This e-newsletter is a timely way to keep residents of the 13th District updated on state and local issues. In a time when we are looking for ways to cut costs, this avoids the expense of the traditional mass mailings many legislators use. Please feel free to forward this email to anyone who might be interested. If you'd prefer to not receive the e-newsletter, just click the unsubscribe button at the bottom of the page. As always, I greatly appreciate the information and viewpoints you and your neighbors share with me.
Since we are just past the midpoint of the two-year legislative session, there is still ample time to reach resolution on major matters such as education reform, mandate relief, natural gas drilling, and transportation funding. Headlines about frustrating disputes over solving major issues on the legislative agenda sometimes overshadow smaller successes. With state revenues continuing to lag expectations, it forces a harder look at how dollars are being spent and drives efforts to achieve savings.
First County Mandate Rollback Becomes Law
For a number of years, counties have been advocating an extensive menu of mandate relief measures. The Lancaster County Commissioners asked me to push a bill that would allow them to eliminate the position of jury commissioner, which had been rendered unnecessary by advances in technology.
Despite the managerial and financial sense behind the request, my legislation to accomplish this was hung up in the legislative process, after easily passing the Senate. Finally, we used a procedural move to fast track a similar bill to the Governor. House Bill 1644 was signed into law before the holidays. Counties are acting quickly to make this change and realize the savings.
Years ago, Harry Truman got it right when he said: "It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who receives the credit." A lot more could get done in Harrisburg if the concentration was on delivering results, rather than collecting credit or assigning blame.
Mid-Year Budget Preview Indicates More Tough Decisions Ahead
Budget-watchers have seen state revenue collections consistently fall short of estimates again this fiscal year. So Governor Corbett's warnings about next year's budget being another austerity effort come as no surprise. It appears that the substantial cuts adopted in the current budget are just a downpayment on the effort to achieve greater fiscal responsibility in state government. Recent action by the Administration to freeze nearly $160 million signals that the upcoming state budget will be as challenging and controversial as the current budget was.
Savings Generated By Limiting Transportation For Methadone Treatment
As state officials look for ways to cut unnecessary or unjustified spending, legislators are finding potential savings in unanticipated areas. Reports that patients receiving methadone treatment were being transported to clinics far from their homes unfortunately proved true. There was simply no justification for such an expense. Legislation has been approved and signed into law restricting transportation to the nearest clinic. It will not take long for the savings to top $1 million.
Gas Pipeline Safety
As the gas drilling activity in the Marcellus Shale picks up, questions have raised as to whether state oversight of gas pipelines in rural areas is sufficient. It is a legitimate worry – state regulators are not even sure how many miles of pipelines there are, where they are located, or how well-constructed they are. Fortunately, that is about to change. A bill has been approved and signed into law giving the state Public Utility Commission oversight responsibility over gas and hazardous liquid pipeline operators who are not public utilities. As part of this measure, a registry is created for the Class 1 pipelines.
There are at least two more pipeline safety bills to come. One will require well operators to disclose information needed by emergency responders. The second will bring the lines in rural areas under state jurisdiction.
Negotiations continue in an effort to iron out differences on imposing fees on drilling companies and deciding who should collect the revenue and how it should be distributed. I hope the final version is close to what the state Senate approved last year, with my support. That package in many respects represented a responsible middle ground between those who want no drilling because of environmental concerns and those who want almost unrestricted drilling because of the potential economic benefits.