Sunday, June 30, 2013

Growing Greener Coalition Praises Governor, General Assembly On Budget

The PA Growing Greener Coalition, the largest coalition of conservation, recreation and preservation organizations in the Commonwealth, Sunday praised the Corbett Administration and the House and Senate for including critical conservation programs in the 2013-2014 state budget.
Specifically, the general fund budget includes $2.25 million for the state’s Heritage Areas Program and $3.3 million in restored funding for conservation districts, which is in addition to the $5 million the districts will receive from the Act 13 Impact Fee. The budget also includes increased support for the Department of Environmental Protection.
“The Growing Greener Coalition applauds Gov. Corbett and members of the General Assembly for showing strong support for critical protection of land, water and heritage conservation programs that are essential to the health of the state’s economy and quality of life for Pennsylvania residents,” said Andrew Heath, executive director of the Growing Greener Coalition.  “The Coalition thanks the leaders of the House and Senate for restoring funding to the Heritage Areas Program, a program that had been zeroed out for many years.  We cannot emphasize enough that this restoration is a victory for Pennsylvania’s communities and the special places throughout the state that attract hundreds of tourists each year.”
Heritage areas create jobs and bring businesses to the region, which generates hundreds of millions of dollars of added value in personal income, profits, community revitalization and government taxes.  For every $1 of state funding received, Pennsylvania Heritage Areas leveraged an average of $5 of federal, local and private investment.
“Pennsylvania’s Heritage Areas Program has successfully conserved and enhanced the state’s natural and recreational resources and promoted tourism development for nearly 25 years,” said Jane Sheffield, executive director of the Allegheny Ridge Heritage Area.  “Legislators were right to support this important program which creates jobs and bring businesses to the region, generating hundreds of millions of dollars in added revenue to the state."

Senate, House Approve FY 2013-14 State Budget, Other Priorities Will Wait Until Fall

Senate and House Republicans and Gov. Corbett have agreed to a $28.3 billion FY 2013-14 state budget, but not on liquor privatization, transportation funding and pension reform so far.
House Bill 1437 (Adolph-R- Delaware) was passed Sunday in a bipartisan vote of 33 to 17 in the Senate and 111 to 92 in the House and was signed into law by Gov. Corbett 90 minutes before the midnight deadline making it his third on-time budget.
Gov. Corbett said at the signing ceremony it was only the end of the first quarter in dealing with the Senate and House on his three priorities-- liquor privatization, transportation funding and pension reform.  He said he looks forward to working with legislators over the summer and wrapping up those issues in the Fall.
House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) and other members of the House attended the budget signing, but no members of the Senate attended.
On the other issues, here’s where we stand--
-- Liquor Privatization: The Senate and amended House Bill 790 (Turzai-R-Allegheny) in the wee hours of Saturday morning and referred it to the Senate Appropriations Committee.  It has been sitting there ever since.  The proposal isn’t to the liking of House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny).  Gov. Corbett put out a public statement Sunday afternoon asking the Senate and House to please take final action on the bill.  So far, the Senate hasn’t listened.
-- Transportation Funding: It took several tries, but Senate Bill 1 (Rafferty-R- Montgomery) was amended and reported out of the House Transportation Committee Thursday and has been on the House Calendar ever since.  It wasn’t even referred to the House Appropriations Committee.  Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) came out with a statement Sunday urging the House to act on this critical priority, but so far the House hasn’t listened.
-- Pension Reform: It looks like House Speaker Sam Smith’s (R-Jefferson) statement Wednesday that pension reform was off the Table was on the mark.
What this means is Gov. Corbett may turn out to be 0 for 3 in his key legislative priorities before the summer recess.
The House has added July 1 and 2 to their voting session, but the Senate recessed to the call of the Senate President Pro Tempore leaving their return to session up in the air.
Here is the status of the other key Code bills following the budget, all of which were sent by the Senate to the House today--
Tax Code: House Bill 465 MacKenzie (R-Berks) amends the Tax Code was amended and reported out of the Senate Appropriations Committee, amended again on the Senate Floor and was passed by the Senate.  The bill returns to the House for a concurrence vote.
Welfare Code/Medicaid Expansion: House Bill 1075 (Moul-R-Adams) makes numerous changes to the Welfare Code, including expansion of the Medicaid program was amended on the Senate Floor and was passed by the Senate.  The bill now goes to the House for a concurrence vote.
Education Code: House Bill 1141 (Saylor-R-York) amends the School Code relating to district budgets, school building projects, educator discipline fees, basic education funding, accountability grants and more was amended in the Senate Appropriations Committee and was passed by the Senate.  The bill returns to the House for a concurrence vote.
Click Here to view a spreadsheet comparing FY 2012-13 and new FY 2013-14 appropriations.  Click Here for the agency-by-agency budget spreadsheet which compares current year funding, the Governor’s request and the agreed-to budget numbers.
NewsClip: Budget Bill Given OK, Corbett Agenda Up In The Air

PA Horticultural Society Accepting Nominations For Community Greening Award

The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society is now accepting nominations for its Community Green Award to recognize greening and beautification efforts throughout Pennsylvania.  The deadline for nominations is July 15.
Each year, the PHS Community Greening Award recognizes greening and beautification efforts throughout the region, such as plantings that beautify main streets, public parks, train stations, churches, schoolyards, libraries, traffic islands, and other public spaces.
Volunteer judges evaluate sites in July and August based on plant variety, design, use of space, and horticultural practices. PHS notifies award winners in September. Sites that have been previously recognized may be nominated for outstanding maintenance.
All honorees are invited to award receptions held in the fall at PHS Headquarters in Philadelphia and at sites in Harrisburg and Pittsburgh.
Click Here to submit an online nomination. For more information, please send email to: or call 215-988-8897.

