Senate Democratic Wrap-up for the Week of April 3, 2016

 

The Senate unanimously voted for House Bill 1340, which brings the Pennsylvania Uniform Planned Community Act and the Uniform Condominium Act into compliance with federal standards and clarifies the language for planned communities.

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) is in charge of regulating and approving all condo financing for condo purchases. To gain FHA approval, buyers are required to meet all standards set by the Condo Owner Association.

This bill requires that a leased unit needs to be considered a residential unit for voting purposes.  The bill also changes the requirements for voting approval for leasing units in a planned community to require a two-thirds approval vote instead of a unanimous vote.

The measure also extends the amount of time a property can be held until payment is made from three to four years.

The bill was enacted as Act 21 of 2016.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 374, which would enable the Game Commission to determine the amount of time a hunter has to report a kill.

Currently, a kill must be reported within 10 days. Under the bill, the Game Commission would have the authority to change the reporting requirement. It has not yet offered its views on how long the timeframe should be.

The bill now goes to the House Game and Fisheries Committee.

 

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The Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 526, which amends the Second Class Township Code to change the dates of when Annual Township Report and Financial Statements need to be completed and published.

This bill would change the Annual Township Report and Financial Statement due date from March 1 to April 1. With this change the publication date of the township’s report would be due on April 15 instead of March 10.  These changes would give accountants more time to prepare the reports during tax season.  The bill was amended to allow the reports to be published on the internet instead of printing the entire report in the newspaper.

The information printed or posted must also reference a place in the township where someone could receive a copy of the report.

The bill was enacted as Act 14 of 2016.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 579, which would consolidate several statutes into Title 44 (Law and Justice); and rename Title 44 to be the “Law and Justice Code.”

The bill would add the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency Law, the Deputy Sheriffs’ Education and Training Act and the Crime Victims’ Act to Title 44.  This legislation would also remove the Senior Citizen Advisory Committee Act.  Contents related to DNA data and testing and constables would not be affected by the consolidation.

These proposed changes are intended to simplify the law and restructure outdated provisions in Title 44. This bill does not create any new laws. Similar legislation was introduced last session as Senate Bill 1341. However the bill stalled out in the House Judiciary Committee.

The current bill is also in the House Judiciary Committee.

 

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The Senate voted 29-19 along party lines to approve Senate Bill 644, which would require the Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) to produce a cost analysis on all collective bargaining agreements with public sector unions that are executed by the governor.

Under this legislation, the IFO would provide cost analyses of the agreements to assist in the decision making process before the agreements are enacted. The governor would be required to present any proposed agreements to the IFO 20 days in advance.  The analyses would include: the number of employees affected by the agreement, employer costs, and a salary, benefits and pension analysis.

Advocates of the legislation argue that the bill is designed to provide independent oversight to the billions of dollars being spent on collective bargaining agreements. Opponents of the legislation claim the bill is narrow in focus and targets unions.  Opponents are challenging the fact that bill only requires analysis to be run on collective bargaining agreements and not all government contracts.

Governor Tom Wolf signed the bill and discussed his efforts to enhance government transparency.  “But this [bill] is not a broad solution to the problems plaguing Pennsylvania’s government,” said Wolf. “Public officials are allowed to take gifts, and they do not have to report outside income. There is not enough transparency in contracting or oversight of lobbying.”

The bill was enacted as Act 15 of 2016.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 847, which would add the Korean War Veterans Association, Inc., as a new representative to the State Veterans Commission.

The State Veterans Commission is made up of representatives from veterans’ organizations in Pennsylvania and studies pending legislation impacting veterans.

The bill now goes to the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 881, which would exclude resorts distributing water or sewage services to homes located on their property from being considered “public utility distributors.”

Larger resorts sometimes provide water and sewer access to homeowners on their property.  However, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) currently defines these resorts to be acting as a public utility provider.  Resorts are then forced to incur unnecessary costs to comply with PUC regulations.

 

This legislation would amend the definition of a public utility to exempt resorts from the definition as long as their main business is providing resort services and not utility distribution. A resort’s revenue derived from the utility services would not be permitted to exceed 1 percent of the gross revenues generated from the primary resort business.  The legislation also limits the resort’s service rates to be no more than the average of two local municipality’s rates.

The bill now goes to the House Consumer Affairs Committee.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 973, which would increase littering fines and adjust the fines to account for the weight of the litter.

Current fines range from $50 and $300 for a first time offense. Subsequent offenses are between $300 and $1000.

This legislation would change the fine rates and scale them according to the weight of the litter. A first time offense of littering up to five pounds would range between $50 and $300. Subsequent fines would be between $100 and $500. A first time offense for littering between five pounds and one hundred pounds would be between $300 and $500.  Subsequent offenses would be between $500 and $1000.  Litter weighing over one-hundred pounds would be a fine between $500 and $1,000 for a first offense.  Subsequent offenses would be between $1,000 and $2,000.

The bill was previously introduced as House Bill 45 of 2013, but was never acted upon in the House Transportation Committee. Senate Bill 973 is also now in the House Transportation Committee.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 1104, which would make several different amendments to Title 20 (Decedents, Estates and Fiduciaries) to do the following:

 

  • Codify the Charitable Instruments Act of 1971;
  • Amend the Uniform Trust Act to provide for judicial proceedings involving a trust;
  • Amend business provisions to recognize certain businesses besides corporations such as partnerships and a limited liability company;
  • Clarify when and how an estate may form a business entity;
  • Provide for power of attorney (POA) relating to orphans’ court and for the jurisdiction of orphans’ court;
  • Provide for the ability to give gifts under POA;
  • Amends the authority of a health care agent to authorize admission to a medical facility;
  • Provide for a method for determination of a title if a decedent’s interest in real property is applicable;
  • Provide for a POA’s authority “to operate a business entity” or “to provide for personal and family maintenance.” This includes the POA’s decision to disclaim property; and
  • Clarify that a Health Care POA is valid until revoked by the principal or court.

 

The bill now goes to the House Judiciary Committee.

 

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