State Government Committee Approves Bills to Increase Transparency

HARRISBURG – The Senate State Government Committee approved legislation to increase the transparency of state and local government in Pennsylvania today, according to Senator David G. Argall (R-29), the chairman of the committee.

“Openness and transparency are crucial for building trust in our government,” said Senator Argall. “One of my key goals as chairman of this committee has been to ensure that every Pennsylvanian can know and understand the details of how their government operates.”

The bills approved include:

  • Senate Bill 488, which requires additional disclosure of salary and budgetary information for Penn State University, the University of Pittsburgh, Temple University, and Lincoln University.
  • Senate Bill 1130, which allows for local governments to broadcast their meetings online and take remote comments.
  • House Bill 2485, which requires state agencies to make information about all state contracts over $10,000 available online.
  • House Bill 2219, which requires a report explaining the extension of a regulatory suspension in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The approval of these bills follows a public hearing of the committee last week reviewing legislation to update the Right to Know Law, which allows for Pennsylvania residents and organizations to request information about the operations of state and local agencies, the General Assembly, the judiciary, and state-related universities.

Contact: Jim Brugger
717.787.2637

Public hearing on Right to Know Law legislation

Senate State Government Committee

Thursday, June 23, 2022 | 9:00 a.m.

East Wing, Hearing Room 8EA

Agenda

Public hearing on Right to Know Law legislation

Schedule

9:00 a.m.: – Welcome and Opening Remarks

  • Senator Argall and Senator Street

9:05 a.m.: – Office of Open Records – Testimony

  • Liz Wagenseller, Executive Director
  • Erik Arneson, past Executive Director

9:20 a.m.: – American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania – Testimony

  • Elizabeth Randol, Legislative Director

9:30 a.m.: – Local School Boards

  • Danielle Lindemuth, Elizabethtown Area School Board
  • Jen Goldhahn, Bermudian Springs School Board

9:45 a.m.: – Local Government Associations – Panel # 1

  • Jonathan D. Berger, Senior Director of Government Affairs – Testimony
    • Pennsylvania School Boards Association
  • Ashley Lenker White, Director of Government Relations – Testimony
    • County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania

10:05 a.m.: – Local Government Associations – Panel # 2

  • Joseph H. Gerdes, Director of Government Relations – Testimony
    • Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors
  • Ronald J. Grutza, Senior Director of Regulatory Affairs – Testimony
    • Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs

10:25 a.m.: – Pennsylvania News Media Association – 

  • Brad Simpson, President – Testimony
  • Sharon Sorg, CNHI Regional Executive Publisher – Testimony

10:40 a.m.: – Representative Lou Schmitt (Blair County)

  • Prime Sponsor of House Bill 2524

10:50 a.m.: – Closing Remarks and Adjournment

Written Testimony:

State Related Universities Feedback

State Government Committee Votes to Ban Russian Investments

HARRISBURG  – Two bills to stop Pennsylvania tax dollars from supporting the Russian government were approved today following a public hearing by the Senate State Government Committee, according to Senator David G. Argall (R-29), the committee chairman.

“The citizens of Ukraine are suffering often untold horrors because of the invasion of their country by Russia and Belarus,” said Senator Argall.  “I represent some of the most concentrated communities of Americans with Ukrainian ancestry in the United States.  My constituents want to stop our state government from supporting anyone conducting business with these war criminals.”

The committee listened to testimony from Iryna Mazur, the Honorary Consul of Ukraine in Pennsylvania; The Honorable Stacy Garrity, the Treasurer of Pennsylvania; and The Honorable Jim Gerlach, the President and CEO of the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance.

“As today’s hearing demonstrated, divesting from Russian investments was the right thing to for many reasons,” said Treasurer Garrity.  “I’m proud that Treasury acted quickly and decisively, and I support House Bill 2447 to establish a permanent, more formal policy for Pennsylvania.”

At the conclusion of the hearing, the committee voted to approve Senate Bill 1203, sponsored by Senator Argall to prohibit all Russian and Belarusian connections with Pennsylvania government investments, grants, and tax credits, and House Bill 2447, which provides for the divestiture of state investments in Russia and Belarus.  Both bills now advance to the Senate for its consideration.

Contact: Jim Brugger

717.787.2637

Meeting to consider SB 1140, SB 1203 and HB 2447

Senate State Government Committee

Tuesday, June 14, 2022 | 10:00 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.

North Office Building, Hearing Room 1

AGENDA

Meeting to consider SB 1140, SB 1203 and HB 2447, followed by meeting to consider these bills

 

Schedule

10:00 a.m. – Welcome and Opening Remarks

  • Senator Argall and Senator Street

Senate Bill 1140 (Bartolotta, Hughes)

  • Updates and codifies certain procedures for minority and veteran procurement

10:05 a.m. – Senator Camera Bartolotta

10:15 a.m. – Department of General Services – Testimony

  • Curt Topper, Secretary
  • Kerry Kirkland, Deputy Secretary for Diversity, Inclusion & Small Business Opportunities

10:30 a.m. – University of Pittsburgh Medical Center – Testimony

During the testimony for the Small Diverse Business Legislation hearing, UPMC Corporate Services and UPMC Health Plan were afforded the opportunity to provide testimony. Speaking on behalf of UPMC Corporate Services was George Robinson, director, Supplier Diversity & Inclusion, UPMC, and Jonathan Encarnacion, senior director, Medicaid Programs, UPMC Health Plan. During Mr. Encarnacion’s testimony, he inadvertently stated that 100% of UPMC Health Plan’s contracting is with small, diverse businesses (SDBs). In fact, he should have said that UPMC Health Plan routinely strives to maximize its contracting with SDBs and to meet or exceed 100% of any diverse vendor requirements contained in Commonwealth and other RFPs and contracts.

  • George Robinson, Director of Supplier Diversity and Inclusion
  • Jonathan Encarnacion, Senior Director, Medical Assistance, Health Plan

10:45 a.m. – National Federation of Independent Business – Testimony

  • Melissa Morgan, Assistant State Director

Senate Bill 1203 (Argall)

  • Prohibits contracts, grants and tax credits for companies which do business with Russia or Belarus.

11:00 a.m. – The Honorable Jim Gerlach

  • President and CEO, Greater Reading Chamber Alliance

11:15 a.m. – Iryna Mazur

  • Honorary Consul of Ukraine in PA

11:30 a.m. – The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau – Testimony

  • Kyle Kotzmoyer, State & Local Affairs Specialist

House Bill 2447 (Benninghoff)

  • Divestiture of Russian and Belarusian assets by the Commonwealth’s public funds

11:45 a.m. – Pennsylvania’s Public Pension Funds

  • Tim Reese, Chief Executive Officer, Pennsylvania Municipal Retirement System – Testimony
  • Joe Torta, Executive Director, State Employees’ Retirement System – SERS Info Packet
  • Bob Devine, Interim Chief Investment Officer, Public School Employees’ Retirement System – PSERS Remarks

12:10 p.m. – The Honorable Stacy Garrity

  • Treasurer, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

12:30 p.m. – Closing Remarks and Adjournment

12:30 p.m.

  • Senate Bill 1140 (Bartolotta) – Amends the Military Affairs Code and the Procurement Code to provide for procurement programs for veteran owned businesses and minority owned businesses.
  • Senate Bill 1203 (Argall) – An Act preventing the Commonwealth for dealing with persons associated with the Government of Russia or the Government of Belarus.
    • Amendment A04701 – Exempts critical material and critical mineral from the prohibition.   The Treasury Department shall develop a list of critical materials and critical minerals.
  • House Bill 2447 (Benninghoff) – An Act providing for divestiture of state investments to Russia and Belarus.

 

Reducing Partisanship in Redistricting

HARRISBURG – After controversy in this year’s decennial process of redrawing district lines for the Pennsylvania Senate and House of Representatives, the Senate State Government Committee, chaired by Senator David G. Argall (R-29), took action today by advancing two constitutional amendments to ensure future redistricting efforts are less partisan.

