidding by a county as authorized in Chapter 46 (Electronic Bidding by Local Government Units) of Title 62 (Procurement);
  • Removing restrictions on counties of the 7th and 8th class from making annual appropriations to a paid municipal fire department or volunteer fire company located in the county for the purchase, maintenance and repair of firefighting equipment; and
  • Making clarifications regarding provisions affecting county controllers (on which the LGC worked with the Pennsylvania State Association of County Controllers).

“This consolidation helps the counties to be better able to understand the law and easier for county solicitors to review and advise the counties on the law.  It will reduce legal fees for the counties as a result,” said Dush.  “When the legislature needs to make changes to the County Code this will also assist us in drafting legislation because we won’t have to ensure we are not fixing something in the consolidated statute while being contradictory in the unconsolidated law.”

The committee also approved House Bill 2148, sponsored by Rep. Brett Miller (R-41), to protect municipalities, school boards and municipal authorities from a newspaper’s failure to advertise a municipal notice.

HB 2148 would allow a municipality that properly submits an advertisement to a newspaper of general circulation and simultaneously also posts the same on their municipal website to count the municipal website advertising as having met the legal advertising requirements in the case when a newspaper fails to print the advertisement in a timely fashion.

CONTACT:    Zack Ankeny

Meeting to consider SB 831 and HB 2148

Senate Local Government Committee

Tuesday, June 14, 2022 | 12:30 p.m.

East Wing, Hearing Room 8E-A


Agenda

Meeting to consider SB 831 and HB 2148

Schedule

SB 831 (Dush) – Amends Title 16 (Counties) by consolidating Act 130 of 1955, known as The County Code

    • Amendment A04361 (Kearney) – Omnibus amendment
    • Amendment A04591 (Dush) – Incorporates Act 88 of 2021 into Title 16

HB 2148 (B. Miller) – Amends Title 45 (Legal Notices) and Title 65 (Public Officers) to provide for redundant advertising on Internet by political subdivisions and municipal authorities

Senate Votes to Protect Women’s Sports

HARRISBURG – The Senate approved legislation that protects the integrity of women’s sports, Sen. Cris Dush (R-25) announced today.

The Fairness in Women’s Sports Act states that school athletic teams designated for women should not be open to those of the male sex. The bill defines “sex” as the biological distinction between male and female, based on reproductive biology and genetic make-up.

The bill was introduced earlier this year after concerns grew about preserving the increased athletic opportunities female students have gained over the past half century in this country.

Earlier Tuesday, advocates for women’s sports rallied in the Capitol with lawmakers and others to encourage passage of Senate Bill 1191 and companion legislation, House Bill 972. June 23 will mark the 50th anniversary of enactment of Title IX, which guaranteed girls and women equal access to scholastic sports. 

“Just as we don’t allow 17 year old students to compete in peewee football there are physical and biological reasons we have not allowed men and boys to compete in women and girls sports.” Said Senator Dush. “The girls and women I’ve practiced with or coached in swimming worked hard to achieve their goals within an environment while allowing them to compete separately. Allowing a man or boy to make a declaration that someone arbitrarily decided would allow that male to dominate these women and girls is appalling.”

The bill will now advance to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Senate Approves Poll Watcher Empowerment Act to Increase Election Oversight, Integrity

HARRISBURG – The state Senate approved the Poll Watcher Empowerment Act to ensure election laws are strictly adhered to and improve confidence in Pennsylvania’s elections, Sen. Dush (R-25) said.

Senate Bill 573 makes the following changes to the Election Code:

  • Allows candidates from all political parties to increase the number of eligible poll watchers at a precinct from two watchers to three watchers.
  • Permits poll watchers to be inside the enclosed space where ballots are being counted or voting machines canvassed after polls close. They may observe but not interfere with the counting of ballots.
  • Permits poll watchers registered to vote in Pennsylvania to work at a polling place anywhere in the Commonwealth, regardless of which county they are registered to vote in. Allowing “out of county” poll watchers ensures that minority parties will have equal poll watcher representation at all polling places throughout the commonwealth.
  • Subjects any election official who blocks, impedes or otherwise intimidates a valid poll watcher to a second-degree misdemeanor penalty and increased fines and requires forfeiture of any pay received for election services. There were numerous instances in the 2020 election where poll watchers were denied access despite having valid certificates.
  • Guarantees that any poll watcher allowed to watch the pre-canvassing of mail and absentee ballots shall be permitted to have a clear line of sight to observe the process within six feet or less. This mirrors language of a Commonwealth court ruling in November 2020.

The bill does not change what a poll watcher can do while voting is taking place. It would double penalties for anyone who intimidates voters or interferes with the election process.

“I am very pleased with the poll workers and elections officials in the eight counties I represent.” said Senator Dush. “The actions in locations which have shut out elections observers and caused local qualified electors as well as candidates to call into question the why that necessitates this legislation.  The People have a right to demand an open and transparent election process and this helps The People to ensure that happens.”

Senate Bill 573 was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

CONTACT: Zack Ankeny

Senate Local Government Committee Approves 4 Bills Including Energy Choice Legislation

HARRISBURG – Four bills, including legislation to protect consumers’ energy choices, were approved by the Senate Local Government Committee, according to Sen. Cris Dush (R-25), chairman of the committee.

