Senate Approves Bill to Accelerate Critical Utility Infrastructure Improvements

HARRISBURG — The state Senate today unanimously approved legislation that will provide a critical tool to accelerate the replacement of aging natural gas, electric and wastewater systems in the Commonwealth, create new jobs and increase public safety, according to Senator Tommy Tomlinson (R-Bucks).

Tomlinson, who chairs the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee, said House Bill 1294 will establish a new financing method – known as a distribution system improvement charge process (DSIC) – to expedite utility infrastructure projects.

This change would enable natural gas distribution companies, electric distribution companies and wastewater companies to accelerate the replacement of existing corroded, brittle or other at-risk lines, funded by a small surcharge.  Currently, these utilities must wait for the completion of a rate case to begin receiving a return on their investment – a time-consuming process that delays projects and leads to higher costs for consumers.

“The Legislature provided a similar financing mechanism to water companies in 1996 and it has been extremely effective – increasing the rate of replacement of aging infrastructure by more than 200 percent,” Tomlinson said.  “By moving to this more efficient infrastructure funding plan, customers will avoid costly rate cases and receive better, more reliable service.  Our utilities will save money and avoid expensive delays, expediting critical projects and saving consumers money.”

He added that the bulk of Pennsylvania’s current utility infrastructure was originally built in the 1940s. Today, many systems are simply unsafe and must be replaced.

Tomlinson said the bill was amended in the Senate to include important safeguards for consumers.  Utilities would be required to file a long-term infrastructure plan with the Public Utility Commission, be subject to additional audits and face penalties for overcharging consumers under the DSIC.

“All consumers will benefit from a utility infrastructure that is safer, modern and more efficient.  This isn’t something we should do, it’s something we must do for the sake of public safety,” Tomlinson said.  “It will also allow us to create good family-sustaining jobs to improve our economy.”

House Bill 1294 now returns to the House for concurrence in Senate amendments.  Governor Corbett has indicated his support for the legislation.

 

Contact:

Fran Cleaver
(717) 787-5072

Senate Approves Tomlinson’s Texting-While-Driving Ban, Sends Bill to Governor

HARRISBURG — The Senate today approved legislation sponsored Sen. Tommy Tomlinson (R-Bucks) that would make Pennsylvania roads safer by prohibiting drivers from texting while driving, sending the measure to the Governor for his signature.

Senate Bill 314 would make texting while driving a primary offense, meaning that police can pull over motorists for sending or receiving text messages from a wireless communication device.  Drivers who violate the law would face a $50 fine.

“Pennsylvania will join 34 other states in enacting texting-while-driving bans – it’s one of the most important things we can do to prevent needless tragedies,” Tomlinson said.  “Texting is one of the most dangerous distracted driving activities that motorists engage in.  When you text, you have to take your eyes off the road, you aren’t paying attention, and the consequences can be deadly.”

A recent study by a safe-driving institute found that drivers who text are 23 times more likely to be in an accident.

Once enacted, the texting ban will supersede and pre-empt all local ordinances related to the use of an interactive wireless communication device.

 

Contact:

Fran Cleaver
(717) 787-5072

Sen. Tomlinson Opens New Office in Langhorne; Moves Bensalem District Office to Street Road

To provide greater access and better constituent services to residents in his Senatorial District, Senator Tommy Tomlinson recently opened two new district offices in Bucks County.

Tomlinson moved his Bensalem district office from Bristol Pike to 3207 Street Road within the Bucks County Visitors Center.  The phone number at the Bensalem office is (215) 638-1784.

Tomlinson also opened an office in Langhorne, located on 654 Woodbourne Road in Langhorne.  The phone number is (215) 752-6763.

Both offices are open weekdays from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  Previous offices located in Levittown and Richboro have been closed.

“My district office staff is prepared to provide information on state government programs and services, help with bureaucratic red-tape, or supply information on proposed legislation and state issues,” Tomlinson said. “In addition, we can help residents obtain special permits or get action on a local problem.  My goal is to help local residents with any problems or concerns they may have relating to state government and to be open and accessible.”

Tomlinson said residents can also visit his website at senatortomlinson.com.

