State Capitol ROUNDUP
4/19/2013

Bill Introduced to Abolish Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission

Rep. Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre/Mifflin) this week attended a Capitol news conference where legislation was introduced that would abolish the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.  The legislation comes following grand jury findings highlighting waste, fraud and abuse within the agency.  The bill would transfer all operations, maintenance, construction and other responsibilities for the turnpike to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) in an effort to streamline government and enhance efficiency.  If enacted, the bill would require PennDOT to honor any collective bargaining agreement in existence between the Turnpike Commission and any employee organization.  The bill also would assign debt of the outstanding bonds of the Turnpike Commission to the Commonwealth and would allocate turnpike tolls for repayment of the debt.  The Turnpike Commission is currently run by nine executives and is in charge of 545 miles of roadway.  By comparison, PennDOT is run by seven executives and manages more than 41,000 miles of roadway. 

House Passes Inheritance Tax Reform Legislation

The House voted this week in support of legislation to eliminate the inheritance tax on property transferred upon the death of a natural, adoptive or step-parent to or for the use of a child 21 years of age or younger.  House Bill 659 would eliminate the current 4.5 percent tax placed on a property transfer of that type.  The bill unanimously passed the House last session and is one step in dealing with the levy commonly referred to as the “death tax.”  Current law does not tax the transfer of property upon the death of a child 21 years of age or younger to or for the use of a natural, adoptive or step-parent, and this bill seeks to ensure children also would not be taxed in the event of a property transfer.  House Bill 659 goes to the Senate for consideration.

Committee Approves Two Prevailing Wage Bills

The House Labor and Industry Committee sent to the House this week two bills aimed at modernizing the state’s prevailing wage law.  The prevailing wage applies to any public works project estimated to cost more than $25,000, which includes any construction, reconstruction, demolition, alteration, or repair paid for in whole or in part out of the funds of a public body.  That amount has not been altered for more than 50 years.  House Bill 796 would raise the threshold to $100,000.  If the current $25,000 threshold were to be adjusted for inflation, it would equal just under $188,000.  House Bill 665 would expand the types of road maintenance projects that would be exempt from Prevailing Wage Act requirements to enable municipalities to stretch their road repair budgets and allow them to maintain more roads.

This Week is National Work Zone Safety Week

In an effort to educate drivers on the importance of work zone safety, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is urging motorists to keep safety in mind during National Work Zone Safety Week, April 15-19.  Drivers should keep the following safety tips in mind when traveling through active work zones: drive the posted work-zone speed limit; stay alert and pay close attention to signs and flaggers; turn on your headlights; maintain a safe distance around vehicles and don’t tailgate; use four-way flashers when stopped or traveling slowly; avoid distractions and give your full attention to the road; always buckle up;expect the unexpected and be patient.  For more information on work zone safety, visit Benninghoff’s website at www.KerryBenninghoff.com.
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