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State Senator Alloway

(2/2017) It was an incredible honor Jan. 3 to take the oath of office to begin serving my third term in the Pennsylvania Senate.

Serving in the Senate is a solemn duty, and I am deeply honored that members of our local communities have entrusted me with the responsibility of representing their interests in Harrisburg.

I was further honored with my selection to be part of the Senate Republican Leadership team.

As always, I look forward to working with all community residents to advance the priorities of our region while making state government more efficient and effective.

The beginning of the 2017-18 Legislative Session offers a fresh start on a number of issues considered by the General Assembly over the past two years.

One issue involves the state's two public employee pension systems that are in dire need of an overhaul. While it is critical to ensure the retirement benefits already earned by current employees and retirees are fully protected, the current system is unsustainable.

In the previous legislative session, the Senate passed several bills designed to move new employees away from the generous defined benefit system and into a defined contribution system that is similar to the 401k retirement plans that are common in the private sector.

In addition, I believe it is essential that any pension reform plan treats legislators the same as any other employee. I recently signed as a cosponsor to a bill that would require all legislators to participate in a 401k-style system. I will continue to work to ensure that lawmakers do not force new employees into any system that we are unwilling to participate in ourselves.

A second issue that is near and dear to my heart is animal protection legislation.

Protecting pets against neglect and abuse was a high priority for me in the previous legislative session, and the Senate advanced an historic proposal last year that would have extended a broad range of new steps to punish individuals who mistreat our furry friends.

The bill, which was approved by the Senate with broad bipartisan support, would have created a new definition and classification of animal abuse to ensure offenders receive tougher punishments; prohibited prolonged tethering of animals without access to shelter and water, or during periods of extreme weather; added horses to the list of animals included under Pennsylvania's animal protection laws; and provided for the forfeiture of animals who are abused.

It is extremely disappointing and unfortunate that the House of Representatives failed to vote on the measure before adjourning for the year, despite having ample opportunities to do so. However, I firmly believe that this setback is only temporary.

I will never stop fighting to enact these reforms and ensure people who abuse animals are held accountable for their actions, and I am fortunate to be joined in this effort by an amazing group of grassroots organizations and supporters who share my passion for pet protection. I am confident our joint efforts will yield real results on this issue in 2017.

A third issue is sanctuary cities.

Lawmakers made significant progress last year toward addressing the dangers posed by sanctuary cities - municipalities that refuse to comply with detainer requests from immigration officials when an illegal immigrant is arrested. When an illegal immigrant is arrested for committing a crime, it is incomprehensible that local authorities would turn that person back onto the streets with a detainer request pending from federal authorities.

I authored a proposal in the previous session that would ensure the municipalities that refuse to enforce federal immigration policy would be ineligible for state grants for law enforcement purposes and could be sued for negligence for releasing an individual with a detainer who subsequently commits another crime.

Both the Senate and the House of Representatives passed bills aimed at addressing the problems posed by sanctuary cities. Reconciling the differences between the various proposals will be a priority in the new session.

Finally, I'll continue to advocate for protection of Second Amendment rights.

Over the past several years, I have worked diligently to ensure our Second Amendment rights are protected. Lawmakers approved a law I championed in 2014 that would prevent municipalities from targeting gun owners with restrictive ordinances that conflict with state laws.

Unfortunately, the law was overturned by the Supreme Court on procedural grounds, requiring legislators to pass the bill again in order for the measure to become law.

Municipalities do not have the authority to create and enforce ordinances that contradict state statutes and the Constitution, but it can be extremely difficult to hold municipalities accountable when they unilaterally decide to trample the Second Amendment rights of citizens.

Oftentimes gun owners who are accused of violating local ordinances lack the time and financial resources to engage in a lengthy and costly legal battle necessary to overturn unconstitutional gun regulations at the local level. In the coming year, I will continue to work to pass a law that puts the onus on the municipality to defend its actions instead of placing this burden on individuals whose rights are being infringed.

PA Senator Richard Alloway represents the 33rd District in the Pennsylvania Senate. The District includes Adams, Franklin, Cumberland and York counties.

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