It is clear in Harrisburg that budget season has arrived. The busy week started on Sunday evening, when the Senate convened to report S.B. 1 (Corman, R-Centre) from the Appropriations Committee in order to have enough session days to send the bill to the Governor by week’s end. S.B. 1 is a long-awaited comprehensive pension reform bill and is regarded by most as a necessary cog in this year’s budget machine. The Senate finally passed the bill on Monday afternoon, sending it to the House of Representatives for three days of consideration. Then, in a rare Thursday session day, the House passed S.B. 1, in a bipartisan manner, by a vote of Y:143/N:53. It now goes to the Governor, who is expected to sign the bill on Monday.
Another issue that is expected to be big this budget season is gaming. On Wednesday evening, the House passed H.B. 271, a comprehensive gaming bill, by a vote of Y:102/N:89. Highlights of the bill include:
- Permits up to 5 video gaming terminals (VGT’s) on the premises of a licensed establishment and 10 VGT’s on the premises of truck stops;
- Provides for online fantasy contest licenses;
- Authorizes the operation of iLottery and internet instant games; and
- Imposes an annual slot machine license operation fee of $10 million on Category 1 and 2 casinos.
There was some regular business this week, too. On Monday, the House Consumer Affairs Committee held a public hearing on legislation amending the Underground Utility Line Protection Act. The act, known to most as “PA One Call,” is set to expire at the end of the year. Debate abounds as to whether now is the appropriate time to make changes to the act, such as transferring the authority to oversee the One Call system from the Department of Labor and Industry to the Public Utility Commission, and eliminating provisions in the law that exempt certain lines from being marked. Some are supportive of the measure; still others just don’t “dig” it.
The Committee also reported out H.B. 1490 (Turzai, R-Allegheny), which would place the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority under the direct authority of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. The House unanimously passed H.B. 1490 on Thursday.
On the other side of the Capitol, the Senate Finance Committee met to report out S.B. 515 (Mensch, R-Berks), which would uncap the business Net Operating Loss carry forward; H.B. 453 (Ryan, R-Lebanon), mandating that agencies respond to an audit by the Auditor General within 120 days; and H.B. 1071 (Farry, R-Bucks), which would prohibit political subdivisions from imposing a ban, fee or tax on plastic bags. The committee also reported the nomination of Dan Hassell as Secretary of Revenue to the full floor for confirmation. Finally, the Senate Appropriations Committee met to consider H.B. 202 (Turzai, R-Allegheny), which would allow students to demonstrate high school proficiency on a career and technical education test instead of the traditional Keystone Exams. H.B. 202 unanimously passed on the Senate Floor the following day and will be presented to the Governor for his signature.
On Tuesday, the House Appropriations Committee met and reported out H.B. 425 (Nelson, R-Westmoreland), which extends the current the current Social Security COLA Moratorium for PACE/PACENET until December 31, 2019, and H.B. 176 (Pickett, R-Bradford), which amends the Pennsylvania Construction Code. Both bills then passed finally by a unanimous vote.
The House Health Committee reported out two bills: H.B. 353 (Nesbit, R-Erie), which mandates the electronic prescribing of opioid medications; and H.B. 835 (Bernstine, R-Lawrence), which protects patients receiving mental health care from abuse, neglect and exploitation. In addition, the House State Government Committee held a public hearing on state government regulations and the Senate State Government Committee held a public hearing on election issues.
Also on Tuesday, the House passed H.B. 410 (Warner, R-Fayette), which implements a performance-based budgeting process. The Senate passed S.R. 33 (Yudichak, D-Luzerne), which creates a task force on lead exposure.
Moving to Wednesday, the House Finance Committee reported out H.B. 871 (Taylor, R-Philadelphia), which amends the Uniformity Clause of the state Constitution to allow Philadelphia to impose taxes on real estate used for business purposes at a tax rate that exceeds the tax rate applicable to other real estate. The House Appropriations Committee reported out, and the full House later passed, H.B. 119 (Kaufer, R-Luzerne), which establishes standards for the certification of drug and alcohol recovery houses, and H.B. 1388 (Irvin, R-Huntingdon), which reauthorizes the Pennsylvania Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which was set to expire on December 31, 2017. The Committee also passed appropriations legislation for the self-funded state entities, like the Public Utility Commission and the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs. Finally, the House Judiciary Committee met to consider H.B. 238 (Kampf, R-Chester) which establishes the Fairness in Claims and Transparency Act, but went over the bill for the day.
On Monday, the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee will consider H.B. 1494 (Rapp, R-Warren), which establishes that the Commonwealth may enter into Federal cooperative agreements between the Governor and participating Federal agencies for certain forestry purposes.
Tuesday, the House Urban Affairs Committee will take up H.B. 1430 (Taylor, R-Philadelphia), which deals with conservatorship of abandoned and blighted property and H.B. 1122 (O’Brien, D-Philadelphia) which would fund code officers to help eradicate blight. The House Judiciary Committee will vote on H.B. 1037 (Kampf, R-Chester), which amends the Mcare Act by applying punitive damages caps for physicians to nursing homes and assisted living facilities, and H.B. 646 (Ward, R-Blair), which makes assault of a healthcare practitioner an aggravated offense. Finally, the House State Government Committee will meet to consider H.B. 28 (White, R-Philadelphia), addressing “sanctuary cities” in the Commonwealth.
In the Senate, the Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee will hold a public hearing on the tourism industry. The Senate Health and Human Services Committee will consider a handful of bills: S.B. 31 (Scavello, R-Monroe), which amends the Tobacco Settlement Act and creates a spinal cord disability research grant program; S.B. 533 (Schwank, D-Berks), which creates an emergency addiction treatment program; S.B. 655 (Yaw, R-Lycoming), which implements opioid-prescribing guidelines; S.B. 728 (Yaw, R-Lycoming), which exempts epilepsy drugs from the Achieving Better Care by Monitoring All Prescriptions Program Act (ABC-MAP); HB. 17 (Hahn, R-Northampton), which gives a parent or guardian authorization to provide consent for treatment of their minor child; H.B. 118 (Kaufer, R-Luzerne), which creates an emergency drug and alcohol detoxification program; and H.B. 239 (Toepel, R-Montgomery), which establishes the Rare Disease Advisory Council.
Wednesday brings another busy day. The House Local Government Committee will meet to consider H.B. 1034 (Mako, R-Lehigh), which would establish best practice for funds collection by municipal authorities, and H.B. 1142 (Briggs, D-Montgomery), which addresses municipal pension plan management. The House Commerce Committee will consider H.B. 1519 (Ellis, R-Butler), which would establish the Multimedia Tax Credit Fund, and H.B. 1360 (Quinn, R-Bucks), which would tighten up the regulation of third parties who conduct solicitations on behalf of charitable organizations.
For a full list of committee meetings:
For anticipate floor action, check out:
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