March 10, 2014 – Weekly Session Wrap

Senate Weekly Session Wrap

A Report on the Legislative Session Week of March 10, 2014

Harrisburg Happenings:

Senate Sends Bills to Governor for Enactment into Law

The Senate gave final approval to three bills the week of March 10th and sent them on to the Governor for his signature and enactment into law.

House Bill 21 would permit licensed psychologists to perform court-ordered competency examinations and would allow licensed psychologists retained by the defense to observe and participate in the examination. Currently, only licensed psychiatrists may perform those duties.

Senate Bill 497 updates and recodifies the Third Class City Code.

House Bill 1985 amends the Judicial Code concerning the registration of sexual offenders, making multiple changes to the existing law. 

Senate Action:

Senate Approves New Specialty License Plates

The Senate unanimously approved legislation on March 10th that would authorize PENNDOT to issue two new specialty license plates and expand the eligibility for another.

Senate Bill 1187, which now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration, would:

  • Authorize a Combat Infantry Badge (CIB) plate honoring Army infantry soldiers who served in a Combat Zone for more than 30 days or fought in ground action with enemy soldiers.
  • Expand eligibility for the United States Merchant Marine plate to include those who served in the Korean War, the Vietnam Conflict or any of the Gulf Wars, including Operation Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Desert Shield.
  • Create a Pennsylvania Hunting Heritage plate, which would support funding to non-profit organizations that coordinate the processing and distribution of donated wild game from hunters and municipal herd reduction sources to Pennsylvania residents through a distribution network of food banks in the Commonwealth and for wildlife conservation efforts.

Other bills approved by the Senate this week include:

Senate Bill 771 would establish an advisory board to provide advice and recommendations on geospatial issues, uniform data standards, coordination and efficiency in geospatial policy and technology issues among federal, state and local governments, the private sector and academic institutions. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

House Bill 798 reduces the length of terms of service for members of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s Board of Commissioners from eight years to four years. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

Senate Bill 1195 amends the Workers’ Compensation Act and provides for a $4 million transfer to replenish the Uninsured Employers Guaranty Fund. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Senate Bill 1239 corrects language that the Superior Court determined to be technically flawed in Pennsylvania’s Vehicle Code pertaining to certain repeat DUI Offenders. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Committee Action:

Committee Reviews Emergency Response to Accidents on Major Highways

The Senate Transportation Committee held a public hearing on March 11th to review policies and procedures used by state agencies to address serious accidents on the Turnpike and Pennsylvania’s other major highways.

State Secretary of Transportation Barry Schoch and officials from the Turnpike Commission, Pennsylvania State Police and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency detailed the state’s emergency response to vehicle accidents on those roads.

Click here to watch the hearing.

December 9, 2013 – Weekly Session Wrap

Senate Weekly Session Wrap

A Report on the Legislative Session Week of December 9, 2013

Harrisburg Happenings:

Special Education Funding Commission Issues Final Report

The Special Education Funding Formula Commission, which I co-chaired, met on December11th to consider final recommendations and release its final report. Created by Act 3 of 2013, the 15-member commission was tasked with developing a new formula for distributing state funding to Pennsylvania school districts for special education. More information about the final report and the commission is available here.

Click here for video and audio coverage of the hearing.

Legislation to Protect Children Headed to Governor

The Senate concurred on December 11th on House amendments to a bill I introduced to strengthen Pennsylvania’s child protection laws and sent the measure to the Governor for his signature.

Senate Bill 28 lowers the age of a perpetrator for simple assault from age 21 to 18; amends aggravated assault to include (1) causing bodily injury to a child under the age of 6 as a felony of the second degree and (2) causing serious bodily injury to a child under the age of 13 as a felony of the first degree; creates new offenses of “false reports of child abuse” and “intimidation or retaliation in child abuse cases” to protect any reporter, victim or witness who reports child abuse.

This bill holds perpetrators accountable for their actions by increasing the criminal penalties for any person who injures a child. In addition, it creates the new offense of ‘intimidation or retaliation in child abuse cases’ which not only protects the victim, but also the reporter or witness who acts on behalf of the abused child. These changes are important steps to increase the safety of Pennsylvania’s young people, fully prosecute those who prey on children and to protect those who have a responsibility to report cases of child abuse.

Other Child Protection Measures Sent to Governor

Senate Bill 23 updates the definition of “perpetrator” and expands the definition of “person responsible for a child’s welfare.”

Senate Bill 30 establishes accountability and due process protections for individuals working with delinquent children in juvenile detention facilities and residential rehabilitative institutions.

Senate Bill 34 establishes a comprehensive system for professional educators who are investigated and disciplined for misconduct in Pennsylvania.

Senate Bill 1116 provides for a multidisciplinary investigative team to be used to coordinate child-abuse investigations between county agencies and law enforcement.

House Bill 1201 amends the Judicial Code concerning child victims and witnesses and also reporting by district attorneys.

Several other bills were approved by the Senate and returned to the House for concurrence votes.

House Bill 321 directs the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing provide for a sentencing enhancement for child pornography, based upon the age of the child victimized, the number of images possessed and the nature and character of the abuse.

