Senate Democratic Wrap-up for the Week of February 7, 2016

 

The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 489, which would amend the Check Casher Licensing Act of 1998 by lowering the fee for cashing a government check or government assistance check. The bill would also require that fees be posted for public viewing and to allow recovery of losses due to fraudulent representation.

The bill would also reduce the fee that a check casher can charge to 1.5 percent of the face value of a government check and 0.5 percent of the face value of a government assistance check. Check cashers would be required to have fees and other charges clearly displayed for consumers.

The customer would be liable to the check casher for an amount equal to three times any actual face value of the check or three times any actual damage sustained by the check casher, whichever is greater in the case of a loss due to theft or fraudulent misrepresentation.

The bill now goes to the House Commerce Committee.

 

***

 

The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 568, which would amend Title 20 (Decedents, Estates and Fiduciaries).  The bill would make several changes to the decedents’ estates law based on recommendations of the Joint State Government Commission’s Advisory Committee.

This legislation would clarify specific powers of guardians, clarify who can be appointed a guardian and provide for the removal of guardianship rights. The bill would also make the following changes to guardianship rights:

  • Gives guardians the authority to make health care decisions;
  • Amend specific guardianship proceedings;
  • Provides a framework on how to appoint a guardian;
  • Alter petitions and hearings for guardianship;
  • Provide for the removal and discharge of guardians;
  • Provide for the notice of the petition for appointment of a guardian; and
  • Defines the powers and duties of a guardian.

This bill was previously introduced as Senate Bill 117 in the 2013-14 session but was not acted upon in the Senate Appropriations Committee.  The bill now goes to the House Judiciary Committee.

 

***

 

The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 889, which would amend the Enforcement Officer Disability Benefits Law to provide coverage to enforcement officers and investigators from the Game Commission and the Fish and Boat Commission.

Previously, the law gave coverage to a variety of other workers, including State police, correction officers and officials working of various task forces such as the Board of Probation and Parole and Department of Human Services.  This bill would add officers and investigators from the commissions for coverage.

Currently, if the Game Commission and Fish Commission enforcement officers and investigators are injured on the job they would be entitled to workmen’s compensation, which pays two-thirds of the employee’s average weekly wage. This bill would require the agencies to pay the employee the difference between the amount paid by workmen’s compensation and the employee’s salary. Furthermore, the bill would provide temporary benefits, including salary, medical and hospital expenses, to employees in the case that they are injured while working or made ill because of their work.

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

 

***

 

The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 561, which amends the definition of “earned income” to exempt active duty military personnel from paying local earned income tax.  This bill applies to service men and women regardless of whether income is earned for active military service inside or outside Pennsylvania.

Under the terms of the Local Tax Enabling, all active duty military pay earned within the commonwealth became subject to income taxes in 2012.This bill amends Local Tax Enabling Act to explicitly exempt wages paid to individuals on active duty military service.

The bill was enacted as Act 6 of 2016.

 

***

 

The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 941, which reduces the licensing fee for a historical distillery to $1,200 a year, provides for the Citizens Advisory Council within the Department of Environmental Protection, adds provisions for online fantasy sports and reforms Pennsylvania’s horse racing industry.

The legislation would reform the Citizens Advisory Council to be an independent advisory council within the Department of Environmental Protection. The Administrative Code currently oversees the council. This bill gives the council “the sole power to employ and fix the compensation of an executive director.” The Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection becomes an ex officio member of the council.

This bill also reforms the horse race industry by updating guidelines and restructuring the State Horse Racing and State Harness Racing commissions. These two commissions would be consolidated into one, entitled the State Horse Racing Commission. The changes are aimed at helping the horse racing industry to improve finances. Racing funds are mainly obtained through purses at horse races. Due to a decline in wagering, the funding mechanism needed to be adjusted. The new commission will regulate horse racing and the pari-mutuel (betting) operations. The bill also provides licensed racing entities the ability to create electronic wagering systems.

The bill also establishes the Pennsylvania Breeding Fund Advisory Committee. This five-member committee will advise the commission on breeding regulations. The measure allows the commission to impose licensing fees and suspend/revoke licenses. The commission could inspect and seize any property at locations where horse racing occurs.

The measure also requires the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to submit a report on “Fantasy sports as a gambling product in this Commonwealth.” The report will contain information on current fantasy sport formats, potential regulations on fantasy sports and their impact on the state’s gaming industry, minors and gambling addicts.

The bill was enacted as Act 7 of 2016.

 

***

 

The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 1296, which would allow Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Scranton to expand types of fund investments.

Currently, various levels of local government are limited to preapproved investment types.  The current investment types are typically low-yielding and short-term.  This bill outlines seven new investment types that could be made. As a means to act responsibly with public funds, these investments have been analyzed to be low-risk to ensure security.

In addition, this legislation would require municipalities to file an annual investment report with the Department of Community and Economic Development.

The bill now goes to the House Rules Committee.

 

###