House Bill 1947, sponsored by Rep. Timothy O’Neal (R-48) would prohibit a municipality from enacting a policy that restricts or prohibits a specific type of energy source or discriminating against a utility service provider based on energy source.

“As prices rise exponentially on everything from gasoline to food, we must not limit choices for consumers,” O’Neal said. “This legislation is another way to give people options that can best fit their needs and preferences. I thank Sen. Dush for advancing this legislation and am hopeful the entire Senate will take up the bill soon.”

HB 1947 is the companion bill to Senate Bill 275, sponsored by Sen. Gene Yaw (R-23), which has already won Senate approval and is awaiting consideration by the full House of Representatives.

O’Neal and Yaw are championing these bills as cities across the nation have already taken steps to ban natural gas in newly constructed buildings, all at a time when energy limitations imposed by short-sighted climate policies have inflated energy costs for consumers.

The committee also approved House Bill 1213, sponsored by Rep. Lee James (R-64) to provide a different way to form a government study commission to consider and potentially propose a new, or amend an existing, home rule charter in a municipality that is currently in the Act 47 recovery program.

“House Bill 1213 offers an alternative process to form a study commission to propose Home Rule Charter to help distressed communities solve any issues they face,” said James. “It would also help the Local Government Commission to study the recovery objectives of municipalities under home rule in Pennsylvania, and permit enforcement of voter adopted taxpayer protection provisions contained in a home rule charter.”

According to the Local Government Commission’s analysis, tax rates adopted prior to the clarification language in HB 1213 would be grandfathered.

Two bills related to local government powers during a declared emergency were likewise considered by the committee:

  • Senate Bill 1052, sponsored by Sen. Scott Hutchinson (R-21), amends Title 53 to provide for emergency meeting powers and succession of local officers during an emergency. The bill was amended to make changes to notice and posting requirements, as well as a technical change.
  • House Bill 2116, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Wheeland (R-83), amends Title 11 to increase the maximum length of a state of emergency declared by a mayor from five days to seven days unless extended by council.

CONTACT:    Zack Ankeny

Meeting to consider SB 1052, HB 1213, HB 1947 and HB 2116

Senate Local Government Committee

Tuesday, June 7, 2022 | 9:30 a.m.

East Wing, Hearing Room 8E-A

Agenda

Meeting to consider SB 1052, HB 1213, HB 1947 and HB 2116

Schedule

  • SB 1052 (Hutchinson) – Amends Title 53 to provide for emergency meeting powers and succession of local officers during an emergency
    • Amendment A04391 (Dush) – Makes changes to notice and posting requirements, as well as a technical change
  • HB 1213 (James) – Amends Title 53 to provide an alternative process for the formation of a government study commission to consider home rule for municipalities currently in the Act 47 recovery program
  • HB 1947 (O’Neal) – Amends Title 53 to prohibit a municipality from enacting a policy that restricts or prohibits a specific type of energy source or discriminating against a utility service provider based on energy source
  • HB 2116 (Wheeland) – Amends Title 11 to increase the maximum length of a state of emergency declared by a mayor from five days to seven days unless extended by council

Senate Votes to Expand Sexual Assault Law to Cover Crimes Against Care-Dependent Pennsylvanians

HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Senate this week voted to expand the law against institutional sexual assault to include assaults by caregivers on care-dependent individuals, closing a loophole that allows perpetrators to escape punishment, Sen Cris Dush (R-25) said.

Current law against sexual assault applies to institutions such as prisons, schools and law enforcement. It is premised on the fact that truly consensual sexual acts are not possible where someone is in a position of power over another. 

Passage of Senate Bill 704 recognizes the same power disparity exists between caretakers and those in their care. Such individuals face additional challenges to reporting sexual abuse due to the circumstances that make them dependent upon others, including physical or cognitive disabilities, and mental and physical health struggles.

Expanding the law against institutional sexual assault eliminates the loophole that permits perpetrators to falsely claim that the victim consented.

“Sadly, individuals with cognitive and/or physical disabilities are at a higher risk for abuse, including sexual assault,” said Sen. Dush. “Closing this loophole improves protections for our seniors and other care-dependent adults.”

Senate Bill 704 will be sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

CONTACT:    Zack Ankeny

Fight Against Wolf Administration’s Carbon Tax on Electricity Consumers Will Continue in Court

Harrisburg – After Senate Democrats failed to stand up for Pennsylvania workers and ratepayers today, the fight against Gov. Tom Wolf’s $781 million carbon tax will continue in court, Sen. Cris Dush (R-25) said.

While Republicans stood united to override the governor’s veto of the resolution that disapproves of Pennsylvania joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), Democrats voted against the state’s economic interests in favor of this discredited climate policy that will spike residential electricity bills 30% and kill 22,000 jobs.

Just last week, impartial analysis from the Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) concluded RGGI could nearly quadruple new electricity costs for consumers above the administration’s own year-old projections for the program. The IFO also warned members that “those costs would be pushed through to final customers.”

