Government Affairs & General Updates
July 14, 2023
1. Pittman suggests Senate GOP will want other provisions removed from budget if Shapiro uses line-item veto to ax voucher provision. In an interview with KDKA this week, Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman, R-Indiana, made explicit what had previously seemed more implicit - that if Gov. Josh Shapiro is going to use a line-item veto to remove something from the budget that House Democrats don't like, Senate Republicans will want to see things removed as well. "I don't know that we have to rebuild an entirely new budget, but there certainly has to be a recognition that the subtraction of empowering parents has to correlate with the subtraction of priorities for the House Democrats, in particular, that we would not have funded in good faith negotiations," Pittman told KDKA in Pittsburgh. Pittman and Senate President Pro Tem Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland, have both indicated that the general appropriations bills includes provisions (without specifying exactly which) they accepted only because the budget also included a provision to create school vouchers for poor families in under-performing school districts. As it stands now, neither chamber is scheduled to return to the Capitol until September though that could change if leaders in one or both chamber decide to begin passing code bills.
2. Pittman: Hundreds of millions in state funding could be at risk without more budget bills - Amid an ongoing budget impasse in Harrisburg, the leader of the Senate Republican Caucus is warning his Democratic counterpart in the state House that hundreds of millions of dollars in funding could be at risk if lawmakers don’t fully finalize a state budget. In a letter sent to House Democratic Leader Matt Bradford on Tuesday, Senate Majority Joe Pittman wrote that the state budget process is not yet complete and that lawmakers must pass budget-enabling legislation for several major programs and initiatives to be funded. Read More
3. New study calls for re-examining effectiveness of teacher training mandates. A study commissioned by the state House recommends that the state shift away from mandates dictating how many hours professional educators must devote to training and establish mechanisms to determine if the existing training is doing any good. The Joint State Government Commission report suggests that the state cease to mandate how much "seat time" that educators must devote to training and instead establish a system where educators could satisfy training requirements by demonstrating that they understand the content. The report also calls for giving school districts greater flexibility in determining which staff need training in specific areas and "limit the audience for trainings on such topics as substance abuse, dating violence, pregnancy, and sexually transmitted diseases to certain qualified personnel who would most often come across risk-taking behavior in their role and responsibilities." The report also suggests that proposed educator training mandates be scrutinized by the Independent Fiscal Office, which would produce reports on the financial impacts of those mandates, and it calls for the creation of a Pennsylvania School Employees Professional Development Council to make recommendations about needed training and whether existing training mandates should be changed. The study was triggered by House Resolution 163, which was approved by the state House unanimously in February, 2022.
4. Environmental group warns of mounting impact of disposable vaping products. An environmental group on Thursday called for action ton confront the mounting environmental impact of disposable vaping products - the 21st Century version of the cigarette butt. "Vape Waste: The environmental harms of disposable vapes," released Thursday by the PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center finds that this hazardous electronic waste poses a growing threat to our environment in Pennsylvania and globally. According to CDC Foundation sales estimates, lining-up the disposable vapes sold in a year would span the continental U.S. twice. Because there is no standard legal way to recycle these products, many users just toss them. "Disposable vapes have become the new poster child for our single-use, throwaway society. Tossing out lithium-ion batteries that we could recharge hundreds of times after one use doesn't make any sense," said Faran Savitz, zero waste advocate with the PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center. "Some things are too harmful and useless to tolerate. It's time for the U.S. to ban disposable vapes." Cigarette trash takes 10 years to degrade while disposable vapes are non-biodegradable and the single-use plastic they contain never fully degrades. In addition, manufacturing these products wastes valuable materials. The rechargeable batteries in the disposable vapes sold in a year include 23.6 tons of lithium, the amount needed to create batteries for more than 2,600 electric vehicles. Last year, then-Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced Juul, one of the largest manufacturers of vapes, had come to a $38.8 million settlement with the Commonwealth over violations of the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law. The settlement included limits on the marketing and sales of Juul's vapes in Pennsylvania. The PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center calls on both the General Assembly to follow suit of other states like California that have implemented policies to ban the sale of unauthorized vapes, and the Pennsylvania Congressional delegation to support H.R. 901 which would require the FDA to strengthen its requirements for electronic nicotine delivery devices.