House Bill 414 requires the court, in a custody proceeding, to consider factors related to child abuse and involvement with child protective services.

House Bill 726 amends the definitions of “child abuse” and related terms in the Child Protective Services Law.

The bills are part of a bipartisan package of legislation introduced following the recommendations of the Pennsylvania Task Force on Child Protection, created by the passage of Senate Resolution 250 in December 2011. The panel held a series of public meetings and released its report in November 2012.

Several Bills Receive Final Legislative Approval

Several bills received final legislative approval the week of December 9th and were sent to the Governor:

House Bill 1274 will allow counties that operate their own crime labs to receive the money generated by the criminal laboratory user fee imposed on defendants within that county. In counties that do not operate their own criminal laboratory, the fees imposed on defendants will be used to support Pennsylvania State Police criminal laboratories.

House Bill 1523 amends the Open Space Law to authorize a local government unit, other than a county or county authority, to use open space tax revenue for additional purposes such as improvements to trails and parks.

House Bill 1644 amends the Municipal Authorities Act to permit additional adjustments in the assessment imposed by a business improvement district authority.

House Bill 1706  increases loan amounts available for volunteer fire and ambulance companies under the Volunteer Loan Assistance Program (VLAP).

Senate Action:

Senate Approves Bill Targeting Human Trafficking

The Senate approved legislation on December 10th intended to help law enforcement arrest and prosecute human traffickers.

Human trafficking is already illegal in Pennsylvania. However, there has only been one conviction under Pennsylvania’s current statute. Advocates and prosecutors say this is because the current law contains vague definitions and lacks the teeth necessary for the effective arrest and prosecution of criminals.

Senate Bill 75 will:

  • More clearly define “sex trafficking” and “labor trafficking;”
  • Increase fines and penalties for trafficking and involuntary servitude;
  • Add penalties for business entities involved in this crime (e.g., license revocation and forfeiture of contracts);
  • Create the Pennsylvania Council for the Prevention of Human Trafficking;
  • Increase training for first responders; and
  • Expand resources available to victim service providers.

The measure now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Other bills approved the week of December 9th and sent to the House include:

House Bill 546 enacts changes for the Allegheny County Pension Fund supported by the Allegheny County Retirement Board for future employees. The bill was returned to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

Senate Bill 622 corrects a flaw in the Debt Management Services Act which resulted in a lawsuit against the Department of Banking regarding its ability to license and regulate the debt settlement industry in Pennsylvania.

Senate Bill 731 closes a loophole in current law that enables repeat offenders to avoid more serious penalties if they take part in an Accelerated Rehabilitation Program (ARD).  Offenders will still be able to have the first offense expunged from their record if they complete ARD, but they would be held accountable for potential increased penalties if they repeat the offense.  The bill was returned to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

Senate Bill 814 amends the Board of Vehicles Act pertaining to the sale of recreational vehicles at shows and other events in the Commonwealth by defining out-of-state recreational vehicle dealers and clarifying requirements for an entity to exhibit in Pennsylvania.

Senate Bill 885 designates the River City Brass Band as the Official Brass Band of Pennsylvania.

House Bill 892 amends Title 75 to provide that motorcycle learners’ permits shall be non-renewable. The legislation would also allow a person to reapply for a motorcycle learner’s permit no more than three times in a five-year period from when that person first applies. The bill was returned to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

Senate Bill 1164 provides immunity from prosecution for certain drug crimes to an individual responding to an occurrence of drug overdose. The measure is intended to encourage those who are with someone experiencing a potential drug overdose to contact the appropriate authorities to help prevent serious injury or death.  There are documented cases where such actions were not taken due to fear of arrest.

Senate Bill 1181 directs that an amount not to exceed $5 million be transferred from the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development Fund to the State Racing Fund to be used for enforcement of the Race Horse Industry Reform Act.  

Committee Action:

Senate Republicans and Democrats Join to Discuss Property Tax Relief

Homeowners and community members discussed the current property tax system on December 10th with a bipartisan state Senate panel, focusing on alternatives to better meet the needs of property owners, seniors and school districts.

The state Senate Majority Policy Committee and Democratic Policy Committee hosted a joint roundtable discussion at the Capitol to examine ways to reform the state’s property tax system to provide relief for those facing tax increases.

The discussion featured input from several groups, including the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, Pennsylvania Coalition of Taxpayer Associations, Pennsylvania Association of Realtors, Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce and Industry, National Federation of Independent Businesses, Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association, Pennsylvania Institute of CPAs and the Anderson Economic Group.

Video from the hearing is available by clicking here.

December 3, 2013 – Weekly Session Wrap

Senate Weekly Session Wrap

A Report on the Legislative Session Week of December 3, 2013

Harrisburg Happenings:

Carbon Monoxide Detector Measure Goes to Governor

The Senate on December 4th concurred on House amendments to Senate Bill 607, a bill I introduced, that would establish the Carbon Monoxide Alarm Standards Act. SB 607 now goes to the Governor for his signature and enactment into law.

