Senate Democratic Wrap-up for the Week of July 12, 2015

 

The Senate voted 45-1 for Senate Bill 404, which would create the Correctional Officers Investigation Procedure Act to provide guidelines and procedures for investigations of correctional officers.

The bill defines how the investigation process would be conducted. The officer would be informed of the interrogation at least one day ahead of time. Before the interrogation, an officer would be given the complaint made against them in writing and provided the name of the complainant. However, if the complaint is alleging sexual abuse or sexual harassment, the officer would not be provided with the details of the complaint nor would the officer be given the name of the complainant.

During the interrogation, officers would have the right to representation. The interrogation would be recorded and given to the officer. These rights and regulations also apply to food service and maintenance workers employed by the Department of Corrections.

Similar legislation (SB 476) was introduced in the 2013-2014 session. That bill was approved by the Senate but was never acted upon in the House Labor and Industry Committee.

The bill now goes to the House Labor and Industry Committee.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 430, which would add gambling addiction crimes to the list of crimes that would allow an individual to join the Statewide Intermediate Punishment (SIP) program. The program is currently only available to individuals who have committed crimes relating to drug or alcohol addiction.

Studies have shown that participants in the SIP treatment program are less likely to commit another crime. Expanding the program to treat gambling addiction would cost money, but these changes are projected to decreases the crime rates and ultimately would save Pennsylvania money.

The bill now goes to the House Judiciary Committee.

 

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The Senate voted 33-14 in favor of Senate Bill 474, which would require the state senate to approve the chief executive officer (CEO) of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.

Currently, the commissioners of the Pennsylvania Turnpike nominate and elect the CEO. Both Gov. Tom Wolf and the Turnpike Commission have expressed opposition to the bill, claiming senate approval is unnecessary oversight because the commissioners who choose the CEO are already approved by the Senate.

Similar bills, SB 551 and SB 812, were introduced in previous sessions but were never voted on in either chamber. The bill now goes to the House Transportation Committee.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 487, which will help save consumers money by limiting the amount of required medical co-payments.

Under the measure, a section entitled, “Fairness in Multiple Copayments” is added to ensure that individuals do not have to pay multiple copayments for various medical services. These services include medical services provided by a physical therapist, chiropractor and occupational therapist.

Senate Bill 487 was enacted as Act 39 of 2015.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 652, which would maintain that all active-duty military pay is exempt from the local income tax.

Under the Local Tax Enabling Act of 2008, military personnel’s pay is subject to the local income tax while they are on active-duty.   This bill would amend the current definition of “earned income” to exclude the taxation of wages earned by military personnel on active duty outside the commonwealth.  Similar legislation was previously introduced (SB 803), but was not acted upon by the House. The bill now goes to the House Finance Committee.

 

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The Senate voted 33-14 in favor of Senate Bill 683, which would amend Title 44 (Law and Justice) to modernize the use of DNA technology in criminal investigations.

This bill would add to the list of criminal offenses in which DNA testing would be required. Individuals charged with homicide, sexual offense, a felony, and certain violent crimes would be required to provide DNA samples. The use of the DNA samples would be restricted to law enforcement identification purposes. DNA testing personnel would be required to take continuing education classes to maintain their expertise.

The State Police would be allowed to use modified DNA searches. Relatives could be found using the DNA in the current data base to likely find other criminal offenders related to members in the database. DNA may be removed from the State Police database if it was included by mistake or by a court order, if the criminal charges were not maintained.

Similar legislation was introduced last session as Senate Bill 150. However, it was never voted on in the House. The bill now goes to the House Judiciary Committee.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 765, which amends Title 75 (Vehicles) to include utility personnel and electric cooperative as emergency responders. The bill would also include a vehicle owned and operated by the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, which is used by an emergency responder, as an emergency vehicle.

The bill expanded the definition of emergency responders and emergency vehicles to help ensure the safety of these individuals. Drivers are required to move away from emergency responders or to reduce their speed as they pass.

The bill was enacted as Act 61 of 2015.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 925, which amends Title 75 (Vehicles) to unify national standards to receive a commercial driver’s license (CDL).

This bill will change the qualification standards for the CDL and for the commercial driver’s permit to comply with the Federal Motor Carrier Administration’s commercial driver’s license knowledge and skills testing and commercial driver permit standards.

The bill also prohibits an employer from knowingly allowing an employee to drive a commercial motorized vehicle if the employee has a license restriction. The amendment would clarify that the use of an interpreter while taking the knowledge test is prohibited. The amendment allows drivers to use the results of their skill tests from other states.

Permit holders must be accompanied by a CDL holder while driving, and are limited in which commercial vehicles they are allowed to drive. All applicants for a commercial driver’s permit must be at least 18 years old.

The bill amends the definition of a commercial motor vehicle and a tank vehicle to adjust to the changes made to the license requirements. The legislation provides for PennDOT’s ability to revoke commercial licenses.

The bill was enacted as Act 49 of 2015.

 

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