A report on the Session Week of April 26, 2021
I am pleased to send you my Session Wrap Up e-newsletter. This e-newsletter features events and legislative activities from the Session Week of April 26, 2021.
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Committee Approves Ethical Standards Bill
The Senate Local Government Committee approved a bill I introduced to ensure that ethical standards are upheld by officials overseeing distress communities across the state, and issue that I take extremely seriously as Chairman of the State Local Government Commission.
Senate Bill 479 would amend the Municipalities Financial Recovery Act by specifying additional ethical compliance requirements for the appointees, recovery coordinators and receiver, who work directly with financially distressed municipalities on behalf of the Department of Community and Economic Development.
Audio of my comments on the bill.
Senate Hits the Brakes on PENNDOT’s Bridge Tolling Plan
The Senate approved legislation on Tuesday to stop the proposed plan to toll bridges on Pennsylvania’s interstate system. Senate Bill 382 would void PENNDOT’s Pathways Major Bridge Public-Private Transportation Partnership (P3) Initiative and reform the P3 statute. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.
On February 18, PENNDOT announced that the Interstate 80 Canoe Creek Bridge over State Route 4005 (Tippecanoe Road) and Canoe Creek in Clarion County is among nine spans identified by PENNDOT for tolling. Under the plan the toll would be $1 to $2 for passenger vehicles and commercial vehicles would pay a higher toll based on number of axles.
In addition to the Clarion County bridges, PENNDOT is also proposing the tolling of three additional areas on Interstate 80: the North Fork Bridge in Jefferson County; the Nescopeck Creek Bridge in Luzerne County; and, the bridge over the Lehigh River in Luzerne and Carbon counties.
Senate Bill 382 addresses what is clearly another proposal by this Governor to raise taxes without legislative approval. The Legislature never intended the P3 statute to be a blank check for the Administration. Pennsylvania motorists already pay the second-highest gas tax in the nation. Those revenues are supposed to be dedicated to paying for highway and bridge improvements.
Senate Bill 382 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration. Other bills approved by the Senate and sent to the House this week include:
Senate Bill 74, which would allow companies to apply for a tax credit after donating to a Pennsylvania pediatric cancer research hospital.
Senate Bill 83, which creates grants to establish fire training programs for students in high school.
Senate Bill 108, which dedicates additional Medicaid funding for ventilator and tracheostomy services.
Senate Bill 190, which allows for Designated Essential Family Caregivers in Long-Term Care Facilities.
Senate Bill 425, which amends the Mcare Act providing for informed consent.
Senate Bill 434, which provides for milk “sell by date” and “best by date” labeling.
In addition, the Senate gave final approval to House Bill 110 and sent the measure to the Governor’s desk. The bill changes the composition and terms of membership of the Hardwoods Development Council.
Aging & Youth
House Bill 464 amends the Family Caregiver Support Act to align the state Caregiver Support Program with federal standards.
Senate Bill 484 adds a member of the State Veterans Commission to the Pennsylvania Long-Term Care Council.
Senate Bill 147 requires employers having a certified safety committee as part of their workers’ compensation program to include information about the risks associated with the use of opioids.
Senate Bill 156 creates a new category under Medical Assistance for Workers with Disabilities.
Appropriations and Education
Communications & Technology
Community, Economic & Recreational Development
The Senate Community, Economic & Recreational Development Committee approved Senate Bill 243 on Wednesday. The bill allows volunteer fire departments, veterans organizations and other non-profits to conduct online small games of chance fundraisers during the COVID-19 disaster emergency declaration. Video
Environmental Resources & Energy
The Senate Environmental Resources Committee approved Senate Bill 119 on Tuesday. The bill prohibits the Department of Environmental Protection from joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative – or any similar pact — without Legislative approval. Video
Health & Human Services
Senate Bill 28 requires all agencies that issue permits to increase transparency throughout the process.
Senate Bill 32 includes several regulatory reform measures.
Senate Bill 126 provides for a one-time automatic review of all economically significant regulations.