The Pennsylvania Building Code requires all newly constructed homes and certain existing homes that have fossil fuel-burning heaters or appliances and/or an attached garage to install a carbon monoxide detector. SB 607 adds the following standards:

  • For residential buildings, seller must disclose information regarding the installation of carbon monoxide detectors on the property disclosure statement.
  • For multi-family dwellings, each apartment in a dwelling with a fossil fuel-burning heater/appliance, fireplace or an attached garage must have an operational, centrally located and approved carbon monoxide alarm.
  • For rental properties, the owner of dwellings with a fossil fuel-burning heater or appliance, fireplace or an attached garage must ensure that working carbon monoxide alarms are located in the vicinity of the bedrooms and the heater or fireplace.

Other bills receiving final legislative approval and sent to the Governor this week include:

Senate Bill 1042 addresses an inequitable business practice involving the placement of phlebotomists or specimen collectors in physician and other health care provider offices in the Commonwealth.

Senate Bill 1131 would allow potato packagers to package potatoes without any weight restrictions. Currently, state law requires potatoes be packaged in containers for sale weighing 3, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 50, 100 and multiples of 100 pounds.

House Bill 1225 provides for the electronic publishing of municipal codes.

House Bill 1594 increases penalties for luring a young child into a motor vehicle or structure. The law currently makes luring a child under the age of 13 into a motor vehicle or structure a first-degree misdemeanor with a fine of $10,000. The legislation would make that crime a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.

Senate Action:

Senate Approves Expansion of Military Family Support Program

The Senate passed on December 3rd a bill that supports a special program to assist members of the military and their families who have immediate financial needs.

Senate Bill 923 preserves and expands the Military Family Relief Assistance Program (MFRAP). The program provides grants of up to $3,500 to Pennsylvania service members and their families. It is funded through a voluntary check-off on the Pennsylvania Personal Income Tax refund.

Senate Bill 923 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

MFRAP was created in 2005 as part of the “Support our Soldiers” initiative, recognizing that military service sometimes leads to an unexpected financial burden for military families, ranging from child care costs to travel, medical and funeral costs. Almost $115,000 in MFRAP grants were approved in 2012.

SB 923 expands the eligibility requirements to allow service members to receive aid for any pressing financial need beyond their control, not just those directly resulting from military service.

The measure also extends the time limit during which service members can apply from one year to three years after release from active duty for reservists and for former members of the armed forces, its reserve or Guard. It extends the time limit from two years to four years if the member was injured in the line of duty and received a medical discharge.

Other bills approved by the Senate and sent to the House the week of December 3rd include:

Senate Bill 990, a bill I introduced, amends the Acupuncture Registration Act of 1986 relating to medical diagnosis and liability insurance.

Senate Bill 1040 amends Title 75 (Vehicles) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes regarding proof of financial responsibility, availability of uninsured, underinsured, bodily injury liability and property damage coverage and mandatory deductibles.

 Senate Bill 1077 restricts scrap processors and recycling facilities from purchasing railroad property from individuals. Railroad materials, as defined in the bill, include crossing signals, spikes, track and other materials specifically used by railroads.

Senate Bill 1168 amends the Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Control Act to remove the limitation that the recorder must be mounted in the law enforcement officer’s vehicle.

House Bill 1425 requires institutions offering cosmetology education to have a licensing process that complies with Federal regulations. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

House Bill 1439 amends the Consolidated County Assessment Law to add “high tunnels,” also known as hoop houses, as property that is exempt from local and school district real estate taxes. High Tunnels allow agricultural producers to extend the growing season for crops. High tunnels are constructed with a frame, covered with plastic and usually quonset-shaped. They are similar to greenhouses but differ in construction and use. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

November 18, 2013 – Weekly Session Wrap

Senate Weekly Session Wrap

A Report on the Legislative Session Week of November 18, 2013

Harrisburg Happenings:

Senate Approves Transportation Improvement Funding Package

The Senate approved a comprehensive transportation improvement funding package on November 20th. House Bill 1060 raises approximately $2.3 billion in sustainable annual funding by FY 2017-18 through a number of sources including adjusting vehicle and driver fees for inflation, surcharging fines for drivers who violate traffic laws, uncapping the Oil Company Franchise Tax and achieving significant cost savings by modernizing many PENNDOT services. In addition to providing additional funding for Pennsylvania’s highway and bridge infrastructure and transit agencies, the plan addresses dirt and gravel roads, rail, aviation, ports and bicycle/pedestrian funding needs.

 

Senate Sends Small Games of Chance Bills to Governor

The Senate gave final approval on November 18th to legislation expanding Pennsylvania’s small games of chance law and permitting 50-50 drawings at minor league home games. House Bill 1098 now goes to the Governor for his signature and enactment into law.

The bill allows restaurants and taverns to apply for a license to operate pull-tab games, daily drawings or raffles, while requiring that 60 percent of proceeds from those games be distributed to the state’s General Fund. Five percent of the proceeds would be distributed to local governments.

Senate Bill 1098 also changes requirements for certain nonprofit organizations that are currently licensed to operate small games of chance, including relaxed reporting requirements, clarifications to the distribution of proceeds and an increase in the amount of proceeds a licensed organization may retain.

The Senate concurred on November 19th on House amendments to  House Bill 290, a comprehensive measure amending provisions of the Small Games of Chance Act. These changes include the addition of allowable games, clarification of the term “public interest charities,” drawings and prize limits, special raffle permits, record keeping, licenses and fees, location of games and enforcement responsibilities.

