Joint Hearing Will Examine PA Turnpike Commission’s Lay-Offs and All-Electronic Tolling

HARRISBURG – Two Senate committees will hold a joint hearing on Monday, June 15 from 10 a.m. until noon to examine the Pennsylvania Turnpike’s plan to lay-off at least 500 employees as part of its switch to an all-electronic tolling system.

Senate Transportation Committee Chair Senator Kim Ward (R-39) and Senate Labor and Industry Committee Chair Senator Camera Bartolotta (R-46) said the hearing would include testimony from:

  • Pennsylvania Turnpike Chief Executive Officer Mark Compton.
  • Pennsylvania Turnpike Chief Operating Officer Craig Shuey.
  • Current and Past Pennsylvania Turnpike Commissioners.
  • International Brotherhood of Teamsters International Vice President-East William Hamilton.
  • Teamsters Local Union 250 Secretary-Treasurer and Principal Officer Charles Gaston.

The hearing will be streamed live at www.pasenategop.com. Video and testimony will be available on the Senate Transportation Committee and the Senate Labor and Industry Committee websites after the hearing.

 

CONTACT:   Nolan Ritchie nritchie@pasen.gov (Senator Ward)
Eric Kratz ekratz@pasen.gov (Senator Bartolotta)

Public hearing on Lay-Offs and All-Electronic Tolling at the PA Turnpike Commission

 

Virtual Joint Public Hearing

Senate Transportation Committee and Senate Labor & Industry Committee 

Monday, June 15, 2020 | 10:00 a.m.

Senate Chamber and Virtual Participation


10:00 a.m.                 Opening Remarks

  • Senator Kim Ward, Chair, Senate Transportation Committee
  • Senator John Sabatina, Democratic Chair
  • Senator Camera Bartolotta, Chair, Senate Labor & Industry Committee
  • Senator Christine Tartaglione, Democratic Chair

10:10 a.m.                 PA Turnpike Commission

  • Questions from Committee Members 

11:10 a.m.                 Labor Relations

  • William Hamilton, International Vice President-East, Teamsters
  • Charles Gaston, Teamsters Local Union 250
  • Questions from Committee Members 

12:00 p.m. (est)       Closing Remarks

Other Testimony Received

Meeting to consider House Concurrent Regulatory Review Resolution #1

Senate Labor and Industry Committee

Tuesday, May 26, 2020 (approx. 7:15 p.m.)

Off the Floor (Senate Chamber and Virtual Participation)

Meeting to consider House Concurrent Regulatory Review Resolution #1

 

House Concurrent Regulatory Review Resolution Number 1 – The concurrent resolution would prohibit the Department of Labor & Industry from publishing Regulation #12-106, which updates the minimum wage and overtime exemptions for administrative, executive and professional employees.

Bartolotta Calls on Attorney General to Correct Governor’s Faulty Guidance on Unemployment

HARRISBURG – Senate Labor and Industry Committee chair Senator Camera Bartolotta (R-46) wrote a letter to Attorney General Josh Shapiro today urging him to provide clarity to Pennsylvanians regarding the status of employees who refuse to return to work after being laid off.

At a news conference on April 20, Governor Wolf suggested that employees who were laid off due to COVID-19 closures could refuse to return to work when their employers reopen, while still retaining eligibility for Unemployment Compensation (UC) benefits. This advice is in clear violation of Pennsylvania law and federal guidance and could lead employees to commit fraud, Bartolotta said.

“As Chair of the Senate Labor and Industry Committee, I am dismayed by Governor Wolf’s continued guidance to Pennsylvanians to inappropriately collect unemployment compensation benefits and potentially commit UC fraud,” Bartolotta said. “Despite my urging and the urging of others for the Governor to correct the record, he has continued to offer similar guidance to Pennsylvanians in the weeks since that time.”

Pennsylvania law makes it clear that an employee is not eligible for unemployment benefits if they refused suitable work without just cause. In addition, federal guidance for the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act makes it clear that all existing eligibility requirements must be followed in order to ensure program integrity.

