House Passes Government Reform Bills and Megan’s Law Fix

HARRISBURG – Protecting children and changing the culture in Harrisburg took center stage in the state House this week as the first bills were voted and sent to the Senate for consideration, House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny County) said today.

“Pennsylvanians must believe their government is effective, efficient, and accountable, and we think these bills will help bring that about,” Turzai said. “These government reform bills are part of a larger package that is the strongest set of reforms in more than 25 years.”

Rebuilding the public’s trust in state government is one of the top priorities of the House Republican Caucus, according to Turzai. The House voted to send to the state Senate for its consideration the first seven of a package of bills aimed at reforming state government. The bills are part of the package first introduced in 2009 known as the Pennsylvania Agenda for Trust in Harrisburg, or PATH. These proposals will help define the right path government should take to help restore the trust of Pennsylvania’s residents.

Today, the House passed legislation (House Bill 15) introduced by Rep. Jim Christiana (R-Beaver County) to create a searchable database for all state spending called PennWATCH. All state departmental and agency budget expenditures would be available online through one website. Vendor information and lists of state contract awards, including recipients, purpose and status reports, would be part of PennWATCH.

The PATH bills passing the House Tuesday were:

  • HB 103: Actual lobbying only, introduced by Rep. Rep. Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster County), will increase penalties for lobbyists engaging in prohibited activities.
  • HBs 104 and 105: Strengthening whistleblower protections for all state employees and those working on state contracts, introduced by Rep. Marc Gergely (D-Allegheny County) andRep. Brian Ellis (R-Butler County), will extend whistleblower protection to employees of nonprofits and private sector companies who report waste of public money obtained by their employer for services or work. The legislation also provides similar protections to legislative employees.
  • HB 107: State Contract Review Reform, introduced by Rep. George Dunbar (R-Westmoreland County), will amend the Procurement Code provisions relating to competitively sealed proposals.  No individual who has been employed by an offeror within the last two years may participate in the evaluation of the proposals
  • HB 108: Public Review of Contracts, introduced by Rep. Glen Grell (R-Cumberland County) makes the Right-To-Know law applicable to public procurement contracts and provides for public inspection of non-competitively awarded contracts prior to execution of the agreement
  • HB 109: No Start-Ups, introduced by Rep. Jim Marshall (R-Beaver County) amends the Legislative Code of Ethics to essentially include the provisions of House Rule 47, which prohibits members of the General Assembly from creating or maintaining nonprofits that receive public funds.

All the bills passed unanimously, except HB 109, which had one negative vote.

Protecting Children, Closing Megan’s Law Loopholes

Also this week, the House considered a package of bills to close loopholes in the state’s Megan’s Law. The loopholes were discovered last year when the Superior Court ruled in two cases dealing with transients and out-of-state offenders.

Accordingly, as the Crimes Code currently standd, both homeless sex offenders and some sex offenders who move to the Commonwealth cannot be prosecuted for intentionally failing to register with the Pennsylvania State Police. The bills would enact tougher criminal penalties for out-of-state offenders who move to Pennsylvania and fail to register.

  • HB 68, introduced by Rep. Garth Everett (R-Lycoming County), amends Megan’s Law to require sex offenders without a residence to register every 30 days with the Pennsylvania State Police as transients and sets penalties for sexually violent predators who knowingly fail to comply with monthly counseling sessions. The bill passed unanimously.
  • HB 75, introduced by Rep. Ron Marsico (R-Dauphin County), amends Megan’s Law to provide for specific criminal sentences for sex offenders who fail to comply with registration requirements. The bill had one negative vote.

“Pennsylvanians sent a strong message in November to rein in government and reconnect it to the everyday values of citizens,” Turzai said. “Our agenda of controlled spending, a smaller government focusing on its core functions, and greater accountability to the people we serve has been set by the people who elected us… the bills passed today have begun to move that agenda.”


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