Local Government Purchasing Bills Sent to Governor

The Senate approved legislation the week of November 18th to make it easier for municipal officials to purchase used equipment from another governmental unit.

Generally under the local government codes, municipal officials must advertise and bid contracts over $10,000.  One exception to this requirement is to purchase used equipment, vehicles parts, etc. from a public utility.

House Bill 668 amends the Second Class Township Code and House Bill 669 amends the First Class Township Code to expand the exception to include the purchase of used equipment, vehicles, parts, etc. from another municipality, county, school district, municipal authority, council of government or the state or federal government.

The bills now go to the Governor for his signature and enactment into law. Other bills receiving final legislative approval the week of November 18th and sent to the Governor include:

House Bill 27 increases the penalties for certain types of harassment if the offender is violating a protection from abuse order when committing the harassment.

House Bill 388 gives municipalities an additional enforcement mechanism to collect delinquent property taxes.

House Bill 714 increases the penalty for stealing the Social Security number of a child in order to obtain a credit card, secure a loan or buy property.

Senate Bill 802 modernizes and revises the Commonwealth’s Boiler and Unfired Pressure Vessel Law.

House Bill 1356 extends the state Wiretap Act for five years to December 31, 2018

Senate Action:

 Senate Approves Bill to Maximize State Tuition Assistance for National Guard

The Senate on November 18th approved legislation amending the Pennsylvania National Guard Educational Assistance Program (EAP) to help ensure proper distribution of federal and state financial aid.

Senate Bill 1115 clarifies that grants under the EAP will be applied after federal assistance programs such as the GI Bill and Federal Tuition Assistance. In addition, the legislation ensures that EAP funds are only used for tuition/fees, room/board and books as long as such costs are documented by the educational institution. Senate Bill 1115 now goes to the House of Representatives.

Senate Passes Military Physician Incentive Legislation

The Senate on November 18th approved legislation intended to assist the Pennsylvania National Guard in its efforts to recruit and retain military resident physicians.  The intent of the Military Physician Incentive Program in Senate Bill 403 is to use state Educational Assistance Program (EAP) funding to encourage those officers to continue their service in the National Guard.

Although military physicians qualify for various federally-funded bonuses and incentive programs that include military obligations, none of these programs currently require continued service in the National Guard.  Senate Bill 403 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

            Senate Approves Livery Providers Fair Lien Act

The Senate on November 18th approved legislation creating the Pennsylvania Livery Providers Fair Lien Act as a way to ensure stable owners are properly compensated for the costs of caring for horses placed in their care. Senate Bill 995 creates a lien attachment for services rendered as soon as the horse is placed in the care of a stable owner. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Other bills sent to the House include:

Senate Bill 267 assists school entities in making automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) available in all school buildings. Specifically, the bill requires the Department of Education, in consultation with the Department of Health and Department of General Services, to biennially issue an invitation to bid for the cost of automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) and other equipment and supplies necessary for the proper operation of the device. School entities, including non-public schools, would then be able to purchase AEDs at the contract bid price.

Bills approved by the Senate this week and returned to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments include:

House Bill 1193 amends the First Class Township Code to allow police officers to serve on their local school board without having to resign from the police force.

House Bill 1348 and House Bill 1351 set requirements for physician review of patient records completed by physician assistants.

November 12, 2013 – Weekly Session Wrap

Senate Action:

Senate Approves Potato Packaging Bill

The Senate approved legislation on November 12th that would peel away an unnecessary regulatory burden imposed on Pennsylvania’s potato farmers.

Currently, state law requires potatoes be packaged in containers for sale weighing 3, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 50, 100 and multiples of 100 pounds. Senate Bill 1131 would allow potato packagers to package potatoes without any weight restrictions.

According to the Pennsylvania Field Office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service, Pennsylvania’s acreage of fall potatoes harvested in 2012 totaled 8,600 acres, up 800 acres from 2011. The value of production was $36.2 million up from $24.5 million in 2011.

Senate Bill 1131 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Other Bills Approved by the Senate the Week of November 12th Include:

Senate Bill 935 permits the Local Government Commission to electronically publish certain local government codes. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

House Bill 1128 updates state law regarding the financing of motor vehicle purchases and the purchases of other goods and services. The bill now goes to the Governor for his signature and enactment into law.

Senate Bill 1130 repeals a requirement that the General Assembly be furnished with a print copy of an annual report required under the Flood Insurance Education and Information Act of 1996. Since this mandated report and other flood-related insurance data is readily available online at the Department’s website, this requirement to produce a physical copy would be removed. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

October 21, 2013 – Weekly Sesison Wrap

Enacted into Law

Governor Signs Legislation Ending “Triple Dipping” of UC Benefits

The Senate and House approved legislation the week of October 21st 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 that job.

The Governor signed House Bill 421 on October 23rd. This new law prohibits individuals from collecting unemployment compensation if they leave employment to preserve pension/retirement/annuity benefits.

 

Governor Signs Benevolent Gesture Bill

Health care professionals can again say “I’m sorry” without fear of legal consequences under legislation Governor Corbett signed into law on October 23rd.

