Senate Democratic Wrap-up for the Week of September 25, 2016

The Senate voted 43-2 in favor of House Bill 380, which reduces the amount of time required to establish that a marriage is “irretrievably broken.”

This measure reduces from two years to one the amount of time a married couple must be separated before their marriage can be legally declared irretrievably broken. A couple must also live “separate and apart” to qualify.

The bill was enacted as Act 102 of 2016.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 665, which removes restrictions inadvertently placed on commercial powers of attorney (POA) during the last session.

Act 95 of 2014 unintentionally left out regulations for POAs executed by corporations. This measure adds those policies back into the law.  Act 95 placed restrictions on corporations to require a POA to be signed by two witnesses. However, this requirement is not necessary because POA are managed by corporate attorneys rather than individuals.

The new law will remove the requirement placed on businesses and corporations and exempts them from the witness and acknowledgement requirements that other POA agreements must complete.

The bill was enacted as Act 103 of 2016.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 340, which would amend the Local Government Unit Debt Act (LGUDA) to provide additional financial oversight for local governments.

Hearings were held in 2011 following the city of Harrisburg’s financial crisis. The hearings spurred legislation that would set tougher borrowing and indebtedness limits for local government entities.

Under the bill, the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) would provide additional oversight to local governments borrowing amounts. The measure is designed to protect taxpayers from huge local government debts.

The DCED would be authorized to require local governments under the LGUDA to submit the following information to the DCED and follow the required changes of this legislation:

 

  • Evidence that the local government is up to date in filing annual financial statements;
  • A description of the intended type and amount of payment or performance bond;
  • Information that the local government unit is up to date on all of its municipal securities disclosures required;
  • Limit local governments authority to allow municipal borrowing
  • A copy of the interest rate management plan prepared or reviewed by an independent financial advisor;
  • Proof of costs statements associated with the handling of debt proceeds;
  • Evidence of any existing debt which was previously approved by the department as self-liquidating to be documented as self-liquidating;
  • An explanation for any costs of issuance exceeding 2 percent of the principal amount of the proposed debt; and an explanation for the use of more than 10 percent of the proceeds of the debt for working capital.

The bill would also include penalties for falsifying financial statements given to the DCED and require DCED to retain certain information for a period of time.

The bill now goes to the House Local Government Committee.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 341, which would prevent local governments form using borrowed money for purposes outside the scope of what the money was borrowed for.

The measure resulted from the 2011 hearings concerning Harrisburg’s financial crisis. A companion bill to Senate Bill 340 and Senate Bill 344, the bill would give the State Ethics Commission jurisdiction for violations involving conflicts of interest associated with the Local Government Unit Debt Act (LGUDA).

The bill now goes to the House Local Government Committee.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 344, which would amend the Public Works Contractors’ Bond Law to place limitations on contracts exceeding $10,000 formed by local governments.

The legislation was part of a package that resulted from the 2011 hearings on the City of Harrisburg’s financial problems. This legislation is a companion bill to Senate Bill 340 and Senate Bill 341.

The bill would limit the types financial contracts local governments may enter into by limiting the types of financial securities used to pay contractors. Under this legislation, contracting bodies would only be allowed to accept performance bonds, irrevocable letters of credit or restrictive account in federal or state-chartered lending institutions. Currently there are no limitations on which types of financial securities may be accepted.

The bill now goes to the House State Government Committee.

 

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The Senate voted 42-8 in favor of Senate Bill 869, which would amend the Controlled Substance Forfeiture Act to provide for civil forfeiture of personal property relating to instances connected with criminal and drug offenses.

This legislation would allow for the seizing of property in situations where the property is used to transport illegal drugs. Property may also be seized if the item is found under a search warrant and probable cause justifies confiscating the property.

Items associated with forfeiture must be found to be subject under this legislation and the claimant of the property must prove their ownership and that they lawfully acquired the property. At this time, the Commonwealth would need to prove the item was used illegally to retain the property. The claimant would need to prove they did not know or use the property to facilitate illegal activity. Claimants could challenge a court’s decision if they believe the object was taken against their constitutional rights. Property would be authorized to be seized before a trial if it was possibly related to an ongoing criminal activity.

Items obtained by forfeiture would be authorized to be sold and the revenue would be used the Controlled Substance Act. Each county would be required to publicly maintain a list of forfeited property. Any individual acquitted of crimes that caused them to forfeit their property, would be entitled to have their property returned.

The bill now goes to the House Judiciary Committee.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 1048, which would help protect local and state government and school district data online.

This legislation would amend the Breach of Personal Information Notification Act to provide for the security of computerized data. These servers may possibly contain an individual’s personal information, health information, financial information and medical history. If a state agency incurred a breach in their security, it would be required to notify effected people within seven days; and the Attorney General and the governor’s Office of Administration within three business days.

If a county, school district or municipality’s information was breached, they would be required to notify their county district attorney. The bill also requires encryption to be used by state employees and contractors working with personal information. The bill would also require the Office of Administration to develop a policy to govern the storage of personal information.

The bill now goes to the State Government Committee.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 1086, which would amend the Vehicle Code to implement a recovery plan to obtain funds from those who evade Turnpike tolls.

Currently, unpaid tolls can only be obtained through collection agencies. To secure the remaining funds, this legislation would allow PennDOT to suspend an individual’s vehicle registration if their vehicle was used in relation to an unpaid Turnpike toll. This legislation would apply to vehicles registered outside of Pennsylvania as well.

The bill now goes to the House Transportation Committee.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 1155, which amends the Vehicle Code to provide for special license plates for members of the U.S. armed forces.

This bill would allow PennDOT to issue special recognition license plates to active members of the armed forces, reserves and Pennsylvania National Guard. This include members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. The plates could be purchased for an additional $20 fee — in addition to the registration fee. These special license plates would only be eligible to be placed on passenger trucks and cars.

