Senate Democratic Wrap-up for the Week of October 23, 2016

 

The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 1496, which would toughen penalties against felons who illegally possess guns.

Under the bill, it would be a first degree felony (10-20 years) rather than a second degree felony (5-10 years) if it is a second offense; or the felon has the firearm within their immediate control. The bill authorizes the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing to create a sentencing enhancement for this offense.

The bill was enacted as Act 134 of 2016.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 1699, which sets limits on dispensing opioid drugs in hospital emergency rooms and urgent care centers.

Under the “Safe Emergency Prescribing Act,” a health care practitioner may not prescribe more than seven days of opioid drug treatment to a patient seeking treatment in an emergency department or an urgent care center.

The practitioner may prescribe more than a seven-day supply if the acute medical condition requires it or if the patient has pain associated with cancer. The condition that triggered the prescription must be documented in the patient’s medical record. Also, the doctor must conclude that a non-opioid drug product was not appropriate to treat the medical condition.

If the health care practitioner believes the patient has a drug abuse issue, they are required to refer the individual for treatment. They must also check to see if the patient is under treatment with an opioid drug product by another health care practitioner (in accordance with the Achieving Better Care by Monitoring All Prescriptions Program Act).

The measure bans a doctor from authorizing the refill of an opioid prescription if the prescription has been lost, stolen or destroyed. Legal and disciplinary action can be taken against medical practitioners who violate the law.

The bill was enacted as Act 122 of 2016.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 1785, which would require the Department of Health to prepare and publicize information on the influenza vaccine for people who reside in assisted living and personal care homes.

The Department must publicly post on its website printable information on:

  • how vaccination can help prevent influenza;
  • the availability and efficacy of the influenza vaccine;
  • a recommendation that people consult with their doctor about the influenza vaccine; and
  • how the vaccine is beneficial to individuals and their community.

Each facility must ensure that influenza information is posted in a public place year round. The bill was enacted as Act 173 of 2016.

 

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In a 34-14 vote, the Senate approved House Bill 1885, which would have pressured municipalities to cooperate with federal authorities on dealing with illegal aliens.

This measure would have required all law enforcement officers to notify Immigration and Customs Enforcement whenever they have “reasonable cause to believe” that someone under arrest is not lawfully in the United States. The bill would have also banned municipalities from placing restrictions on employees’ ability to share information with federal immigration authorities about someone’s immigration status; and impose strict liability on “sanctuary municipalities” for any injuries caused in crimes committed by offenders who do not have legal status in the United States.

Bill opponents argued the proposal would make it even more difficult to solve and prevent crimes by discouraging undocumented residents from reporting crimes or cooperating with police. They also claim the non-compliance penalties would have hurt municipalities. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney added that the bill would “weaken the trust between police and the communities they serve.”

The measure died when it returned to the House.

 

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The Senate voted 36 to 12 for House Bill 1998, which would have altered the residency requirement for those who serve on the Philadelphia Parking Authority board.

Under the bill, only four of the board’s six members would have been required to reside in Philadelphia. The other two members could have been non-residents as long as they work or maintain business in the city.

The governor vetoed the bill (veto #4 of 2016), claiming he was opposed to adding nonresidents to the board when the legislation failed to deal with the authority’s mismanagement record. Republicans argued that city parking involves thousands of regional commuters and that such non-residents should have a voice on the agency’s board.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 613, which expands the Human Services Block program statewide.

The program, established in 2013, was previously a pilot program that only allowed 30 counties to participate. In addition to making the program available to all counties, the legislation makes the following changes:

  • A timeframe (30 days prior to the end of the fiscal year) was added for counties that wish to opt-out of the program;
  • The Department of Human Services (DHS) must set dates for the submission of county plans/reports and instructions on how they must be submitted;
  • The date for the release of the annual Block Grant Report was changed from November 30 to December 15;
  • The reinvestment percentage was increased from 3 percent to 5 percent;
  • When a county is awaiting approval for a program application, DHS is permitted to evaluate the county’s fiscal management history when making its determination;
  • County leadership must express support for a county to participate;
  • Counties must share their plans with local advisory groups who represent various human service areas to ensure all populations are being represented in the programs;
  • DHS may withhold, recover, or reduce the allocation for counties that do not file complete reports or plans by 5 percent. The funds will be held until a complete form is submitted.
  • Counties must submit plans to DHS if they shift more than 10 percent from the original plan — and the revised plan must also be approved by DHS;
  • DHS must collaborate with the County Commissioners Association to develop outcomes measures and date elements to collect and show the effectiveness of the block grant program;
  • Plans of correction will be added to hold counties accountable for compliance; and
  • The child welfare special grants are eliminated

The bill was enacted as Act 153 of 2016.

 

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The Senate voted 35 to 13 in favor of Senate Bill 805, which would have allowed larger industrial companies to opt out of the provisions of Act 129.

