Collective Bargaining Transparency Bill Approved

HARRISBURG – The Senate State Government Committee approved a bill that would add transparency to negotiations between public sector unions and state and local governments, according to the bill’s sponsor, Lancaster County Sen. Ryan Aument. Senate Bill 643 would amend the state Sunshine Law to require public notice and access to any meeting where a public sector collective bargaining agreement is negotiated. The requirement would apply to collective bargaining agreement negotiations at the local and state level, including upcoming negotiations between Gov. Wolf and public employee unions. If approved by the legislature and signed into law, Pennsylvania would become the 11th state to require access to collective bargaining sessions involving public employees. The bill now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

SEN. RYAN AUMENT

SEN. RYAN AUMENT

No EBT Card Usage For Tobacco

HARRISBURG – Some lawmakers in Harrisburg are supporting a bill that would prohibit the use of public assistance cards issued by the Department of Human Services for the purchasing of tobacco. Currently, an individual who is receiving cash assistance is able to use an electronic benefit transfer or EBT card to purchase tobacco and tobacco products at “points of sale.” Under House Bill 1038, these products would not be able to be purchased through such means. The measure would also prohibit EBT card cash withdrawals at businesses licensed by the PA Gaming Control Board and the PA Liquor Control Board. The Public Welfare Code already prohibits the purchase of liquor and alcohol with EBT cards. House Bill 1038 is currently assigned to the House Health Committee for consideration.

Caylee’s Law Gets PA House Committee Approval

HARRISBURG – Legislation which would increase the penalties for the crime of concealing the death of a child was approved by the House Judiciary Committee. House Bill 424 would upgrade the offense from a first-degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony and increase the maximum penalties to seven years in prison and a $15,000 fine. The measure also would clarify that those who can be charged with the offense are a parent, an individual living in the same household as the child, or an individual responsible for the child’s welfare. House Bill 424 is also known as “Caylee’s Law” because of the highly publicized child death case of Caylee Anthony several years ago in Florida. The bill now goes to the full House for consideration.

Kane Hires Former Rendell Spokesman

HARRISBURG (AP) – Embattled PA Attorney General Kathleen Kane is hiring former Gov. Ed Rendell’s spokesman to help get her message out. Kane announced she’s hired Chuck Ardo as a communications adviser. He’s the seventh spokesperson to work for Kane since she took office at the start of 2013. The 68-year-old Ardo says Kane called him about the job last week. A grand jury that investigated the leak of secret material to a newspaper has recommended that Kane be charged with perjury and other crimes. Kane has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

ObamaCare Causes Side Effect

PENNSYLVANIA (AP) – President Barack Obama’s health care law has had a surprising side effect: In some states, it appears to be enticing more Americans to apply for food stamps, even as the economy improves. New, streamlined application systems built for the health care overhaul seem to be making it easier for people to enroll in government benefit programs, including insurance coverage and food stamps. An Associated Press analysis finds unforeseen enrollment increases over two years in 11 states, including Pennsylvania. It’s happening as Republicans try to cut the costs of the food-benefits program and at a time when food-stamp usage would be expected to decline. The impact on food stamps could grow.

Credit Card Phone Scam Warning

HARRISBURG – PA Attorney General Kathleen Kane alerted Commonwealth residents of a reoccurring telephone scam in which consumers have been told there is a “freeze” or “hold” on their credit cards. Kane said you should never give out personal or financial information over the phone. It is imperative that consumers protect this information to avoid being victimized. The scam starts with a call from someone, usually in the form of a robocall, claiming they are with your credit card company. The caller says a temporary hold or freeze has been placed on your account and you must call them back at the phone number they provide in order to reactivate your credit card. In another similar scam, callers claim to be affiliated with software or technology companies and state the consumer’s computer has been compromised. The caller attempts to remotely gain access to the consumer’s computer to install spyware, which allows the caller to acquire control of the computer. Once that occurs, the consumer’s computer is held hostage until a fee is paid to the caller. Consumers can file a complaint regarding these or other scams by calling the Bureau of Consumer Protection’s toll-free helpline number at 1-800-441-2555 or online at www.attorneygeneral.gov.

COLA Reform Bill Passes PA House

HARRISBURG – The state House in Harrisburg passed legislation that would remove the requirement that any cost-of-living-adjustment or COLA be made retroactive to the last COLA. By removing the mandate, House Bill 239 aims to protect taxpayers from excessive tax increases and reinforce local control of county pension boards. Under current PA law, any COLA granted by a county pension board has to be retroactive to the last. For instance, if a county pension board granted a COLA in 2000 and did not grant a second COLA until 2015, the second COLA would have to be retroactive 15 years to the first, drastically increasing costs to county governments and taxpayers. House Bill 239 was amended to include language that sets a minimum pension funding threshold above which counties may grant a COLA. This would provide additional protection to taxpayers by ensuring that pension plans are responsibly funded before a COLA adjustment can be considered. The bill now goes to the state Senate.

Labor Dispute Measure Goes To PA Senate

HARRISBURG – A measure to prohibit harassment, stalking or making threats by parties involved in a labor dispute has passed the PA House. Recent examples have been brought to the forefront with federal indictments and convictions related to the December 2012 burning and vandalism of a Quaker meetinghouse construction site in Philadelphia. Currently, PAs criminal code, Title 18, exempts management and organized labor from prosecution for harassment, stalking and threatening to use weapons of mass destruction. House Bill 874 would not impact unions engaged in lawful disputes or protests. However, both labor and management would have to live by the same criminal law everyone else lives by in Pennsylvania. Bill sponsor, Dauphin County Rep. Ron Marsico said, “The labor community in Pennsylvania includes many unions that represent their members effectively, honorably and peacefully. But there is also a dark side to the labor community that uses intimidation and threats to pursue its objectives.” House Bill 874 will now go the Senate for further consideration.

REP. RON MARSICO

REP. RON MARSICO

More Protections From Elder Abuse

HARRISBURG – Legislation to provide extra protection against elder abuse committed by people acting with power of attorney passed the state House. House Bill 299 would amend the state’s Power of Attorney Acknowledgment to indicate that failure to comply with the document’s directives could result in criminal charges against the person holding power of attorney. It would also allow area agencies on aging to access confidential records if the group believes a crime has been committed and can prove the elderly victim is mentally incapacitated. In addition, the legislation was amended to include a notice of the state Department of Aging’s elder abuse hotline (1-800-490-8505) to the person giving the power of attorney.

Three Wolf Cabinet Nominees Get Committee Approval

HARRISBURG (AP) – Three of Gov. Tom Wolf’s Cabinet nominees have now won approval from Senate committees ahead of confirmation votes in the chamber. Ted Dallas, the acting human services secretary, received approval from the Public Health and Welfare Committee. That approval followed committee votes this week for Acting Transportation Secretary Leslie Richards and Acting Education Secretary Pedro Rivera. Rivera was the former superintendent of the School District of Lancaster.