Bartolotta urged the Attorney General to set the record straight and ensure employees and employers understand their rights and responsibilities under the law so they do not inadvertently commit crimes based on the governor’s faulty guidance.

“As Pennsylvania’s top law enforcement official you have responsibility to uphold the Commonwealth’s laws and regulations,” Bartolotta said in the letter. “Just as you recently advised UC claimants to be careful of scammers trying to steal personal information through fake unemployment filing websites, I ask that you offer similar caution to Pennsylvanians about the ramifications of committing UC fraud.”

Read Senator Bartolotta’s Letter

CONTACT: Eric Kratz (717) 787-1463

Senate Committees Dig Deeper on Flaws in PA’s Unemployment Compensation System

 

HARRISBURG – Members of two Senate committees questioned members of the Wolf Administration today about the significant delays and numerous problems that have plagued the state’s Unemployment Compensation system during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Governor Wolf’s stay-at-home order has forced many employers to remain closed since March 19. The governor’s actions have pushed more than 1.8 million Pennsylvanians into the Unemployment Compensation system, leading to long delays, egregious mistakes and mass confusion for thousands of claimants.

“No one could have been prepared for the onslaught of claims that occurred, but now seven weeks from the start of the shutdown order, I know members of the Senate and citizens of the Commonwealth have many questions and frustrations about the administration of the unemployment compensation system,” said Senate Labor and Industry Committee Chair Senator Camera Bartolotta (R-46). “There are system limitations due to the age of the mainframe system, but some of the problems that exist could be improved through better communication and guidance to claimants.”

The hearing also explored problems with the state’s computer systems and applications that are responsible for processing claims and assisting claimants.

“Not only did people find themselves out of work because they were forced out of work, but to top it all off they saw delays in payment and significant communication glitches within the system,” said Senate Communications and Technology Committee Chair Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-28). “These are people’s livelihoods, and if we are going to tell them they cannot work, we need to be doing everything in our power to ensure that they can still receive the unemployment compensation that they so desperately need and deserve.”

Department of Labor and Industry Secretary Jerry Oleksiak testified that his department received nearly twice as many unemployment claims in the first seven weeks of the pandemic than in any other entire calendar year over the past two decades. A staffing compliment appropriate for the sustained period of low unemployment that preceded the COVID-19 pandemic also led to many of the problems experienced by claimants during the crisis.

“At the height of the Great Recession, we had nearly 1,500 UC Service Centers staff members on hand to respond to the crisis. Right before this pandemic, we had just 679 staff in the UC Service Centers,” Oleksiak said. “As of today, we have one UC staff person for about every 2,500 UC claims we’ve received since March 15.”

Oleksiak said that about 70 percent of claimants who have applied during the past seven weeks have received a payment. The department also brought back 70 recently retired staff, reassigned an additional 500 staff from other L&I agencies and plans to hire an additional 125 staff by the end of the month.

The committee also heard from several experts on Unemployment Compensation during the hearing. Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry Government Affairs Director Alex Halper detailed many of the concerns that have been expressed both by small business owners and employees.

“Recurring and often disheartening feedback from claimants involves exceedingly long delays, a challenging process rife with technological mishaps and, accordingly, many weeks with neither a paycheck nor unemployment benefit,” Halper said. “This situation is the result of a tragic confluence of circumstances, some of which are inevitable given the unprecedented health and economic situation while others stem from preexisting issues and deficiencies now being amplified.”

Halper also noted that the problems in the system were magnified by the fact that Governor Wolf’s business shutdown order went beyond federal guidance and shuttered more industries than other states.

Philadelphia Legal Assistance Supervising Attorney Julia Simon-Mishel discussed some of the problems that have affected her clients, including the slow roll-out of the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program.

