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.