Aimed at enhancing energy efficiency and conservancy, portions of Act 129 of 2008 require electric users to contribute funding for various projects around the state. Larger industrial users claim the program has been unfair and has hurt their competitiveness. From 2012 to 2015, eight Pennsylvania manufacturers invested $1.6 billion in energy efficiency projects and received zero in Act 129 grants. Bill proponents also claim that large manufacturers have already embraced efficiency and conservation because it impacts their bottom line.

The legislation would have:

* required opt outs to occur before an Act 129 phase (pre-phase) by a date determined by the omission in the phase implementation order;

* Since phase 3 is already underway, it is too hard to craft language that lets larger users opt out during the phase.  Therefore, they would have been allowed to opt-out at the start of the next phase, which would be June 1, 2021;

* adjusted power reduction goals for the next phase if any large industrial customers opt out;

* removed the mandatory 10 percent reduction requirement for units of federal, state and local government, as well as school districts, universities and nonprofit entities;

* allowed over or under payments to be made by a commission order in the subsequent phase; and

* allowed an affiliate of an EDC to serve as a conservation service provider.

The bill died in the House.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 1367, which limits the amount of opioids that may be prescribed for minors.

Under the bill, a prescriber can only prescribe a seven-day supply of a controlled substance containing an opioid to a minor unless there is a medical emergency that puts the child’s health or safety at risk. It also requires a health care professional to obtain written consent from a minor’s parent or legal guardian to prescribe a treatment containing opioids. Medical practitioners would also be required to provide information on the risks of addiction and dangers of overdose associated with the medication.

Aimed at addressing the state’s opioid crisis, the measure allows exceptions for cases involving chronic pain, cancer treatment or for palliative care or hospice care.

The bill was enacted as Act 125 of 2016.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 1368, which implements the “Safe Opioid Prescribing Curriculum” in all of Pennsylvania’s medical schools.

Part of a package of bills aimed at addressing the state’s opioid abuse crisis, the measure calls for a focus in four key areas including:

  • pain management;
  • multimodal treatments for chronic pain that minimize the use of opioids, or when opioids are indicated, to prescribe them in a safe;
  • focusing on patients who have been identified as at-risk for developing problems or addiction with prescription opioids; and
  • teaching medical students how to manage substance abuse disorders as a chronic disease.

The bill was enacted as Act 126 of 2016.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 192, which is designed to raise public awareness of veterans’ preference on civil service exams.

Signed into law as Act 167 of 2016, the new law requires the Civil Service Commission to advertise the fact that veterans’ preference is available to veterans- as well as spouses of deceased or disabled veterans – who take a civil service exam. Advertisements will specify that the law allows that 10 points be applied to a veteran’s final score.

The measure also provides for a uniform job application method when applying for state jobs; and makes ineligible anyone who holds or campaigns for a political office to serve on the Civil Service Commission.

 

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The Senate voted 39-8 in favor of House Bill 319, which makes more seasonal workers eligible for unemployment benefits.

A priority of Senate Democrats, the bill fixed the previous law (Act 60 of 2012) by readjusting how eligibility is determined for seasonal workers- such as those in the construction trades – seeking unemployment compensation. The bill reduced the percentage of income, from 49.5 percent to 37 percent, which has to be earned outside of an employee’s high quarter of earnings to be eligible for benefits.

To offset additional compensation flowing to employees, the bill implements a number of cost saving measures. The bill also increases existing fines on employers and others who violate the Unemployment Compensation Law.

The measure was signed into law as Act 144 of 2016.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 568, which would have revised the process for reviewing and approving changes to construction codes.

The bill proposed new criteria that the Uniform Construction Code Review and Advisory Council must consider when it meets to evaluate and adopt building code updates. It would have created special subcommittees to make recommendations to the council. The legislation would have also added two more members to the council, which currently stands at 19.

The bill underwent several changes while being passed between the House and Senate. It was not taken up by the House after the Senate passed and made changes to it in October of 2016.

 

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The Senate voted 29-18 in favor of House Bill 1618, which would have created the independent Office of Inspector General.

The purpose of this independent Office of Inspector General would have been to deter, detect, prevent and eradicate fraud, waste misconduct and abuse in a program, operation and in contracting by an executive agency. The Senate amended the bill to direct the office to use additional personnel specifically to investigate fraud, waste and abuse within the Department of Health over a two-year period.

The office was created in 1987 by Governor Robert Casey via executive order and is still in existence today. This bill would have placed the office in statute and made it independent of the governor. The Inspector General would have been nominated by the governor and confirmed by the Senate.

The bill made its way to the governor but was vetoed (Veto #3 of 2016) on October 28, 2016. The governor cited wasteful spending as the cause for his veto since both the Auditor General and Office of Attorney General already perform similar functions that an independent Office of Inspector General would do.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 2290, which allows the Navigation Commission for the Delaware River and its navigable tributaries to increase fees for pilot licenses.

Signed into law as Act 147 of 2016, the legislation sets fees for river pilots at $400 annually. Currently, pilot license fees cannot exceed $250. The commission may raise the fee up to $525 annually through regulation.

 

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The Senate unanimously passed House Bill 2291, which increases rates for river pilots that navigate trade vessels along the Delaware River and its tributaries.

