April 15, 2013

Senate Action:

Senate Acts to End ‘Triple Dipping’ of Unemployment Compensation Benefits

The Senate approved Senate Bill 297, legislation I co-sponsored, on April 30th to end so-called ‘triple dipping’ of Unemployment Compensation benefits by retirees. The practice involves an individual who collects a public pension or private retirement benefit while returning to temporary work, only to collect unemployment compensation when leaving the job.

Currently, there is no prohibition against an individual collecting unemployment if he or she leaves a temporary job to continue retirement or annuity  benefits. In the past three years, more than 600 state retirees have returned to work on a temporary basis and have then collected a combined $2 million in benefits while receiving a state pension.

This bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Three Bills Sent to Governor

The Senate concurred on House amendments on April 30th and sent three bills to the Governor for his signature and enactment into law.

Senate Bill 302
sets standards and provides uniformity across the Commonwealth for county Directors of Veterans Affairs. The legislation is supported by the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA), the Pennsylvania State Association of County Directors of Veterans Affairs (PSACDVA) and the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP).

Senate Bill 436 amends the Election Code to make voting standards (i.e.what constitutes a valid vote) established by the Voting Standards Development Board law until a new category of voting system, other than the paper ballot or an electronic voting system, is approved by the Secretary of the Commonwealth
for use in Pennsylvania.

Senate Bill 623, which I co-sponsored, expands the Mentored Youth Hunting Program to all ages. In 2006, the Game Commission launched the Mentored Youth Hunting Program to expand hunting opportunities for individuals under the age of 12 while maintaining safety. This bill extends this voluntary  opportunity to all ages, but does not alter any normal licensing procedures.

Senate Approves Expeditious Reporting of Personal Data Breaches

State agencies and local governments would be required to expeditiously notify the public of data breaches involving personal information under legislation approved by the Senate on May 1st.  Current law requires public notification of such incidents “without unreasonable delay.”  Senate Bill 114 , which I co-sponsored, sets a specific one-week notification requirement for breaches involving state agencies and local governments.

Senate Bill 638 Reduces Burden for Agriculture

The Senate passed legislation on April 30th that will provide a tax break for Pennsylvania farmers.  Senate Bill 638, which I co-sponsored, would ensure that high tunnel greenhouses are not considered permanent structures and categorized as real estate for tax purposes. High tunnels, also known as hoop houses, are steel pipe frames covered by plastic that have a variety of agricultural purposes including plant protection, livestock housing and storage. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Other Legislation Approved by the Senate This Week

Senate Bill 177
, which I co-sponsored, creates a task force within the Department of Health to provide greater public awareness and education about Lyme disease.

Senate Bill 689
, which I co-sponsored, provides courts with guidelines to follow during custody disputes and divorce proceedings to help identify families at risk for abduction, as well as provide a method in which a party to a child custody order may seek, through a petition process, a supplemental order establishing anti-child abduction measures.

Senate Bill 744
allows counties to maintain the configuration of its row offices when the county advances from a fifth to a fourth class county as a result of census figures.

These bills now go to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Senate Committee Action:

Committee Approves Natural Gas Service Bills

The Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee approved legislation on May 1st designed to make natural gas service available to more Pennsylvanians.

Senate Bill 738
, the Natural Gas Consumer Access Act, will require every natural gas distribution utility operating in Pennsylvania to submit a plan to the Public Utility Commission (PUC), outlining the utility’s plans for extension and expansion projects. The measure will also create a system providing for expedited extension or expansion projects if an economic development agency or a large number of residential, commercial or industrial entities want to seek to obtain natural gas service.

Senate Bill 739
will amend the Alternative Energy Investment Act to provide $15 million for grants to schools, hospitals and small businesses to obtain access to natural gas service. The funding will come from existing, underutilized programs. Grants made under Senate Bill 739 may provide up to half of the cost of a project.

These bills now go to the full Senate for consideration.

Committee Hearing:

Senate Begins Study of PLCB Privatization

The Senate Law and Justice Committee held its first public hearing on April 30th to discuss the Governor’s proposal to privatize liquor sales in Pennsylvania. The committee expects to hold additional hearings. More information about the hearing is available at:  https://pasenategop.com/committees/law.htm.



Matt Moyer
(610) 366-2327