CONTACT:

Fran Cleaver
717-787-5072

Senate Approves Tomlinson Bill to Ban Texting, Cell Phone Use While Driving

HARRISBURG – The Senate today passed legislation sponsored by Senator Tommy Tomlinson (R-Bucks) and supported by Senator John Rafferty, Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee that would prohibit the use of handheld cell phones and texting while driving and set new guidelines for junior drivers.

Tomlinson said Senate Bill 314 would impose a ban on handheld cell phones for all drivers, regardless of age. Hands-free cell phone use would still be permitted by drivers who do not have a learners permit or junior driver’s license. The bill would make it a primary offense for all drivers to text, email, browse the internet and instant message. SB 314 would make it a secondary offense to use a cell phone while driving – meaning the driver would have to first be pulled over for a primary offense.

The only exceptions would include:

  • Drivers contacting 511 service, 911 or wireless E-911.
  • When a vehicle is stopped due to traffic obstruction and the vehicle is in park or neutral.
  • Operators of emergency vehicles, coroners, or volunteer emergency responders while engaged in their official duties.
  • Amateur radio operators.

“I would like to thank Senator Rafferty for his work on this important issue and for moving this bill forward in the process. Texting while driving is distracting, dangerous and sometimes deadly.” Tomlinson said.

“Distracted driving is a major cause of accidents, especially among young people.” Tomlinson said. “When people are behind the wheel they should be concentrating on the road and other drivers, not texting or talking on cell phones.”

Tomlinson said 20 percent of injury crashes in 2009 involved reports of distracted driving. The age group with the greatest proportion of distracted drivers was the under-20 age group – 16 percent of all drivers younger than 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported to have been distracted while driving.

The legislation would also prohibit a junior driver, during their first six months of driving, from transporting more than one passenger under the age of 18 who is not a family member unless accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. After six months a junior driver would be allowed to transport three passengers under the age of 18 who are not members of the driver’s immediate family.

“Car accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers, and distractions and inexperience both play a role,” Sen. Rafferty said. “These new guidelines would help to keep young drivers and their passengers safe.”

Under the legislation, failure to wear a seat belt would also be a primary offense for drivers 8-18 years of age.

Senate Bill 314 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Contact:

Megan Crompton
717-787-5072

Legislation Introduced to Crack Down on Adults Who Leave Children Unattended While Gambling

Legislation that would provide stronger penalties for people who leave children alone in vehicles has been introduced by Senator Tommy Tomlinson and Representative Gene DiGirolamo.

At a news conference today in Bensalem, the lawmakers said they will introduce bills in the Senate and House to make it a third-degree felony to leave a child under age 13 in a motor vehicle without adult supervision.  A third degree felony can result in a prison term of 3 ½ to 7 years and a fine of up to $15,000.  Under current law, leaving a child unattended is a misdemeanor of the first degree.

They said the measure is needed to serve as a strong deterrent for gamblers who visit casinos and leave children behind in the parking lot.  During the past summer, there have been several incidents when adults left children unattended in the parking lot at Parx Casino.

“The public needs to understand that there are serious safety risks to children who are left in unattended vehicles,” Tomlinson said.  “This bill will send a message that irresponsible behavior will not be tolerated and that offenders will face strong penalties.”

Tomlinson and DiGirolamo noted that Parx Casino has been cooperative and aggressive in combating these incidents.  The casino has increased patrols, worked with Bensalem police to step up police presence, and established sanctions against offending customers.

The legislators said their legislation would provide casinos and law enforcement officials with even more effective enforcement tools.  They said that apart from the role of law enforcement, monies are available for social services, including issues related to gambling.  Additional money was provided in the latest legislation for drug, alcohol and gambling addiction treatment.

“It is unconscionable to me that parents will intentionally leave their children alone in their cars in parking lots at a local casino,” DiGirolamo said. “While we cannot legislate proper parenting, we can put tough laws on the books to provide serious punishments for those who are willing to put their children in harm’s way.”
Contact:

Fran Cleaver
(717) 787-5072

Sen. Tomlinson – Bill to Allow Table Games in Casinos Would Help Pennsylvania to Gain New Jobs, Revenue

(Harrisburg) – Table games in casinos would be an economic boon to the Commonwealth at a time when Pennsylvania desperately needs more jobs and revenue, Senator Tommy Tomlinson (R-Bucks) told a Senate committee today.

