And they’re off!
While there wasn’t much action regarding transportation within the state capitol this past week, that doesn’t mean they weren’t busy. Well, sort of.

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees began their annual budget hearings this week, focusing on education. The PA House held budget hearings with the PA Department of Education, state-related universities, community colleges, and the PA State System of Higher Education. The House also conducted hearings with the state Department of Agriculture, DEP, and DCNR. The Senate hearings focused on the state row offices with appearances by State Treasurer Stacy Garrity, Auditor General Tim DeFoor, and new Attorney General Michelle Henry.

The focus will eventually shift to the PA Department of Transportation but not until next week. Acting Secretary Mike Carroll is scheduled to appear before House at 1 p.m. on March 30 and then before the Senate at 1 p.m. on April 13. Both hearings will be live-streamed at APC will provide more specific information closer to the hearings.

Rail safety grabbing top attention
Due to recent events, the safety of Pennsylvania’s rail systems is the talk of the town in the capitol right now. The Senate Transportation Committee has already conducted a hearing (go here to view that hearing) and now Congress is, not surprisingly, getting involved.

According to the PA Capital Star, newly elected US Rep. Chris Deluzio is cosponsoring rail safety legislation. Deluzio said residents in his district have been directly impacted by chemicals released after the Norfolk Southern train derailment in early February and that “Congress needs to confront the rail industry and come together across party lines to protect Americans and make our rail system safer.”

US Senators Bob Casey and John Fetterman have already sponsored similar legislation in the Senate on this topic. Expect this to dominate the transportation agenda at both the state and federal levels in the weeks ahead.

Future schedule
The House and Senate plan to return to session on April 24 upon completion of the budget hearings.