It was back to business as usual this week in Harrisburg, as the Senate returned for three days of voting session. While not in session, the House of Representatives was also busy, holding some public hearings and meetings.
On Monday, the House Transportation Committee held a public hearing on Pennsylvania clean transportation infrastructure legislation; specifically, H.B. 1446 (Quinn, R-Bucks), which is designed to “build a clean infrastructure, bring down emissions, and capitalize on homegrown energy.” On the Senate side, S.B. 877 and S.B. 878 (both sponsored by White, R-Indiana) unanimously passed and headed to the House for consideration. The bills amend the Insurance Department Act and Insurance Company Law, respectively, to allow producers and insurers to spend as much as $100 on incentives and offers for each prospective consumer.
Tuesday was highlighted by the confirmation of Norm Kennard as the new PUC Commissioner. Kennard was unanimously approved by a Senate vote of 49-0, following a unanimous recommendation earlier in the day by the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee. He replaces Commissioner Rob Powelson, who was appointed to serve on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission earlier this year.
Meanwhile, the House State Government Committee held a public hearing on H.B. 1704 (Grove, R-York), which would create the Office of Information Technology under the Office of Administration in order to consolidate all of the executive branch’s information technology services. The House Urban Affairs Committee also held a public hearing focusing on the progress of land banks in the Commonwealth. Chairman Mark Keller (R-Perry) called the law “an essential way to fight blight and restore property.” The House Transportation Committee held an informational meeting to receive a presentation from the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, during which the Turnpike Commissioners touched on a wide array of issues ranging from funding, construction, work zone speed enforcement and autonomous vehicles.
The Senate State Government Committee held a public hearing on S.B. 761 (Argall, R-Schuylkill), a joint resolution allowing gubernatorial candidates to select their running mate. Currently in Pennsylvania, candidates for the office of Governor and Lieutenant Governor run separately in the primary election, then jointly on a “ticket” for the general election. Three former Lieutenant Governors-James Cawley, Robert Jubelirer and Mark Singel-testified before the committee.
The Senate Health Committee reported out three bills: H.B. 478 (Pickett, R-Bradford), which addresses psychiatric supervision requirements in outpatient psychiatric clinics, H.B. 644 (Baker, R-Tioga), which would remove the artificial 25 percent limitation on funds for federally qualified health centers distributed in accordance with the Community-Based Health Care Act, and H.B. 1234 (Fabrizio, D-Erie), which would align the length of stay in licensed Ambulatory Surgery Centers with that of other states and federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services guidelines. Lastly, the Senate Labor and Industry Committee reported out S.B. 21 (Mensch, R-Montgomery), known as “The Employment First Act”, which is designed to promote the employment of people with disabilities at competitive wages in Pennsylvania businesses and public agencies.
Wednesday, the Senate unanimously passed H.B. 425 (Nelson, R-Westmoreland), which extends the current the current Social Security COLA moratorium for PACE/PACENET until December 31, 2019. The bill now heads to the Governor’s desk for his signature. The House and Senate Education Committees held a joint public hearing to provide a strategic system review of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) and how the legislature can proceed with finding solutions to preserve the future of state universities.
The House Finance Committee also held a public hearing where they discussed Pennsylvania’s taxes and their history. Also, the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee received an update from PECO, during an informational meeting, on the establishment of resiliency in the electric grid system to support emergency and disaster response capabilities under the proposed pilot program in H.B. 1412 (Barrar, R-Delaware).
The Week Ahead
Only the House is in session next week. On Monday, the House Consumer Affairs Committee will hold a public hearing on H.B. 1782 (Delozier, R-Cumberland), which would clarify the PUC’s authority to approve, but not require, specific alternative ratemaking mechanisms that are petitioned by electric distribution companies and natural gas distribution companies. The House Labor and Industry Committee will consider H.B. 1641 (Cutler, R-Lancaster), the companion bill to S.B. 21 (see above).
The House Health Committee will consider H.B. 1548 (Hill, R-York), which would strengthen provisions of the Breach of Informational Act, and H.B. 1829 (Bernstine, R-Lawrence), which would provide greater access to in-home care by extending “presumptive eligibility” to those who meet the qualifications for Medicaid and who wish to remain in their own homes instead of in a more costly and restrictive setting.
For a full list of committee meetings, see here.
And for expected activity on the House Floor, see here.
In Other News
- Thoughts and prayers for former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, who is in critical condition following an emergency heart procedure.
- Pennsylvania’s Speaker of the House Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) announced he is running for Governor.
- The Commonwealth Financing Authority approved borrowing up to $1.5 billion against future revenues from the Tobacco Settlement Fund.
- The Pennsylvania Professional Liability Joint Underwriting Association sued the Commonwealth, hoping to block the state from taking $200 million from its reserves.
- Members of the Wolf Administration toured Panda Power Funds’ Hummel Station natural gas power plant.
- The Philadelphia School Reform Commission voted to dissolve itself.