Minimum Wage Cost of Living Increase
Senate Bill 235 would tie increases in the minimum wage to the consumer price index, as several states have done. The bill would take the political wrangling out of the minimum wage and prevent full-time workers from falling below the federal poverty line. The last battle over the minimum wage took six years to win, and thousands of Pennsylvania families were living on wages that were being eroded by inflation by a dollar a day. Now, six years later, it’s happening again. It has to stop.
PSP Fines and Forfeitures
Senate Bill 237 is designed to boost State Police training efforts while creating a fairer funding system. Senate Bill 237 will redirect millions of dollars collected in fines toward cadet training efforts, while municipalities that provide less than 40 hours of local police coverage would lose their share of fines collected through State Police traffic stops.
As amended the bill exempts municipalities with fewer than 3,000 residents. It passed the Senate Transportation Committee today unanimously. The bill is expected to affect about 1,200 municipalities across Pennsylvania and steer more than $4 million toward State Police cadet training.
Senate Bill 679 would require “combined reporting” for businesses in Pennsylvania and close the “Delaware Loophole.”
Nearly three quarters of Pennsylvania companies pay no income tax and 80 percent pay less than the average family of four. At the same time, the number of business entities registered in Delaware over the past 20 years has jumped from 6,000 to more than 115,000. Hundreds of Delaware business entities have been registered in the names of Marcellus Shale drilling companies in the past five years even though Delaware doesn’t have a single gas well.
Assault on Mass Transit Employees
Under Senate Bill 236, anyone who attacks a public transportation employee could be charged with aggravated assault.
SEPTA officials have documented 50 assaults on drivers this year, more than double the total for last year. If the injury is serious, the assailant, under current law, can be charged with a first-degree felony. The maximum penalty for a first-degree felony is 20 years in prison and a $25,000 fine.
The maximum penalty for a second-degree felony is 10 years in prison. The same legislation, as Senate Bill 236, passed the Senate 42-8 last session, but died without action in the House. READ MORE
Train to Work
Senate Bill 678 is part of Senate Democrats’ PA Works initiative. The bill allows potential employees to draw unemployment benefits while receiving workplace training from a potential employer. Employers must certify that the participant will receive training and that the employer has job openings. Upon completion of training, participants get credit for acquiring new job skills and are considered for employment. Employers don’t have to pay wages, benefits or workers comp, and job seekers keep their benefits while looking for work and learning a new skill.
In Georgia more than 3,000 people have been hired through a similar program, and nearly 6,000 Georgia employers have participated, according to the Georgia Department of Labor.
Stopping Handgun Violence
Senate Bill 232 requires the owner of a lost or stolen gun to notify local police within 24 hours of discovering the weapon missing. The report must include the make, model and manufacturer of the gun, along with the serial number. Senate Bill 233 would require registration of all guns sold or transferred in the City of Philadelphia. The bill would require the state police to keep a confidential registry of pertinent information on the weapon.
Too often police cannot tell the difference between a legitimately lost on stolen gun and one that was sold to criminals with dangerous intent. With the plague of straw purchasing and a flood of illegal guns on the streets across Pennsylvania, it’s not too much to ask gun owners to tell police when their weapons are not accounted for.
Office for People With Disabilities
Senate Bill 234 Establishes an Office for People with Disabilities within the Governor’s office. People with disabilities and their families and guardians are often underserved. They have often been denied access to individualized and specialized services available to the community at large and have been denied services necessary to their health, well-being, independence and advancement. Pennsylvanians with disabilities who could live and work in the community live in institutions at state expense due to inadequate funding for community support services. The result is a loss both to these individuals and to this Commonwealth.
Workplace Safety Committees
Senate Bill 238 requires school districts to form Workplace Safety Committees in order to save more than $2 million each year in insurance costs. Half of Pennsylvania school districts could be save money by creating certified Workplace Safety Committees. Beyond the immediate savings from the 5 percent premium discounts, school districts could reduce the severity of illness and injuries, producing additional cost savings. The 160 school districts that have created safety committees are saving $1.6 million each year through the premium discounts, plus the additional savings from reducing the number and the severity of illness and injuries.
Pennsylvania Compensation Rating Bureau data show that injury claims for employers with Certified Workplace Committees cost 28% less compared to those of employers without committees.
Signed into Law
Senate Bill 994 was a compromise bill to extend unemployment benefits and make changes that will help shore up the Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund.
The provisions of the bill were eventually amended into another bill, Senate Bill 1030 , which was signed into law as Act 6 of 2011. Unemployment compensation is not just a lifeline for laid-off workers and their families. Unemployment compensation has also been critical in shoring up the economy, preserving small businesses and the communities they serve. During the recession, more than $15 billion in benefits were spent on food, mortgages, utilities and doctor bills. “
The bill also includes a Tartaglione proposal authorizing “shared-work” programs, through which employers would be able to reduce work hours of employees as an alternative to layoffs and allow affected employees to receive prorated unemployment compensation for lost wages.
Health Career Centers
Gov. Ed Rendell signed into law Sen. Tartaglione’s Senate Bill 174 , intended to address a chronic shortage of nurses and other health providers. The legislation creates “The Pennsylvania Center for Health Careers” within the state’s Department of Labor and Industry.
The center will focus on increasing the capacity of nursing education, retaining health-care workers, increasing diversity and training new critical care workers.
The idea is part of the statewide “Workforce Investment Board” initiative. Tartaglione’s legislation makes the office a permanent part of the department, rather than just a gubernatorial policy priority.
The state Senate approved a measure that will ensure firefighters that they and their families will be protected financially if they contract cancer on the job.
Last year, Tartaglione ushered House Bill 1231 through the Senate but it was vetoed by Gov. Rendell after municipalities expressed concerns about the cost.
A new bill, Senate Bill 654, passed the Senate with some minor changes to accommodate local concerns.
The bill specifically adds cancer to the Workers’ Compensation Act as a work-related illness if no other obvious cause for the disease is present and amends the law to include cancer suffered by firefighters and caused a group of known carcinogens recognized by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
The measure covers professional and volunteer firefighters in Pennsylvania that have been on the job for more than four years and have been exposed to known carcinogens. There are provisions in the bill that allow the presumption of job-related cancer to be rebutted by evidence of cancer-causing activity – such as smoking – during a firefighter’s non-duty hours.