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Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Tierne’s Law
In far too many cases of domestic violence, victims are not adequately protected against their abusers. State laws have proven ineffective at ensuring the most dangerous perpetrators remain behind bars. This week, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill I sponsored that would help ensure that judges have the tools they need to identify abusers who still pose a serious threat to their victims.
Senate Bill 449 would clarify that Magisterial District Judges may use a risk assessment tool when setting bail in domestic violence cases. These tools play a critical role in predicting an offender’s odds of re-offending and creating a dangerous circumstance for victims.
The bill was named Tierne’s Law in honor of Tierne Ewing, a Washington County resident who was kidnapped and later murdered by her estranged husband in August 2016. I introduced this legislation so no family will ever have to endure that same kind of pain and loss.
My legislation will now be sent to the full Senate for consideration. Additional details about the bill are available here.
I enjoyed celebrating the grand opening of the MMR Group 's newest office in Cecil Township.
Resolution Encourages Responsible Development of PA’s Natural Gas Resources
For 70 years, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) has managed the responsible mineral extraction of natural gas on state land. Unfortunately, in 2015, Governor Wolf signed an Executive Order that halted all new natural gas leases on state lands, including leases that were for non-surface disturbance. Non-surface disturbance means these new leases would have no impact on the surface of the public land. Instead any well pad would occur on adjacent private land or utilize an existing DCNR lease.
While this unnecessary moratorium on non-surface disturbance remains in place, the Governor is continuing to push for higher taxes on the natural gas industry, even at a time when natural gas production in many parts of the state is already grinding to a halt.
Rather than chasing away family-sustaining jobs through the creation of an additional severance tax, we should be exploring other options that could support job growth and help the state deal with its budget deficit. I recently introduced a Senate Resolution urging Governor Wolf to end his moratorium on new non-surface disturbance natural gas leases on state forest lands.
This approach would allow the state to safely and responsibly develop our existing resources without the need for a job-killing tax burden on an industry that is already paying a higher tax rate than most other sectors of our economy. If Governor Wolf is serious about creating new revenues to deal with a budget deficit that has already grown to more than $1 billion, lifting this moratorium would be a great place to start.
ABLE Savings Accounts Available Now
The new Achieving Better Life Experience (ABLE) Savings Program allows Pennsylvanians with a disability to use tax-exempt savings accounts to cover a wide variety of expenses, such as housing, medical care and transportation. The program is similar to college savings plans that allow individuals to set aside funds in a tax-free account for qualifying expenses without losing access to benefits. I am pleased to see this initiative come to fruition and help ensure families have a way to plan for the lifetime support needs of individuals with physical or intellectual limitations.
Details on the program are available at www.paable.gov.
Legislation Would Ensure Air Quality Funding is Distributed Equitably
As part of a settlement with Volkswagen following the automaker’s 2015 emissions data controversy, Pennsylvania is set to receive approximately $110 million in funding to help improve air quality and reduce emissions. I plan to introduce legislation soon that will ensure the funding from this settlement is distributed in a way that best positions the state to meet these goals.
My legislation will be designed to ensure Pennsylvania realizes the greatest air quality benefits for every dollar spent. The plan will include funding for a variety of emission reduction strategies, including the deployment of vehicles that meet the highest emission standards in the country for use in both government and non-government vehicle fleets.
More information about the bill is available here.
I appreciated the opportunity to speak at a press conference with the Pennsylvania Grade Crude Coalition and the Pennsylvania Independent Petroleum Producers to announce the results of an independent economic impact study examining the state's conventional oil and gas well operations.
State Grant Supports Cecil Township Traffic Signal Upgrades
A $416,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) will improve seven traffic signals in Cecil Township. The funding will improve traffic signals at seven intersections along the Southpointe Boulevard Corridor, a section of road that is frequently congested.
The grant was awarded as part of PennDOT’s Green Light-Go program, which was created to increase safety and improve traffic flow. The local project was one of 94 grants totaling $33 million that were announced this week.
For more information on issues of importance to southwestern Pennsylvania, please visit my website at www.senatorbartolotta.com and connect with me on Facebook (www.facebook.com/senatorbartolotta) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/senbartolotta).
SouthPointe District Office
Greene County Office Building