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2015-16 Legislative Session Draws to a Close
The 2015-16 Legislative Session officially ends on November 30. Although much work remains to be done in 2017 and beyond, a number of issues that are important to local communities saw significant progress during the two-year legislative session.
One of my top priorities is ensuring our state government lives within its means and doesn’t stand in the way of job growth in our communities. Although Governor Wolf fought to enact staggering increases in broad-based taxes, significant hikes in government spending and new job-killing levies on the natural gas industry, lawmakers successfully thwarted all three of the Governor’s proposals. Lawmakers also approved a new requirement implementing performance-based budgeting to help weed out wasteful spending and curtail the growth in the cost of state government.
As lawmakers sought to curtail the growth in state spending, significant new resources were devoted to education. Each of the past two budgets boosted total education funding by at least $200 million. In addition, lawmakers gave schools new tools to educate students while reducing costs to taxpayers, including supporting administrative partnerships between school districts and new hybrid learning programs for students.
After years of study and debate, lawmakers finally took decisive action to improve Pennsylvania’s laws pertaining to alcohol sales. Historic liquor reform legislation signed into law this year will allow for wine sales in grocery stores, expand hours of operation at state-owned liquor stores and allow consumers to have wine shipped directly to their home. Another law will permit beer distributors to sell growlers and six-packs in addition to cases of beer. The new laws update a system that is among the most restrictive and antiquated in the country.
Addressing the heartbreaking impact of the heroin and opioid epidemic is also a critical issue, particularly here in southwestern Pennsylvania where the consequences of this crisis have been among the most severe of any region in the nation. Several new laws were created to help members of the health care community combat the epidemic, as well as laws to improve addiction treatment and prevent opioids from falling into the wrong hands.
During my first two-year session, three bills I introduced were signed into law. Act 164 of 2016 established a permanent regulatory framework for the operation of Transportation Network Companies like Uber and Lyft in every community in Pennsylvania. Act 47 of 2015 will reduce the use of fresh water in oil and gas drilling operations. Act 70 of 2015 protects highway construction workers and emergency responders by strengthening penalties and increasing fines for distracted and aggressive driving in work zones.
In addition, other proposals I introduced were enacted into law as part of similar pieces of legislation, including a bill designating a portion of State Route 1030 in Donora Borough as Ken Griffey Sr. & Jr. Drive and a new law that limits opioid prescriptions in hospital emergency rooms to minimize the number of individuals at risk of addiction.
In total, lawmakers approved 263 new laws over the past two years. A complete list of legislative accomplishments during the two-year session is available here.
Serving communities in Beaver, Greene and Washington counties is an incredible honor for which I am deeply grateful. I appreciate all of the community residents who have reached out to me to make their voices heard throughout my first two years in the Senate, and I encourage all of you to continue to share your thoughts with me as we prepare for a challenging year ahead in 2017.
For more information on issues of importance to southwestern Pennsylvania, please visit my website at www.senatorbartolotta.com and connect with me on Facebook (www.facebook.com/senatorbartolotta) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/senbartolotta).
SouthPointe District Office
Greene County Office Building