In this Update:
Hutchinson Joins Capitol Rally Against Wolf Bridge Tolling Plan
Sen. Hutchinson speaks at a capitol rally to unify opposition to the Wolf administration’s plan to toll interstate bridges in Pennsylvania.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s (PennDOT) plan proposes tolling to pay for bridge projects and has received an overwhelming amount of disapproval, including citizens, members of the General Assembly, local officials and business operators.
PennDOT’s Public-Private Partnership (P3) bridge tolling initiative would cost the average commuter an additional $1,000 per year and was moved through the process without legislative input nor approval.
The Senate passed Senate Bill 382, which reforms the P3 statute and voids PennDOT’s plan. However, Gov. Wolf has stated that he will veto the bill. Commonwealth Court temporarily halted the tolling plan. The Wolf administration has appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
The process for adding tolls to interstate bridges was mired in a lack of transparency, citizen input and legislative oversight. It has been a sloppy, closed process that sets the precedent of more tolls in the future. The cost to motorists, communities and employers is too great, as is the power claimed by PennDOT to implement and raise tolls on its own. There are other funding options for bridge maintenance and repairs. This process should be halted and replaced with one that is open and rational.
Senate Approves Poll Watcher Empowerment Act to Increase Election Oversight, Integrity
The Senate approved the Poll Watcher Empowerment Act to ensure election laws are strictly adhered to and improve confidence in Pennsylvania’s elections.
Senate Bill 573 would allow all registered Pennsylvania voters to be eligible to be a poll watcher in any precinct in the state and ensures poll watchers can clearly observe the pre-canvassing and counting of all ballots.
The bill would stiffen penalties against any election official who blocks, impedes or otherwise intimidates a poll watcher on Election Day. It would not change any duties, powers or responsibilities of poll watchers. Senate Bill 573 was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
The bill is the third election integrity measure passed by the Senate this year, along with the elimination of controversial ballot drop boxes and prohibiting third-party funding of elections.
Senate Acts to Protect Women’s Sports
The Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, which protects the integrity of women’s sports in Pennsylvania, was approved by the Senate. The bill advances to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Bill 1191 states that school athletic teams designated for women should not be open to those of the male sex. The bill defines “sex” as the biological distinction between male and female, based on reproductive biology and genetic make-up.
The bill was introduced earlier this year after concerns grew about preserving the increased athletic opportunities female students have gained since Title IX was enacted 50 years ago next week.
Joint Hearing on Government Data Breach Notification
Legislation requiring timely notification to victims of a state or local government data breach was the topic of a joint Senate/House public hearing.
The Senate Communications and Technology Committee and the House State Government Subcommittee on Government Information Technology and Communication held the gathering to review Senate Bill 696.
The panels heard from representatives of the Department of General Services, the State Privacy and Security Coalition, and the Cybersecurity Association of Pennsylvania. You can view the hearing and read testimony here.
Scammers are Stealing Military Pensions
Pennsylvania veterans and their advocates should be aware of an increase in scammers looking to poach their VA pensions, warns the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA).
“Pension poaching” occurs when scammers or dishonest financial planners charge veterans or their beneficiaries for help in applying for or submitting applications for VA pensions. The scheme often involves financial maneuvers such as advising claimants to hide their assets in trusts or annuity products sometimes resulting in lost investments and lucrative fees paid to the advisor.
The DMVA says veterans and their advocates should remember to never share their VA login information, or deposit VA benefits directly into a third-party bank account unless the person is court appointed or a VA accredited fiduciary. More on avoiding pension poaching, and what to do if you know someone who was targeted, can be found here.
National Fishing and Boating Week
Pennsylvania has multiple settings for fishing and boating, whether you’re an expert or a beginner.
HuntFishPA.com is a good place to start to find out what you need to enjoy angling. The PA Fish and Boat Commission can help you find the best waters for fishing and information on fishing licenses, fishing seasons and more.
Boating Safety Education Certificates are required to operate a personal watercraft and for persons born on or after Jan. 1, 1982, to operate boats powered by motors greater than 25 horsepower. People who successfully complete an approved boating course are issued a Boating Safety Education Certificate good for a lifetime.