Senate Democratic Wrap-up for the Week of January 25, 2015

 

The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 283, a joint resolution that would formally abolish the Philadelphia Traffic Court from the state’s constitution.

The legislation was prompted by a 2011 ticket-fixing scandal in which nine judges were indicted.

Philadelphia has more than 158,000 ticket cases every year. Previously, Philadelphia had a total of 122 judges, seven of whom were Traffic Court judges who were not required to be attorneys. No other county has a separate traffic court.

Last Session, the legislature passed Senate Bill 333 (Pamphlet Laws Resolution #1), as the first part of the Joint Resolution requirement. Another measure, Senate Bill 334 (Act 17 of 2013) eliminated the traffic court from the Judicial Code and transferred its duties to the Philadelphia Municipal Court. Under that law, the municipal court now has a traffic division with two more judge positions. In addition, the president judge may appoint hearing officers to hear traffic cases.

Senate Bill 283 now goes to the House for consideration. If approved, the measure would go on the ballot as a referendum in 2015 or 2016.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 147, which is aimed at protecting natural gas leaseholders.

The measure would allow a royalty interest owner to inspect records of a gas company to verify proper payment.  The legislation would also require that proceeds from production of oil and gas be paid within 90 days of production to ensure monthly royalty payments, unless otherwise stated in the lease. The bill also provides a lessor or their representative with the authority to inspect the records of a lessee.

The bill is part of a two-bill package, along with Senate Bill 148, aimed at providing land owners with more complete and accurate information about drilling leases.

Senate Bill 147 now goes to the House for consideration.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 148, which protects leaseholders from being retaliated against by drillers.

The bill would prohibit a gas company from retaliating against a royalty interest owner by terminating the lease agreement or ceasing development because a landowner questions the accuracy of the royalty payments.

If drillers retaliate against lessors for so-called “good faith actions,” they could be subject to civil actions. The bill is part of a two-bill package, along with Senate Bill 147, aimed at providing land owners with more complete and accurate information about drilling leases.

Senate Bill 148 is now under review in the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.

 

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