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Watch L&I Budget Hearing Live Online Today

Budget Hearings Watch Live
During the Department of Labor and Industry's annual Budget Hearing today, Sec. Julia Hearthway is expected to face questions about continuing problems at unemployment service centers across the state. The hearing is scheduled for 1 p.m.
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       Lawmakers have been trying for months to get more information from the Department of Labor and Industry about the tied-up phone lines at unemployment service centers.

       Today, Labor Secretary Julia Hearthway will appear before the Senate Appropriations Committee for the department’s annual budget hearing.  I will be sitting in on the hearing, and you can watch it live online by clicking here.

       At a joint hearing of the House and Senate Labor committees in January, Labor Sec. Hearthway explained that the busy signals were caused by a problematic upgrade to the phone system and federal budget cuts.

       But a letter from the U.S. Department of Labor, dated last December indicated deep-seated problems in Pennsylvania’s labor department, including missed deadlines and threatened federal sanctions.

       Sec. Hearthway indicated that problems with the service centers, which laid off nearly 100 staff members last year, are largely in the past, but the revelation that federal regulators have longstanding and continuing concerns with performance from Pennsylvania officials has renewed calls for more disclosure of information.

       I am working with officials at the highest levels at the U.S. Department of Labor to resolve the questions surrounding Pennsylvania service centers and other parts of the department.

Privatization Runs into Wall of Opposition

Senator Tartaglione
Corbett cabinet officers faced tough questions
from the General Assembly over hastily prepared plans to sell off state assets to private bidders.

       Gov. Corbett’s stubborn and reckless attempts to hand over state assets to private corporations have met strong resistance in the General Assembly.  In all, the administration would sacrifice nearly 5,000 family-sustaining jobs in exchange for a liquor free-for-all and a dramatic and illegal expansion of gambling.

       The administration’s plan to sell off state liquor stores could result in 20,000 retail outlets across the state and little real control over who will get the licenses.  The potential for dramatic expansion of liquor stores in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh would be accompanied by a reduction in the number of stores and selection in rural areas.

       The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board provides $500 million annually to the state general fund, including more than $100 million in profit.  The governor’s plan would exchange that for a one-time cash influx and a dramatic change in the landscape of liquor retailing.

       Fortunately, that plan has been met with a cold shoulder in the legislature, where rural and urban lawmakers are concerned about the implications, including the $100 million future hole in the General Fund.

       The Governor’s plan to hand over the state lottery to a foreign gambling company was stopped cold by Attorney General Kathleen Kane, who recently rejected the contract with Camelot Global Services LLC as unconstitutional.

       The administration tried to hurry the plan through without legislative approval, raising red flags and drawing tough questions from both sides of the aisle.  The management agreement with Camelot would have expanded gambling to keno in bars and online betting, without any input from citizens or their elected representatives.

       Employees of the lottery have put together a plan that will retain local control of state-sponsored gambling and continue its success in funding senior programs.

       The governor has indicated that he will appeal the attorney general’s decision, but any further attempt to make an end-run around public scrutiny will be met with stiff resistance.

2012 Act 72 Report Now Available Online

Report 2012 Act 72 Report Now Available Online        Pennsylvania’s Department of Labor has released its 2012 report on the Construction Workplace Misclassification Act (Act 72), which establishes a definition of “independent contractor” for purposes of workers’ compensation, unemployment compensation, and worker classification.

       The Act also prohibits construction employers from classifying as independent contractors workers who do not satisfy all of the definitional criteria.

       In total, the department received nine complaints during 2012. The bureau opened investigations into each of the complaints, and eight of the nine investigations remained open and ongoing as of Dec. 31, 2012.  To read the full report, click here.





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