HARRISBURG – Governor Wolf has signed bipartisan legislation authored by Senator David G. Argall (R-Schuylkill/Berks) that would provide a standardized process as to how public safety facilities, including state prisons and state police barracks, are closed in the future.
Senator Argall along with Senators Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne/Pike/Susquehanna/Wayne/Wyoming), Michele Brooks (R- Crawford/Erie/Mercer/Warren), Wayne Fontana (D-Allegheny) and John Yudichak (D-Carbon/Luzerne) sponsored Senate Bill 748, which establishes the Public Safety Facilities Act.
The legislation was introduced in June of 2017 in response to the Wolf Administration’s announcement to close down at least one state prison out of a potential five prisons from communities across the state, including SCI Frackville, SCI Mercer, SCI Pittsburgh, SCI Retreat and SCI Waymart. In 2015, Governor Corbett and Secretary Wetzel closed two state prisons – SCI Cresson and SCI Greensburg.
The Senate unanimously passed (49-0) Senate Bill 748 on October 15th after amendments were made by the House of Representatives which voted unanimously (175-0) to pass the bill on October 11th.
“This is a victory for our state employees and the local communities that are served by these facilities” Argall said. “ We pushed this bill because when the initial prison closures were announced last year, there was a complete lack of notice and absence of clear procedures. A lot of unnecessary stress was placed on prison employees who wondered how they would continue to provide for themselves and their families. Communities that host these facilities also faced uncertainty and wondered what kind of hit their local economies would take.”
The new law establishes a minimum of seven months’ notice. The state must notify state and local stakeholders, including local lawmakers, at least three months prior to a planned facility closure announcement. The agency seeking the closure must thoroughly review any local implications of the planned closure as well as hold a public hearing in the county where the facility is located. The agency must provide a written report detailing the recommendations to the Governor and leaders in the General Assembly.
“I want to thank Senators Baker, Brooks, Fontana and Yudichak for all they have done to get this bill over the finish line” Argall continued to say. “This truly was a bi-partisan effort not only in the Senate, but also in the House of Representatives because both chambers approved this bill unanimously. That’s important to realize because even in our current, partisan political climate, it proves that Harrisburg has the potential to solve problems.”