December 9, 2016

AG-Elect Shapiro Appoints Task Force To Attract Best & Brightest To His Office

Attorney General-Elect Josh Shapiro this week announced the formation of a Personnel and Planning Task Force to help him recruit the best, brightest and most diverse talent to the Office of Attorney General.
“I’m proud of this bipartisan group of leaders from across our Commonwealth who are helping me build the team that will lead the Office of Attorney General,” Shapiro said. “I’m grateful for the service of these attorneys, prosecutors and leaders from across Pennsylvania. With their help, we’ll have our leadership team in place and ready to serve the people of Pennsylvania.”
The Personnel and Planning Task Force is led by four co-chairs and a senior counsel:
-- Wadud Ahmad, Partner, Ahmad Zafferese LLC, and former Philadelphia prosecutor
-- Leslie Gromis Baker, Co-Chair and Managing Director of State and Federal Government Relations, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, and former chief of staff to Gov. Tom Corbett
-- Walter Cohen, Partner, Obermayer, Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel and former Pennsylvania Attorney General
-- Leslie Anne Miller, Principal, Leslie Anne Miller Esq. and former General Counsel to Gov. Ed Rendell
-- William R. Sasso, Chairman, Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young; Task Force’s Senior Counsel
Members of the Task Force include:
-- MeeCee Baker, President/CEO, Versant Strategies
-- Joann Bell, Director, Pugliese Associates
-- Neal Bisno, Executive Vice President, Service Employees International Union
-- Pat Brier, Partner, Myers, Brier & Kelly
-- Tony Coelho, former Member, U.S. Congress
-- Steve Crawford, President, Wojdak & Associates
-- William Curtis, Pastor, Mt. Ararat Baptist Church
-- John Fry, President, Drexel University
-- Steve Irwin, Partner, Leech Tishman
-- Lauren Lambrugo, Chief Operating Officer, Montgomery County
-- Jannie Lau, Executive Vice President/Gen. Counsel, InterDigital
-- Charlie Lyons, President, Shelly Lyons
-- Jim Martin, District Attorney, Lehigh County
-- John McNesby, President, FOP Lodge #5
-- Dennis Pagliotti, President and Business Manager, Bricklayers and Allied Craft Workers Local #1
-- Vincent Quatrini, Chairman, Quatrini Rafferty
-- Brian Regli, Founder, Drakontas
-- David Senoff, Partner, Anapol Weiss
-- Kevin Steele, District Attorney, Montgomery County
For more information, contact Joe Grace by calling 215-964-7093 or send email to: joegrace@joshshapiro.org.

PA Supreme Court Adopts New Continuing Education Requirements For Judges, Justices

The PA Supreme Court Friday announced it has adopted continuing judicial education requirements for judges serving the Supreme, Commonwealth and Superior courts, as well as the  Courts of Common Pleas, the Philadelphia Municipal Court and certified senior judges of each.
“Continuing judicial education in Pennsylvania has been on-going and is rich in its history and tradition,” said Chief Justice of Pennsylvania Thomas G. Saylor. “However, we had no formalized process to track attendance by judges covered under this order, or to ensure that we are meeting their diverse educational needs.
“A well-educated judiciary is essential to the fair and impartial administration of justice. With this order, we institutionalize our shared commitment to the highest professional standard by requiring judges to stay abreast of changes in law, procedure, behavioral science, technological advancement and legal circumstances unique to this Commonwealth.”
Beginning Jan. 1, 2017, jurists will be required to earn each year a minimum of three hours of continuing education in judicial ethics and nine hours in judicial practice and related areas.
The order also establishes a Board of Judges comprised of judges from courts impacted by the new policy, among others, and will reflect the diversity of Pennsylvania’s judiciary, including court size and divisional assignment.
The Board, whose members will not be compensated, will make accreditation decisions, grant waivers and deferrals and hear non-compliance appeals.
Judges found to be non-compliant will be notified and afforded the opportunity to earn the required hours. After this grace period, judges who remain non-compliant will be referred to the Judicial Conduct Board for its consideration.
The new requirements have been under consideration for the past year and were crafted after a review of other states’ judicial education practices with input from legal scholars, judges and education specialists.
The processes and protocols associated with administering the new CJE requirements are included in a Supreme Court order.  
Existing continuing education requirements for magisterial district judges are included in Title 42 of Pennsylvania Statutes and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s Rules of Judicial Administration.

