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Looking Back at 2017
12/27/2017
By State Rep. Will Tallman
193rd Legislative District


Here’s a trivia question - how many pieces of legislation have been drafted at the halfway point in the General Assembly’s 2017-18 session? While you ponder that answer, let’s take a look at some of these bills and issues that have made headlines in the calendar year.

The state budget is far from the only thing for which the state Legislature is responsible. It is, however, the most significant package of legislation we take up. Notice I said package, not piece, of legislation. The mistake that is often made is thinking the state’s spending plan is made up of one bill. This year, that fact was arguably at the crux of a stalemate that took us past the June 30 constitutional deadline for agreeing to a budget.

What is often referred to as the “budget bill” is the general appropriations bill, which dictates how your tax dollars will be spent. On June 30, both the House and Senate passed a spending plan - House Bill 218 - without having in place the necessary revenue to support it. Gov. Tom Wolf questioned it and didn’t sign it, thus allowing it to become law. A handful of us opposed the legislation on the basis of fiscal irresponsibility. The ensuing debate over how to pay for the spending led to a drawn out budget feud.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jake Corman (R-34) said this will never happen again and I am holding him to that. To that end, the House recently passed a package of budget reforms that would bring more accountability and transparency to state government and rein in excessive government spending. The bills await Senate approval.

Pensions are one of the biggest cost drivers in the budget. Act 5 of 2017 will hopefully slow the growth of pension liabilities, shift risk away from taxpayers and ensure the Commonwealth can meet its future pension obligations. While I supported the bill, I feel we need to further address the unfunded liability of both SERS (the State Employees’ Retirement System) and PSERS (the Public School Employees’ Retirement System). Without doing so, we are still kicking the can down the road.

As part of the budget, funding for basic, special and early childhood education was increased. Act 55 of 2017 also ends the practice of laying off teachers based on seniority and instead requires their performance to dictate furlough and reinstatement decisions.

Substance abuse remains a huge issue everywhere. Where alcohol is concerned, Act 30 of 2017 toughens DUI laws by increasing penalties and fines. Sadly, Pennsylvania’s drug overdose death rate is among the worst in the country and isn’t declining. We budgeted more money for opioid abuse, passed some laws on the subject and moved related bills further in the legislative process. Somehow an answer to this epidemic that is claiming lives at an alarming rate must be found.

Lives were the subject of a bill passed this month but vetoed by the governor. Senate Bill 3 would have made significant changes to the Abortion Control Act. I supported the bill because I believe life begins at conception and this legislation represented the voice of the unborn child, whose life would be spared. Gov. Wolf labeled Senate Bill 3 “an attack on women.” I think vetoing the legislation is an attack on children.

I was also disappointed to see Senate Bill 166 defeated in the House. This legislation would have put an end to exploiting taxpayers for political purposes through collection of campaign funds by public-sector unions. The final vote was 90-102, and the voting ledger shows you who are “friends” of the unions, which still obviously play a big role in state government politics.

This is obviously a small, legislative snapshot. Meanwhile, the search for the perfect bill continues. Someone will always have a problem, no matter what issue we tackle in Harrisburg. Just as the majority determines the outcome of a vote, we as legislators continue to craft legislation that reflects the will of the majority of Pennsylvanians, with the continued goal of serving every one of our constituents.

Finally, the answer to my trivia question about the number of pieces of legislation that have been drafted so far is 3,862 – 2,645 in the state House and 1,217 in the state Senate.

Representative Will Tallman
193rd District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Scott Little
717.260.6137
slittle@pahousegop.com
RepWillTallman.com / Facebook.com/RepTallman

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