Please find an update on what has been happening in Harrisburg and around the 32nd District below.
Looking Back, Looking Forward
Before we get into the 2018 Legislative calendar, I wanted to take a look back at what happened in 2017. It has been a big year with many accomplishments for Pennsylvania and the 32nd District and this newsletter highlights some of the bigger achievements from the past year. I’m looking forward to accomplishing even more in 2018.
Stefano Appointed Chairman of Senate Game and Fisheries Committee
To begin the year, I was appointed Chairman of the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee for the 2017-18 legislative session.
I was a member of the committee during the 2015-16 session, participating in the critical task of helping to manage Pennsylvania’s wildlife resources and ensuring that the average citizen can access outdoor recreation.
I have been active on these issues in the 32nd District. My biggest initiatives include writing Senate Bill 192, which was supported by sportsmen groups as a needed reform to the Pennsylvania Game Commission on how they run their department, and saving Somerset Lake, a fish and boat managed lake whose earthen dam is currently being repaired.
Pennsylvania is home to over 1.5 million hunters and anglers and countless other outdoor enthusiasts who participate in wildlife associated activities. Hunters and anglers alone account for over 1.5 Billion in economic activity in PA. These activities also help anchor our robust tourist economy.
As a strong advocate for the Second Amendment and sportsmen rights, I look forward to using my leadership of the Game and Fisheries Committee to preserve Pennsylvania’s hunting and fishing heritage and expand opportunities for citizens to enjoy the outdoors.
Pennsylvania Land Bank Act Bill Passes Senate
In July, the State Senate approved legislation I sponsored to provide local redevelopment authorities with greater authority and additional resources to combat neighborhood blight. Senate Bill 667 would grant redevelopment authorities the same powers currently allotted to land banks through the Pennsylvania Land Bank Act, enabling them to take an active role in rehabilitated blighted properties and neighborhoods.
During my many tours of local municipalities, I noticed that dealing with blight has been the one issue that every municipality, large and small, has asked for help with. I’ve seen buildings on the verge of collapsing onto a main street and piles of rubble where once stood a business. Blighted, abandoned properties pose a danger to the public, increase crime rates and reduce property values. This legislation will give communities a valuable tool to effectively blight, which is becoming a growing problem in many areas of the state.
Under my proposal, land banks will continue to remain a successful and useful tool for municipalities in combatting blight. This bill will offer another resource for municipalities with active redevelopment authorities to use in eliminating blight, rehabilitating properties and improving neighborhoods and communities while saving them money and avoiding costly and timely duplication of services.
Senate Bill 667 currently sits in the House of Representatives for consideration.
Stefano Votes for Landmark Pension Reform Plan
In July, I voted for a historic pension reform bill that will transform public employee retirement benefits for the 21st Century and limit future financial risks for taxpayers.
Senate Bill 1, which passed the Senate by a bipartisan vote of 40-9, is projected to save more than $5 billion and shield taxpayers from $20 billion or more in additional liabilities if state investments fail to meet projections. In addition, the bill creates a new Pension Management and Asset Investment Review Commission to study ways to reduce investment costs with the goal of saving an additional $3 billion.
Pension benefits already earned by current employees and retirees are not affected.
When I ran for office I promised my constituents I would not take the current pension because it was not affordable for the Commonwealth to do so. Since then, it has been my number one priority and that of the Senate Republican Caucus, to pass meaningful pension reform legislation. We must do so because the pension crisis are a leading cause of property tax increases in our school districts and the biggest cost driver causing our budgetary issues in the state.
The legislation would offer all new public-sector employees one of three different retirement planning options – a defined contribution plan similar to the 401(k) system offered by most employers in the private sector, or one of two hybrid plans that combine a 401 (k)-style system with the defined benefit system that state employees and school employees already enjoy.
The new system would only apply to new hires, but current employees could voluntarily opt into the new system if they so choose upon the plans’ start dates.
The new options would provide greater flexibility for employees who do not spend their entire career in public service while still providing good retirement security for career workers. Most employees who leave service with 20 years or less of service time would see a better benefit under the new system than they would have earned under the current system due to the portability of the 401(k)-style plan.
Senate Bill 1 was passed by the House of Representatives and signed into law.
Senate Approves Stefano Bill to Increase School Hiring Transparency
Legislation I sponsored to increase transparency in the process of hiring of school officials and ensure that taxpayers have access to employment contract information was approved by the Senate in June.
Senate Bill 592 would require school boards to publicly disclose employment information before hiring a district superintendent, assistant district superintendent or principal.
The cost of education continues to go up, putting pressure on taxpayers who have to foot the bill. It is unacceptable that these major expenditures and hiring decisions could be made in the dark.
Under my legislation, when a school board extends an offer of employment to a district superintendent, assistant district superintendent, associate superintendent, or any principal, it must first post the terms of employment on the school district’s public website at least two weeks prior to it being approved.
The posting must provide the details of the final offer, including salary and the length of the employment contract.
These are key positions with huge salaries, and citizens deserve the opportunity to examine the contracts and provide feedback to elected school board members. Passage of Senate Bill 592 will shine the light on these actions, which can only lead to better hires and more responsible spending.
Libre’s Law Signed to Protect Animals from Abuse
In June, I was honored to vote for Libre’s Law (HB
1238) which updated and clarified the existing animal abuse statute and
increased the penalties for abusing any animal.
Current law only allows a felony conviction for animal
fighting, seriously abusing zoo animals or an endangered species or the
repeated serious abuse of cats or dogs. This legislation will also provide
for escalating penalties for repeat offenders.
Libre was on hand in June to thank me for supporting this important piece of legislation.
Senate Box 203032
171 West Crawford Ave
118 West Main Street