Sunday NewsClips

GOP: House Dems Holding Transportation Funding Bill Hostage
Click Here for PA Capitol Digest NewsClips

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Senate, House Republicans, Governor Reach Agreement On Budget

This evening, Senate and House Republicans and Gov. Corbett announced they reached agreement on a $28.3 billion state spending plan, slightly less than the Governor’s $28.4 billion proposed budget.  The agreed-to budget represents a 2.3 percent increase in spending over the current year budget.
House Bill 1437 (Adolph-R- Delaware) was then amended with the new FY 2013-14 General Fund budget and reported out of the Senate Appropriations Committee.  The full Senate expects to take up the measure tomorrow first thing (11:00 a.m.).  The House is expected to vote Sunday evening, just making the June 30 midnight deadline.
For its part, the House did not take up the transportation funding bill-- Senate Bill 1 (Rafferty-R- Montgomery)-- as expected, waiting, it was reported, for the Senate to take up the liquor privatization bill-- House Bill 790 (Turzai-R-Allegheny).
There was no action on the liquor privatization bill in the Senate today.
The Senate Appropriations Committee did report out legislation-- House Bill 1075 (Moul-R-Adams)-- directing the Governor to enter into an agreement to expand Medicaid (among other changes to the Welfare Code) which was a major priority of Senate and House Democrats.  
House Republicans vow to prevent any floor vote on the bill if it returns to the House for concurrence.
Meanwhile, pension reform is still nowhere.
There is no word yet on budget-related changes to the Tax Code, Fiscal Code or Education Code.
Click Here for the agency-by-agency budget spreadsheet which compares current year funding, the Governor’s request and the agreed-to budget numbers.  Some highlights include--
Conservation Districts- $2.5 million ($350,000 less than last year)
Sewage Facilities Planning Grants- $200,000 (zeroed out last year)
Overall- $2.8 million increase
Heritage Parks - $2.2 million (zeroed out last few years)
Overall - $22.7 million cut (probably substituted more Oil & Gas Lease Fund monies
Conservation Districts- $869,000 ($150,000 less than last year)
Overall- $5.7 million cut ($3.4 million cut in General Govt. Operations)
Environmental Hearing Board- $2.1 million ($181,000 more than last year)
Commonwealth Financing Authority- $7.5 million less than last year
House Fails To Take Up Transportation Bill

Saturday NewsClips

Corbett Wants DRBC To Lift Drilling Ban
Click Here for PA Capitol Digest NewsClips

Friday, June 28, 2013

July 1 PA Environment Digest Now Available

The July 1 PA Environment Digest is now available.  Click Here to print entire Digest.

Corbett Urges Delaware River Basin Commission To Finalize Drilling Rules

On Thursday, Gov. Tom Corbett wrote to the Delaware River Basin Commission expressing his "frustration and disappointment" over the failure of the Commission to finalize its regulations on Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling.
"For over three years, a moratorium issued by the DRBC has been in place which has prohibited the development of natural gas within all or parts of 13 Pennsylvania counties that lie within the basin.  Adoption of this moratorium-- namely through the postponement of consideration of well pad dockets-- was purportedly done to all for the drafting of appropriate standards that would protect the water resources of the basin.
"However, deferring the submission of applications until regulations are adopted presumes that regulations will, ultimately, be adopted.  That has failed to occur.
"This moratorium has done more than prohibit the citizens of Pennsylvania who reside within the basin from enjoying their property rights.  It has depressed economic growth in the region, discouraged the investment of private capital in the Commonwealth, and reflected poorly on the DRBC's ability to function effectively.
"Moreover, since the DRBC’s scheduled November 2011 meeting to consider adoption of final rules was cancelled, Pennsylvania has significantly enhanced environmental protection standards through passage of Act 13 in February 2012.  Act 13 represents the first comprehensive update of the state’s Oil and Gas Act since 1984, incorporating proposals from the Governor’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission and members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly.
"The citizens of Pennsylvania residing within the basin have been denied the enjoyment of their property rights due to the inaction of the DRBC. Operators interested in developing natural gas have closed offices and laid-off employees; lease payments have been withheld; force majeure clauses in contracts have been exercised, and communities have watched their neighbors outside the basin benefit tremendously. In addition to this inequity, the DRBC’s inaction may very well constitute a ‘taking’ under the U.S. Constitution, subjecting its members, including the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, to financial and other legal ramifications.
"Hopefully the residents of Wayne County won’t have to wait another three years for a decision from the DRBC and will soon be able to take part in the growing natural gas industry that has so significantly benefitted much of the rest of Pennsylvania."
A copy of the letter is available online.
Wayne County Urges Quick End To Drilling Ban

Friday NewsClips

Another Day Of Mixed Progress On Budget Issues
Click Here for PA Capitol Digest NewsClips

Subscribe To Receive Updates:

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner