Members of the Senate Republican Caucus today announced the introduction of a 10-bill package of government reforms intended to continue changing the culture of state government by increasing accountability and transparency.
“As we begin a new legislative session, which brings with it new challenges, it is imperative that we continue to build on the positive work we have already begun,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-25). “Passage of the reform measures being unveiled today is essential to creating a state government which is open and accountable to the people we have taken an oath to serve.”
Among the bills introduced today are measures to change how consulting contracts are awarded, to increase penalties for violating the Sunshine Law which requires public business to be done at open meetings, to ban bonus payments for state employees, and to eliminate lame-duck legislative sessions.
“Today, state government is significantly more open than it was just two years ago when we began the process of rewriting Pennsylvania’s Open Records Law,” said Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-9). “The 10 bills we are announcing today will continue that progress.”
The 10-bill package includes:
- Senate Bill 101, sponsored by Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R-13), to increase penalties for violating the Sunshine Law. “This Sunshine bill is aimed at public officials who intentionally make decisions in a way that avoids the requirements for public scrutiny,” said Senator Smucker, the bill’s prime sponsor. “Setting out more serious penalties should discourage illegal secret meetings and encourage enforcement actions when violations occur.”
- Senate Bill 102, sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Jane Orie (R-40), to reform the procurement of consulting contracts. “The Pennsylvania General Assembly should do all it can to eliminate the appearance of impropriety in regards to ‘Pay-to-Play’ in Commonwealth government,” said Senator Orie. “This can be done by creating an open bid process and providing for transparency in regard to who is receiving state contracts and their political contributions. This issue is receiving an enormous amount of national coverage at the current time and there is no better time than now to adopt legislation to restore integrity as to how public dollars are spent.”
- Senate Bill 103, sponsored by Sen. John Eichelberger (R-30), to prohibit bonuses for Commonwealth employees. “The people of Pennsylvania have seen the abuses from not having this law on the books,” said Sen. Eichelberger. “It would be irresponsible for the legislature to not fix this problem after seeing the evidence from the ‘Bonusgate’ scandal. I applaud our Senate leadership for making this issue a priority and will ask the House leaders to do the same.”
- Senate Bill 104, sponsored by Sen. Mike Folmer (R-48), to increase accountability related to the use of state-owned vehicles. Sen. Folmer is also the sponsor of Senate Bill 109, the Taxpayer-Funded Advertising Transparency Act. “While some might say that the reforms that I am sponsoring are not significant, I would argue that each is like the fingers of a hand,” said Senator Folmer. “Individually, the impact might be limited, but collectively, they are like a fist that can pack a lot of wallop: bringing more accountability to the use of state vehicles and letting taxpayers know how their hard-earned money is being spent on government advertising.
- Senate Bill 105, sponsored by Sen. Pat Browne (R-16), to create a searchable online budget database. “I am reintroducing the Pennsylvania Taxpayer Transparency Act to bring more accountability to government spending,” said Sen. Browne. “With the actions of state government segregated into many independent departments and agencies, it is currently very difficult for a Pennsylvania taxpayer to effectively monitor the spending practices of state government. However, with the use of technology we can significantly improve this process and promote greater transparency in the affairs of the Commonwealth.”
- Senate Bill 106, a constitutional amendment sponsored by Sen. Kim Ward (R-39), to eliminate sine die legislative sessions. “Eliminating the sine die sessions, or ‘lame duck’ sessions, is a key component to open government and reform,” said Sen. Ward. “These sessions too often provide opportunities for outgoing legislators to make votes without being accountable to Pennsylvanians.”
- Senate Bill 107, sponsored by Sen. Pileggi, to post government salary information online. “This is part of our ongoing drive to make all three branches of state government more open and accessible,” said Sen. Pileggi. “Giving the public the ability to easily review how their money is spent makes good sense.”
- Senate Bill 108, sponsored by Sen. Jake Corman (R-34), to change the process for filling a vacancy in the office of lieutenant governor. “This common-sense reform measure will ensure that in case of a vacancy of Lieutenant Governor, the sitting Governor will be able to pick his or her Lieutenant Governor,” Senator Corman said. “Currently, due to the unfortunate passing of Catherine Baker Knoll, we have a situation where we have a Governor and Lieutenant Governor from different parties. While this bill is a constitutional amendment and will not impact the current situation, it is my sincere belief that the Lieutenant Governor is a part of the Administration and needs to be a willing, working partner of the sitting Governor.”
- Senate Bill 110, sponsored by Sen. Smucker to improve access to, and expand the information contained in, state plane logs. “When there are specific and thorough record-keeping requirements in place, and the media and the public have access to those records, that should curtail questionable or excessive uses of the state aircraft,” Senator Smucker said.
Nine of the 10 bills in this package passed the Senate last session with strong bipartisan support. “Reform is not a partisan issue. We will once again work with our colleagues in the Senate Democratic caucus to pass these bills in the Senate,” said Sen. Pileggi. “We are optimistic the House will join us in sending them to the Governor.”
More information about government reform and other state issues can be found on the Senate Republican Caucus web site, www.pasenategop.com.
Senate Republican 10-Bill Reform Package (PDF)
SENATE REPUBLICAN CAUCUS: Carol Maravic, firstname.lastname@example.org, (717) 787-6725
SENATOR BROWNE: Lesley Crozier, email@example.com, (717) 787-1349
SENATOR CORMAN: Tim Nyquist, firstname.lastname@example.org, (717) 787-1377
SENATOR EICHELBERGER: Jason High, email@example.com, (717) 787-5490
SENATOR FOLMER: Beth Williams, firstname.lastname@example.org, (717) 787-5708
SENATOR ORIE: Mike Sarfert, email@example.com, (717) 787-6538
SENATOR PILEGGI: Erik Arneson, firstname.lastname@example.org, (717) 787-4712
SENATOR SCARNATI: Casey Long, email@example.com , (717) 787-7084
SENATOR SMUCKER: Dave Atkinson, firstname.lastname@example.org, (717) 787-6535
SENATOR WARD: Rob Ritson, email@example.com, (717) 787-6063