Senate Democratic Wrap-up for the Week of September 27, 2015

 

The Senate unanimously passed House Bill 33, which amends the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code (MPC) to allow up to three community members to be appointed as alternate members to the planning commission.

The Pennsylvania MPC provides for the planning, development and zoning of institutions within a municipality. Pennsylvania’s MPC manages the members of the zoning hearing board and the members of the planning commission.

The appointed community members will be allowed to hold the alternate possession for four years. These members will have the same authority as the commission members, and be able to cast votes. Alternative members make it possible for extra people to be available when members are unable to make meetings. This change will help the commission reach a quorum for meetings.

The bill was enacted as Act 42 of 2015.

 

***

 

The Senate voted 45-2 in favor of House Bill 823, which amends the Local Tax Collection Act to resolve issues regarding continuing education requirements for tax collectors.

As of January 1, 2017, new tax collectors will be required to participate in a training program and take an entry exam before they can take office. After certification, elected tax collectors will still be required to complete two hours of continuing education during their four year term. Previously, tax collectors were required to take six hours of continued training every year; however this amount was deemed unnecessary.

This legislation places new requirements on the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), which is now required to manage tax collector certification and manage the programs and examinations associated with certification. The training program and testing program will be offered online by the DCED.

The measure requires that all new tax collectors submit a criminal background check; and the bill clarifies that temporary tax collectors may continue to act until the elected officer returns to office.

The bill was enacted as Act 48 of 2015.

 

***

 

The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 513, which amends the Solid Waste Management Act to regulate the transport of liquefied solid waste.

The bill specifies how leachate (liquid that has permeated or drained from solid waste) may be transported and disposed of in both municipal and privately owned landfills. Previously, there was a three year waiting period before leachate could be transported. This bill provides more flexibility to those who transport and dispose of landfill leachate — improving efficiency and saving money. The measure does not make any changes to the treating requirements of landfill leachate.

The bill was amended to add a few requirements for leachate transport to avoid fines from the Department of Environmental Protection.

This bill was enacted as Act 45 of 2015.

 

***

 

The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 685, which would amend the Medical Practice Act to allow for state licensure exemption for team physicians.

This bill would allow a visiting sports team’s medical staff to legally treat injured players while they are in Pennsylvania, as long as they are licensed in another state. The staff must be in a medical agreement with the team to treat the players and may only practice at that sporting event. Their temporary licensure would last no longer than 10 days.

A companion bill to Senate Bill 686, the bill was approved by the House and is waiting to be signed by the governor.

 

***

 

The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 686, which would amend the Osteopathic Medical Practice Act to allow for state licensure exemption for team physicians.

This bill would allow a visiting sports team’s medical staff to legally treat injured players while they are in Pennsylvania, as long as they are licensed in another state. The staff must be in a medical agreement with the sports team to treat the players and may only practice at that sporting event. Their temporary licensure would last no longer than 10 days.

A companion bill to Senate Bill 685, the bill was approved by the House and is waiting to be signed by the governor.

 

***

 

The Senate voted 46-1 in favor of Senate Bill 785, which would exempt small building structures from local taxation.

The bill clarifies what structures should be subject to real estate taxes. It defines a de minimis structure as “a structure 200 square feet or less that is not permanently attached to the ground or connected to gas or sewage utilities.” De minimus structures would not be subject to a real estate tax. The bill also exempts agriculture structures that are less than 1,000 square feet in size and are not permanently attached to the ground or utilities.

Similar legislation was offered last session (SB 1322), but was not acted upon in the Senate Appropriations Committee. Senate Bill 785 is currently on third consideration in the House.

 

***

 

The Senate voted 29-18 in favor of Senate Bill 875, which creates the Treated Mine Water Act to provide liability limitations for the use of treated mine water.

This legislation provides immunity to mine operators who use the treated mine water. This immunity is only applicable when all three of the following criteria are met: the mine water is only used outside the boundaries of the mining site, the treated water is only used for oil or gas well development, and the mine operator is not the same person using the treated mine water for oil or gas well development.

The bill was amended to clarify that the mine water should not be considered as residual waste for the operator under the Waste Management Act.

This bill’s re-use of mine water is aimed at preserving fresh water sources. The bill was enacted as Act 47 of 2015.

 

***

 

The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 898, which would amend the Second Class County Code to adjust real property tax rates set by a referendum. This bill is a companion bill to Senate Bill 899.

Current law requires that after the annual county assessment, the county adjusts all tax rates on real property. By doing this, counties would comply with the “anti-windfall” provisions in this bill. These provisions are designed to adjust the property tax rate to balance an increase in revenue intake collected from taxes. The governing body would be required to decrease the tax rate to yield the same revenue from the previous year.

Existing law does not clarify how to address tax rates set by a referendum. This amendment would require each real property tax to be adjusted to balance revenue to a neutral outcome. This legislation also clarifies what process should be taken to balance tax rates established by referendum. It requires that each individual property tax be adjusted to revenue equal to last year, instead of the sum of taxes being adjusted to last year’s revenue.

The bill has been laid on the table in the House.

 

***

 

The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 899, which would amend Title 53 (Municipalities Generally) to adjust real property tax rates set by a referendum. This bill is a companion bill to Senate Bill 898.

Current law requires that after the annual county assessment the county adjusts all tax rates on real property. By doing this counties would comply with the “anti-windfall” provisions in this bill. These provisions are designed to adjust the property tax rate to balance an increase in revenue intake collected from taxes. The governing body would be required to decrease the tax rate to yield the same revenue from the previous year.

Existing law does not clarify how to address tax rates set by a referendum. This amendment would require each real property tax to be adjusted to balance revenue to a neutral outcome. This legislation clarifies what process should be taken to balance tax rates established by referendum. The bill also requires that each individual property tax be adjusted to revenue equal to last year, instead of the sum of taxes being adjusted to last year’s revenue.

The bill has been laid on the table in the House.

 

###