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Property Tax Elimination Constitutional Amendment Advances
The Senate approved two separate property tax related proposals on Monday that call for amending the Pennsylvania Constitution.
House Bill 147, which was approved by the House of Representatives last year, would allow for the complete elimination of residential school property taxes through the homestead exclusion. Currently, the Constitution allows the General Assembly to authorize local taxing authorities to exclude an amount based on the assessed value of a homestead property. HB 147 would allow for the exclusion of up to 100% of an assessed value.
It is important to understand that this bill does not create a law authorizing taxing authorities to do this. It is giving authority to the legislature to pass such laws in the future. Additionally, this change to the Constitution is not required for the General Assembly to eliminate property taxes through such methods as Senate Bill 76.
Since constitutional amendments must be approved in two consecutive sessions, the exact language of the measure must be approved by the General Assembly during the 2017-18 legislative session before it can be put up for a statewide referendum vote. The Governor’s signature is not required for constitutional amendments.
In a related matter, the Senate also approved Senate Bill 1109, which provides for a constitutional amendment to extend the property tax exemption program for disabled veterans to the surviving spouse of soldiers killed in action. That bill was sent to the House for consideration.
Cost-Saving Legislation for Schools Sent to Governor
Legislation I am co-sponsoring that will allow school districts to save thousands of dollars in annual mailing costs received final legislative approval Tuesday and is headed to the Governor for his signature.
Senate Bill 1077 eliminates the mandate that school districts annually inform parents by physical mailing when the district uses audio and video recording to identify and address discipline issues on school buses.
The mailer mandate was included as part of Act 9 of 2014, which gave school districts the ability to use audio recordings on school buses. Instead of the physical mailing, which can easily cost thousands of dollars each year, schools must post notice of the policy in the student handbook as well as on the school’s website.
Energy-Related Bills Sent to the Governor
Two bills to protect family-sustaining Pennsylvania jobs placed at risk by state and federal energy regulations received final legislative approval Wednesday and were sent to the Governor, who is expected to sign them into law.
Last week I reported that the Senate had passed Senate Bill 1195, a bill I co-sponsored, which provides legislative consideration of the implementation strategy developed by DEP for the Clean Power Plan before its submission to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
This week the House amended the bill, along with Senate Bill 279, which requires DEP to recognize that conventional oil and gas well operations should not be treated in the same manner as the Marcellus Shale industries. Act 126 of 2014 provided that any new rules for Marcellus Shale gas extraction operations imposed by DEP must be developed separate from the conventional drilling industry.
Senate Bill 279 reinforces that provision by stating that DEP must declare its newly enacted regulations for conventional operations void. DEP may now decide to embark upon another regulatory process, one solely intended for conventional drilling operations.
Bills Sent to the Governor for Enactment
Senate Bill 772 updates the state Professional Psychologists Practice Act for the first time since 1986.
Senate Bill 837 expands title protection to marriage and family therapists, ensuring that only licensed and properly trained professionals can market their services to clients.
Senate Bill 983 allows parents and/or guardians of disabled adult children, who are in their care, to receive disability license plates.
Senate Approves Measure to Increase Education for Opioid Prescribing
The Senate approved legislation on Wednesday that would require continuing medical education training as a way to stem the tide of opioid and prescription drug abuse in the state.
Senate Bill 1202 requires state licensing boards to call for two hours of continuing education in “pain management” and two hours in “opioid prescribing practices” for individuals applying for an initial license or renewal of an existing license or certification to prescribe medications in the Commonwealth.
The increased use of heroin, which often has roots in the abuse of prescription painkillers like Vicodin and OxyContin, has catapulted Pennsylvania to seventh in the nation for drug-related overdose deaths in recent federal statistics. According to a National Survey of Primary Care Physicians, nine out of 10 doctors reported prescription drug abuse as a moderate to large problem in their communities, and 85 percent believed that prescription drugs are overused in clinical practice.
The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Bills Sent to the House of Representatives
Senate Bill 163, which addresses the needs of children of incarcerated parents and services available to them.
Senate Bill 1113, which provides broader representation of crime victims on the Victims’ Services Advisory Committee within the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.
House Bill 1325 gives second class townships the authority to implement storm water management ordinances and to assess a fee to fund the planning, management, implementation, construction and maintenance of storm water facilities. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.
House Bill 1766, which allows future life insurance policy reserves to be based on Principle-Based Reserving, a methodology that is more advanced and better reflects the risks of new innovative insurance policies. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.
A recap of activity by the Senate committees I serve on.
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the following bills Monday:
Senate Bill 876 amends the Workers' Compensation Act to address underfunding of the Uninsured Employers Guarantee Fund.
Senate Bill 1161 makes corporations eligible for an Education Improvement Tax Credit donation if they had applied for the credit in the taxable year to which they want it to apply.
Senate Bill 1166 authorizes the Pennsylvania Game Commission to establish the fees for hunting and fur-taking licenses.
Senate Bill 1168 authorizes the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission to establish the fees for fishing and boating licenses.
Senate Bill 1202 requires “pain management” and “prescribing practices of opioids” to be included in continuing medical education credits for professionals licensed to prescribe in the Commonwealth. As noted above, SB 1202 also passed the full Senate and is now before the House for consideration.
House Bill 1734 extends for one year the continuing professional education compliance deadlines for public school entities and public school teachers and administrators.
The Senate Transportation Committee approved the following bills Tuesday:
Senate Bill 1181 exempts companies bidding on state road projects of $500,000 or less from certain financial statement filing requirements that have proven to undermine the ability of a small business to bid on these projects.
Senate Bill 1233 adds Special Emergency Response Team (SERT) to the definition of emergency service responders and emergency vehicles.
House Bill 1202 repeals a 1943 act authorizing the Commonwealth to adopt county roads at the resolution of the county commissioners.
House Bill 1673 clarifies the registration process and fees for large recreational trailers (campers).
House Bill 1711 designates a bridge on a portion of Sheep Bridge Road over I-83, Newberry Township, York County as the Staff Sgt. Jason M. Faley Memorial Bridge.
House Bill 1902 designates a bridge on that portion of State Route 74 over the Sherman's Creek, Spring Township, Perry County, as the PFC William Oscar Stambaugh Memorial Bridge.
Majority Policy Committee
The Senate Majority Policy Committee held a public hearing Tuesday on how Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits are distributed by county and possible changes.
The panel heard from representatives of food outlets, a food bank and the state Department of Human Services. You can view the hearing and written testimony here.
The Senate will reconvene Wednesday, June 22 at 3 p.m. You can watch session live at my website.
On Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Senate Labor and Industry Committee will hold a joint public hearing to examine the impact of recent changes in federal wage, hour and overtime regulations on businesses, non-profits and the state budget.
I welcome your feedback and input. Please don’t hesitate to contact me via my website.