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Senate Bill 838 − Requiring the Office of the Chief Clerk to Publicly Post All Legislators’ Expenses

This legislation that requires legislative expenses to be publicly posted online. Dollars spent by legislators are tax dollars and should be easily accessible by those who foot our bill.  

Oftentimes, citizens or journalists who want to see how legislators spend their allotted budgets face obstacles in obtaining that information. This legislation will require that the Offices of the Chief Clerk of both the Pennsylvania House and Senate post the expenses of all legislators on a public facing website in a searchable format. Per diems, state vehicle usage, and reimbursements for expenses would be included on the website. The legislation will also require that all office, travel, and other expenses that come out of both legislators’ and caucus’ operating accounts be included on the website.  

While several legislators, myself included, already provide public access to expenses that come out of our office budgets on our websites, there are numerous other expenses that we are unable to account for because they come out of other pots of money. By requiring the Offices of the Chief Clerk to post all expenses, we will be able to provide the public will a full, transparent picture of how their taxpayer dollars are being spent. Additionally, by removing this responsibility from individual legislators, we will ensure a uniform, consistent process among offices. 

The dollars we spend as legislators come from taxpayers. Taxpayers deserve transparency in knowing how their money is spent.

E-Z Pass V-toll Notification

This legislation will require the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission to notify E-Z Pass customers via email if they are charged with a “v-toll”. V-tolls are issued to customers when their E-Z Pass transponder is not detected – either because the transponder is not mounted properly or, despite proper placement, the transponder malfunctions due to age. In 2021, over 200,000 Pennsylvanians have been charged with v-tolls, totaling millions of dollars.

Unfortunately, because E-Z Pass toll and fee charges are automatically withdrawn and because v-tolls have frequently been mislabeled on monthly statements, it has taken some customers months, or even years, to realize that they have been charged these fees. Customers may request an adjustment of their v-toll charges; however, the process can be difficult and adjustments are restricted to a period of 90 days, unless you can prove that the transponder malfunctioned. Currently, customers do not receive notifications that they are being charged a v-toll. Unless they are in the habit of regularly checking their E-Z Pass statement, these charges can go unnoticed and the 90-day adjustment window can be easily missed.

As an E-Z Pass user who regularly travels the Turnpike, I have received v-toll charges and had questions about what they were for or how to address them. The current system does not provide a transparent and reasonable way to notify users that they’re receiving extra charges, nor does it provide a clear explanation of how to dispute them.

The E-Z Pass system already contains notification thresholds that will automatically send an electronic notification to the customer if their account balance becomes low, if a payment is declined, or if their billing information needs to be updated. Expanding the existing system to send a notification to the consumer that a v-toll has been issued is an easy way to let the consumer know that the transponder is either faulty or has been improperly located. This simple safeguard would go a long way towards improving transparency and consumer confidence in our Turnpike tolling system.

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