Under the measure, the rate adjustments are 0 percent in 2017, 1 percent in 2018 and 2 percent in 2019. The bill also increases transport charges for vessels traveling the Delaware River by $50. Revenues are used to help to maintain traffic control and safety equipment in the Delaware River and bay, and provide for pilots’ salaries.

The bill was signed into law as Act 148 of 2016.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 356, which makes numerous minor changes to local tax filing requirements.

Signed Act 150 of 2016, the bill changes due dates for taxpayers earning net profits that file quarterly as well as employers filing local withholding taxes. It also places restrictions on local governments and tax officers. For example, local tax officials are prohibited from penalizing a taxpayer without first sending a letter of notification, and may not disallow a taxpayer from using forms available on the Department of Community and Economic Development website.

Ultimately, the measure’s changes to the law governing reporting and payment will be more consistent with state rules.

 

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The Senate voted 31 to 16 for Senate Bill 562.

Opponents claimed the bill would have severely hampered the regulatory rulemaking process.

The bill would have given the General Assembly more ability to prevent or delay vetted regulations from going into effect. Specifically, legislative committees would have been able to delay actions by the Independent Regulatory Review Commission throughout the rule-making process.

In his veto (Veto #6 of 2016) message, Governor Tom Wolf noted that “this stoppage would have prevented all agencies from promulgating rules to benefit the citizens of the commonwealth.”

 

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The Senate voted 47-1 in favor of Senate Bill 984, which regulates Uber, Lyft and other Transportation Network Companies operating in Pennsylvania.

The companies connect passengers and drivers via a smart phone app.

The legislation gives these companies permanent authority to provide transportation throughout the state. Previously, Uber and Lyft were operating under temporary authority granted by the Public Utility Commission (PUC). In Philadelphia only, the Philadelphia Parking Authority will have the regulatory authority over transportation network companies operating there. The PUC will oversee companies in the rest of Pennsylvania.

All of the rules, requirements, prohibitions, fees and licenses required of companies and/or drivers are laid out in the new law.

The measure was enacted as Act 164 of 2016.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 516, which makes it unlawful for anyone to use the title of “naturopathic doctor” unless they are registered as a naturopathic doctor with the board.

Naturopathic medicine is a primary health care profession, emphasizing prevention, treatment and optimal health through the use of therapeutic methods and substances that encourage the person’s inherent self-healing process.

An applicant registering as a naturopathic doctor must meet all the following requirements:

  • Have a bachelor’s degree from a regionally-accredited college.
  • Complete a minimum of 4,100 total hours in basic and clinical sciences, naturopathic philosophy, naturopathic modalities and naturopathic medicine.
  • Pass a competency-based national naturopathic licensing examination administered by the North American Board of Naturopathic Examiners.
  • Be certified to administer CPR.
  • Be of good moral character.

The bill was enacted as Act 128 of 2016.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 1087, which provides veto power to the Governor of Pennsylvania over the actions of Pennsylvania’s commissioners on the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) board.

Under the measure, the governor may veto the action of a commissioner for Pennsylvania within 10 business days of receiving the minutes.

The bill was enacted as Act 130 of 2016.

 

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The Senate voted 44-3 in favor of House Bill 1196, which amends the Liquor Code to redefine contiguous areas and provide for the temporary import distribution permit for the 2016 Democratic National Committee Convention (DNCC) in Philadelphia.

The bill requires distribution territories “to be within two contiguous counties.” The bill also allows the Liquor Control Board (LCB) to work with the DNCC at unlicensed locations during the event. A national political party would be allowed to apply for a National Event Permit to allow for alcohol at their convention. The permit would be similar to a Special Occasion Permit currently offered by the LCB.

This bill also:

  • increases the carbonation in alcohol cider from .392 gram/100mls to 6.4 grams/liter;
  • adds a definition for “mead;”
  • removes the requirement from the definition of “mug club” that a certain mug or glass must be used by the member;
  • allows the board to access a handling fee;
  • removes the requirement that a licensee offer a meal when serving alcohol on Sundays between 9 a.m. and11a.m.;
  • Information collected as part of a customer’s relations management program or consumer’s purchasing habits shall not be sold or given to the public, including in response to a request made in accordance to the Right-To-Know Law;
  • removes the language that money collected from the sale of lottery tickets be deposited into the General Fund;
  • wine expanded permits – wine sales will be made at register that also sells beer and food and must be staffed at all times when patrons are on the premises;
  • casino liquor license fees and renewal fees are adjusted;
  • Application fees for a non-primary location (Off-track-betting parlors):

o          $1 million in counties of the 1st – 3rd

o          $600,000 in counties of 4th – 5th.

o          $200,000 in counties of 6th – 8th.

o          A non-primary location holding a casino liquor license will be subject to an annual renewal fee of $10,000;

  • casino liquor license fee is reduced from $1 million to $500,000;
  • annual renewal fee for the first four years is reduced from $1 million to $250,000. After that it will be reduced from $250,000 to $25,000;
  • requires a wholesaler or retailer of beer to report to the board the volumes of beer sold. The board then must post the reports on its website;
  • allows the board to regulate how a licensee infuse, store and sell flavored distilled spirits;
  • permits a Pennsylvania resident to purchase liquor outside of the state as long as they pay state taxes and do not bring in more than 5 gallons in volume;
  • beer taps no longer are required to have legible lettering on them;
  • repeals the Wine and Spirits Wholesale and Retail Privatization Commission; and
  • Permits the board to promulgate temporary regulations for implementation of Act 39 for up to 2 years;

The bill was enacted as Act 166 of 2016.

