Back from this weekend’s Pennsylvania Society festivities, the House of Representatives were back to work on Monday morning, convening for their second to last session week of the year. On Monday, the House Appropriations Committee reported out H.B. 83 (Lawrence, R-Chester), which would require the principal for the new issuances of state debt to be repaid in equal amounts over the term of the bond. Currently, the state uses a repayment scheme with lower principal payments in the first few years, with much higher principal payments as the loan matures. Chairman Saylor (R-York) stated that the legislation will save the Commonwealth $1 billion over the next 20 years. The House Health Committee reported out H.B. 1869 (Mackenzie, R-Lehigh), which would establish a Maternal Mortality Review Committee, and S.B. 3 (Brooks, R-Erie), which reduces the maximum gestational age for legal abortions from 24 to 20 weeks.
Most of the day was filled with floor debate on H.B. 1401 (DiGirolamo, R-Bucks), which would establish a severance tax on the extraction of natural gas. Always a hot issue, this Tax Code bill has attracted well over 300 amendments on a wide variety of taxation issues well beyond severance tax. Members will continue to work on these amendments before the bill can receive a final vote in the House of Representatives.
On Tuesday, the House finally passed two important bills: H.B. 122 (Kaufer, R-Luzerne), which would establish the Project Lazarus Commission, charged with developing a best practice model to help counties build comprehensive programs to address the opioid crisis; and H.B. 1915 (Kauffman, R-Franklin), which would provide funding for Unemployment Compensation operations and upgrades while reducing transfers to the Service and Infrastructure Improvement Fund (SIIF). The lower chamber also debated and voted on an array of amendments to S.B. 166 (Eichelberger, R-Blair). This bill would prohibit the deduction of public employee political contributions via the public payroll system. The bill still needs a final vote, however Governor Wolf seems ready to veto it.
The House Tourism and Recreational Development Committee held an informational meeting on the economic impact of sports in Pennsylvania. A tourism expert testified that sports in Pennsylvania registered 5.5 million visits, generated nearly $484 million in direct spending, had a total impact of $766.4 million and supported 8,200 jobs.
The House Appropriations Committee considered six bills as part of a “budget procedures reform” package. All the bills passed along party lines, with the Democrats failing to support the measures. The package of bills includes:
- H.B. 1940 (Reed, R-Indiana) – Closes the loophole that allows an out-of-balance general appropriation act to become law;
- H.B. 1941 (Saylor, R-York) Limits the Budget Secretary’s blanket authority to waive lapsing provisions;
- H.B. 1942 (Dunbar, R-Westmoreland) Ensures a balanced budget amid revenue shortfalls;
- H.B. 1943 (Nelson, R-Westmoreland) Increases disclosure of information relating to special funds;
- H.B. 1944 (Delozier, R-Cumberland) Improves the flow of budgetary information; and
- H.B. 1945 (Brown, R., R-Monroe) Requires identification of cost-savings for supplemental appropriation requests.
In addition, the Committee reported out H.B. 110 (Warner, R-Fayette), which would amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to establish spending limits that the Commonwealth must abide by each fiscal year.
On Wednesday, the House Local Government reported out a handful of bills: H.B. 1850 (Cruz, D-Philadelphia), which would address illegal dumping of tires in Philadelphia; S.B. 252 (Vulakovich, R-Allegheny), which would authorize the Pittsburgh Parking Authority to designate certain parking areas for residential and commercial use; and S.B. 736 (Martin, R-Lancaster), which would authorize parking authorities in Scranton and Third Class Cities to enforce and administer parking ordinances and resolutions. The House Human Services Committee reported out S.B. 728 (Yaw, R-Lycoming) from committee. The bill would amend the Achieving Better Care by Monitoring All Prescriptions Program (ABC-MAP) Act to exempt Schedule V epilepsy drugs currently included in the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) requirements.
The House Appropriations Committee will have a different look after this week, at least on the Republican side. Rep. Jerry Knowles (R-Schuylkill) and Rep. Jeff Pyle (R-Armstrong) resigned as a member of the Committee. Rep. Doyle Heffley (R-Carbon) and Rep. Lee James (R-Venango) were elected to replace them.
The Week Ahead
Both chambers are in session next week for the final time in 2017. January 22, 2018 is the first time the House and Senate will be back in Harrisburg next year.
On Monday, the House Health Committee will consider three bills: H.B. 1553 (Baker, R-Tioga), which would protect consumers from surprise balance bills from medical providers; H.B. 1884 (Quinn, M., R-Bucks), which would require test results be sent directly to the patient within 20 days of the results being sent to the patient’s ordering physician if the results include a significant abnormality; and S.B. 542 (Browne, R-Lehigh), which would permit pharmacists to dispense emergency prescription refills for up to 30 days.
Tuesday, the House Finance Committee will hold a public hearing on Department of Revenue collection practices. The hearing will also touch upon H.B. 1859 (Snyder, R-Greene) which would establish a 60-day grace period for delinquent tax payments, and H.B. 1867 (Zimmerman, R-Lancaster), which would assist businesses with the personal income tax examination process. The Senate Republican Policy Committee will also hold a public hearing to hear testimony on the Laurel Pipeline.
The House Urban Affairs Committee will consider: H.B. 584 (Gillespie, R-York), which would allow certain municipalities to create community development authorities; H.B. 1076 (Caltagirone, D-Berks), which would expand the power of land banks and exempt transactions from realty transfer taxes; and H.B. 1814 (Keller, M., R-Perry), which would assure property owners are held responsible for their property maintenance regardless of tax delinquent status.
On Wednesday, the House Finance Committee will consider H.B. 994 (Grove, R-York), which would update the definition of “mobile telecommunications” to create uniformity within the Tax Code in relation to the gross receipt tax, and H.B. 1098 (Peifer, R-Pike), which would provide reforms relating to the consolidated collection of local income taxes. The Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee will consider S.B. 800 (Alloway, R-Franklin), which would update the Covered Device Recycling Act to address technological advances.
Finally, on Thursday, the House Appropriations Committee will hold a public hearing on special funds related to PennDOT.
In Other News
- Standardized testing in Pennsylvania schools will have a new look next school year.
- The industrial hemp program in the Commonwealth is expanding.
- Last year’s changes to the state’s liquor laws are beginning to show their effect.
- Jeanne McNeill (D-Lehigh) won a special election to replace her late husband in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.