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This E-newsletter serves to keep you updated on what is happening throughout Bradford, Lycoming, Sullivan, Susquehanna and Union counties and what I am doing as your state senator in Harrisburg. I hope that you will find this E-newsletter helpful, and if you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me.
Some people dream of success, others stay awake to achieve it.
Natural Gas Royalty Litigation Update from the Attorney General
Last week, I met with Attorney General Josh Shapiro and discussed the current Chesapeake / Anadarko litigation suit.
On March 6, 2017, the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts assigned Senior Judge Kenneth Brown to the Chesapeake litigation. Judge Brown conducted a status conference on April 6, 2017 and set dates for briefing on Preliminary Objections.
Briefing has been completed on Chesapeake’s Preliminary Objections to the OAG’s Complaint.
With respect to Anadarko, the Court issued a decision on June 7, 2017 on the OAG’s Preliminary Objections to Anadarko’s Preliminary Objections. The Court granted some of the OAG’s Preliminary Objections to Anadarko’s Preliminary Objections, narrowing the scope of Anadarko’s Preliminary Objections.
The Court also set a briefing schedule on Anadarko’s remaining Preliminary Objections. The OAG’s Brief in Opposition to Anadarko’s Preliminary Objections is due June 28th, Anadarko’s Reply Brief is due July 7th and the OAG’s Surreply Brief is due July 14th.
Oral argument on both Chesapeake’s and Anadarko’s Preliminary Objections will be held at 10:00 a.m. on July 20, 2017.
Senate Health Committee Endorses Opioid Prescribing Guidelines Bill
Legislation implementing opioid prescribing guidelines developed by Governor Wolf’s Safe and Effective Prescribing Practices Task Force was unanimously supported recently by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
Senate Bill 655 makes mandatory the current voluntary guidelines developed by the Task Force on the proper and safe prescribing of opioid-related pain medications.
These guidelines encourage the judicious prescribing of opioid pain medications in nine areas including: treating chronic noncancer pain, emergency department treatment, dental practices, opioid dispensing by pharmacists, obstetrics and gynecology pain treatment, geriatric pain treatment, treating pregnant mothers with opioid use disorders, safe prescribing benzodiazepines for acute treatment of anxiety and insomnia, as well as prescribing in orthopedics and sports medicine. The guidelines also call for other clinical interventions prior to the initiation of opioids.
Improving the Use Body Cameras for Law Enforcement
Legislation providing for the use of body cameras by law enforcement passed the Senate today. Body cameras have emerged as a valuable tool for law enforcement in keeping communities safe.
Senate Bill 560 amends the definition of “oral communication” under the Wiretap Act so that conversations with police officers are not subject to the Act’s prohibition on recording.
This allows police to enter private residences while recording with body-worn cameras.
The bill DOES NOT affect the constitutional rights of the occupants of the residence. Officers must still have a warrant, consent, or other lawful grounds to enter the residence in the first place.
Members of the public and the news media will be able to submit a request for recordings to the police department, which must produce the recording unless it relates to a pending criminal matter.
$173 Million Distribution of Gas Drilling Impact Fees; Total Fee Distribution Now Tops $1 Billion
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) recently detailed information about this year’s distribution of Impact Fees on natural gas producers, totaling $173,258,900.
Over the past six years, the PUC has collected and distributed more than $1.2 billion in Impact Fees to communities across Pennsylvania.
County and municipal governments directly affected by drilling will receive a total of $93,128,340 for the 2016 disbursement year. Additionally, $62,085,600 will be placed into the Marcellus Legacy Fund, which provides financial support for environmental, highway, water and sewer projects, rehabilitation of greenways and other projects throughout the state. Also, $18 million will be distributed to state agencies specified by the Act.
In the 23rd Senate District, 2016 allotment totals are:
Keystone Boys, Girls State Visit the State Capitol
Last week, I was glad to meet Jon Morrison with Keystone Boys State who stopped by the State Capitol. Jon is a student at Wyalusing Valley Junior-Senior High School. Like Keystone Girls State, Boys State is affiliated with the Pennsylvania American Legion and is a unique week long summertime educational program that focuses on participation and personal experience in a model state, complete with governing bodies and elected public officials. It is designed to mirror the structure and operation of its respective state government.
Great to see Katie Wommer of Millville, Bryanna Sharer of Wyalusing, Rachel Weaver of Centre County, Anna Dunbar of Troy, Rhiannon Newcomer of South Williamsport and Rachel Hickok also of Troy who stopped by from Keystone Girls State. Anna and Rachel also participated in my Student Government Seminar this year. Had a very good discussion on the PA Budget, opioids, and my role as an elected official. #KGS2017.
Commonwealth Foundation: Just the Facts on Education Funding
New figures released from the Pennsylvania Department of Education show that school spending has consistently increased. By no reasonable measure are Pennsylvania schools underfunded. Solutions to the commonwealth’s educational challenges must be more creative than spending more money. Consider the following:
Total school district spending eclipsed $28 billion in 2016, and has grown by $3.5 billion since 2012.
The average Pennsylvania school receives more than $16,500 per student, a 16 percent growth over the past four years.
Per student funding in the state of Pennsylvania is 9th highest in the country, per the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).
Notably, NCES also shows Pennsylvania exceeds the national average in funding exclusively from state sources. This directly refutes the misleading claim that Pennsylvania “ranks 45th in education spending”—a talking point narrowly referring to the percentage of total spending coming from the state, which is the result of extremely high local funding. In terms of state funding per student, Pennsylvania exceeds the national average. And state aid to public schools has steadily risen over the past four years.
Many school districts are sitting on millions of dollars in surplus funding. Click here to see the status of reserve funds in districts you represent.