“One of my key priorities as the Chairman of the State Government Committee has been to begin to roll back the hyper-partisan gerrymandering sins of the past,” said Senator Argall.  “Last year’s process highlighted some key points of controversy that these two bills aim to address.”

Senate Bill 1182 changes how the Chairperson of the Legislative Reapportionment Commission is selected in the event of a stalemate.  Under this bill, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court would now choose the chairperson at random from the current active senior judges of Pennsylvania’s appellate courts.  The current method of selection has led to accusations of partisanship by the state’s Supreme Court.

Senate Bill 1209 would ensure that the federal Census count is used to redraw maps without adjustments.  Last year, for the first time ever, the Legislative Reapportionment Commission—without a vote by the House or Senate—counted certain state prison inmates at an arbitrary last known address, instead of at the correctional facility where they are incarcerated, in direct contradiction of hundreds of years of precedent. 

These bills now advance to the Senate for its consideration.

Contact:

Jim Brugger
717.787.2637

Luzerne County Mail-In Ballot Error, Open Primaries Examined in State Senate Hearing

HAZLETON – An error that caused 300 voters’ mail-in ballots to be delayed and a bill that would allow independent voters to participate in primary elections were the subjects of a hearing of the Senate State Government Committee held today in Hazleton, according to Senator David G. Argall (R-29), the chair of the committee.

“As we approach what is expected to be a contentious 2022 election here in Pennsylvania, we need to ensure that the mistakes made during the special election for the 116th state House district are not repeated in the future,” said Senator Argall.  “Errors like this erode voter faith in our elections and could prevent Pennsylvanians from exercising their right to vote.”

The committee heard testimony from Jonathan Marks, the Deputy Secretary for Elections and Commissions, and Michael Susek, the Director of Elections for Luzerne County, about how this error occurred and what is being done to prevent a similar situation in the future.

The committee then reviewed Senate Bill 690, which would allow the over 911,000 registered voters with no party affiliation to participate in Pennsylvania’s primary elections.  The committee heard testimony from two sponsors of the bill, Senator Dan Laughlin (R-Erie) and Senator Maria Collett (D-Montgomery), Senior Advisor for the Committee of Seventy David Thornburgh, former Chairman of the Republican State Committee of Pennsylvania Alan Novak, Former Chair of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party T.J. Rooney, and Jennifer Bullock from Independent Pennsylvanians.

The Committee of Seventy’s testimony featured a pre-recorded message from Robert “Rocky” Bleier in support of open primaries.  Mr. Bleier is a decorated Vietnam veteran, four-time Super Bowl champion, and member of the Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Honor.  He spoke about how his experience as a veteran shaped his opinions on voting, and his concerns with how the current system of closed primaries disenfranchises the 49% of veterans who are registered independents.

All testimony can be found on the Senate State Government Committee’s website.

Contact: Jim Brugger

717.787.2637

Meeting to vote on SB 959, SB 1018, SB 1122, SB 1166, and HB 1614

Senate State Government Committee

Wednesday, April 6, 2022 | 10:00 a.m.

East Wing, Room 8E-B

Agenda

Meeting to consider SB 959, SB 1018, SB 1122, SB 1166, and HB 1614

Schedule

Senate Bill 959 (Martin) Constitutional amendment to nullify any department order issued under an emergency declaration, once that declaration is rescinded. 

Senate Bill 1018 (Aument) Ensuring the accuracy of Voter Registration Records. 

Amendment A03828 (Argall) – Moves the bills language from a newly created section into the current section §1222 (SURE system) and makes some editorial changes.

Amendment A03790 (Mastriano) – Mirrors SB 1097 (Mastriano) 

Senate Bill 1122 (Collett) Designating the Hershey Kiss as the official candy of Pennsylvania. 

Senate Bill 1166 (Argall) Constitutional Amendment limiting court drawn congressional district to one election cycle. 

House Bill 1614 (Warner) Election Code amendment increasing the required number of paper ballots printed by precinct.  

