Important Harrisburg Happenings:
Senate Approves Special Education Funding Reform
The Senate unanimously approved legislation on March 12th providing reform measures for equitable special education funding.
Senate Bill 470, which I introduced, allocates any new state special education funding in a manner that recognizes the actual number of physically- and mentally-challenged students in a school and the various levels of their need for services. It does not reduce the current level of special education funding received by local school districts.
The legislation does not establish a new funding formula. It empowers a legislative commission to develop the formula. The panel will be charged with developing a funding formula using a few basic parameters. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Approves Resolution to Study Natural Gas Service Availability
The Senate adopted a resolution on March 11th directing the Center for Rural Pennsylvania to study the demand for natural gas service by Pennsylvanians. The Center must report its findings to the General Assembly no later than August 1, 2013. Areas to be studied under
Senate Resolution 29, which I co-sponsored, include:
- estimated demand for natural gas service in unserved and underserved areas of the commonwealth;
- estimated price consumers are willing to pay for access or conversion to natural gas service;
- regional differences in consumer demand and willingness to pay for natural gas service; and,
- relevant economic information on the costs and benefits to expand natural gas distribution infrastructure.
Senate Approves “Puppy Lemon Law” Amendment
The Senate approved legislation on March 12th expanding consumer rights under Pennsylvania’s “Puppy Lemon Law.”
Senate Bill 82 extends from 30 to 90 days the time period in which a congenital condition may be certified by a vet in order to recover any losses from a seller. The bill also extends the time frame for a veterinarian to certify an illness from 10 to 14 days. The bill is supported by the state Attorney General, the Federated Humane Societies of Pennsylvania, the Humane Society of the United States and the American Kennel Club.
It now goes to House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Approves Savings and Loan Oversight Bill
The Senate approved legislation on March 13th to help the Pennsylvania Department of Banking monitor the financial health of banking institutions more efficiently. Today there are just four savings and loan institutions remaining in Pennsylvania. The Department of Banking maintains a comprehensive oversight system for the institutions, but the process has become costly and inefficient to oversee such a small number of institutions.
Senate Bill 371, which I co-sponsored, repeals the Savings Association Code and encourages the state’s four existing savings and loan institutions to convert into state-chartered savings banks. The conversion of these institutions would not affect how they do business. It would only make oversight of these institutions more efficient by removing the requirement for the Department to maintain a separate regulatory and examination program.
Also on March 11th, the Senate approved Senate Bill 83, legislation that would allow Neighborhood Electric Vehicles on any highway or roadway where the posted speed limit is 25 miles per hour or less. Neighborhood Electric Vehicles are four-wheeled electric vehicles that have a maximum design speed of not less than 20 miles per hour and of not more than 25 miles per hour and that is certified by the manufacturer to comply with the Federal motor vehicle safety standards.
Both bills now go to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Committee Hearings:
Hearing Reviews Safety in Child Care Centers and Colleges
The Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee and the Senate Education Committee held their second public hearing on school safety issues the week of March 11th.
The hearing on March 13th focused on emergency planning involving child care centers, buses and colleges. The first hearing, held on February 13, centered on armed guards in schools and the need for school resource officers and additional training and drills.
Information and video from the hearing are available here.