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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session

MEMORANDUM

Posted: January 5, 2017 03:20 PM
From: Senator John C. Rafferty, Jr.
To: All Senate members
Subject: DRPA Compact Reform
 
In the near future, I plan to re-introduce legislation – SB 286 of the 2015-16 Session – to require comprehensive reform measures at the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA), which I have sponsored since 2010.

DRPA manages four critical bridges – the Ben Franklin, the Walt Whitman, the Commodore Barry and the Betsy Ross Bridges – and operates the Port Authority Transit Corporation (PATCO), which provide a vital transportation connection for the citizens of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. In 2015, over 98 million vehicles traveled over these bridges and around 10 million passengers commuted via PATCO. DRPA is a large, bi-state public trust with operating revenues exceeding $340 million, but it falls significantly short on accountability, transparency and stewardship to the citizens they serve.

Comprehensive reform measures are needed at DRPA due to the multiple accounts and investigations of corrupt and unacceptable practices over the last six years, including patronage hiring, lack of transparency, lavish perks, burdensome toll increases, excessive spending and debt, discredited appointees, etc.

We, as stewards of the public trust, must ensure this piece of legislation is finally enacted. I want to applaud my colleagues from both Chambers and from both sides of the aisle who voted for this bill last Session. After years of elevating the need for these comprehensive reform measures, we were finally successful in moving this legislation to the Governor’s desk. Unfortunately, the Governor vetoed every critical reform measure as a result of including the Senate’s confirmation of the Governor’s appointees to the DRPA board at a public hearing with a public vote. I implore you to read my op-ed attached to this co-sponsorship memorandum that details my sharp criticism of the redundancy of the Governor’s veto on important, good government bills.

The comprehensive reform measures include, in no particular order:
  • Prohibiting economic development activity;
  • Adopting an open records policy;
  • Requiring Senate confirmation of each of the Governor’s six appointees to the board, providing for legislative involvement in the appointment process.
  • Providing a 30-day public notice prior to any vote concerning a contract;
  • Forbidding the negotiating, extending, amending or otherwise altering the terms of a contract, or entering into a contract, unless the action is taken by the board at a public meeting;
  • Requiring biennial budget audits, biennial performance audits and a biennial review of compensation for all employees;
  • Prohibiting management from receiving their salaries until audits are complete;
  • Mandating board members to file financial interest statements and identify any potential conflicts of interest in writing in advance of board meetings;
  • Necessitating current and prospective vendors to disclose a list of political contributions annually and for the prior four years;
  • Requiring a two-thirds majority of commissioners to authorize any toll increases;
  • Excluding charitable contributions by board members and officers on behalf of DRPA;
  • Prohibiting officers and employees (at the director level and higher) from being employed by an entity that does business with DRPA for two years after the individual leaves DRPA service;
  • Forbidding officers and employees at the director level or higher to hold outside employment during their tenure at DRPA;
  • Banning political activity on DRPA time or with their resources;
  • Requiring the use of best practices in procurement and the acceptance of bid proposals online;
  • Prohibiting any transaction or professional activity and engaging in any outside business that presents a conflict of interest with DRPA duties;
  • Banning vehicle allowances, toll exemptions and lump sum expense allowances;
  • Excluding any personal lines of credit from DRPA;
  • Prohibiting the acceptance of any gifts that could affect the conduct of DRPA business;
  • Forbidding the hiring of immediate family members of current commissioners, officers, directors or employees; and
  • Prohibiting salaries to be higher than those of the Governors of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
I have been working in concert with New Jersey State Senator Joe Pennacchio to ensure New Jersey’s legislature follows suit with this legislation since both states must adopt the same reforms (then approved by Congress) to amend the interstate compact.

SB 286 was sponsored by STACK, GREENLEAF, PILEGGI, VULAKOVICH, YUDICHAK and BLAKE.

Please join me in co-sponsoring this much-needed legislation to reform DRPA on behalf of the hard-working taxpayers and commuters of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact Nolan Ritchie of my staff at nritchie@pasen.gov.

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Introduced as SB170