Executive and Legislative Action for Week of Feb. 10, 2014
Following is a listing of executive, legislative and judiciary action for the week of Feb. 10. Members of the General Assembly are set to return to session March 10.
Alternative Energy Requirements
Legislation has been introduced in the state House of Representatives to repeal Pennsylvania's Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act.
The sponsor of the bill, state Rep. Tommy Sankey, R-Clearfield, said: "My overlying concern is for the Pennsylvania consumer whose wallet is taking a double hit—first when your electric bill goes up an anticipated 12 percent to 15 percent, and second through the grants that are offered as incentives to promote use of alternative energy. Wind and solar power are honorable endeavors that are unfortunately too cost-prohibitive to be relied upon heavily."
The act requires utilities to obtain 18 percent of their power generation from nontraditional resources by the year 2021.
Criminal justice reforms
Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille has been asked by the U.S. Department of Justice to serve as part of an eight-member expert workgroup, formed by the National Institute of Justice, according to a statement from the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts.
The workgroup, consisting of jurists, prosecutors, defense attorneys, jail administrators, court administrators and court technology staff from around the country, plans to review Pennsylvania's experience to develop protocols in state and local courts for post-arraignment release hearings to maximize the return on investment in videoconferencing and reduce jail detention or overcrowding.
Based on a 2011 survey, Pennsylvania's courts conduct approximately 15,000 proceedings via videoconferencing each month. Approximately 62 percent of these proceedings are preliminary arraignments; others include warrant proceedings and bail and sentencing hearings. Videoconferences are conducted with defendants located in state correctional institutions, county and local prisons, booking centers and Pennsylvania State Police stations. The practice is estimated to save $21 million annually in prisoner transportation costs by eliminating an estimated $73 to transport a defendant from a local facility and an estimated $588 to transport a defendant from a state correctional institution.
Liquid fuels payments
Gov. Tom Corbett has announced that Pennsylvania's new transportation plan will allow PennDOT to distribute $345 million in liquid fuels payments to certified municipalities on March 3 to help them maintain their roads and bridges.
The allocation is $25.1 million more than the 2013 figure, roughly an 8 percent increase.
"This investment helps our towns meet the tough challenge of maintaining municipality-owned roads and bridges," Corbett said in a statement. "Because of the new transportation plan that I signed into law, Pennsylvania will be able to increase these resources in coming years, which could provide some relief to local taxpayers from these costs."