Senate Bill 379 makes any benevolent gesture made prior to the commencement of a medical liability action by certain health care workers inadmissible as evidence of liability or an admission against interest. A benevolent gesture is defined in the bill as any action that conveys a sense of apology, condolence, explanation, compassion or commiseration emanating from humane impulses. The new law applies to health care providers and assisted living residence workers who make a benevolent gesture regarding a patient’s discomfort, pain, suffering, injury or death.

The bill was approved by House of Representatives on October 22nd and by the Senate on June 25. Thirty-six states, the District of Columbia and Guam have provisions allowing medical professionals to make apologies or sympathetic gestures.

Senate Action:

Bill Expanding Job Opportunities for Veterans Goes to Governor

Legislation that will expand job opportunities for Pennsylvania’s service members and veterans is headed to Governor Corbett’s desk for his signature and enactment into law.

The Senate concurred on October 23rd on House amendments to Senate Bill 277, legislation regarding commercial driver’s license qualification standards for members of the armed services.

Currently, military personnel and veterans who have two years of experience driving a military commercial vehicle are eligible to waive the CDL skills test when certain criteria are met. One such requirement states that the applicant is eligible for waiver if the applicant has legally operated certain equipment for at least two years immediately preceding application for a commercial driver’s license.

SB 277 strikes “immediately preceding” from the law, providing military personnel and veterans with at least two years of military commercial driving experience the opportunity to apply for a CDL with the possibility of a waiver within five years of their leaving military service.

Landowner Liability Measure Heads to Governor’s Desk

The Senate concurred on October 23rd on House amendments to a Senate Bill that will limit the liability of land owners who allow hunting on their property. Senate Bill 648 will prevent land owners from being prosecuted for Game Code violations committed by hunters who are permitted to use the property. The bill now goes to the Governor for his signature and enactment into law.

Under current law, land owners who allow hunting on their property could be held responsible for violations by hunters, such as taking an animal out of season. Property owners could still be held responsible for violations if they receive a fee, payment or gratuity from the hunter.

Senate Approves Reduced-Fee Hunting, Fishing Licenses for Disabled Vets

The Senate unanimously approved legislation on October 21st to offer disabled Pennsylvania veterans reduced-fee hunting and fishing licenses.

Senate Bill 1090 and Senate Bill 1102 reduce the cost of annual hunting and fishing licenses to $1 each for all disabled veterans in the Commonwealth. Currently, Pennsylvania law allows for free hunting and fishing licenses only for veterans who are either certified as 100 percent disabled or who have lost the use of one of their arms or legs.

Any Pennsylvania veteran eligible for disability compensation as determined by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs would qualify for the $1 licenses.  Veterans certified as having a total disability would continue to qualify for free licenses.  Pennsylvania currently offers $1 hunting and fishing licenses to certain active duty military personnel as well.

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

Legislation Sets Background Checks for PA Bar Applicants

The Senate approved legislation on October 22nd that will enhance the capacity of the Pennsylvania Board of Law Examiners to check the backgrounds of individuals applying for admittance to the Pennsylvania Bar.

Senate Bill 894 requires each applicant be fingerprinted and undergo an FBI criminal records check.  The use of an FBI records check will improve the ability of the Board to verify criminal histories. It will make it easier for applicants since they will not have to compile criminal records from multiple states.  An application for the bar includes a tight timeframe and some applicants have reported that they have been unable to obtain a record check from certain states within that timeframe.

Four Local Government Bills Approved the week of October 21st

The Senate approved four local government measures among the bills considered the week October 21st:

Senate Bill 497 updates and recodifies the Third Class City Code.

Senate Bill 1046 amends the Second Class Township Code to increase the cap on how much townships can have in operating reserves from 5 percent to 25 percent.

Senate Bill 1081 amends the First Class Township Code, providing for filing and recording of ordinances.  

Senate Bill 1082 amends the Second Class Township Code, providing for filing and recording of ordinances.

Other bills approved the week of October 21st include:

Senate Bill 81 amends the “Volunteer Health Services Act” to allow for the issuance of mental health volunteer licenses to providers of mental health services for military families.

House Bill 88 provides for paid and unpaid military leaves of absences for certain government employees.

House Bill 290  amends the Local Option Small Games of Chance Act of 1988 (P.L. 1262, No. 156) to amend and add definitions, increase prize limits, provide for the licensing and payment of fees, provide for raffle sales and pool selling, provide for locations and to provide for additional rules and regulations for the licensing of organizations.

Senate Bill 895 reduces the length of each term for members of the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Board of Commissioners, while allowing for multiple terms of continued service.

Senate Bill 1068 provides regulatory relief for the beagle trainers.

House Bill 1098 makes changes to the Local Option Small Games of Chance Act by permitting non-profit organizations affiliated with professional sports teams and racetracks to conduct 50/50 raffles, updating certain reporting requirements for club licensees and allowing for bars and restaurants to conduct tavern games.

 

October 15, 2013 – Weekly Session Wrap

Enacted into Law:

Governor Signs CHIP Reauthorization, Extension

Governor Corbett signed House Bill 108 into law on October 16th. The legislation reauthorizes and extends the life of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) through December 31, 2015. As part of his HealthyPA initiative, Governor Corbett called on the Legislature to reauthorize the CHIP program and remove the current requirement for children to go six months without insurance before becoming eligible.