Senator Tomlinson testified before the Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee on Senate Bill 1033, his legislation to allow table games at the 10 existing licensed slot machine venues.  Tomlinson previously testified before the House Gaming Oversight Committee on the issue in August.

“Given the current budget crisis that we face, the worst economic downturn in decades and a shaky job climate – there is no better time for Pennsylvania to add table games to our casinos,” Tomlinson said. “Table games in casinos could be a reliable recurring revenue source to the state and provide more jobs. Slots revenues are helping us to lower property taxes throughout the Commonwealth. The addition of table games could bring in money to the General Fund to help fund needed state programs and services.”

Tomlinson told the committee that Senate Bill 1033 focuses on three major points: enhanced revenue from gaming, job development, and regulatory oversight.  Tomlinson, whose district includes the Philadelphia Park Casino in Bensalem, Bucks County, has proposed taxing table games at a rate of 12 percent after payment of an additional $10 million licensing fee, which would encourage economic growth in communities surrounding the present gaming facilities. Tomlinson acknowledged that authorization of table games is anticipated to create over 10,000 direct jobs statewide.

The Senator noted that by adding table games to existing slot locations around the state, revenues could exceed over $100 million in one-time licensing fees and an estimated $104 to $160 million in recurring revenues dependent on the number of table games at each casino. It’s anticipated, that the addition of table games would increase slot revenues by more than $60 million annually, providing an additional three percent for local property tax relief.

Pennsylvanians overwhelmingly favor the idea of keeping entertainment dollars in the Commonwealth rather than having them spent in New Jersey, West Virginia and Delaware. In a recent poll, 61 percent of Pennsylvanians polled support legislation that would add table games to existing casinos.  That approval rating increases to 71 percent when respondents were informed of new job creation, he noted.

“Our slots casinos have helped our economy and provided a good revenue source for property tax relief and we’ve learned as we have gone through the process and made the current law better,”  Tomlinson said.  “Let’s build on this success by allowing table games in these casinos.”

 

Contact:

Fran Cleaver
(717) 787-5072

Senate Approves Tomlinson Bill to Ban Texting While Driving

Harrisburg – Pennsylvania motorists would be prohibited from texting while driving under legislation sponsored by Senator Tommy Tomlinson (R-Bucks). Senate Bill 143 was approved by the State Senate today.

Tomlinson’s bill is intended to address an increasingly common and dangerous practice that has resulted in accidents and fatalities across the nation.

“Drivers should be doing only one thing when they are behind the wheel of an automobile, and that is paying attention to the road and other drivers,” Tomlinson said.  “Text-distraction doesn’t just jeopardize the lives of those texting, but also puts the lives of everyone on the road with them at risk.”

Senate Bill 143 would make texting while driving a secondary offense if a motorist has been cited for another violation and would carry a fine of $100.

Pennsylvania would join 10 other states that have prohibited texting while driving for all classes of drivers.  Eight more states prohibit texting by novice drivers or certain specialized driving classifications.

An estimated 20 percent of drivers are sending or receiving text messages while behind the wheel, according to a Nationwide Insurance study. Another poll found that the number skyrockets to 66 percent when drivers age 18 to 24 are involved. The practice, especially popular among young people, has resulted in deadly accidents.

“Texting while driving is distracting, dangerous, unnecessary and potentially deadly,” Tomlinson said. “You can’t argue with the fact that texting is a major driver distraction and it will lead to more accidents. For the sake of lives and public safety, we need to ban this practice.”

A recent study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration revealed that 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes involve some form of driver distraction occurring within three seconds before the vehicle crash.  In one well-publicized case in New York, five teenagers died after their vehicle ran head-on into a tractor trailer.  The driver was text messaging moments before the accident.

Senate Bill 143 now goes to the House for consideration.

Contact:

Megan Crompton
(717) 787-5072