Senator Camera Bartolotta E-Newsletter

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In This Update:

  • Lawmakers Seek to Put the Brakes on New Bridge Tolling Plan
  • Budget Hearings Delve Into Wolf’s Spending and Tax Plans
  • Special Committee Set to Begin Bipartisan Election Review
  • Emergency Rental Assistance Applications Available Now
  • Senate Returns to Session Next Week, Budget Hearings Continue
  • Discounted Fishing Licenses Available for Non-Resident Students

Lawmakers Seek to Put the Brakes on New Bridge Tolling Plan

PennDOT recently announced plans to add tolls to nine existing bridges on Pennsylvania’s interstate system. Legislation has been introduced in the Senate to put the brakes on this tolling plan and reform the state’s Public-Private Transportation Partnership (P3) process, which produced the tolling plan. 

The legislation would:

  • Increase transparency by requiring PennDOT to publish a detailed analysis prior to the P3 Board’s voting meeting.
  • Incorporate public input by creating a new 30-day public comment period prior to the P3 Board’s voting meeting.
  • Create a checks and balances on an obscure P3 Board by clarifying the P3 project with a user fee shall be deemed disapproved unless the General Assembly approves.
  • Void the PennDOT Pathways Major Bridge P3 Initiative and requires reconsideration by the P3 Board.

Several Senators gathered in Harrisburg for a news conference this week to announce the legislation and to voice support for voiding the statute that PennDOT is using to enact these new tolls.

Budget Hearings Delve Into Wolf’s Spending and Tax Plans

The Senate Appropriations Committee began the formal process of reviewing Governor Wolf’s budget proposal this week, including exploring how the governor’s massive new spending plans and record-breaking tax increases would impact Pennsylvania communities, families and small employers.

Some of the key points discussed during the hearings this week include:

  • The 470,000 jobs lost during the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact of higher taxes on economic growth, the $500 million difference in revenue estimates between the Administration and the Independent Fiscal Office, and the ways a natural gas development tax and a carbon tax could hurt the state’s economy. Key Points, March 8
  • The 500,000 acres of state land that could be used for natural gas development without surface disturbance, and the potential benefits of allowing broadband infrastructure on state game lands. Key Points, March 9
  • The massive increase in spending for human services programs, the need for greater efficiency with the Community HealthChoices Program, and the shared goal of moving able-bodied Medicaid recipients back into the workforce. Key Points, March 10
  • The need for upgrades to the Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors (SURE) system, the use of risk-limiting audits, reimbursements for counties for voting machines, permitting delays, the lack of communication and engagement in the Administration’s decision to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), and the number of plant shutdowns and job losses that will result from the state’s participation in RGGI. Key Points, March 11

Special Committee Set to Begin Bipartisan Election Review

A newly created Senate panel will begin a comprehensive review of the 2020 General Election with its first hearing on Monday, March 15, beginning at 10 a.m. The hearing is scheduled to review best practices of election integrity and security from other states.

The Special Committee on Election Integrity and Reform is anticipated to produce a report that will be presented to the General Assembly with recommendations to improve the administration and safety of elections in Pennsylvania.

State residents are encouraged to submit comments through the online form.

Emergency Rental Assistance Applications Available Now

Renters struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic can apply now for financial assistance through a program authorized by the General Assembly last month. Applications and more information on the program are available from the Department of Human Services.

Funding for the program was released to counties by Pennsylvania Treasurer Stacy Garrity on Tuesday.

Senate Returns to Session Next Week, Budget Hearings Continue

The Senate will return to session on Monday. You can follow all committee hearings, meetings, floor debates and votes live at www.PASenateGOP.com.

In addition, the Senate Appropriations Committee will continue its review of Governor Wolf’s budget with hearings featuring the Department of Education and the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education on Thursday.

Discounted Fishing Licenses Available for Non-Resident Students

Non-resident students attending in-state universities now qualify for a discounted fishing license from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. The price of a license is $22.97, which is the same price as an annual license for state residents and $30 less than the cost of an annual non-resident license.

Licenses are available through the HuntFishPA online licensing system. The opening day of trout season is April 3.

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