Senate Democratic Wrap-up for the Week of November 22, 2015

 

The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 477, which allows caregivers of children in out-of-home placements to approve or disapprove their child’s participation in age-appropriate activities without prior approval.

This bill provides foster children more opportunities to lead a normal life. The measure provides guidelines and standards for guardians to decide if a child should participate in certain experiences. Previously, a foster child needed pre-approval from their respective agency to participate in certain events. Permission was required for activities such as: staying over at someone’s house, playing sports, or going on a field trip. This new law will let the child’s guardian approve these types of events.

All agencies that operate out-of-home placements must implement “reasonable and prudent decision” training and all caregivers will be required to complete this training.

The bill was enacted as Act 75 of 2015.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 698, which amends Title 34 to allow individuals who hunt with a motorized wheelchair to reload their weapon without being required to turn off their wheelchair.

Current law requires hunters to turn off their electric powered wheelchairs anytime they want to reload their weapon. The original law was designed for motorized vehicles.

The bill was enacted as Act 76 of 2015.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 482, which would allow counties to implement an optional county demolition and rehabilitation fund.

This optional sales tax fee could be up to 10 percent of the purchase price and applied to property that was sold because of delinquent taxes. The tax could not be applied to a property if it was sold to a nonprofit entity, land bank or government entity. Money collected from the optional tax would be used to help fight blight and to deal with abandoned properties. All money from this fee would be used to demolish or rehabilitate properties in the county.

The bill now goes to the House Urban Affairs Committee.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 735, which would allow mobile retail food facilities to operate in multiple jurisdictions under one license.

Current law requires mobile retail food facilities to do the following in each jurisdiction they are in: purchase a license, follow specific jurisdiction regulations and be inspected in each food safety jurisdiction where they operate.

Under this legislation, the base location the mobile retail food facility holds would be the location used for licensing purposes. The base location would be where the facility returns to “for the purpose of storage, discharge, or restocking.” This bill would save mobile retail food facilities money by only requiring them to be inspected and charged once for an inspection in their base jurisdiction. This legislation would not apply to mobile retail food facilities in Philadelphia.

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

 

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The Senate voted 37-10 in favor of Senate Bill 859, which would amend Titles 42 (Judiciary and Judicial Procedures) and 61 (Prisons and Parole) to combine the Department of Corrections and the Board of Probation and Parole to become one agency entitled the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

This legislation would rename the existing Board of Probation within the new department to be called the Pennsylvania Parole Board. The board would no longer set the statewide standards for parolee supervision, investigations and reports. The board would no longer be in charge of collecting statistics on probation and parole. The board would establish conditional parole conditions and be allowed to set regulations for general conditions of supervision.

The new department would take on the mentioned tasks the board previously performed. The department would be in charge of appointing, supervising and training of parole agents. These parole agents would be required to receive training in social work, criminology, psychology, psychiatry and criminal justice. The department would also be authorized to create a parole violator center to assist re-entering parolees.

This legislation is projected to save about $10 million in state money and increase the efficiency of prisons and parole services by the 2016-17 fiscal year. The bill would also reduce recidivism.

The bill now goes to the House Judiciary Committee.

 

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The Senate voted 37-10 in favor of Senate Bill 860, which would amend the Crime Victims Act to make technical changes that would accommodate the proposed changes of Senate Bill 859. This legislation would make the necessary changes to implement Senate Bill 859, a measure that would combine the Department of Corrections and the Board of Probation and Parole to create the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

The bill now goes to the House Judiciary Committee.

 

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The Senate voted 48-2 in favor of Senate Bill 912, which would appropriate funding to the Pennsylvania State University for the 2015-16 fiscal year. This bill would appropriate $224.8 million to Penn State and $19.6 million to Pennsylvania College of Technology. The bill would allow for an addition $2 million to be appropriated from the Agricultural College Land Scrip Fund to address avian flu and other animal disease outbreaks. Last year $229.7 million was appropriated to Penn State University.

The bill now goes to the House Appropriations Committee.

 

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The Senate voted 48-2 in favor of Senate Bill 913, which would appropriate $29.7 million to the University of Pennsylvania for the 2015-16 fiscal year. Last year $28.2 million was appropriated to the University of Pennsylvania.

The bill now goes to the House Appropriations Committee.

 

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The Senate voted 48-2 in favor of Senate Bill 914, which would appropriate $146.9 million to Temple University for the 2015-16 fiscal year. Last year $139.9 million was appropriated to Temple University.

The bill now goes to the House Appropriations Committee.

 

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The Senate voted 48-2 in favor of Senate Bill 915, which would appropriate $140.7 million to the University of Pittsburgh for the 2015-16 fiscal year. Last year $136.2 million was appropriated to the University of Pittsburgh, $133.9 million for general support and $2.3 million for Rural Outreach Programs.

The bill now goes to the House Appropriations Committee.

 

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The Senate voted 48-2 in favor of Senate Bill 916, which would appropriate $14.1 million to Lincoln University for the 2015-16 fiscal year. Last year $13.1 million was appropriated to Lincoln University.

The bill now goes to the House Appropriations Committee.

 

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The Senate voted 48-2 in favor of Senate Bill 984, which would place new guidelines and restrictions on Transportation Network Companies (TNCs).

This bill would give TNC’s permanent authority to operate in all of Pennsylvania and create guidelines for TNC’s to operate under. Uber and Lyft are two TNCs that provide taxi-like services in Pennsylvania through smart phone applications. These two companies currently operate in parts of Pennsylvania under a temporary license from the Public Utility Commission (PUC).

This bill would require the PUC to set temporary regulations for TNC’s that would require companies and drivers to maintain safe vehicles, monitor and store transportation history. The bill would also place restrictions on taxi tariffs, mandate insurance requirements and establish licensing and driving requirements. This legislation would set minimum standards for the safe and responsible transport of customers. A few of these standards include: proper insurance coverage, required accident reporting, and a zero tolerance drug and alcohol policy. Drivers for TNCs would be required to have Pennsylvania licenses and insurance.

 

This legislation would apply to transportation companies that are licensed by the PUC and use a digital network to arrange rides. Traditional cab and carriers would not be subject to the new regulations.

The bill now goes to the House Consumer Affairs Committee.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 1065, which would allow for falconry hunting on Sundays.

This legislation would allow hunters to hunt with birds of prey, commonly known as falconry, on Sundays. Currently, only fox and coyote hunting is permitted on Sundays. Proponents of this legislation claim that allowing falconry would not be invasive on the public because falconry is a much less common form of hunting.

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

 

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