 

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The Senate voted 33-9 in favor of House Bill 1538, which would have prohibited a public employee, an investigating agency, or a person acting on behalf of either one of these parties from disclosing a name of a law enforcement officer who discharges a weapon or uses force that leads to death or serious injury.

The name of an officer would have only been disclosed if an officer was charged with a crime related to the incident. Also, the name could have been released if 30 days had passed or after completion of an investigation — unless there is a risk to the officer or his property.

The bill was vetoed by the governor (Veto #8).

“While I am deeply concerned for the safety of the commonwealth’s police officers, government works best when trust and openness exist between citizens and their government, and as such, I cannot sign into law a policy that will enshrine the withholding of information in the public interest,” stated Governor Tom Wolf.

“These situations in particular – when law enforcement uses deadly force – demand utmost transparency, otherwise a harmful mistrust will grow between police officers and the communities they protect and serve. Further, I cannot allow local police department policies to be superseded and transparency to be criminalized, as local departments are best equipped to decide what information is appropriate to release to the public.”

 

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The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 1703, which updates the state’s restrictions on all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) relating to youth riders.

The bill updates the riding restrictions by limiting all youth riders to the age recommendation warning label that is affixed to the ATV by the manufacturer, which is based on speed capacity rather than displacement. In the case of older ATV’s that may not have the warning label, the 70cc engine restriction for 8 and 9 year olds will still apply.

The bill was enacted as Act 136 of 2016.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 2025, which allows PennDOT to suspend the registration of motorists who fail to pay tolls on the Turnpike — until the motorist makes the payment.

This will be applicable to vehicles registered in Pennsylvania as well as neighboring states through a reciprocity agreement. The bill also extends the authority to other entities that collect tolls such as the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission.

The bill also: increases the allowance for temporary vehicle registration cards issued to a vehicle acquired in Pennsylvania for transportation to another state for registration to be valid from 30 days to 60 days; and eliminates the grandfather clause exempting mechanics who were certified to training qualifications and competence as of January 1, 1983 from reapplying for certification.

A registration fee for a motor carrier vehicle in excess of 17,000 pounds will be refunded if the vehicle is stolen or demolished and the vehicle has a non-repairable certificate or certificate of salvage.

The bill was enacted as Act 165 of 2016.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 881, which removes the term “sewage” from the definition of “public utility” and replaces it with “wastewater.”

Wastewater is defined as any used water and water carrying solids collected or conveyed by a sewer, including:

  • sewage, as defined in Section 2 of the Pennsylvania Sewage Facilities Act;
  • industrial waste originating from an establishment;
  • infiltration or inflow into sewers;
  • other waste containing solids or pollutants; and
  • storm water that become mixed with other waters.

The term does not include storm water collected in a municipal separate storm sewer.

The bill was enacted as Act 154 of 2016.

 

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The Senate voted 46-2 in favor of Senate Bill 385, which encourages the creation of transportation hubs.

A transportation hub is considered the area around a mass transit stop or station.

The bill modernizes the Transit Revitalization Investment District (TRID) Act of 2004 and was prompted by the current law’s inability to create TRID’s. The measure enhances the current methods of obtaining and utilizing funding for creating and sustaining these mass transportation hubs.

The bill was enacted as Act 151 of 2016.

 

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The Senate voted 45-3 in favor of Senate Bill 1265, which amends the Wage Payment and Collection law to allow employers to pay wages with debit cards.

This legislation allows employers to use payroll debit cards to pay employees, rather than a check or direct deposit. The change is designed to help those who do not have traditional banking accounts. Advocates believe payroll debit cards are less vulnerable to fraud, are more efficient and keep costs down.

This bill establishes guidelines for the use of payroll debit cards to protect workers. Opponents argued that the cards can be easily lost and that employees may often be charged service fees to access their money. As a compromise, provisions were added to require payroll debit cards to be an optional form of payment choice.

Employers would still be responsible for providing information detailing earnings and deductions each pay period. The legislation adds in specific protections for employee funds to prevent the loss or transfer of wages.

The bill was enacted as Act 161 of 2016.

 

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The Senate voted 36-12 for House Bill 245, which would have waived the need for people to file a local tax return if they have no income to report.

The legislation also would have inserted safe harbor language for estimated taxes and provided oversight of the local Tax Collection Committee. Beginning in 2020, it also would have prohibited a political subdivision, tax collection committee or tax officer from using non-promulgated forms.

Under the bill, no assessment could have been made of any earned income tax more than five years after filing date, including extended due dates, except where a fraudulent return has been filed. It would also have expanded the definition of “taxpayer” and provided for the calculation of the maximum income tax rate for a school district that levied an occupation tax for the fiscal year ending December, 2016, and for a municipality that levied an occupation tax for the calendar year ending December 31, 2015.