“Despite the Department’s laudable effort to quickly deploy its new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance system, the implementation has been near disastrous. The system was rolled out with little publicity, despite the incredible need of hundreds of thousands of workers across the state who had been left out of unemployment compensation coverage and were desperately waiting for the new program,” Simon-Mishel said. “Even several weeks after the PUA application went live, many thousands of people – your constituents and your neighbors – have no idea that there may be support for them. But those who did know about PUA and applied are not yet any better off than who have no idea.”

The committees also heard testimony from i2M President and CEO Chris Hackett, who recently resigned from the Workforce Development Board in response to comments by Governor Wolf that erroneously claimed that workers who refused to go back to their regular jobs could continue to collect Unemployment Compensation benefits. Wolf went on to say that employers should just pay employees more to lure them back to their jobs.

“If workers aren’t returning to manufacturing jobs and industries that affect the food supply, we only have to look at the empty supermarket shelves to know the unintended consequences of this kind of comment going uncorrected,” Hackett said. “This is clearly in conflict with the principles of free markets that our nation was founded on.”

The joint hearing today was part of a series of hearings held by Senate committees this week to explore different aspects of Governor Wolf’s response to the public health emergency. Full video and testimony from all of the hearings will be available online at https://www.pasenategop.com/committee-activity/.

CONTACT:   Eric Kratz (717) 215-1259 (Senator Bartolotta)

Senators Will Explore Problems Related to PA’s Unemployment Compensation System

HARRISBURG – In light of numerous concerns about the Unemployment Compensation system’s performance during the COVID-19 pandemic, two Senate committees will hold a joint hearing to examine some of the issues plaguing the system on Tuesday, May 5, from 1-3 p.m.

The hearing will be streamed live at www.pasenategop.com.

Senate Labor and Industry Committee Chair Senator Camera Bartolotta (R-46) and Senate Communications and Technology Committee Chair Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-28) said the hearing would include discussion of issues that have arisen during the COVID-19 disaster emergency, including problems with UC computer systems and applications.

Governor Wolf’s stay-at-home order has forced many employers to remain closed since March 19. The governor’s actions have pushed more than 1.8 million Pennsylvanians into the Unemployment Compensation system, leading to long delays, egregious mistakes and mass confusion for thousands of claimants.

Testifiers from the Department of Labor and Industry will include Jerry Oleksiak, Secretary; Bob O’Brien, Executive Deputy Secretary; and Bill Trusky, Deputy Secretary for UC Programs.

Additionally, Alex Halper, Director of Government Affairs, Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, Julia Simon-Mishel, Supervising Attorney – Unemployment Compensation Unit, Philadelphia Legal Assistance, and Chris Hackett, President and CEO of i2M have agreed to provide testimony.

CONTACT:   Eric Kratz (717) 215-1259 (Senator Bartolotta)

Public hearing on Unemployment Compensation Issues during the COVID-19 Pandemic

JOINT HEARING
Senate Labor & Industry Committee AND Senate Communications & Technology Committee
Tuesday, May 5, 2020 | 1:00 p.m.

Senate Chamber and Remote Participation

 

 

The Senate Labor and Industry Committee and Senate Communications and Technology Committee held a joint hearing to examine the problems with the Unemployment Compensation (UC) system that have created significant delays in assistance and extreme frustrations from claimants.

Some of the topics discussed during the hearing included:

  • *The number of claimants who have applied for benefits and have not yet received payments.
  • *The Department of Labor and Industry’s early efforts to plan for the influx of claims and increased call volumes during the pandemic.
  • *The troubled roll-out of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.
  • *How the hundreds of millions of dollars of funding for UC computer and technology upgrades authorized by the General Assembly was used to actually improve the system.
  • *The timeline for the hundreds of thousands of outstanding claims to be processed.
  • *How getting more employers and employees back to work will impact the UC system.