The bill was enacted as Act 108 of 2016.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 1212, which would amend the Public School Code to provide for Child Opioid Awareness Education.

This legislation would require Pennsylvania schools to begin opioid abuse education starting with the 2017-18 school year. The district would be required to develop an appropriate child opioid awareness program and insert the plan into the sixth through 12th grade curricula. The bill would also require opioid awareness training in teachers’ professional development curricula.

The Department of Education would be required to develop a model of child opioid awareness and education curriculum for schools and to compile, develop and post material on its website.

The bill now goes to the House Education Committee.

 

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The Senate voted 34-14 in favor of Senate Bill 1235, which reauthorizes the Underground Utility Line Protection Act; moves oversight responsibilities of the One Call System from the Department of Labor and Industry; and places additional responsibilities on facility owners, designers and excavators.

This legislation extends the sunset provision of the Underground Utility Line Protection Act from December 31, 2016 to December 31, 2021. The bill moves oversight responsibilities of the One Call System from the Department of Labor and Industry to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC).

This legislation places additional responsibilities on the One Call System by: removing excavation work exclusions for extracting resources; and providing for the lawful start date to be three business days through 10 business days following notification to the One Call System;

The bill would require facility owners to:

  • Maintain membership and give written notice to the One Call System;
  • Provide the One Call System, within five business days, with any revised personal information;
  • Maintain records of abandoned main line locations and report all alleged violations to the PUC if the cost of repair is over $2,500. In addition, owners will be responsible for maintaining underground line mapping information;
  • Remove the requirement that county recorder of deeds maintain existing records of main lines be published;
  • Require excavators to report all line damage and pay all applicable fees before receiving line location information;
  • Remove the Secretary of Labor and Industry from the One Call board of directors;
  • Require designers to pay a fee when requesting line and facility information from the One Call System; and
  • Create a Damage Prevention Committee to advise the PUC on damage prevention measures to protect underground utility lines and facilities. The committee would also be responsible for reviewing all reports made of alleged violations or damage reports.

The bill was enacted as Act 160 of 2016.

 

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The Senate voted 33-17 in favor of Senate Bill 1341, which would create the requirement for a version of performance-based budgeting for use when creating the annual General Appropriations budget.

The bill would create the Performance-based Budget Board, which would be responsible for acting as a review board to “approve the performance-based budget plans developed by the Independent Fiscal Office for agencies and to make recommendations on how each agency’s operations and programs may be made more transparent, effective and efficient.

Every state agency would be required to create a performance-based budget. Performance measurements would be required to include efficiency measures, cost analyses, status improvements of the applicable demographic receiving the services, economic outcomes and agency benchmarks. Agencies would need to detail the number of individuals served by a program receiving funding. They would also be required to include their mission statement and program goals.

The bill states that performance-based budgeting assists as an “effective method to counter the tendency toward reputation of outmoded state programs.” The bill now goes to the House Appropriation Committee.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 1352, which provides for the increase in rates for river pilots who travel on the Delaware River.

This legislation would increase the rates pilots are required to pay based on the distance they travel on the Delaware River and its tributaries. This bill also amends the maximum distance a vessel could be charged for. Currently, vessels are charged for a maximum of 1,400 units traveled at a rate of $14.05 per unit. The maximum distance charged and the cost per unit would increase during subsequent years.

In 2017 the rate would be $14.05 per unit with a maximum of 1,450 units. In 2018 the rate would be $14.19 per unit with a maximum of 1,500 units. In 2019 the rate would be $14.47 per unit with a maximum of 1,500 units.

Transporting vessels from Philadelphia (or other place) to the Marcus Hook would cost $800, which is $50 more than the current rate. This $50 increase would also apply to vessels transporting from Philadelphia Harbor to Torresdale. The bill also raises the fee from the Philadelphia Harbor to any place above Torresdale to $1,050, a $50 increase over the current rate.

The bill now goes to the House Commerce Committee.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 1353, which would authorize the Navigation Commission to increase the fee that river pilots pay to obtain and renew their licensure to traverse the Delaware River and its tributaries.

The bill would increase the fee from $250 to $400 annually. No annual renewal fee would be authorized to be more than $525.

The bill now goes to the House Commerce Committee.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 1367, which amends Title 35 (Health and Safety) restrict opioid prescriptions for minors.

This measure prevents medical prescribers from prescribing a minor more than a seven-day supply of a controlled substance containing an opioid. An opioid prescription supply larger than a seven-day amount could be prescribed if the amount is required to stabilize a minor’s acute medical condition — and a non-opioid alternative is not appropriate. This bill also provides an exemption for the seven-day supply limitation for minors with management of pain associated with cancer, the medicine is in use in a palliative or hospice care; or for the management of chronic pain.

The bill requires a prescriber to assess any current or previous prescriptions the minor has taken or is currently taken. Prescribers are required to discuss the risks of addiction and overdose and the dangers of taking a drug with other substances with the minor and their parents. Prescribers must receive written consent from the minor’s parents or guardian to prescribe opioid medication.

The bill was enacted as Act 125 of 2016.

 

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The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 1368, which establishes the safe opioid prescription education.

This legislation requires the prescription licensing board to implement a “safe prescription of a controlled substance containing an opioid curriculum.” The curriculum may be used in approved colleges or by providers approved by the licensing board.

The curriculum is required to contain age-appropriate information on pain management, multimodal treatments for chronic pain to minimalize the use of opioids, instructions on safe methods of prescribing, patient risk factors and substance abuse disorder training. Two year temporary regulations may be implemented until this bill’s enactment in August of 2017.

The bill was enacted as Act 126 of 2016.

 

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