()

Following is a listing of legislative and executive action for the week of Jan. 2. Members of the General Assembly were set to return to session on Jan. 23.

Judicial Elections

State Sen. Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, announced he plans to introduce legislation aimed at closing a loophole that allows judicial candidates who are presently judges to avoid the requirement to file financial disclosure forms.

Under his measure, judges who are seeking election to a court they don’t presently serve on—for example, trial court judges who are candidates for Superior Court seats—would have to file the same financial disclosure forms required of nonjudges seeking to be elected to the bench for the first time.

“The Ethics, Standards and Financial Disclosure Act contains a loophole that excuses certain judicial candidates from filing financial interest statements with the State Ethics Commission,” Costa said in a memorandum seeking co-sponsors. “Specifically, judicial candidates who currently hold a judicial office but seek election to a judicial office with a court other than the court on which they currently serve are not required to file such financial interest statements.”

Costa’s bill would close that loophole and require all candidates—whether or not they are current judicial officers, as long as they are not seeking election to the court they currently serve on—to file financial disclosure forms with their nominating papers.

Background Checks

State Rep. Jason Ortitay, R-Allegheny, said he will introduce legislation to eliminate the state’s firearm purchaser background check and replace it with the national instant check system.

Ortitay told colleagues Jan. 5 in a memorandum seeking co-sponsors that the measure was aimed at realizing efficiency and cost savings because the state and national systems are duplicative.

The Pennsylvania Instant Check System—which is used by the State Police—was created by the General Assembly in its 1995 special session on crime. The National Instant Check System is also utilized, in tandem with the state program, to conduct instant background checks, Ortitay said.

Pennsylvania is one of 13 states that maintains its own parallel background check system in addition to NICS, Ortitay said. That dual system, he said, has cost Pennsylvania “well over $100 million” over its two decades of operation.

“In addition to being unnecessary, PICS is also expensive,” Ortitay said. “While it was envisioned to be fiscally self-sufficient at the time it went online in 1998, a 2011 report from the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LBFC) found that two-thirds of PICS’s revenue comes from the General Fund to sustain its annual budget of over $6 million—95 percent of which covers personnel costs.”

Improvements in NICS make it feasible to eliminate the state background check, he said, since it now tracks gun-purchase prohibitions based solely on state law.

Parking Authority

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said in a press statement Jan. 4 that his office would look into a reported $227,000 payout to the former executive director of the Philadelphia Parking Authority that included a $120,000 leave payment for 1,000 hours of vacation leave.

“My current audits of the Philadelphia Parking Authority will cover the payout issue, and much more, as we are digging deep into the authority’s policies and procedures and its compliance with those requirements,” DePasquale was quoted as saying. If this payout is accurate, it is egregious, excessive and inappropriate for any government entity.”

CAR Sales

Attorney General Bruce R. Beemer on Jan. 3 announced the Office of Attorney General has filed 29 legal actions against individuals and automobile businesses accused of engaging in unlicensed car sales, selling unroadworthy vehicles and publishing deceptive advertisements.

The legal actions are the result of investigations conducted in 2016 by the Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, which is tasked with investigating cases of unfair and deceptive business practices involving persons or organizations operating in the state, according to a press release from the Attorney General’s office.

These legal actions and 130 warning letters to other dealers involve businesses and individuals in counties including Allegheny, Cumberland, Dauphin, Delaware, Philadelphia and Lackawanna, the statement said. They are the result of an ongoing statewide initiative designed to detect automobile dealers engaging in deceptive business practices.

The initiative, led by Deputy Attorney General Nicole R. DiTomo of the consumer protection bureau, is expected to continue in 2017, the office said in the statement. •

 

Following is a listing of legislative and executive action for the week of Jan. 2. Members of the General Assembly were set to return to session on Jan. 23.

Judicial Elections

State Sen. Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, announced he plans to introduce legislation aimed at closing a loophole that allows judicial candidates who are presently judges to avoid the requirement to file financial disclosure forms.

Under his measure, judges who are seeking election to a court they don’t presently serve on—for example, trial court judges who are candidates for Superior Court seats—would have to file the same financial disclosure forms required of nonjudges seeking to be elected to the bench for the first time.

“The Ethics, Standards and Financial Disclosure Act contains a loophole that excuses certain judicial candidates from filing financial interest statements with the State Ethics Commission,” Costa said in a memorandum seeking co-sponsors. “Specifically, judicial candidates who currently hold a judicial office but seek election to a judicial office with a court other than the court on which they currently serve are not required to file such financial interest statements.”

Costa’s bill would close that loophole and require all candidates—whether or not they are current judicial officers, as long as they are not seeking election to the court they currently serve on—to file financial disclosure forms with their nominating papers.

Background Checks

State Rep. Jason Ortitay, R-Allegheny, said he will introduce legislation to eliminate the state’s firearm purchaser background check and replace it with the national instant check system.

Ortitay told colleagues Jan. 5 in a memorandum seeking co-sponsors that the measure was aimed at realizing efficiency and cost savings because the state and national systems are duplicative.

The Pennsylvania Instant Check System—which is used by the State Police—was created by the General Assembly in its 1995 special session on crime. The National Instant Check System is also utilized, in tandem with the state program, to conduct instant background checks, Ortitay said.

Pennsylvania is one of 13 states that maintains its own parallel background check system in addition to NICS, Ortitay said. That dual system, he said, has cost Pennsylvania “well over $100 million” over its two decades of operation.

“In addition to being unnecessary, PICS is also expensive,” Ortitay said. “While it was envisioned to be fiscally self-sufficient at the time it went online in 1998, a 2011 report from the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LBFC) found that two-thirds of PICS’s revenue comes from the General Fund to sustain its annual budget of over $6 million—95 percent of which covers personnel costs.”

Improvements in NICS make it feasible to eliminate the state background check, he said, since it now tracks gun-purchase prohibitions based solely on state law.

Parking Authority

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said in a press statement Jan. 4 that his office would look into a reported $227,000 payout to the former executive director of the Philadelphia Parking Authority that included a $120,000 leave payment for 1,000 hours of vacation leave.

“My current audits of the Philadelphia Parking Authority will cover the payout issue, and much more, as we are digging deep into the authority’s policies and procedures and its compliance with those requirements,” DePasquale was quoted as saying. If this payout is accurate, it is egregious, excessive and inappropriate for any government entity.”

CAR Sales

Attorney General Bruce R. Beemer on Jan. 3 announced the Office of Attorney General has filed 29 legal actions against individuals and automobile businesses accused of engaging in unlicensed car sales, selling unroadworthy vehicles and publishing deceptive advertisements.

The legal actions are the result of investigations conducted in 2016 by the Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, which is tasked with investigating cases of unfair and deceptive business practices involving persons or organizations operating in the state, according to a press release from the Attorney General’s office.

These legal actions and 130 warning letters to other dealers involve businesses and individuals in counties including Allegheny, Cumberland, Dauphin, Delaware, Philadelphia and Lackawanna, the statement said. They are the result of an ongoing statewide initiative designed to detect automobile dealers engaging in deceptive business practices.

The initiative, led by Deputy Attorney General Nicole R. DiTomo of the consumer protection bureau, is expected to continue in 2017, the office said in the statement. •