Senate Bill 426 provides additional legislative oversight of the regulatory review process.
Senate Bill 520 requires General Assembly approval of all regulations with an economic impact or cost to the Commonwealth, to its political subdivisions, and to the private sector exceeding $1 million.
Senate Bill 533 prohibits the consideration or adoption of a proposed or final rulemaking subject to the Regulatory Review Act during the existence of a disaster emergency, unless the action is directly related to responding to the disaster emergency or adhering to a state or federal statutory timeline or court order.
Labor & Industry
House Bill 178 increases the time allotted to appeal the determination of an Unemployment Compensation (UC) Service Center and the decision of a UC referee from 15-days to 21-days.
Senate Bill 319 clarifies language in the Worker’s Compensation Act in consideration of the state Supreme Court’s decision in Whitmoyer v. WCAB (Mt. Country Meats).
Senate Bill 486 provides military personnel and their spouses with preference for placement into job training programs.
Senate Bill 563 requires the Department of Labor & Industry to update the Fire and Panic Act to include family daycare facilities and require that smoke detectors be interconnected.
Law & Justice
House Bill 425 allows a liquor license holder that is permanently closing to sell their remaining stock of wine and liquor to a license holder that is qualified to sell the products.
House Bill 427 increases the discounted price for liquor license purchases from 10 percent to 15 percent.
Senate Bill 503 expands the Pennsylvania Heart and Lung Act to include several law enforcement entities that are not currently protected by this coverage.
Senate Bill 566 addresses the sales of expired restaurant liquor licenses.
Legislative Reapportionment Commission
Senate Bill 477 amends the Consolidated County Assessment Law to more precisely define changes to real property that could occur without authorizing the assessment office to adjust an assessment, and to increase the value of other improvements that may occur before the assessment office is required to be notified.
Senate Bill 478 authorizes political subdivisions and authorities to enter into contracts for services when two consecutive advertisements fail to induce bids.
Senate Bill 480 makes various changes to the Borough Code.
Senate Bill 524 amends the Home Rule Law.
Performance-Based Budget Board
The Performance-Based Budget Board held a public hearing on Monday to review a variety of state tax credit programs. Video The Board held a public hearing on Tuesday on PENNDOT and the Department of Human Services. Video The Board held a public hearing on Wednesday on the State Police and the Department of Military & Veterans Affairs. Video
House Bill 104 requires agencies to assess improper payments on any program which is not required under federal law.
House Bill 108 establishes the Do-Not-Pay Initiative.
Senate Bill 312 reforms the Right-to-Know law.
Senate Bill 552 allows agencies to petition the Office of Open Records for relief from vexatious requestors.
Senate Bill 554amends the Sunshine Act to require that agencies make their meeting agendas available to the public and to bar agencies from acting on any item not listed on the notice — except in emergency situations or to consider matters that are de minimis in nature.
The committee also re-referred Senate Bill 166, which authorizes the Department of Drug & Alcohol Programs to impose fees for substance abuse treatment facilities and activities, to the Senate Health & Human Services Committee for consideration.Urban Affairs & Housing
Senate Bill 157 creates First-time Homebuyers Savings Accounts.
Senate Bill 439 removes the sunset provision of Act 152 of 2016, which allows counties to enact a fee of up to $15 through the Recorder of Deeds office to support demolition programs.
Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness
Senate Resolution 96 directs the Legislative Budget & Finance Committee to conduct a performance audit of the Pennsylvania’s 911 System.
Senate Bill 150 increases the monthly pension amounts for the Blind Veterans Pension Program and the Amputee and Paralyzed Veterans Pension Program from $150 to $180.
Senate Bill 461 requires Senate confirmation of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency Director.
Senate Bill 550 amends the Second–Class County Code to ensure proper upkeep of the graves of Pennsylvania veterans.
Senate Bill 556 ensures that first responders and National Guard Members who die from COVID-19 are covered under the Emergency and Law Enforcement Personnel Death Benefits Act.