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Below is a recap of this week’s legislative activity in the Senate. Highlights include the reintroduction of Senate Bill 76 and the presentation of a final report by the Basic Education Committee.
As always, I welcome your feedback and input. Please don’t hesitate to contact me via my website.
Scott R. Wagner
In this Edition:
Last week I reported that work was continuing in preparation for the reintroduction of Senate Bill 76, the Property Tax Independence Act. This week I joined Senator Dave Argall, along with other prime sponsors, to officially reintroduce the legislation.
The bill has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Senator John Eichelberger.
On Thursday, the Basic Education Funding Commission convened to officially provide the General Assembly with its final report.
Co-chaired by Senator Pat Browne and Representative Mike Vereb, the Commission was created last year to conduct a study of the current basic education funding formula and to develop a new funding structure for our public schools.
In addition to a new formula, the Commission provided recommendations in areas including school consolidation, as well as “hold harmless,” which currently prevents any school from receiving less money than they did the year before, regardless of student population.
In order to implement any of the recommendations by the Commission, legislation will need to be introduced and approved by the legislature.
The Senate Law and Justice Committee, which I serve on, approved House Bill 189 on Wednesday with a vote of 6-4, and I voted to support it. This legislation provides for the direct shipment of wine to consumers. I have heard from quite a number of constituents looking for this option.
Current law allows for shipment of wine, but it must be sent to our state stores for pick-up, which in turn, subjects the order to the 6% sales tax, 18% liquor tax, 30% PLCB markup, and a $4.50 handling fee – on top of the cost of the product and shipping.
HB 189 has now been referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee, of which I am a member.
A bill addressing individuals who fraudulently pose as doctors and legislation that allows pharmacists to provide flu shots to children received final legislative approval this week and are headed to the Governor’s desk for his signature.
Senate Bill 485 was approved by the House of Representatives on Tuesday. This legislation increases the criminal grading for impersonating a doctor of medicine and providing medical treatment, from a second degree misdemeanor to a first degree misdemeanor. (Vote: 49-0)
House Bill 182, which was approved by the Senate on Monday, amends the Pharmacy Act to allow authorized pharmacists to administer flu immunizations to children 9 years of age and older and allows qualified pharmacy interns to administer injections under supervision. (Vote: 49-0)
On Tuesday, the Senate unanimously approved House Bill 911, legislation that is a comprehensive update to Pennsylvania’s 911 emergency communications law.
Funding for county 911 services comes from a fee on telephone services. The current $1/month fee on wireless devices is set to expire on June 30th. Therefore, HB 911 not only reauthorizes the collection of the fee, but it sets the rate for all phone services – not just wireless – at $1.65 per month. Under current law, land line users pay anywhere from $1-$1.50 depending on the county in which they live.
In addition, the legislation creates a 911 Board, which will be charged with advising the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) on related matters including regulations and cost saving measures.
Because changes were made to the bill in the Senate, it returns to the House of Representatives for concurrence.
Senate Bill 590 ensures that the intellectual property rights of faculty members of state-owned universities are protected at the same level as faculty at private colleges and universities in the Commonwealth. (Vote: 48-0)
Senate Bill 687 amends the Uniform Planned Community Act to correct a conflict which was created by a Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision. (Vote: 48-1; I voted in support)
Senate Bill 688 amends the Uniform Condominium Act to correct a conflict which was created by a Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision. (Vote: 48-1; I voted to support)
Senate Bill 861 clarifies liability issues in cases involving auto dealership loaner vehicles. (Vote: 48-0)
Senate Bill 880 delays the implementation of the Keystone Exams (algebra, biology and literature) as a graduation requirement until the 2018-2019 school year. (Vote: 49-0)
A recap of activity by the Senate committees I serve on.
On Monday, the Senate Appropriations Committee reported out the following bills, all with a unanimous vote of 24-0:
Senate Bill 129 amends the County Pension Law to clarify that county pension cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) need not be calculated retroactively.
Senate Bill 202 requires colleges and universities in the state to adopt policies to make students, staff and officials aware of the risks of sexual assault and intimate partner violence.
Senate Bill 299 grants municipalities that levy an earned income tax the option to waive that tax for volunteer firefighters and volunteers at nonprofit emergency medical service (EMS) agencies.
Senate Bill 370 removes the five-year sunset provision currently applying to volunteer fire companies that merge and receive grants through the Fire and EMS Grant program.
Senate Bill 862 aligns criminal history background clearance requirements for school employees with the Child Protective Services Law.
The Senate Transportation Committee reported out the following bills on Tuesday, all with a unanimous vote of 13-0:
Senate Bill 474 requires Senate confirmation by a majority vote, the individual appointed to the chief executive officer of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission. 13-0
Senate Bill 748 eliminates the mandatory escort of super-sized loads by the Pennsylvania State Police and replace them with certified pilot escorts.
Senate Bill 868 designates the section of Pennsylvania Route 849 in Newport, Perry County, as the United States Navy Petty Officer 1st Class A. Louis De Lancey Memorial Highway.
Senate Bill 890 designates the bridge carrying State Route 6011 (Harrison Avenue) over Roaring Brook in the City of Scranton, Lackawanna County, as the Colonel Frank Duffy Memorial Bridge.
Senate Bill 894 designates the bridge on that portion of State Route 940 over Tobyhanna Creek (Pocono Lake) in Tobyhanna Township, Monroe County, as the Sullivan Bridge.
House Bill 501 designates a portion of the Conodoguinet Bridge, Hopewell Township, Cumberland County, as the Army Pfc. Harold “Sam” E. Barrick Memorial Bridge.
House Bill 629 designates the bridge located on State Route 3005, over the outlet of Lily Lake in Conyngham Township, Luzerne County, as the Senior Officer Eric J. Williams Memorial Bridge.
House Bill 866 renames a portion of State Route 15 from the Market Street/Hastings Street intersection to State Route 15/54 in Lycoming County as the Kelly Rae Mertes DUI Awareness Memorial Highway.
The Senate returns to voting session on Monday, and we are scheduled to convene all five days next week at the following times: Monday and Tuesday at 1pm; Wednesday-Friday at 11am. You can watch session live at my website.