Friday, September 19, 2008

State Capitol Roundup for Sept. 19

Here's this week's State Capitol Roundup courtesy of state Rep. Bob Mensch, R-147th District.

House Leaders Plan to Closely Monitor PA Budget, Economy

In light of recent efforts by the Rendell Administration to curtail state spending, House Republicans are calling for a bi-partisan effort to monitor the state's fiscal health and the resulting impact on the General Fund budget. Throughout budget negotiations, House Republicans repeatedly voiced concerns relative to increased state spending in the face of a possible economic down-turn. Recently released information from the Department of Revenue shows that August tax collections were $117.5 million below projections. The administration has since called for spending cuts amounting to some $200 million and a statewide hiring freeze for approximately 5,000 state jobs. Rep. Mario Civera (R-Delaware), Republican chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, has already called upon his counterparts to participate in regular meetings to assess the state's fiscal status and determine if it is necessary to make adjustments to the budget. Democrat Chairman Evans agreed to the meetings. With such an agreement in place, lawmakers remain guardedly optimistic that the state can safely weather the economic storm.

Dubious Severance Package to Former Gaming Board Director Suspended

The generous severance arrangement between former Gaming Board Executive Director Anne Neeb and existing Gaming Board officials has been temporarily suspended according to the state Department of Treasury. Numerous House Republicans, who have repeatedly questioned the legality of the agreement, hailed the decision to have the attorney general's office review the arrangement as a victory. Under the terms of her contract, Neeb was set to receive only four month's worth of her $180,000 salary. However, according to an eight-page "separation agreement" Neeb was to receive a salary continuation of $15,000 per month through Sept. 6 (a total of $60,000), medical benefits through September, and a lump sum payment of $60,000.

House Approves Legislation Making Revisions to State Dog Laws

The House voted to overhaul existing laws surrounding the treatment of dogs in the Commonwealth this week, approving two proposals that are before the state Senate for consideration. House Bill 2525 makes several changes to how dog kennels are operated. If enacted, the new law would require that kenneled dogs be given significantly larger cages with solid bottoms, access to exercise areas outdoors, annual visits to the veterinarian and limit cage stacking. Several amendments designed to protect law-abiding breeders from being disproportionately affected by the new laws were blocked during debate. House Bill 2532, which requires that surgical procedures such as debarking and tail-docking be performed only by a veterinarian, also received unanimous approval.

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