Please find an update on what has been happening in Harrisburg and around the 32nd District below.
Senator Browne Visits the 32nd District
I hosted two meetings at Fay-Penn’s offices with Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman: Senator Pat Browne. I was thankful that Senator Browne took the time to come and speak with my constituents here in the 32nd District.
During the first meeting, we spoke to superintendents and other district officials from school districts in the 32nd District on School Safety. Represented at the meeting were eleven school districts from Fayette, Somerset, and Westmoreland counties.
We held an informal discussion on the topic of school safety and how we as legislators can provide the support these districts need through the appropriations process. It was a fascinating discussion that will certainly influence my decision-making in upcoming discussions in Harrisburg.
Following our discussion on school safety, Senator Pat Browne and I sat down with economic development officials in Fayette, Somerset, and Westmoreland Counties.
Appropriations Committee Chairman Browne provided an update on PA’s budget outlook and economic development programs. We also talked a lot about workforce development issues plaguing our job creators.
Represented at the meeting were Fayette Chamber of Commerce, Somerset County Chamber of Commerce, Greater Rostraver Chamber of Commerce, Fay-Penn Economic Development Council, Redevelopment Authority of the County of Fayette, Redevelopment Authority of Somerset County, Mon Valley Alliance, Uniontown Redevelopment Authority and the Connellsville Redevelopment Authority.
Thank you to everyone who attended for sharing their thoughts with us about funding these priority items.
State Senate Approves Bipartisan Crime Victims Package
On March 21st, the State Senate approved a package of bills strengthening protections for victims of crime and ensuring that victims and their families are treated with respect and dignity by the criminal justice system.
Six of the bills would strengthen and reform Pennsylvania’s domestic violence laws, offer greater protections to victims of domestic violence and their children, and hold abusers accountable. Another measure, known as Marsy’s Law, would establish a crime victims’ bill of rights in the Pennsylvania Constitution to protect and expand the rights of victims of violent crime.
Senate Bill 449 now goes to the Governor for his signature and enactment into law. The other six bills were sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
These bills are an important step in giving victims and their families the resources to seek justice against their abusers. I encourage the Governor to swiftly sign Senate Bill 449 into law, and hope the House takes up the other six bills so that they too may be sent to the Governor for his signature.
Op-Ed: Senate Game & Fisheries Chair: Fish and Boat Answers Just Raise More Questions
An Op-Ed By Senator Pat Stefano
Fish and Boat Commission Executive Director John Arway recently appeared before the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee, which I chair, to provide his annual report to the committee. This is my fourth year serving on the committee and this normally routine meeting was unlike any I have seen.
Director Arway appeared before the committee amidst a swirl of controversy over his management of the Fish and Boat Commission and its resources.
The PA Senate has twice passed bills that would allow the Fish and Boat Commission and the Game Commission have more control over their fees with continued oversight by the legislature. The House had significant concerns with this approach and so negotiations to do a 3 year license increase schedule for both commissions were begun and nearing completion in September of 2017. That’s when Director Arway’s actions derailed the progress that was being made.
In September of 2017, Arway skirted the normal committee process of the Fish and Boat Commission and without public notice had the commissioners enact a 2 million dollar package of cuts to Fish and Boat services. These cuts included closing two hatcheries and reducing the amount of stocked fish throughout the state.
I personally cautioned Arway, and he was warned by some of the Fish and Boat Commissioners that day, that unilateral action could derail plans for license increases. He chose to ignore those warnings and then took his actions even a step further. It was at that point that Arway crossed a line that he cannot uncross.
Arway released a map showing where the reductions in stocked fish would take place and it became abundantly clear that he had targeted unsupportive members of the legislature for cuts. He further confirmed this in a meeting in my office with all 4 chairmen of the House & Senate Game and Fisheries committee and in media interviews.
This is an outrageous action that at the least is improper and may well be an illegal use of his power. It is highly inappropriate and unethical to use state resources to try and influence a legislative vote. Once Arway showed that he is willing to use state resources for political retribution he lost my confidence in his ability to lead this agency. For the sake of the future of the Fish and Boat Commission, he should step aside and allow new leadership to repair the damage that he has done.
Further doubt has been raised in regards to the fiscal condition of the Fish and Boat Commission. An economic analysis prepared for the FOP Lodge 114, which represents law enforcement within Fish and Boat and is currently in contract negotiations with the commission, raises serious doubt about the claims Arway has used to make his case. Despite the Fish and Boat having this report for about a month, Arway declined to answer questions about this report in our hearing and indicated that they would answer them in the near future. No matter their answers there are now serious doubts as to which numbers are correct and for that reason I am asking Auditor General Eugene DePasquale to undertake a thorough audit of the commission to get to the bottom of this.
When politics are injected into our wildlife management practices, it endangers one of Pennsylvania’s greatest treasures: Its wildlife. Unfortunately director Arway did just that when he chose to target specific legislators for their lack of support for his initiatives. This was an irrevocable action that should cause great concern to anyone who cares for our great outdoors. I continue to believe that a license increase is necessary but it is clear that given the current climate the only way for that to happen is for Arway to step aside or be removed.
Senator Stefano Represents Fayette, Somerset and Westmoreland Counties and serves as the Chairman of the Senate Game & Fisheries Committee.
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