Philadelphia Parking Authority Invites Comments On Taxicab, Limousine Regulations

The Philadelphia Parking Authority published a notice in the December 10 PA Bulletin inviting comments on temporary regulations related to taxicabs and limousines mandated by Act 164 of 2016.
The Authority has scheduled a comment hearing on January 4 at the Independence Visitor Center, Liberty View Ballroom, 2nd Floor, 1 North Independence Mall West, 6th and Market Streets in Philadelphia from 10:30 to 1:30.
Comments should be submitted to Christine Kirlin, Esq., Administrative Counsel, Philadelphia Parking Authority, Taxicab and Limousine Division, 2415 South Swanson Street, Philadelphia, PA 19148-4113 or sent by email to: ckirlin@philapark.org.

State Tax On Gasoline Going Up 8 Cents/Gallon, Diesel 10.7 Cents/Gallon January 1

The Department of Revenue published notice of mandated increases in the state tax on gasoline and diesel fuel under the Oil Company Franchise Tax in the December 10 PA Bulletin.  The changes will be--
-- Gasoline from 50.3 cents per gallon to 58.2 cents per gallon
-- Diesel Fuel from 64 cents per gallon to 74.7 cents per gallon
-- Aviation Gasoline will remain the same at 55 cents per gallon
-- Jet Fuel will remain the same at 1.6 cents per gallon
The Oil Company Franchise Tax imposes taxes on vehicle fuels at the wholesale level.  Competition and market conditions will determine how much of these increases will be passed on to the consumer.
The tax rate changes were mandated in Act 89 of 2013 enacting a highway and transportation funding program.

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December 8, 2016

PUC Establishes Operating Authority Application Process For Ride-Hailing Services

The Public Utility Commission Thursday voted to establish procedures and guidelines for Transportation Network Companies (TNCs), also known as ride-hailing services, to apply for permanent operating authority.
The Commissioners voted 5-0 in favor of an Implementation Order regarding Act 164 of 2016, which creates the regulatory framework for TNCs to operate in Pennsylvania.
Signed into law by Gov. Wolf on Nov. 4, 2016, the statute provides for permanent statewide authority for these innovative services – addressing matters such as vehicle safety, driver integrity, insurance coverage and licensing requirements.
Prior to the approval of Act 164, TNCs operated in most of Pennsylvania under experimental authority granted by the PUC.
In 2014 and 2015 the PUC granted experimental authority to three ride-hailing services: Yellow Z, Uber and Lyft.
The Commission oversees transportation services operating throughout Pennsylvania – including taxis, limousines and TNCs – with the exception of Philadelphia, where those activities are regulated by the Philadelphia Parking Authority.
The Implementation Order approved by the Commission provides specific procedures and guidance governing the TNC application process. Ride-hailing services currently operating under PUC-issued experimental authority are encouraged to apply for a new TNC license.
TNC applicants are required to submit the following information and supporting documentation for Commission review:
-- A verified, written application on a form prescribed by the Commission.
-- A certificate of insurance for the coverage levels required by Act 164.
-- Documentation evidencing the TNC’s financial position.
-- Certify that it will maintain accurate records.
-- Certify that the vehicles used in TNC service comply with Pennsylvania’s vehicle safety standards.
-- If autonomous vehicles are used in TNC service, verify that the vehicles and their operation comply with all applicable PennDOT regulations.
-- Certify that it will implement a driver drug and alcohol policy.
-- Certify that it will conduct background checks of its TNC drivers before permitting them access to their digital network.
-- Certify that it will establish and provide a driver training program.
-- Certify that it has a procedure for complaint resolution.
The Commission continues working on other substantive issues related to Act 164, which will be addressed as implementation of the law moves forward.
Related Story:
PennDOT Task Force Releases Recommendations For Self-Driving Vehicles For Comment