RGGI will cripple Pennsylvania’s economic standing as a leading energy producer and leave the nation more reliant on fossil fuels from hostile nations than ever before, without ever achieving any of RGGI’s purported air quality improvements, said Sen. Dush.

Multiple independent reports show that emissions from Pennsylvania’s power sector declined at a comparable rate to the other 10 RGGI states over the last decade, further undermining the flimsy justification the administration uses to force this unconstitutional tax onto 13 million residents.

Litigation to stop final implementation of RGGI in Pennsylvania is pending in state court.

CONTACT:    Zack Ankeny

ADVISORY – FRIDAY, April 8 – Bradford Area High School Student-run Manufacturing Enterprise Press Conference

Bradford Area School District (BASD) was recently awarded a $200,000 grant through Pennsylvania’s Manufacturing PA Training-to-Career Program (MTTC) to create a student-run program and boost awareness of available opportunities in the commonwealth’s manufacturing industry.

On Friday, April 8, at 2 p.m., a press conference will be held at Bradford Area High School about the grant-funded student-run enterprise that will be launched, in collaboration with area manufacturers and the Northwest Industrial Resource Center (NWIRC), enhancing the development of students for manufacturing careers.

The new student-run manufacturing enterprise, which will be known as BAHS Manufacturing, puts the information learned by students in their coursework to practical use as they produce actual parts, deliver services, and add value as part of the supply chain for local manufacturers.

During the academic school year, students will learn about and perform different job functions in manufacturing, develop essential life-long skills, utilize advance manufacturing technologies, and build relationships with local companies. Initial positions of the student-run enterprise will include production manager, machinists, business manager and marketing manager.

At the same time this work readiness is occurring, capacity for local manufacturers is advancing, a short-term solution to job placement is underway, future talent pipeline issues are being addressed and the next generation of manufacturing business leaders is being cultivated. Students will have the opportunity to be mentored, gain expert insight and develop essential and advanced manufacturing skills. The working relationships established and developed will position the students for future employment opportunities.

Sen. Cris Dush (R-25) and Rep. Martin Causer (R-67) will join BASD administration, school faculty and NWIRC representatives to talk about the innovative program and be available for comment.

WHAT: Bradford Area High School Student-run Manufacturing Enterprise Press Conference

WHEN: 2 p.m., Friday, April 8

WHERE: Bradford Area High School, 81 Interstate Pkwy, Bradford, PA 16701

CONTACT:    Zack Ankeny

Independent Analysis Concludes RGGI Carbon Tax Could Increase Pennsylvania Electricity Rates 3.8x

HARRISBURG – Impartial analysis from the Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) projects the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) could nearly quadruple electricity rates for consumers, said Sen. Cris Dush (R-25).

The nonpartisan IFO reviewed the Wolf administration’s outdated RGGI modeling and presented its findings to a joint hearing of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee and the Community Economic and Recreational Development Committee on Tuesday.

IFO Director Matthew Knittel said Pennsylvania could spend upwards of $781 million annually on emissions credits at the RGGI auctions – nearly four times the amount anticipated by the administration’s taxpayer-funded 2020 analysis used to justify Pennsylvania’s participation in RGGI. Knittel told the panel that the costs will be passed on to energy consumers, including residential consumers, employers, schools and other ratepayers.

The IFO analysis also concluded that emissions reductions between 2008 and 2020 for the 10 RGGI states were comparable to non-participating states.

When Gov. Tom Wolf signed the 2019 executive order that forced Pennsylvania into the regional carbon tax program, auction clearing prices – the amount energy producers pay to buy “credits” to offset their emissions – were $3.24 per short ton. At that time, taxpayer-funded analysts insisted prices would stay under $5 through 2030.

The auction clearing price set on Dec. 1, however, exceeded $13 per short ton, more than four times what the department estimated and 40% above the Sept. 8 clearing price alone.

The IFO said this spike in clearing prices casts doubt on every projection the former analysis made. For example, net generation from coal and natural gas – two sources of carbon emissions targeted by RGGI – will likely grow 16%, not the flat rate assumed by the administration, to account for increased demand.

“There’s no contest between our commonwealth’s electricity rates and those of RGGI states; even though Pennsylvanians are seeing their electrical bills rise because of the bad policies pushed by Democrats at the national level, they are still paying far less than RGGI states, which account for most of the ten highest statewide electricity rates in the nation,” said Sen. Dush. “Seniors and others on fixed incomes will bear the greatest burden of the rate increases to come because the RGGI scheme puts Pennsylvania’s energy policy in the hands of the other RGGI states, none of which come close to producing the amount of electricity Pennsylvania does.”

“The jobs we stand to lose in rural Pennsylvania in the energy industry are but the tip of the iceberg of the family-sustaining jobs we face losing as industry pulls out from our high-tax, and now high-energy prices, state,” Sen. Dush added. “This scheme will only help foreign countries, big corporations from outside of our area and the politicians they help fund to use the force of government to line their pockets.”

The administration’s effort to force Pennsylvania into RGGI is being challenged in court and could face additional legislative action.

CONTACT:    Zack Ankeny