The governor vetoed (Veto #7) this legislation based on the changes it made to the Local Tax Enabling Act, which in said would result in a revenue loss for a number of school districts.

 

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The Senate unanimously passed House Bill 850, which amends a 1977 law update the Money Transmission Business Licensing Law.

The bill added qualifications for a license to further define the net worth of an applicant. The bill also raises the application fee and renewal fee from $2,000 to $5,000. The legislation also allows for an agent to be appointed to conduct business related to a written agreement between the agent and the person on whose behalf the agent is acting.

The bill was signed into law as Act 129 of 2016.

 

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The Senate passed House Bill 946, which provides a framework for pharmacy benefit managers and others to conduct audits within a pharmacy.

The bill establishes procedures for conducting a pharmacy audit. It also requires them to provide a pharmacy with a written report of the audit that must comply with requirements established in the bill. The auditor must also establish a written appeals process where a pharmacy may appeal an unfavorable final audit report.

The bill also requires Pharmacy Benefits Managers to register with the Insurance Department; and establishes minimum requirements on multiple source generic drug lists for pharmaceutical drugs. It also revises the reimbursement formula for prescriptions in the PACE/PACENET program by moving from the lower of 88 percent of the Average Wholesale Price that pharmacy’s usual charge, or if a generic drug, the most current federal upper payment limits in the Medicaid Program to the lower of the National Average Drug Acquisition Cost or the pharmacy’s usual and customary charge.

The bill was signed into law as Act 169 of 2016.

 

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The Senate unanimously passed House Bill 1118, which provides a process to follow when a county district attorney has a conflict of interest and needs to refer a case to the attorney general or a district attorney from another county. It also provides a process for the appointment of an independent counsel by establishing a Special Independent Prosecutor’s Panel.

The bill was signed into law as Act 131 of 2016.

 

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The Senate unanimously passed House Bill 1403, which requires a life insurer to implement ways for comparing its life insurance policies against names on the death master file provided by the Social Security Administration. The bill ensures that life insurers must escheat unclaimed life insurance policies within three years following a death.

The bill was signed into law as Act 132 of 2016.

 

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The Senate unanimously passed House Bill 2084, which requires the Department of Corrections to issue pepper spray to all on-duty officers and employees in state correctional institutions who may respond to an emergency situation. Officers must be properly trained in the use of the spray and may only use it when verbal direction has failed and physical force is necessary; when an inmate barricades themselves and cannot be approached without danger to officers or the inmate; and when a delay in establishing control would cause a hazard, disturbance or property damage.

The bill was signed into law as Act 174 of 2016.

 

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The Senate unanimously passed House Bill 2241, which prohibits an insurer from retroactively denying reimbursements more than 24 months after the date the insurer initially paid the healthcare provider.

It also requires an insurer that denies reimbursement to a health care provider to give that provider a written statement specifying the basis for the denial.

The bill was signed into law as Act 146 of 2016.

 

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The Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 1062, which requires the Commission on Sentencing to provide a sentencing enhancement guidelines for burglary. A tougher sentence may be imposed for burglaries where the offender threatens or attempts to injure someone.

The bill was signed into law as Act 158 of 2016.

 

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The Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 1311, which makes Pennsylvania’s Adoption Act, Juvenile Act, and Child Protective Services Law comply with the latest changes made by the U.S. Congress regarding the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act Law.

The bill was signed into law as 115 of 2016.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 1653, which requires the Department of General Services to recognize a business as woman-minority or veteran-owned.

Specifically, the department must:

  • develop a system to verify that such a business is based in Pennsylvania;
  • Verify that the business has been certified as diverse or disadvantaged by a third-party organization; and
  • develop and maintain lists of businesses verified by the department and make them available to encourage procurement from these businesses.

The bill was enacted as Act 171 of 2015.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 1864, which allows cosmetology schools to charge fees to members of the public for services provided by students.

Any fees charged for student services must be reasonable and approved the State Board of Cosmetology. Previously, fees could not be charged for student services, except for costs of materials.

This bill was enacted as Act 137 of 2015.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 1907, which provides updated procedures for charter schools to follow when students fail to comply with compulsory school attendance requirements.

Charter, regional charter and cyber charter schools will be required to develop attendance policies, including those for excused and unexcused absences. Unexcused absences will be reported annually to the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Schools must also address unexcused and repeated student absences through corrective actions and penalties.

The bill was enacted as Act 138 of 2016.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 2058, which allows paramedics to draw blood upon request for certain driving violations.

Paramedics may assist law enforcement by providing drug and alcohol blood testing of individuals. Upon conviction of such persons, a paramedic user fee must be paid to the EMS agency to pay for criminal lab service costs.

A law enforcement officer, who witnesses a blood draw, may testify in court on behalf of the paramedic concerning the chain of custody. The bill also provides additional liability protections for paramedics who provide blood-draw services.

The bill was enacted as Act 142 of 2016.