Senate Action:

Senate Passes Child Protection Bill

The Senate continued its work strengthening Pennsylvania’s child protection laws, passing five more bills on October 16th aimed at protecting children from abuse.

Senate Bill 28, which I sponsored, lowers the age of a perpetrator for simple assault from age 21 to 18; amends categories to what constitutes aggravated assault to include (1) causing bodily injury to a child under the age of 6 as a felony of the second degree and (2) causing serious bodily injury to a child under the age of 13 as a felony of the first degree; creates new offenses of “false reports of child abuse” and “intimidation or retaliation in child abuse cases” to protect any reporter, victim or witness from reporting child abuse.

This bill strengthens Pennsylvania’s child abuse laws by holding perpetrators accountable for their actions and by increasing the criminal penalties for any person who injures a child. In addition, this legislation creates the new offense of ‘intimidation or retaliation in child abuse cases’ which not only protects the victim, but also the reporter or witness who acts on behalf of the abused child. These changes are important steps to increase the safety of Pennsylvania’s young people, fully prosecute those who prey on children and to protect those who have a responsibility to report cases of child abuse.

The other bills approved by the Senate on Wednesday include:

Senate Bill 24 – Would establish a statewide database for protective services. The database will include reports of child abuse and children in need of general protective services.  Reports include information relating to the subject of the report, the nature of the occurrence, information on the family, services provided, legal actions initiated and other details required by the Department of Public Welfare.

Senate Bill 29Requires health care providers to immediately report if a newborn is identified as being affected by prenatal exposure to illegal substances. Upon receipt of the report, the county agency shall perform an assessment and determine whether child protective services or general protective services are warranted.

Senate Bill 31Amends the Child Protective Services Law to eliminate the separate system for reporting abuse by school employees. Currently, Pennsylvania law provides that if there is a case of suspected child abuse in which the alleged perpetrator is a school employee, there is no requirement to report that abuse unless it rises to the level of a “serious bodily injury.”

Senate Bill 1116Provides for a multidisciplinary investigative team to be used to coordinate child-abuse investigations between county agencies and law enforcement. The county agency and the district attorney shall develop a protocol for convening multidisciplinary investigative teams for any case of child abuse involving crimes against children that include responses to direct reports by individuals, reports by county agencies, for investigations and plans for services.

The votes on October 16th follow the Senate’s passage two weeks ago of six measures to provide sweeping improvements to Pennsylvania’s child protection laws. The package was based on the recommendations of the Pennsylvania Task Force on Child Protection, created by the passage of Senate Resolution 250 in 2011.

The bills are now before the House of Representatives for consideration.

Legislation Toughens Arson Penalties

Legislation strengthening Pennsylvania’s arson laws and creating the new crime of “aggravated arson” was approved by the Senate the week of October 15th. Each year, more than 267,000 fires nationally are attributed to arson. Arson results in $1.4 billion in property loss annually and causes more than 2,000 injuries and 475 deaths.

Senate Bill 1024 creates a new class of crime known as aggravated arson and sets tougher sentencing guidelines in cases where the crime is intended to cause bodily injury or when the perpetrator knows that someone was inside the property at the time. It also hikes penalties when a firefighter, police officer, emergency responder or civilian sustained injuries as a result of the crime. In addition, stronger sentences could be imposed if more than three people were inside the property at the time of the crime or if the arson resulted in more than $1 million in property damage.

The legislation also clarifies that a convicted arsonist could be charged with second degree murder if the fire or explosion unintentionally caused a person’s death and first degree murder if the cause was intentional.

Senate Bill 1024 now goes to the House of Representatives.

Senate Approves Amendment to Raise Judicial Retirement Age Mandate

The Senate approved legislation to amend the state’s Constitution to increase the mandatory retirement age for judges. House Bill 79 increases the mandatory retirement age for justices, judges and justices of the peace from 70 to 75. Because it is a constitutional amendment, the legislation must be adopted in two consecutive sessions of the General Assembly and then be approved in a statewide referendum.

Senate Approves Bill Expanding Expungement Parameters

The Senate approved legislation the week of October 15th that would allow individuals convicted of certain misdemeanors to apply to have the record expunged if they keep a clean record for at least seven years

Senate Bill 391 would allow courts to grant expungement if the crime is a misdemeanor of the third or second degree and the individual has not been arrested or prosecuted for seven to 10 years following the completion of the sentence or judicial supervision.  It would not apply to offenses punishable by more than one year in prison or pertaining to certain forms of assault, sex offense, cruelty to animals, firearms offenses and certain other crimes. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Other bills approved by the Senate the week of October 15th include:

Senate Bill 1042 addresses an inequitable business practice involving the placement of phlebotomists or specimen collectors in physician and other health care provider offices in the Commonwealth. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

House Bill 493 amends the Capital Facilities Debt Enabling Act to provide for guidelines of the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Project (RACP) provisions of the act, outline procedures for capital project itemization bills and procedures and fiscal limitations for debt-authorizing legislation. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

House Bill 1481 amends the Insurance Company Law by adding a new Article concerning risk management and risk solvency assessments.  The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

Committee Action:

Finance Committee Reviews IFO Report on Property Tax Elimination

The Senate Finance Committee held a public hearing on October 15th to review the Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) analysis of Senate Bill 76 and House Bill 76 (property tax elimination legislation).  More information and video from the hearing is available at https://finance.pasenategop.com/.   The IFO report can be found at www.ifo.state.pa.us.

