is a monthly publication of the Pennsylvania House State Government Committee. The committee is chaired by Representative Daryl Metcalfe.
During the 2012 elections, numerous incidents of voter intimidation, illegal assistance, and electioneering within the polling place were reported, primarily in Philadelphia. Due to these reports, Chairman Metcalfe, two Committee members, and staff visited Philadelphia earlier this year to speak with local groups about what legislative actions are needed to prevent similar Election Code violations from occurring in the future. Throughout this legislative session, members of House of Representatives have introduced legislation to protect the integrity of elections. The House State Government Committee recently convened a public hearing to discuss legislation that focuses on solutions to improve the administration, oversight and integrity of the Pennsylvania’s election process.
There have been an alarming number of news reports recently regarding the National Security Agency’s (NSA) data collection and surveillance pro¬grams. According to these reports, the NSA has col¬lected and is collecting “metadata” or transactional information regarding telephone and Internet com¬munications. In fact, the Guardian published an ar¬ticle alleging that the NSA has been acquiring data for every phone call made or received by customers of Verizon Business Network Services. While intelli-gence is vitally important to the war on terror, these allegations, if true, indicate that the federal govern¬ment is routinely and unconstitutionally spying on U.S. citizens.
The House State Government Committee recent¬ly reported two bills that will amend the Pennsylva¬nia Constitution to reduce the size of the General Assembly.
Over the summer months, Chairman Metcalfe has been working to formulate an agenda for the fall legislative ses¬sion. Several important topics to be addressed during the coming months include:
The Right-to-Know Law (RTKL) is a landmark piece of legislation that provided taxpayers and residents of this Com¬monwealth the right to have access to the records of their state and local governments. Prior to the RTKL, citizens were required to prove that a record was open to the public before a record would be released.
The State Employees’ Retirement System (SERS) and the Public School Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS) have an estimated unfunded liability of over $47 billion dollars. This unfunded liability amounts to $9,000 per household in Pennsylvania. Unless reforms are made, funding the pension systems will require new sources of tax revenue, higher taxes, more borrowing or significant cuts to state and public school budgets. Considering the total amount of taxes that are already taken from hardworking Pennsylvanians, it is simply not an option to expect current and future generations of taxpayers to continue to fund these unsustainable pension systems.
The importance of local school board directors is often underestimated. The position of a school board director is not a benign elected office. School board directors are given the responsibility to establish policies within the school districts, as well as creating and adopting the school district budget. However, most importantly for taxpayers, school board directors have the authority and power to increase property taxes.
During the 2009-2010 Legislative Session, the General Assembly passed House Bill 2497 (Act 120 of 2010), which made several reforms to the Commonwealth’s public pension systems. These reforms are expected to provide some fiscal relief to the public pension systems and taxpayers over the next several decades. However, the Commonwealth’s public pension systems contin¬ue to experience an unfunded liability of over 42 billion dollars. The reforms of Act 120 are not enough to restore solvency to the public pension systems. The General Assembly needs to act now to further protect taxpayers from this ballooning and potentially devastating debt.
Public Employee Pension Forfeiture Act of 1978 lists crimes that can cause a public official or public employ¬ee to lose his or her retirement benefit. Under this law, the crime must be related to the official’s public office or the employee’s public employment. However, this re¬quirement provides a loophole because a public official or public employee could continue to receive a taxpay¬er-funded retirement benefit after committing a violent crime, such as murder or rape.
Pennsylvania’s Procurement Code is the statute that outlines the process whereby state agencies purchase goods and services. Recently, the House State Government Committee passed legislation that will provide greater
transparency and accountability to the procurement process.
When a customer is deciding whether to purchase a product or a service, the two major factors influencing this decision are quality and value. If a product or service is priced too high or does not meet customer expectations, the customer has the freedom to choose a different provider that is able to meet the customer’s needs at an acceptable price. This is common sense.
Representative Daryl Metcalfe has been selected to continue as the Majority Chair¬man for the House State Government Committee. This will be his second consecutive term as Majority Chair, and the Chairman has indicated that he will waste no time confronting the major issues facing Pennsylvania taxpayers in the 2013-2014 legisla¬tive session.
On October 17, 2012, the House of Representatives held its last voting session day of the 2011-12 legislative session. To date, legislators in the General Assembly introduced approximately 4,348 bills. The House State Government Committee received 394 of those bills. The committee reported out 43 bills and three resolutions through 30 voting meetings. Additionally, the committee held 11 informational meetings and 18 public hearings.
The Public Employee Pension Forfeiture Act of 1978 was passed by the General Assembly to ensure that public officials and public employees do not continue to collect their taxpayer-funded retirement benefit if the official or employee abuses their public office by committing a crime related to their public office or employment. Currently, crimes such as criminal homicide, aggravated assault and possessing child pornography are not included in the grounds for forfeiture of retirement benefits.
The estimated combined unfunded liability of the State Employees’ Retirement System (SERS) and the Public School Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS) is $40 billion. The current liabilities incurred by SERS and PSERS have reached an unsustainable level. The Commonwealth’s pension liabilities can no longer be sustained by the taxpayers. The General Assembly must address the public pension crisis.