Senate Democratic Wrap-up for the Week of June 5, 2016

 

The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 57, which amends the Public Utilities Code to enable natural gas distribution companies to give refunds and recover costs associated with providing natural gas at competitive prices.

This legislation allows natural gas companies to refund customers at an increased interest rate equal to the current commercial borrowing rate.  Natural gas companies will also be using an increased recovery rates equal to commercial lending rates.  These changes allow natural gas companies to recover costs for projects and provides for situations where natural gas companies are underpaid for their product.  The legislation will provide refunds to customers for when they overpay the projected natural gas cost.

The bill also provides for a “migration rider,” which is a situation in which a large amount of customers switch to another competitive natural gas supplier.  The legislation is designed to help natural gas suppliers recover all of the costs they are required to pay to supply their product at the regulated rates.

 

The bill was enacted as Act 47 of 2016.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 264, which provides for required carbon monoxide alarms or detectors in care facilities.

This legislation creates the Care Facility Carbon Monoxide Alarms Standards Act, which requires that carbon monoxide alarms be installed in long-term care facilities where the main heating source is a fossil fuel-powered heater.

The legislation provides for the specifications of the detectors, testing, placement and care procedures. The measure also describes the procedures facilities must follow if a carbon monoxide alarm is sounded.  The detectors and alarms will be added to the statewide inspection requirements of in care facilities.

Facilities would be exempt from damages resulting from the use of the carbon monoxide alarms as long as procedures were followed by the facility.

The bill was enacted as Act 48 of 2016.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 1241, which amends the Public Utilities Code to 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) defined these resorts to be acting as a public utility provider.  Resorts were then forced to incur unnecessary costs to comply with PUC regulations.

This legislation amends 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 municipalities’ rates.

The bill was enacted as Act 50 of 2016.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 61, which amends the Vehicle Code to allow Bike Medics to use their bicycles in the same manner as emergency response vehicles — and as police officers on bicycles.

This bill enables Bike Medics to maneuver quickly through crowded areas to provide immediate care before emergency response vehicles can arrive. The bill was amended to clarify that Bike Medics may only operate within the scope of practice of an emergency medical service provider.

The bill was enacted as Act 44 of 2016.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 428, which would amend the Crimes and Offenses Code to authorize courts to add additional sentencing provisions against any individual convicted of trespassing at a gambling facility when they were self-excluded from that facility.

This legislation provides for situations when an individual asks to not be admitted to various gambling facilities; and therefore, he or she agrees to be subjected to possible criminal trespassing charges for violating the agreement. This process helps deter problem gamblers from continuing their habit.

The bill allows a court to mandate the individual to receive a gambling disorder evaluation and allows the court to determine if the individual needs further counseling or treatment as part of the sentencing.

The bill now goes to the House Judiciary Committee.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 489, which amends the Check Casher Licensing Act 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 was enacted as Act 45 of 2016.

 

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The Senate voted 41-9 in favor of Senate Bill 1195, which extends the amount of time Pennsylvania has to review and approve the state’s proposed Clean Power Plan compliance.

This legislation amends the Pennsylvania Greenhouse Gas Regulation Implementation Act to give the General Assembly more time to submit its plan to reduce carbon emission to the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  The state Department of Environmental Protection is now required to submit its proposed plan to the General Assembly at least 100 days prior to the General Assembly submitting the plan to the EPA.

The bill gives both the House and Senate standing committees 10 legislative days to approve the plan and then 20 legislative days for each chamber to approve the plan.  If the measure does not pass both chambers, the plan will be modified and be made available for public comment for the next 180 days. Pennsylvania’s plan is required to be submitted to the EPA by September 6, 2016 or the General Assembly is required to request a two-year extension before then.

The bill was enacted as Act 57 of 2016.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 1227, which amends the Administrative Code to transfer specific pension responsibilities of the Public Employee Retirement Commission to the Independent Fiscal Office (IFO).

This legislation moves state pension review functions to the IFO and the municipal pension responsibilities to the Department of the Auditor General. It requires the IFO to prepare cost analyses for all collective bargaining agreements and for the IFO to provide actuarial notes for all legislation amending the public pension retirement plans.

The bill was enacted as Act 100 of 2016.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 1270, which amends the Real Estate Appraisers Certification Act to expand the State Board of Certified Real Estate Appraisers (Board) authority, places continuing education requirements on trainees and updates real estate regulations.

This legislation allows the board to require applicants to submit criminal background checks for real estate appraiser licenses. All applicants will no longer be required to complete a notarized application, but instead submit a signed statement verifying they have not provided false information.

The bill requires real estate appraisers in training to complete continuing education classes equivalent to the amount of time licensed appraisers are required to complete.  In addition, the legislation provides for out-of-state licensed real estate appraisers who are trying to become licensed in Pennsylvania.

This legislation brings Pennsylvania into compliance with federal standards for real estate appraisers. The bill was enacted as Act 72 of 2016.

 

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