1:00 to 1:15     Introductions

Senator Camera Bartolotta, Chair, Labor & Industry Committee
Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill, Chair, Communications & Technology Committee
Senator Christine Tartaglione, Minority Chair, Labor & Industry Committee
Senator Tim Kearney, Minority Chair, Communications & Technology Committee 

1:15 to 2:15     Panel #1 

Jerry Oleksiak, Secretary
Department of Labor & Industry

Bob O’Brien, Executive Deputy Secretary
Department of Labor & Industry           

Bill Trusky, Deputy Secretary for UC Programs
Department of Labor & Industry

2:15 to 3:00     Panel #2 

Chris Hackett, President and CEO
i2M

Alex Halper, Director, Government Affairs
Pennsylvania Chamber of Business & Industry                                   

Julia Simon-Mishel, Supervising Attorney, Unemployment Compensation Unit
Philadelphia Legal Assistance             

Meeting to consider SB 935

Senate Labor and Industry Committee

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Rules Room


Senate Bill 935 (Laughlin) – Amends the Fire and Panic Act to require interconnected smoke detection devices in family child care homes.

  • Amendment A04672 (Bartolotta)

Public hearing on SB 580 Pennsylvania Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program

 

Senate Labor and Industry Committee

Tuesday, January 28, 2020 | 10:00 a.m.

Room 8E-B, East Wing


10:00 to 10:10            Introductions

Senator Camera Bartolotta, Chairman
Senator Christine Tartaglione, Minority Chairman
Senator Dan Laughlin
Senator Maria Collett 

10:10 to 10:50           Panel #1 – Combined Panel Testimony

Rich Garland
Founder and Owner
Garland Insurance Agency and Garland Management

Bill Johnston-Walsh
State Director
AARP Pennsylvania

Betsy Hawley
Executive Director
Pediatric Palliative Care Coalition

Tim Martin
Director of Client Experience
Veterans Leadership Program

Marianne Bellesorte
Vice President of Advocacy
PathWays PA

10:50 to 11:30            Panel #2

Alex Halper
Director of Government Affairs
Pennsylvania Chamber of Business & Industry

Sam Marshall
President & CEO
Insurance Federation of Pennsylvania

Rebecca Oyler
Legislative Director
National Federation of Independent Business – Pennsylvania

11:30 to 12 noon        Panel #3

Julia Grubbs
Executive Policy Specialist
Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry

Kelly Martini
Policy Director
Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry

Additional Written Testimony:

Ada Miller

Personal Testimony

Dr. Matthew M. White, Managing Director, Whitethorn Digital

Women’s Law Project

Pennsylvania State Education Association

Combined Testimony Packet 1

  • Heather Arnet, CEO Women and Girls Foundation,
  • Marianne Bellesorte, Vice President of Advocacy, Pathways PA
  • Robert Cicco, MD, retired pediatrician/neonatologist and past president of the PA Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Allegheny County Medical Society
  • Len Caric, President & CEO of Uncle Charley’s Sausage Co., Vandergrift PA
  • Matthew White, Managing Director of Whitehorn Digital, Erie PA
  • Marian Baldini, President & CEO of Kencrest, Blue Bell PA
  • Jill Laufenberg, West Chester PA
  • Monica Albert Still, RN, BSN, retired home healthcare administrator, New Brighton PA
  • Krista M. Casler, Ph.D, Chair, Department of Psychology and Director, Child Development Lab, Franklin & Marshall College
  • Brian Magee, CEO PUMP, Pittsburgh PA
  • Roselyn Wilkinson, employer, Pittsburgh PA
  • Nancy Zionts, COO/Chief Program Officer, Jewish Healthcare Foundation
  • Mara Brough, Senior Advocacy Manager, National MS Society
  • Beth Sondel, full-time working mother and former professor at the University of Pittsburgh
  • Demia Horlsey, MPH, CLC, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Healthy Start, Inc. Pittsburgh
  • Kathy Bennett, Director, County of Bucks Area Agency on Aging
  • Bruce Foster, Pittsburgh PA
  • Susan Maslow, Esq, Partner at Antheil Maslow & MacMinn LLP, Doylestown PA
  • Andrea Fitting, Pittsburgh PA
  • Marcia Bandes, Chair Pittsburgh for CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women)
  • Barbara Price, Public Policy Chair, American Association of University Women -PA