 

 

September 30, 2013 – Weekly Session Wrap

Senate Action:

Senate Approves Child Protection Measures

The Senate approved a series of bills to provide sweeping improvements to Pennsylvania’s child protection laws on October 2nd.

Senate Bill 21 clarifies who is a “mandatory reporter” of child abuse.

Senate Bill 22 increases penalties for failure to report child abuse.

Senate Bill 23 updates the definition of “perpetrator” and expands definition of “person responsible for a child’s welfare.”

Senate Bill 27 improves the exchange of information among medical practitioners and county agencies.

Senate Bill 30 establishes accountability and due process protections for individuals working with delinquent children in juvenile detention facilities and residential rehabilitative institutions.

Senate Bill 33 provides employee whistleblower protection for child abuse reporting.

The bills are part of a bipartisan package of legislation introduced following the recommendations of the Pennsylvania Task Force on Child Protection, created by the passage of Senate Resolution 250 in December 2011. The panel held a series of public meetings and released its report in November 2012.

The measures now go to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Committee Action:

Rural Community College Initiative Studied by Education Committee

A proposal to increase post-secondary educational opportunities in underserved counties across the Commonwealth received an in-depth review by the Senate Education Committee at a public hearing on October 2nd.

Senate Bill 1000, which creates a Rural Community College Initiative, is based largely on recommendations by a Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LBFC) study completed in December 2011. The LBFC study concluded that there is a significant need for public community college programs in rural Pennsylvania. According to the report, by 2018 most jobs will require post-secondary education training, however, 25 of the 26 rural counties in Pennsylvania have no community college programs.

Testifiers at the hearing included the North Central Workforce Investment Board, American Refining Group Inc., Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges, Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Rural Community College Alliance.

More information and video of the hearing are available at https://pasenategop.com/committees/education.htm.

Committee Approves Child Abuse Measures

The Senate Communications and Technology Committee approved two bills October 2nd  intended to improve the Commonwealth’s ability to respond to suspected child abuse cases.

Senate Bill 24 establishes a statewide database for protective services. The database will include reports of child abuse and children in need of general protective services.  Reports include information relating to the subject of the report, the nature of the occurrence, information on the family, services provided, legal actions initiated and other details required by the Department of Public Welfare.

Senate Bill 26 directs the Department of Public Welfare to establish a three-digit toll-free number, which would be monitored twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week to provide all Pennsylvanians with an easy way of reporting suspected child abuse.

The bills are based on recommendations made by the Task Force on Child Protection established by Senate Resolution 250 and now go to the full Senate for consideration.

Click here for video of the hearing.

September 23, 2013 – Weekly Session Wrap

Senate Action:

 

Senate Approves CHIP Reauthorization, Extension

The Senate approved on September 25thHouse Bill 108, legislation reauthorizing and extending the life of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) through December 31, 2015. The bill returns to the House of Representatives for concurrence on Senate amendments.

Pennsylvania’s CHIP program is one of the Commonwealth’s success stories and has served as a model for similar programs across the country. Tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians lead healthy and productive lives because of the essential medical services they received as children through CHIP and thousands of young people are today benefitting from the program.

As part of his HealthyPA initiative, Governor Corbett has called on the Legislature to reauthorize the CHIP program and remove the current requirement for children to go six months without insurance before becoming eligible.

Notary Law Update Bill Headed to Governor

The Senate approved House Bill 25 on September 24th. The bill updates Pennsylvania’s notary law to ensure notarizations and acknowledgments are taken reliably and professionally to help prevent fraudulent notarization practices and facilitate electronic commerce. HB 25 now goes to the Governor for his signature and enactment into law.

Committee Action:

Aging and Youth Committee Approves Child Protection Measures

       The Senate Aging and Youth Committee approved a series of bills to provide sweeping improvements to Pennsylvania’s child protection Laws on September 24th:

Senate Bill 20 updates the definition of “child abuse” and provides exclusions.

Senate Bill 21 clarifies who is a “mandatory reporter” of child abuse.

Senate Bill 22 increases penalties for failure to report child abuse.

Senate Bill 23 updates the definition of “perpetrator” and expands definition of “person responsible for a child’s welfare.”

Senate Bill 27 improves the exchange of information among medical practitioners and county agencies.

Senate Bill 30 establishes accountability and due process protections for individuals working with delinquent children in juvenile detention facilities and residential rehabilitative institutions.

Senate Bill 33 provides employee whistleblower protection for child abuse reporting.

The bills are part of a bipartisan package of legislation introduced following the recommendations of the Pennsylvania Task Force on Child Protection, created by the passage of Senate Resolution 250 in December 2011. The panel held a series of public meetings and released its report in November 2012. The measures now go to the full Senate for consideration. More information and video from the hearing are available at the committee’s website: http://dev.www.pasenategop.com/.