Amendment A03688 (Argall) – Adds “at least” to make the number of printed ballots a minimum requirement.

 

 

Drop Box Security Reviewed by State Government Committee

HARRISBURG – The controversial guidance that created drop boxes for ballots in the days before the 2020 election was the focus of today’s hearing of the Senate State Government Committee, according to committee chair Senator David G. Argall (R-Berks/Schuylkill).

“The Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s last-minute decision to create ballot return sites, without legislative approval, has raised many questions about whether these sites are secure or not,” said Senator Argall.  “Today’s testimony will be invaluable as the committee continues to consider how to ensure the security of these sites, if they should even be used at all.”

Catherine Engelbrecht, the Founder of True the Vote, and Gregg Phillips, the CEO of OpSec Group testified about activists visiting multiple drop boxes on the same day, contrary to state law.

Lisa Schaefer, the Executive Director of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, testified about the changes to ballot return sites most needed by county election staff.  Senate Bill 878, sponsored by Senator Argall and Senator Sharif Street (D-Philadelphia), would fulfill the most requested changes by requiring that drop boxes are stationary and monitored by 24/7 video surveillance.

The hearing and all testimony can be viewed on the Senate State Government Committee’s website.

Contact: Jim Brugger

717.787.2637

Department of State Refuses to Engage on Bipartisan Election Reform

HARRISBURG – The Senate State Government Committee held a hearing today reviewing potential election reforms that could gain bipartisan support, according to Senator David G. Argall (R-Berks/Schuylkill), who chaired the hearing.  The Department of State, once again, refused to participate, continuing a pattern that’s plagued several of Governor Wolf’s five different Secretaries of the Commonwealth.

“The Governor’s slogan is that this is a ‘Government that Works.’  A more accurate description would be that this is a government that doesn’t even show up,” said Senator Argall during his closing remarks.

“It is far past time for the Department in charge of Pennsylvania’s elections to engage in these conversations instead of avoiding them like the plague.  I am hopeful that the next time we extend an invitation to the Department – and I promise you, there will be a next time – they actually show up.”

The committee heard testimony from the Bipartisan Policy Center and the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania.  Both groups noted the importance of elections that are fair, secure, and accessible.  Testimony can be reviewed on the State Government Committee’s website.

“Despite the Department of State’s continued absence, Senator Sharif Street (D-Philadelphia) and I remain committed to making updates to the election code that can receive support from both sides of the aisle,” Senator Argall stated.  “We heard testimony today that will be invaluable as we continue to vet options for this important legislation.”

As the Bipartisan Policy Center noted in their testimony, “there is an urgent need for this reform.  To have a successful and trusted election in 2024, Pennsylvania must lay the groundwork for impactful election legislation as soon as possible.”

Contact: Jim Brugger

717.787.2637

Public Hearing on Bipartisan Election Reform

Senate State Government Committee

Tuesday, February 15th | 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

North Office Building, Hearing Room 1

Agenda

Public Hearing on Bipartisan Election Reform

Schedule

1:00 p.m.:  Welcome and Opening Remarks:  Senator Argall and Senator Street

Bipartisan Policy Center

1:10 p.m.:

  • Matthew Weil, Bipartisan Policy Center Elections Project – Testimony
  • Rachel Orey, Senior Policy Analyst, Bipartisan Policy Center Elections Project

1:30 p.m.:

  • Christopher Thomas, Former Michigan Director of Elections – Testimony
    • Fellow at Bipartisan Policy Center

1:50 p.m.:

  • Brian Corley, Supervisor of Elections, Pasco County, Florida – Testimony
    • Member of Bipartisan Policy Center Task Force on Elections

County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania

2:10 p.m.:

  • Lisa Schaefer, Executive Director
  • Daryl Miller, President, CCAP – Combined Testimony
    • Bradford County Commissioner
  • Sherene Hess, CCAP Elections Reform Committee Chair
    • Indiana County Commissioner

2:45 p.m.:  Adjournment