Finance - September 28, 2012

Senator Scarnati proposes panel to evaluate gas drilling health findings

Senator Joseph Scarnati, President Pro-Tempore of the Pennsylvania Senate, has proposed the commissioning of the Marcellus Shale Health Advisory Panel to evaluate the findings of public health data related to gas drilling in Pennsylvania.  The panel would have nine members and include the Secretary of Health along with doctors, scientists, and industry leaders appointed by various elected officials.  The panel would be charged with examining the public health data and studying any new scientific and technological advancements that would aid in making drilling safe and environmentally responsible.  Senator Scarnati circulated a co-sponsorship memo noting that he’ll be introducing legislation to create the panel; the legislation will not move with the limited number of session days left for the year.  However, the memo will likely spark further discussion on the idea.


Charter school changes connected to special education funding this session

The special education funding system was on track at the end of last session to be revamped.  The proposed legislation would make payments to school districts for severely learning disabled students based on the actual number of students in the district versus a statewide average.  Under the current law, schools with higher numbers of severely learning disable students often face budget shortcomings because of the 16 percent cap on state special education funding.

A last minute amendment to the legislation involving charter schools sidelined the bill and put it on hold until now.  As the fall session gets back into the swing of things, charter school reformation is a hot issue.  There are major changes to the law in the amendment that are holding up the special education funding revamp.  Those changes include the creation of new board to review and approve charter school applications, moving the power away from school boards.  It’s unclear whether or not there will be a compromise in time for the legislation to pass.