Senate passes legislation to remake Port Authority board

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HARRISBURG -- A bill that would overhaul how members of the Allegheny County Port Authority board are appointed passed the state Senate as expected today, with a 28-19 vote.

All board members are now appointed by the county executive.

If the bill becomes law, there would be five appointees from the state -- one from the governor and one each by Democratic and Republican caucuses in the House and Senate -- and six from the county: four appointments would come from the county executive and two would come from county council members of the opposite party of the executive.

Two of the county executive's four appointments would need to come from a list of potential appointees developed by disability groups, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission.

"Our state has invested an enormous amount of revenue in the Port Authority of Allegheny County, and it is vital for hard-working Pennsylvanians to be given a voice as to how their money is spent," said a statement from Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson.

"For fiscal year 2012-13, state investment in the Authority was nearly $259 million, which is more than 63 percent of the Authority's total annual budget. It is also important to recognize that as part of the Senate transportation funding legislation, Senate Bill 1, which was overwhelmingly passed by the Senate earlier this month, the Port Authority of Allegheny County has the potential to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in additional state funding over the coming years."

Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Highland Park, spoke against the bill, because he said he did not support a provision that required a study of potential privatization of services; Mr. Ferlo called that portion of the bill ideologically driven and unnecessary.

The legislation now moves to the state House.

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Kate Giammarise: kgiammarise@post-gazette.com or 717-787-4254.


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