WILKES-BARRE — Gov. Tom Wolf this week signed legislation into law that strengthens restrictions for lobbyists and special interests and improves efficiency by requiring lobbying disclosure reports to be filed electronically with the Department of State.
“I am proud to sign this bill, which is long overdue,” Wolf said in a news release. “By cracking down on special interests, this bill will help to create a more open, honest and transparent government in Harrisburg that is accountable to the people of Pennsylvania.”
Wolf said when he arrived in Harrisburg, he found that special interests had an outsized influence on how things get done in the state Capitol.
The new law strengthens lobbying reporting rules, including:
• Requiring lobbyists, lobbying firms, or principals to file lobbying disclosure reports electronically to quicken Department of State processing and provide more time for compliance efforts. Approximately 20 percent of lobbying disclosure reports are filed by paper.
• Increasing the daily maximum penalty for not filing a report by the quarterly deadline from $50 per day to: $50 per day for the first 10 late days; $100 per day from late day 11 to 20; and $200 per late day after 20 days.
• Doubling the maximum penalty for not filing a lobbying disclosure report by the quarterly deadline from $2,000 to $4,000.
• Requiring the Department of State to post all lobbying disclosure reports online within seven days of receiving the filing. The department typically posts electronically filed reports within minutes of submission.
The new penalties take effect immediately and the electronic filing requirement takes effect in 60 days.
Wolf says he has made government reform a top priority, and he listed the following action in pursuit of that goal:
• The governor donates his salary to charity.
• Gift ban for all employees under the governor’s jurisdiction.
• Cabinet secretaries must post their expenses online each month.
• Eliminated more than $2 billion in government waste from the state budget and consolidated agencies.
• Comprehensive pension reform reduced risk to taxpayers as Pennsylvania continues to pay down the debt and slash Wall Street fees.
• Liquor system modernization to allow gas stations to sell beer and grocery stores to sell wine, as well as increasing hours at state stores and legalizing shipments of wine to people’s homes.
Proposed state funding
would support seniors
The Department of Human Services this week announced an initiative included in Gov. Tom Wolf’s 2018-19 budget proposal to support Pennsylvania seniors and individuals with physical disabilities.
The proposed budget will allow individuals to play an active role in selecting their health care plans and access to community-based, long-term care.
Since 2015, Wolf’s home and community-based services investments for seniors and individuals with physical disabilities have grown by $800 million. The proposed budget includes more than $69 million for the continuing rollout and implementation of Community HealthChoices (CHC), Pennsylvania’s Medical Assistance managed care program for individuals with physical disabilities and seniors. CHC rolled out in the southwest part of the state Jan. 1, and phased rollout will continue throughout the commonwealth through January 1, 2020.
CHC was developed by the Department of Aging and Department of Human Services and included ideas and components from hundreds of stakeholders, including the Area Agencies on Aging, senior and disability advocates, providers, future program participants, and participant caregivers.
Once it is fully implemented, CHC will give Pennsylvanians access to high quality, coordinated health care to meet their needs in their homes and communities with the added bonus of providing the state with more budget predictability for the delivery of care to these populations.
PennDOT will update
PennDOT this week announced it has begun the process of updating its statewide bicycle and pedestrian master plan and is inviting the public to weigh in through an online survey.
The plan, last updated in 2007, will outline a vision for improving conditions for walking and bicycling across Pennsylvania, especially for those who walk and bicycle out of necessity rather than for leisure and recreation.
“Keeping our transportation network safe and accessible for all transportation modes is a crucial responsibility,” said PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards. “We are accountable for supporting and improving quality of life for communities, and updating our bicycle and pedestrian master plan is a crucial step in that process.”
Over the next 18 months, PennDOT will use the project website to provide information on the department’s progress. The community survey also will be accessible on the site and will play a critical role in understanding the current issues and challenges facing people who walk and bike.
Once completed, the plan will provide guidance to local governments on best practices for developing and implementing regional and local bicycle and pedestrian plans.
The plan also will develop a set of goals, objectives and performance measures to guide PennDOT’s efforts to support a complete multi-modal network.
More information is available at www.penndot.gov under “Travel In PA.”
Toomey offers amendment
to end sanctuary city policies
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Lehigh Valley, this week introduced an amendment to the immigration bill presently being debated in the U.S. Senate to end dangerous sanctuary city policies. He says this continues his long-standing fight to protect communities from violent criminals who are in the U.S. illegally.
Toomey’s legislation would withhold certain non-law enforcement federal grant funds from “sanctuary cities” — jurisdictions that forbid their local officers from cooperating with federal immigration officials, even when they wish to do so.
The amendment also addresses court decisions that may leave local police and municipalities liable when they assist the Department of Homeland Security but the DHS has made an error. Toomey’s amendment preserves an individual’s right to sue if a law enforcement officer commits any violation of the individual’s civil or constitutional rights.
However, his amendment ensures that if the federal government committed the error or violated a right, the individual sues the federal government, not a local official acting in good faith and in compliance with a request from DHS. The legislation also provides safe harbor to persons in the country illegally who come forward to report a crime.