 

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The Senate unanimously voted for House Bill 2078, which expedites teaching certificates and reduces fees for active and former military members, as well as their spouses.

Under the bill, the state Department of Education must process teaching certificates of military personnel, veterans and their spouses within 14 days of receiving their applications. For such individuals, the certification fee is reduced to no more than $10 and the professional educator discipline fee to no more than $25.

The department must also remove all professional teachers’ certificates from inactive status if they have a valid, out-of-state, teaching certificate, provide proof of completing the continuing education requirements in that state and have used that state’s certificate for work during the two years immediately preceding their application to reactivate their Pennsylvania certificate.

The bill was enacted as Act 143 of 2017.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 2338, which protects students attending post-secondary schools in Pennsylvania should the U.S. Department of Education no longer recognize their school’s accrediting agency.

Students will remain eligible for state financial assistance and for state licensing, certification and other professional credentials being pursued in their academic studies. Schools transitioning to new accreditation must notify students who are receiving financial aid of the status of that transition, as well as other relevant information.

The measure will expire on December 31, 2018.

The bill was enacted as Act 149 of 2016.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 1202, which requires two hours of continuing education in pain management and opioid prescribing practices for all licensed prescribers and dispensers.

A dispenser is required to query the system before dispensing an opioid drug or benzodiazepine prescription for patients who are new to a pharmacy or pharmacy chain, paying with cash, refilling their prescriptions early or using more than one dispenser for the drug.

Dispensers and prescribers must complete the required continuing education courses within the 12-month-period after initial licensure or certification. Individuals must complete the coursework every two years when renewing a license or certificate, as well.

The continuing education courses must receive board-approval in consultation with the Pennsylvania Department of Health. The legislation was part of a package of bills aimed at fighting Pennsylvania’s opioid drug abuse crisis.

Senate Bill 1202 was enacted as Act 124 of 2016.

 

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The Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 1331, which would have created the “Travel Insurance Modernization Act” to allow travel agents to sell travel insurance without being required to be licensed as insurance producers.

The insurer issuing the travel insurance would have been required to supervise the development and administration of the training program for employees or representatives of the travel agency, either directly or through a designee.

Employees and authorized representatives, who were not licensed as designated licensees, would not have been allowed to evaluate the technical terms, benefits or conditions of the offered travel insurance coverage; evaluate or provide advice concerning a prospective purchaser’s existing insurance coverage; advertise or represent themselves as a licensed insurer, designated licensee or expert.

The bill died in the House.

 

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The Senate voted 29 to 18 in favor of Senate Bill 1282, which prohibits counties from charging fees to each unit of a condominium, cooperative or planned community if an amendment is filed to that community’s declarations.

Counties with a Uniform Parcel Index (UPI) system must create a master parcel number for each condominium, cooperative or planned community. Amendments to community documents must be indexed under that master parcel number.

While counties may continue to require that community documents be filed under each unit’s UPI number, they may not charge each unit for such filing on a “per parcel” basis — unless the filing under each unit’s UPI is specifically requested by the homeowner’s association.

The bill was enacted as Act 162 of 2016.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 162, which amends the Domestic Relations law to permit adult adoptees to access their original birth record information without the consent of their birth parents.

Under the law, to access the record, the adult adoptee must have graduated from high school, completed a General Education Development program, or have legally withdrawn from secondary schooling.

this legislation allows for open ended allotment of time for birth parents to redact their names from a birth record. Also, birth parents, upon request, have the option of submitting a contact preference form. These forms provide three options: noting the birth parents do not want to be contacted by the adoptee; consenting to be contacted by the adoptee; and consenting to be contacted by the adoptee through an intermediary.

This bill was enacted as Act 127 of 2016.

 

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The Senate voted 40 to 7 in favor of House Bill 263, which removing a restriction on air, chemical or gas cylinder powered firearms, and semiautomatic rifles for hunting.

This legislation allows for the Game Commission to regulate the use of such firearms, institute bag limits and determine what in what seasons the firearms may be used. The legislation also removes the sunset provision for the Special Elk Hunting License Fundraiser.

This bill was enacted as Act 168 of 2016.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 1600, which provides a state business start-up fee exemption for veteran-owned or reservist-owned small businesses.

The fee is imposed when an individual opens or starts a business in Pennsylvania.

This legislation also provides for voluntary veterans’ preference in private employment and enables private employers to adopt and apply a veterans’ preference employment policy. If an employer chooses to adopt the policy, it must: be in writing; inform all applicants that the employer has a veterans’ preference policy; be disclosed to all employees annually and to all applicants at the time of hiring; and be applied uniformly to employment decisions on hiring, promotions and retention.

The bill was enacted as Act 135 of 2016.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 1683, authorizes local governing bodies to offer income and/or property tax credits for volunteer first responders.

Under the measure, the tax credit is to be applied an active volunteer’s tax liability. It limits the tax credit to no more than 20 percent of the tax liability of the active volunteer.

The municipality must adopt application guidelines and forms for the tax credit program, which will remain in effect until the local governing body repeals the program.

