Senate Democratic Wrap-up for the Week of March 20, 2016

 

The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 1326, which provides a means to determine the value and operational costs of water and wastewater systems.

Public and privately owned water and wastewater utilities are in need of repairs across the state. To pay for these repairs, authorities in many cases will need to raise customer rates or sell utilities.

When communities do not have the financial ability to repair the water or wastewater utilities, they often seek to sell their system as a means to ensure continued maintenance and quality. Purchasers often have a hard time recovering their purchasing and repair costs. This legislation is designed to help potential buyers assess costs by determining a fair market value assessment on these facilities.

The bill provides guidelines for independent appraisers to evaluate the value of the utilities to help determine the value and what the rates should be after the utility is purchased. Buyers and sellers of these systems could use the voluntary service offered by this bill to determine the fair market price.

The bill requires the Public Utility Commission to approve all public utility purchases that utilize this option. The bill was enacted as Act 12 of 2016.

 

***

 

The Senate voted 47-1 in favor of House Bill 1638, which amends the Motor Vehicle Physical Damage Appraiser Act to allow for photographs, telephonic means and videos to be used to obtain an auto appraisal in Pennsylvania.

Current law requires that an auto appraisal be done in person by a certified appraiser. This legislation would allow individuals to electronically submit photos and other types of electronic evidence to report damages to obtain an estimate for repair costs.

The bill was enacted as Act 13 of 2016.

 

***

 

The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 983, which would amend the Vehicle Code to allow a primary caretaker of disabled adult children to receive a special disability plate.

The bill would allow such parents to obtain a vehicle disability license plate if their adult child has a special disability need. The bill now goes to the House Transportation Committee.

 

***

 

The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 1108, which would amend the Vehicle Code to provide for the definition, licensing, and accident reporting of three-wheeled “autocycles.”

The bill defines an autocycle as “a three-wheeled motorcycle that has a steering wheel and seating that does not require the operator to straddle or sit astride.”  Autocycles are defined in the bill as a type of motorcycle, but a Class M motorcycle license would not be required to drive this vehicle.  Driver’s license applicants would not be allowed to use an autocycle to test for their driver’s license.

The bill now goes to the House Transportation Committee.

 

***

 

The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 1122, which would amend the Public School Code to allow community colleges in Northampton County to appoint up to two trustees from the counties the campus is located within. Current law only allows the colleges to appoint one trustee.

The legislation would only apply to community colleges located within Northampton County. The bill now goes to the House Education Committee.

 

***

 

The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 1123, which would amend the state’s Agriculture Law to allow Pennsylvania to continue to receive a vapor pressure waiver for gasoline. The vapor pressure waiver would allow Pennsylvania to continue to sell 1-lb vapor pressure gasoline through May 31, 2016.

Fuel sold in Pennsylvania must comply with the regulations of the Uniform Engine Fuels, Petroleum Products and Automobile Regulations. These guidelines require that gasoline contain no more than the allotted one pound per square inch of vapor pressure. This means that gasoline ethanol blends will not exceed the 10 percent limit. A vapor pressure higher than this would cause the gasoline to evaporate at a higher rate.

The current vapor pressure waiver is set to expire on May 1, 2016. This legislation would extend the waiver until May 31, 2016.

The bill now goes to the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee.

 

***

 

The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 1142, which would amend the Storage Tank and Spill Prevention Act to make changes to the Underground Storage Tank Indemnification Board.

The legislation would remove The Middle Atlantic Truck Stop Operators (MATSO) from the board and adds the Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association. The MATSO organization dissolved in 2006 and has relinquished its seat on the board. The Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association represents a large number of underground storage tank retailers in Pennsylvania and is highly recommended to the board.

In addition, the bill provides for the appointing of new members to the Board. The bill now goes to the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.

 

###