Legislative Update – May 22, 2015

The debate continued in the Senate this week over the state’s capital reserve fund.  In turn this prompted much discussion over the Senate’s current road proposal.  As a reminder the current proposal being discussed in the Senate would do the following: 

  • Raise the gas tax by 12 cents a gallon over three years
  • Increase fees for obtaining a 10-year driver’s license by $25 to $50
  • Assess a $60 fee on hybrid vehicles every two years and a $120 fee on electric vehicles
  • Increase state’s sales tax cap on vehicles to $600 from $300

To offset these increases the current proposal includes a reduction to the income tax of $709 million over the next five (5) years.  Because of these reductions to income tax revenues this plan, if adopted, could result in reductions to the state’s General Fund revenues in future years.  SCASA is concerned by this because the Education Finance Act and subsequently the base student cost are funded through General Fund revenues.  To put this in context, similar arguments were made when Act 388 was being debated, i.e. that the sales tax increase would make up for the reductions to the property tax and be revenue neutral.  Despite those arguments though, the state has seen revenue shortfalls well over $100 million year over year.
The House is set to start debate of the Senate’s version of the General Fund (H.3701) next week.

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

There were no meetings of either the K-12 Subcommittee or Education and Public Works Committee this week.

On Thursday, May 21st, the full House addressed the following issues pertaining to K-12 education:

H.4084 (Charter School Leader) provides that employees, board members, and staff of the charter school are subject to the ethics and government accountability requirements applicable to public members and public employees, and to require a statement of compliance assurance to be filed annually with the school’s sponsor and the State Department of Education.  This bill was read a third time and sent to the Senate; however it has missed the crossover deadline and will likely not be addressed by the full Senate this year.

S.437 (Civics Bill) is Senate’s version of the bill requiring that students, beginning with freshmen in the 2016-2017 academic year, take the US Citizenship Test as part of their ½ credit American Government class.  The House version of the bill (H.3574) received third reading in the House and is currently in the Senate Education Committee.  S.437 was recalled from the House Education and Public Works committee and is set to be taken up by the full House on Tuesday, May 26th.

SENATE

On Wednesday, May 20th, the K-12 subcommittee addressed the following items:

H.3353 (GED Camps) beginning with the 2015-2016 school year this joint resolution proposes a two-year pilot program in every technical college service area to facilitate the use of general educational development camps to help people obtain their GED certificates, and provides that the state department of education shall create policies to implement the provisions of this joint resolution.  This joint resolution received a favorable report from the subcommittee.

H.3882 (Bus Driver Physicals) amends current requirements for Bus Driver Physicals to provide that school bus drivers shall have a physical examination that meets the requirements of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations certified by a medical examiner.  The definition of medical examiner was amended to included chiropractors, bringing the state certification requirement in line with federal statutes.  This bill received a favorable report.

S.574 (Comprehensive Health Education) amends definitions in the Comprehensive Health Education Act, so as to define “medically accurate information” as used in comprehensive health education units and sexual abuse and assault awareness units. This bill received a favorable report; however because this bill did not make the crossover deadline it is unlikely to receive consideration by the full Senate this year.

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