Allegheny County state legislative delegation activity for the week of June 12

Author: Alanna Koll/Friday, June 16, 2017/Categories: Pittsburgh

The Pittsburgh and Allegheny County legislative delegation saw a relatively quiet week in Harrisburg this week as the state budget deadline looms closer.  

The state Senate passed a measure Tuesday that would prohibit costly government regulations from being imposed without approval by the General Assembly and Governor.  

Under Senate Bill 561, no regulation with an economic impact or cost to the state, to its political subdivisions, and to the private sector exceeding $1 million could be imposed without the approval of lawmakers and the governor.  

The bill passed 29-20 with Senators Jim Brewster (D-Mckeesport), Guy Reshenthaler (R-Bethel Park) and Randy Vulakovich (R-Shaler Twp.) of the Allegheny County delegation voting in favor, and Senators Jay Costa (D-Forest Hills) and Wayne Fontana (D-Brookline) voting in the negative.  

Currently, the regulatory review process requires the General Assembly to pass a concurrent resolution disapproving a regulation, but requires the governor’s signature to quash them, as well.  

“Our current regulatory process vests too much power in unelected government employees and agencies that lack accountability to the people,” said Sen. John DiSanto (R-Dauphin), sponsor of the legislation. “This legislation will help restore the constitutional balance and life a regulatory burden that is hampering job creation and economic growth.”  

The bill now heads to the House for consideration.   

The Senate also passed legislation this week that would keep local governments from banning or taxing single-use plastic bags.  

Opponents of the measure say it’s another instance where the state is trying to take local control away from local governments.

Supporters of the bill- House Bill 1071- say the measure would maintain hundreds of jobs in the plastic manufacturing business.  

The bill passed 28-21 with Senators Reschenthaler and Vulakovich voting in favor, and Senators Brewster, Costa, and Fontana voting against it.  

Rep. Rob Matzie (D-Leetsdale) joined democratic members of the Allegheny delegation at a press conference Tuesday to call for legislation on voting reform. Rep. Matzie introduced his legislation that seeks to increase voter participation, cut election costs and reduce voter fraud by permitting Pennsylvania residents to vote by mail.  

“As elected representatives in state government, I believe it is our duty to find ways to making voting for our constituents easier, more accessible and more secure,” said Matzie about House Bill 1546. “One of those ways, as other states have shown, is to allow any eligible voter to cast their ballot for any and every election by mail.”  

Matzie added that 22 states have provisions allowing certain elections to be conducting entirely by mail, and three of those states- Oregon, Washington and Colorado- hold all elections entirely by mail.  

The legislation directs the Department of State and the commonwealth’s county election boards to establish a vote-by-mail system in Pennsylvania. Voters would only have to request a mail-in ballot once, and then would be sent ballots for every subsequent election unless they opted out.  

Rep. Tony DeLuca (D-Penn Hills) also highlighted his two voting related bills at the press event- House Bill 945- which would create a process to allow same-day voter registration and House Bill 946, which would create an early voting window.  

“During the May primary election, only about 17 percent of all eligible Allegheny County voters found the time to go to the polls,” said DeLuca. “Our democracy only works when we, the people, vote.”  

He added that D.C. and 13 states now have same-day registration, which can raise voter participation dramatically. 

“Those states and Washington, D.C. had a voter participation rate of 68.8 percent in 2012, more than 10 percent higher than states without that option.”  

Rep. Ed Gainey explained this legislation that would provide for automatic voter registration when a citizen turns 18. 

“If we really want to talk about how every vote counts then we have to give them the tools that give them the opportunity to do that, and that’s putting a voter ID card in their hand,” said Rep. Gainey.  

Sen. Wayne Fontana (D-Brookline) also touted his legislation- Senate Bill 440- that would allow for early voting across the state. 

Sen. Fontana also joined Sen. Costa and Pittsburgh Mayor Peduto in a small press conference Tuesday to outline legislation to support the continuation of the Obama Clean Power Plan.  

Under the Clean Power Plan, Pennsylvania was required to reduce its emissions by 29 million tons, or 24 percent below 2012 levels by 2030. The legislation introduced by the Pittsburgh Senators, along with Sen. Anthony Williams (D-Philadelphia) would require the state DEP to revisit the plan it was pursuing just months ago for submission to the EPA.  

Rather than submit the plan to the EPA, the bill would require the DEP to submit it to the General Assembly for final approval and subsequent implementation statewide.  

“Again, I urge President Trump to visit Pittsburgh and meet with city and business leaders to get a better understanding of our city’s transformation from a gritty industrial town to a thriving and economically diverse metropolis,” said Sen. Fontana at the press conference. “They can also explain to him how the Paris Agreement would strengthen Pittsburgh, our region and our country.”  

The PLS Reporter’s Pittsburgh Bureau will be following the activity of the Allegheny County delegation each legislative session week.