House Majority Leader Dave Reed talks 2018 legislative priorities

House Majority Leader Dave Reed talks 2018 legislative priorities

Author: Jason Gottesman/Thursday, January 11, 2018/Categories: News and Views

With the legislature returning to session in just less than two weeks, House Majority Leader Dave Reed (R-Indiana) provided an update Thursday on the various priorities of the House Republican Caucus and the state House of Representatives as a whole.

 

Budgeting

 

Rep. Reed said Wednesday budget discussions for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018-2019 have already gotten underway in separate meetings between the House, Senate, and Wolf administration; stating all parties are hoping to get the process done in a timely fashion.

 

“That’s something that hopefully this year, with revenue collections being on track at least and we had a good day yesterday with the first [category 4] gaming license coming in at $50 million and things are projected to continue in that fashion with revenue projections overall, this year will be a smoother budget process,” he said. “Though, I’ve hoped that every year so far and so far I’ve been wrong every year.”

 

He said while the message is that House Republican leadership is interested in getting a budget done in a timely manner, the caucus is not interested in looking at new revenue sources.

 

“We’re not particularly interested in looking for new revenue. I think we’ve looked for new revenue in every imaginable place,” he said. “Revenue comes in a way that is targeted. Let’s figure out how much we’ll have for next year and figure out a way to spend it and get it done.”

 

Natural gas severance tax

 

The desire to not seek new revenue sources, while a separate issue, also applies to the current consideration of a natural gas severance tax, which Rep. Reed indicated Thursday might take a back-burner to other policy issues.

 

“I don’t think there is a consensus right now as to what would be in that product, nor do I think there is any consensus on where the Senate may be, where the House may be, or what final product the governor may want in that regard; so, from our vantage point, we want to get ahead to some of the other items out there,” he said.

 

“People can continue to talk about that if they want to, but I just don’t think when you look at 400 amendments, four or five days on the floor already, there’s a consensus to move that bill forward at this time.”

 

Reducing the size of the House

 

Legislation to amend the State Constitution to reduce the size of the state House of Representatives to 153 members from its current complement of 203 is likely to see action in the House this spring, according to Rep. Reed.

 

The legislation, House Bill 153 sponsored by Rep. Jerry Knowles (R-Schuylkill), passed the General Assembly last session vote of 139-56 in the House and a 43-6 vote in the Senate.

 

It would need to pass in identical fashion this session before going to the voters for approval in a referendum.

 

“It’s kind of in the final leg of the constitutional process, or at least in the final leg of the legislative side of that process,” Rep. Reed said. “We will likely pass that here this spring in the House again. We’d assume the Senate would concur in that legislation or I would hope that they would and then our ultimate goal would be to send that to the voters so they’d have a chance to vote on it this year and make that decision going into the next census and the next round of redistricting in 2020 and 2021.”

 

Welfare reform

 

With a recent announcement by the House Republican Caucus that a package of 22 bills will be an action item this year, Rep. Reed said an announcement earlier this week from the Trump administration giving states more flexibility for welfare work requirements for able bodied persons has given impetus to the reform movement.

 

“I think that could potentially be of great interest to our members in the House, and potentially in the Senate as well,” he said.

 

Budgetary reform

 

Prior to leaving Harrisburg for Christmas, the House approved a package of bills that would reform the way state budgets are handled by doing things like altering the current budget process by disallowing a budget to become law without the governor’s signature absent it being balanced according to an official revenue estimate, providing limitations on the Budget Secretary’s authority over the waiver of lapsed funds, requiring the Budget Secretary to place funds in reserves in the event of a mid-year projected deficit, increasing the disclosure of information related to the use of special funds, requiring the administration provide the legislature information about mandated costs and other funds used to gain federal matching funds, and requiring a statement of need and potential cost savings when the governor requests supplemental appropriations.

 

Rep. Reed said pushing those reforms and seeking additional reform measures to how future state budgets are put together will be a priority in 2018.

 

“We hope to work on them, to get those bills to the governor’s desk,” he said.

 

Sexual harassment

 

Noting he has no knowledge of any complaints involving the House Republican Caucus in his three years as House Majority Leader, Rep. Reed said there will likely be a push throughout the General Assembly to reform how the institution handles sexual assault, harassment, and misconduct claims made by employees about employees or legislators.

 

“I control what’s in front of us today and I’ve made it very clear to our caucus where I am on this issue and where I expect our members and staff to be on this issue, and that is of zero tolerance and I think we are interested in whatever rule changes and statutory changes we can work on with the House Democrats, with the governor’s office, and with the victim advocacy groups to make sure, while we don’t have any instances of this in the past, that none of this occurs in the future,” he said.

 

“This isn’t just about what’s occurred before or what’s occurring today, I want folks and particularly, as my two daughters grow older, I want them to look at state government as a bastion of hope, not a bastion of distraught. So, I think we have a responsibility to not just look back, not just look at the present, but look at what we want this place to look like in the future and what message we want to send to our young daughters and granddaughters who are in our elementary schools today about what type of employment opportunities they’ll have in the future.”

 

In the spirit of “getting it right,” Rep. Reed said that members will be looking at various proposals including those introduced by Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky (D-Delaware) and Rep. Alex Charlton (R-Delaware), among others, which seek to address the issue.

 

“We want to work with the House Democrats, we want to work with the administration, and we also want to work with victim advocacy organizations to make sure we get it right and not create a knee-jerk reaction where—I think we all agree from the transparency side on the perspective of the potential perpetrator—but I also want to make sure we are protecting the victims in that regard as well, so that they are comfortable not only coming forward, but anything that happened at a detriment to them will be dealt with swiftly and fairly.”

 

Redistricting

 

While not anticipating ongoing litigation regarding Pennsylvania’s 2011 congressional map to go against legislative leadership, Rep. Reed said Thursday that should the map be found unconstitutional, the General Assembly would redraw the map.

 

“If we are ordered to draw new maps, we’ll draw new maps,” he said.

 

“We’ll take the guidance [the courts] give us into account when we draw those maps. There are things we can control in life and that’s not one of them, but we’ll deal with it either way.”

 

He also said while there is room for improvements in the current process, he did not endorse the idea that one can take partisanship totally out of the process. Instead, he noted the overall driving factor in the development of legislative districts should be keeping communities of interest together; something he noted is made more difficult with the congressional map than the state legislative map since the federal map must have nearly the same amount of people in the same district.

 

With regard to the 2011 map, Rep. Reed said it keeps communities of interest together “in some areas.”

 

“I know the Senate has said they want to wait until these court cases are over before engaging in a serious discussion about [redistricting reform] and I respect that,” he said, “but I think improvements can be made.”

 

Personal and personnel news

 

Rep. Reed confirmed Thursday that his chief of staff Todd Brysiak will be leaving his position, most likely by the end of the month to pursue an opportunity in the private sector.

 

“I can’t blame him for wanting to be a dad a little bit more with how this process has gone, particularly with the budgets the last couple of years,” he said. “I’m sad to see him go, my wife’s sad to see him go, but we’re very happy for him in that regard. We’ll figure out how to keep the office running one way or another.”

 

In terms of his own future, Rep. Reed said he will be announcing 2018 plans very shortly, including whether he will be running for the seat to be vacated by current Congressman Bill Shuster in the 9th District.

 

“I’m just as shocked as everybody else that Congressman Shuster is retiring. It’s certainly something that when that possibility drops out of the sky, you think about it and I’ll continue to think about it, and I’ll make a decision about 2018 here very, very quickly,” he said.

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