School Employees Pension Fund OKs 32.57% Contribution Rate

The PA School Employees’ Retirement System Thursday announced an employer contribution rate of 32.57 percent for fiscal year 2017/2018, which begins July 1, 2017.
PSERS also reported a positive 3.65 percent return for the fiscal first quarter ended September 30, 2016, adding approximately $1.4 billion in net investment income to the Fund.
PSERS earned positive investment returns of 9.28 percent for the one year, 7.56 percent for the 5 year, and 8.09 percent for the 25 year periods ended September 30, 2016.
The 32.57 percent rate is composed of a 0.83 percent rate for health insurance premium assistance and a pension rate of 31.74 percent. Nearly 75 percent of the employer contribution rate is for the payment of unfunded liability, which is primarily for past service already earned by members.
The increase in the employer contribution rate for FY 2017/2018 is the smallest percentage increase since FY 2009/2010 and fully meets the actuarially required rate.
“For the second consecutive year the employer contribution rate provides 100% of the actuarially required rate,” said Glenn R. Grell, PSERS Executive Director. “Paying the actuarially required rate is an important step that will bring PSERS back to fully-funded status over time. While the employer rate remains high, the Commonwealth has made dramatic progress in addressing its pension funding issues.”
In FY 2017/2018 PSERS’ funded ratio is projected to dip to its lowest level before PSERS reaches a major turning point. In FY 2018/2019 and beyond the funded ratio slowly begins to improve after declining since 2001, provided the actuarially required contribution is made each year and the fund meets its investment return assumption.
The Pennsylvania Independent Fiscal Office has recognized the Commonwealth’s progress on its pension funding issues. The IFO noted in its November 15, 2016 presentation that “Pension contribution growth decelerates dramatically after FY17/18.” Also as shown in the IFO presentation, after FY 2017/2018 pensions are no longer a major cost driver of Commonwealth expenditure growth.
S&P Global and Moody’s bond rating agencies have also commented on the pension funding improvements made since 2010 under Act 120 and have noted that pension contribution increases will become more manageable for school employers and the Commonwealth after FY 2017/2018.
In August 2016 Moody’s Investors Service noted, “The Commonwealth is on a solid (though slow) path toward full funding of its pension plans. Favorably, the most difficult phase of pension contribution ramp-ups is now in the rearview mirror, and the magnitude of annual pension contribution increases will be more manageable in the coming years.”
Since 2001, various pieces of pension legislation suppressed the employer contributions paid to PSERS by the school employers and Commonwealth. The employer contribution rates paid were well below the actuarially required rate that was necessary to pay down the existing pension debt of the System.
In 2010, however, significant pension reform was enacted that reduced pension benefits for new members and made significant progress toward addressing the funding challenges at PSERS.
For the past 6 years, Act 120 of 2010 increased the employer contribution rate in measured increments to the actuarial level necessary to begin to address PSERS funding challenges.
FY 2016/2017 marked the first time in fifteen years that the actuarially required rate is being paid by school employers and the Commonwealth.
Thursday’s certification of the FY 2017/2018 employer rate maintains the commitment to fully meet the actuarially required rate.
Total employer contributions to PSERS of $4.4 billion are estimated in FY 2017/2018. The Commonwealth directly reimburses school employers for no less than 50 percent of the total employer contribution rate.
PSERS is also funded through investment earnings and mandatory member contributions. For the most recent fiscal year ended June 30, 2016, PSERS’ investments added approximately $474 million in net investment income to the Fund.
PSERS members contribute from 5.25 percent to 10.30 percent of pay depending on their membership class and when they joined PSERS. New members hired after July 1, 2011 also share some of the investment risk.
Their contribution rates will fluctuate based on the Fund’s investment performance. Members will contribute an average of 7.54 percent or approximately $1 billion in FY 2017/2018.
For more information on returns, visit the PSERS’ Investment Program Details webpage.