Committee Considers UCC Review Reform Measure

The Senate Labor and Industry Committee held a public hearing on September 24th to gather testimony on Senate Bill 1023, a measure intended to improve operations of the Review and Advisory Council in the Department of Labor and Industry. The council is responsible for reviewing potential changes to the state’s Uniform Construction Code every three years as proposed by the International Code Council.

The proposal would give the advisory council additional time to fully review and debate the various proposals before reaching a final decision. It would also improve the process by adding additional members to the council with additional areas of expertise that will lend new perspectives to the review process.

More information and video from the public hearing are available at http://laborindustry.pasenategop.com/.

Committees Updated on Statewide Radio Effort

The Senate Communications and Technology Committee, the Senate Law and Justice Committee, the Senate Transportation Committee and the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee met in joint session on September 25th to hold a joint public hearing to receive an update on the statewide radio system.

Testifiers included: Major Scott Neal, Director of the Bureau of Communications and Information Systems for the Pennsylvania State Police; Glenn Cannon, Director of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency; Cumberland County Commissioner Barbara Cross, representing the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania; and, York Area Regional Police Department Chief Thomas Gross, representing the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association.

Video from the hearing is available by clicking here.

Contact:

Matt Moyer
(610) 366-2327

June 17, 2013 – Session Wrap

Senate Action:

Legislation Strengthening DNA Laws Approved by Senate

A long-overdue strengthening and modernization of the laws governing the collection and use of DNA technology to fight crimes in Pennsylvania was approved by the Senate on June 18th. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Senate Bill 150, which I co-sponsored, will allow law enforcement agencies to make better use of DNA evidence by requiring individuals arrested for serious crimes to submit DNA samples. The bill also strengthens privacy protections and requires DNA laboratories and technicians to meet national standards. In addition, the bill establishes privacy protections, an expungement process and new quality controls. It also authorizes a new type of DNA search to help identify suspects in unsolved crimes.

Senate Approves Legislation Restructuring the Port Authority Board

The Senate approved legislation on June 18th that will reform and restructure the Port Authority of Allegheny County. Senate Bill 700 restructures the composition of the Port Authority Board to provide state government oversight.

The legislation, which I co-sponsored, also directs PENNDOT to study various options to lower operating expenses in order to bring the Port Authority into fiscal solvency. A report would then be issued making recommendations to elected officials and the restructured Port Authority Board in regard to initiatives which could be undertaken to achieve cost-saving and efficiency goals. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Senate Approves Measure to Improve Safety on School Buses

The Senate passed legislation on June 19th that will improve safety and allow school districts to resolve disciplinary incidents on school buses faster and with more certainty. Senate Bill 57, which I co-sponsored, allows for audio taping on school buses. Currently, videotaping can be done on school buses but audio taping is not allowed due to concerns that it could be a violation of the Wiretap Act.

For two decades, school districts have used video monitoring of school buses for student security and discipline purposes. This has been a valuable tool in resolving discipline action and has helped reduce violent acts on school buses because the students know that there is a camera on the bus.

Other Bills Approved by the Senate the Week of June 17th

House Bill 84 changes the county inspection requirement for preserved farms from annually to every two years and eliminates some of the burdensome notification and reporting requirements. Since the statewide program began in the late 1980s, many counties have hundreds of farms preserved and limited staff to conduct inspections. In addition, technology has also evolved where aerial photographs may be used to help identify possible violations. The bill goes to the Governor for his signature and enactment into law.

Senate Bill 137 advances consumer protection and patient results by ensuring that all audiologists, and those performing the functions of the profession, are properly licensed by the state.

Senate Bill 305, which I co-sponsored, establishes a uniform procedure for the disposition of contraband left in the possession of probation and parole agencies.

House Bill 326 increases the number of members on the governing board of a third class county convention center authority from nine to 11 members. The bill now goes to the Governor for his signature and enactment into law.

Senate Bill 358, which I co-sponsored, requires facilities offering mammograms to provide patients with information regarding their breast density.

Senate Bill 437 allows the Department of Education to recognize the military science instruction certification. This legislation, which I co-sponsored, would allow those teaching JROTC to continue to provide instruction with a military science endorsement as an instructor as long as the instructor has a documented 20 years of military service.

House Bill 891  permits the checking of animal traps remotely by electronic means by a properly permitted Nuisance Wildlife Control Operator. The bill returns to the House of Representatives for concurrence on Senate amendments.

Senate Committee Action:

Finance Committee Approves Pension Reform Bill

The Senate Finance Committee approved legislation on June 19th that addresses Pennsylvania’s ongoing pension crisis. Senate Bill 922 creates a defined contribution plan, or 401(a) plan, for new hires of the Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS) and the State Employees Retirement System (SERS). This change would take effect in 2015 (January 1 for SERS members and July 1 for PSERS members). The bill would also make participation in the defined contribution plan mandatory for current legislators, the Governor, the Attorney General, the Auditor General and Treasurer upon re-election and the judiciary upon retention. Senate Bill 922 will now be referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Contact:

Matt Moyer
(610) 366-2327