A required list of eligible volunteers must be submitted to the governing body no later than 45 days before tax notices are distributed by the fire chief or EMS supervisor or chief.

The legislation also allows the credit for active volunteers who file a joint tax return. Anyone who falsifies their volunteer service would be subject to a first degree misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $2,500.

The bill was enacted as Act 172 of 2016.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 2148, which amends the Enforcement Officer Disability Benefits Law, also known as the Heart and Lung Act, to includes firefighters employed by the commonwealth.

These individuals include: firemen of airport authorities; fire suppression instructors; firemen who are fire and safety marshals; assistant fire marshals; forest patrolmen and forest technicians; fire academy instructors and assistant fire marshals; and emergency medical services personnel employed with a city fire department.

This bill was enacted as Act 145 of 2016.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 1398, which amends the Corporations and Unincorporated Associations Code and the Names Code to modernize laws overseeing limited liability partnerships, general partnerships, limited partnerships and limited liability companies.   The bill does the following:

  • Permits a partner member to file a “certificate of authority” so that they may conduct business on their partner’s behalf;
  • Provides for Limited Liability Companies (LLC) right to transfer agreements between members of the LLC;
  • Clarifies that the operating agreement within a LLC provides for the rights of the members within a LLC.;
  • The bill amends definitions, specifically the definition of a general partnership was redefined to refer to the partnership as an entity to assist with the transfer of property between a partnership;
  • The Uniform Partnership Act rules will now be considered the default rules for business partnerships;
  • Provides for a partner members responsibilities and duties within a partnership agreement;
  • Separates general partnership law from limited partnerships for clarity purposes. In addition, the bill clarifies ownership rights for assets associated with the partnership;
  • Amends limited liability partnerships (LLP) to provide partners with liability protections similar to shareholders of a corporation;
  • Requires both LLP’s and LLC’s to file a “certificate of termination” when the agreement is ended;
  • Provides for creditors of a LLP in the event of asset liquidations;
  • Removes a partner’s ability to “dissociate from the limited partnership;” and
  • Amends the written provisions of a partnership agreement for a limited partnership to require consent from all partners who own distribution rights;

The bill was enacted as Act 170 of 2016.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 1437, which amends the Municipal Code and Ordinance Compliance Act to reduce the amount of time property owners have to correct a building or structures code violations after purchase. The bill also changes municipal responsibility for inspection certifications.

The legislation amends the amount of a time, from 18 months to 12 months, that the purchasers of a building/structure have correct violations. If the violations are not corrected in that time, the owner must demolish the building or structure. Owners may ask the municipality for an extension or another inspection if they are given a temporary certification.

The bill provides for “use and occupancy certificates” and “temporary use and occupancy certificate” certification. This legislation also requires a municipality to issue a use and occupancy certificate to any owner of an inspected structure with no violations. A temporary certificate would be authorized if there is at least one violation. The bill also defines what it means for a structure to be “unfit for human habitation.”

If a purchaser fails to comply with the regulations of this bill, he or she would be “personally liable for the costs of maintenance, repairs or demolition sufficient to correct the cited violations, and a fine of not less than $1,000 and not more than $10,000.”

The bill is aimed at reducing blighted buildings structures. The bill also stipulates that one-third of violation fines are to be used for low income housing.

The bill was enacted as Act 133 of 2016.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 1737, which takes steps to improve the process for safely destroying unwanted over-the-counter prescription drugs.

The legislation allows resource recovery facilities, industrial furnaces and other waste recovery facilities to utilize their resources to help destroy old prescription drugs. Previously, prescription drugs and over-the-counter pharmaceutical products were considered “hazardous waste” material and could not be disposed of properly within these facilities under federal regulations.

The bill also allows federal, state or local law enforcement, hospitals, assisted living facilities, pharmacies, resource recovery facilities and other similar facilities to establish prescription waste collection programs to help people dispose of unused medication.

The bill was enacted Act 123 of 2016.

 

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The Senate voted 46-1 in favor of House Bill 1887, which would provide a revised means to continue distributing Local Share Assessment (LSA) gaming proceeds to municipalities for projects.

The measure also requires the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP), to maintain a single problem gambling telephone number and establish a compulsive and problem gambling program. The program will include training for the treatment of compulsive and problem gambling, public education on the issue and guidelines to treat and prevent compulsive and problem gambling.

The bill requires the DDAP to:

  • maintain one compulsive gamblers assistance toll-free number, which will be 1-800-GAMBLER. If the number is unavailable, DDAP may choose a different number;
  • advertise the availability of gambling addiction assistance programs for compulsive and problem gamblers — as well as their family members;
  • conduct studies to identify individuals at risk of becoming compulsive and problem gamblers;
  • create a plan to prevent compulsive and problem gambling;
  • provide an annual report on the impact of the program and on the demographic-specific data of the individuals treated; and
  • make grants to single county authorities to provide gambling prevention, treatment and educational/public awareness programs.

To respond to a court decision that invalidated the local shares assessment program, the legislation would impose an annual Slot Machine Operations Assessment equal to 20 percent tax of the Slot Machine License Fee ($10 million) for Category 1 and 2 casinos not located in Philadelphia for all host municipalities.

