News from Second & State

Weekly Wrap

This was the Senate’s first week back from their summer break and it was rather quiet up on the hill as negotiations were still taking place on the budget. The Senate sent their spending plan to the House of Representatives on July 27, but the House sent the Senate back a completely different bill on August 13. The House revenue package includes no new taxes, borrowing from the Tobacco Settlement Fund and transferring money from funds into the General Fund.

On Wednesday, the Senate non-concurred in House amendments by a vote of Y:43/N:7. The bill, H.B. 453 (Ryan, R-Lebanon), will go back to the House where a conference committee is likely the next step in coming up with a solution to the state’s revenue problem.

There was a little action at the Capitol besides the budget happenings. S.B. 252 (Vulakovich, R-Allegheny), which allocates some percentage of the Pittsburgh Parking Authority’s parking spaces to directly support private developers, unanimously passed on the Senate floor on Tuesday. Also on Tuesday, the Senate Law and Justice Committee held a public hearing on liquor control enforcement of Stop and Go’s and illegal gambling devices. Representatives from the Pennsylvania State Police and Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board testified on the licensing of the establishments and noted that an average of 650 illegal machines are seized per year.

The Senate Transportation Committee held a public hearing with the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission on budget and program priorities. Mark Compton, CEO of the Commission, stated that in order to continue financial stability, the Turnpike must implement annual toll increases, sustain traffic growth, control operating costs and maintain bond ratings.

On Thursday, the Local Government Commission held a meeting of the Assessment Reform Task Force. Members discussed a variety of issues including a possible amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution to provide for partial county reassessments.

Look Ahead

Just the House is in session next week. However, with a pending conference committee, the Senate may end up in Harrisburg as well.

On Monday, the House Consumer Affairs Committee will hold a public hearing on H.B. 798 (Davis, D-Bucks), which would place municipal water and sewer authorities under the jurisdiction of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. The House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee will consider H.B. 113 (Harper, R-Montgomery), which would impose a severance tax on natural gas extraction.

Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee will consider H.B. 1037 (Kampf, R-Chester), which would apply the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error (Mcare) Act punitive damages caps for physicians to nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The committee will also consider H.B. 401 (Grove, R-York), which would create a Commerce Court program for the Pennsylvania Superior Court. Furthermore, the House Urban Affairs Committee will consider two bills: H.B. 1499 (Keller, M., R-Perry), which would update provisions relating to planned communities, condominiums and cooperatives, and H.B. 1676 (Petri, R-Bucks), which would create cultural improvements districts that help municipalities generate revenue through tourist dollars.

On Wednesday, the House Aging and Older Adult Services will hold an informational meeting to receive testimony regarding the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program. The House Labor and Industry Committees will hold an informational meeting on the expected impacts of the Protz v. Workers Compensation Appeals Board decision. The Supreme Court found part of the Workers’ Compensation Act unconstitutional, possibly giving injured workers a longer time to receive benefits.

See here for a full list of next week’s committee meetings, and here for what to expect on the House floor.

In Other News

  • S&P downgraded the Commonwealth’s credit rating, making it the lowest it’s been in nearly four decades.
  • Delaware County sued 11 pharmaceutical companies in the midst of the opioid crisis.
  • Pennsylvania submitted its Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan to the U.S. Department of Education.

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