Pennsylvania Senator John Rafferty, New Jersey Senator Joe Pennacchio and Pennsylvania Representative Mike Vereb held a press conference on Thursday to announce bi-state legislation to significantly reform the Delaware River Port Authority.
New Jersey State Senator Joe Pennacchio discusses bi-state DRPA reform legislation during a press conference in front of the Ben Franklin Bridge in Camden, NJ on April 24, 2014. Also pictured are Pennsylvania officials: Rep. Mike Vareb, Sen. John Rafferty, John Dougherty (DRPA board member) and Auditor General Eugene DePasquale. (SenateNJ.com)
“I am pleased to stand today with my friends and colleagues from both sides of the Delaware River and both sides of the political aisle to call for long overdue common-sense reforms,” said Rafferty (R-44), chairman of the P.A. Senate Transportation Committee. “DRPA spent nearly two decades and a half billion dollars carelessly wasting the resources of its users for purposes that in no way benefited DRPA’s bridges or the PATCO commuter system. This legislation will ensure that DRPA honors its core mission of providing safe and efficient travel as opposed to pet projects and perks.”
“People have long been at the breaking point with the DRPA and are demanding better transparency and accountability,” said Pennacchio (R-26), a N.J. Senate Transportation Committeeman. “The DRPA must use the people’s money to provide the best possible transportation via its regional railway and four bridges. They are not an ATM to be used for outside development. This legislation is a wake up call to the DRPA: Representatives in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania will not tolerate any more abuses.”
Click here to view the New Jersey version of the DRPA reform legislation.
“In a single word, these reforms are about integrity,” said Vereb (R-150). “The people who pay to ride these trains and cross these bridges want to know that their money isn’t being wasted. These bridges and trains were established to serve the travelers, not the people who work in positions of power at the Delaware River Port Authority. These changes are intended to remind port authority officials that they work for the people they serve.”
The bi-state legislation was announced at a press conference along the Delaware River waterfront in Camden, with the support of Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, a Democrat.
“This no nonsense reform proposal reflects my longstanding philosophy toward open and responsive government,” DePasquale said. “These changes would certainly serve as a reminder that the DRPA’s fundamental mission is to provide safe, reliable and affordable transportation. I do recognize and appreciate that DRPA has made improvements since the late 2000s, but it is clear that more needs to be done and those changes must be imbedded in both our states’ statutes so we never have to revisit the old days of DRPA.”
This reform bill will be officially introduced in both states’ legislatures on April 28.
Provisions of this legislation:
- Prohibit the DRPA to engage in economic development activity;
- Allow people to obtain public records from the agency via Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law or New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act;
- Establish a Port Authority Transit Corporation (PATCO) Commuter Council to study, investigate, monitor and make recommendations pertaining to the maintenance and operation of PATCO’s facilities for the transportation of passengers, including those with disabilities;
- Restrict DRPA board member, officer and employee perks by prohibiting:
- vehicle allowances, toll exemptions and lump-sum expense allowances;
- Any personal lines of credit from DRPA;
- The acceptance of any gifts that could affect the conduct of DRPA business;
- The hiring of immediate family members of current commissioners, officers, directors or employees; and
- Salaries to be higher than those of the Governors of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
- Prohibit political activity using DRPA time or resources;
- Prohibit DRPA 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;
- Require biennial budget audits, biennial performance audits and a biennial review of compensation for all DRPA employees;
- Prohibit DRPA management from receiving their salaries until audits are complete;
- Prohibit officers and employees at the director level or higher to hold outside employment during their tenure at DRPA;
- Require board members to file financial interest statements and identify any potential conflicts of interest in writing in advance of board meetings;
- Prohibit any transaction or professional activity and engaging in any outside business that presents a conflict of interest with DRPA duties;
- Prohibit charitable contributions by board members and officers on behalf of DRPA;
- Provide 30 days public notice prior to any vote concerning a contract;
- Prohibit DRPA from negotiating, extending, amending or otherwise altering the terms of a contract, or entering into a contract, unless the action is taken by the DRPA board at a public meeting;
- Require the use of best practices in procurement and the acceptance of bid proposals online; and
- Require current and prospective vendors to disclose a list of political contributions annually and for the prior four years.