The bill now goes to the House Rules Committee.

 

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The Senate voted 47-1 in favor of House Bill 2107, which amends the Procurement Code to prohibit the Department of General Services (DGS) to enter into contractual agreements with any business involved in an economic boycott against Israel.

The bill also amends and clarifies the Guaranteed Energy Savings Act (GESA) program and provides greater public access to procurement records.

This bill bans DGS to contract with any business engaging in an economic boycott against a country that Pennsylvania is not prohibited from trading with and, therefore, requires businesses to certify that they are not engaged in these activities. If a company files a false certification form to DGS, they will be penalized $250,000 or twice the amount of the contract, whichever is greater.

This legislation requires records concerning procurement to be made available to the public. These records would fall under the Right to Know Law and must be posted on the DGS website. These forms must include the public notice statement, bid tabulation records and requests to award a contract, the contract resulting from the procurement. These documents are required to be accessible on the DGS website for a minimum of 30 days from posting.

The bill provides for situations where a procurement agreement is entered into in the event of an emergency. In these cases, a contract may not be necessary. The transaction information would still need to be made available for public record. Emergency procurements may occur during times of a potential public health or safety threat.

The bill contains the provisions of Senate Bill 1313, which amends the GESA program to clarify payment terms within a guaranteed energy savings contract. The bill redefines the term “energy conservation measure” to be “a program, facility alteration or technology upgrade designed to reduce energy, water, wastewater or other consumption or operating costs.” In addition, the term applies to extensions of heating or air condition systems and indoor air quality systems.

The term “energy-related cost savings” now includes savings gained as a result of energy conservation measures. These savings may include avoided current or planned capital expense, avoided renovation, renewal or repair costs as a result of replacing old and unreliable equipment and systems or thermal improvements to the building envelope. The term “operating costs” is redefined to provide for which costs should be included in cost-saving calculations.

The bill was enacted as Act 163 of 2016.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 2303, which moves the Race Horse Industry Reform Act from the Administrative Code to Title 3 (Agriculture).

This legislation restores the language “Pennsylvania-bred” horses to the Race Horse Industry Reform Act because it was erroneously omitted from the amendments made by Act 7 of 2016 to the Race Horse Industry Reform Act. This change would allow for retroactive distribution of breeding awards from February 23, 2016 to December 31, 2016.

The bill also deals with the distribution of purse money to breeders. It awards:

  • 30-40 percent of the purse to a registered Pennsylvania-bred thoroughbred racing horse that was sired by a registered Pennsylvania sire for the position of 1st, 2nd or 3rd;
  • 20 percent of the purse to a registered Pennsylvania-bred thoroughbred racing horse sired by a non-registered sire for the position of 1st, 2nd or 3rd.
  • 10 percent of the purse to the owner of a registered Pennsylvania-bred thoroughbred racing horse which finishes in 1st, 2nd or 3rd.
  • Eliminates awards to owners of PA Bred horses winning first in a non-restricted race.

The bill stipulates that if more than $10 million is deposited in Pennsylvania Breeding Fund, 50 percent of the money will be used to pay purses to owners for races restricted to PA Bred/PA sired horses and 50 percent used to pay purses for races restricted to PA-Bred horses. The bill allows races to be closed to non-PA Bred horses if eight or more PA-Bred horses enter into the race.

The bill was enacted as Act 114 of 2016.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 2370, which amends the Tax Reform Code to provide for Realty Transfer Tax (RTT) exemptions.

This legislation applies a retroactive RTT exemption to agriculture conservation easements under the Agricultural Area Security Law and the Conservation and Preservation Easement Act. Also, the transfer of perpetual public recreational use easements, historic preservation easements and land bank transfers are to be retroactively exempt from the RTT.

This bill allows such land owners to file a refund petition for the taxes imposed on their land easement transfers. The retroactive tax exemption will apply to all transactions that occurred after December 31, 2012.

The bill was enacted as Act 175 of 2016.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 486, which amends the Recorder of Deeds Fee Law to help raise funds to demolish dilapidated properties.

This legislation would allow an optional but additional recording fee of $15 for deed and mortgage recordings. The new fee would go towards a fund for demolishing dilapidated properties. Any county will be allowed to adopt the demolition funding program. The use of the additional revenue would be restricted for demolition of blighted homes.

The bill was amended to require each county that imposes the optional fee to submit an initial report, within 90 days, to the Department of Community and Economic Development. The report must include how the county plans to spend the funds, the number of properties that will likely be demolished and any other relevant demolition related information. Each county that chooses to implement the fee for blight demolition would be required to establish a demolition fund.

The bill was enacted Act 152 of 2016.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 1235, which reauthorizes the Underground Utility Line Protection Act. This legislation extends the sunset provision of the Underground Utility Line Protection Act from December 31, 2016 to December 31, 2021.

The bill was 100 pages long before being gutted and replaced with only a sunset extension.  The original Act went into effect in 1976 and has been renewed every 10 years. This is the first time that the act was only extended by two years.

The bill was enacted as Act 160 of 2016.

 

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