It was an action-packed week at the Capitol as the House of Representatives and Senate were in session.
On Monday, the House Education Committee reported out a bipartisan package of bills based on the recommendations of the Select Subcommittee on Technical Education and Career Readiness that held hearings last session. The House Insurance Committee voted favorably on H.B. 1800 (Nelson, R-Westmoreland), which would allow for medical synchronization in the Commonwealth.
In the House Health Committee, members reported out two bills: H.B. 1959 (Tobash, R-Schuylkill), which would add a work requirement for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and H.B. 1997 (Bernstine, R-Lawrence), which would establish a deemed eligibility program for in-patient behavioral health services. The Senate Appropriations Committee also reported out two bills of note: S.B. 435 (Boscola, D-Northampton), which would require drivers to clear snow and ice from the top of their vehicle before driving, and H.B. 1869 (Mackenzie, R-Northampton), which would create a process to review maternal deaths.
On the House floor, H.B. 645 (O’Neill, D-Bucks), which would increase the amount of tax credits available under the Neighborhood Assistance Tax Credit Program (NAP) from $18 million to $36 million, passed with a near unanimous vote. In addition, H.B. 25 (Mackenzie, R-Lehigh), which would establish a school-to-work program through the collaboration of Workforce Investment Boards, schools and business partners, and H.B. 564 (Boback, R-Luzerne), which would require students to take and receive a passing score on a civics test in order to graduate high school, finally passed and head to the Senate for consideration. On the Senate floor, S.B. 880 (Langerholc, R-Cambria), which would increase the standard width of trailers from 96 inches to 102 inches, unanimously passed.
There was much more debate amongst the Representatives on H.B. 2050 (Turzai, R-Allegheny), which would prohibit an abortion due to a diagnosis of possible Down Syndrome, and S.B. 936 (White, R-Indiana), which would establish a worker’s compensation drug formulary. Both bills received final passage, as H.B. 2050 goes to the Senate for consideration and S.B. 936 is on the Governor’s desk awaiting his approval or disapproval.
On Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee reported out S.B. 1056 (Brooks, R-Erie), which would allow for bonus depreciation deductions to be taken against a business’s Corporate Net Income Tax liability. The Senate State Government Committee voted favorably on S.B. 595 (Folmer, R-Lebanon), which would permit notaries to notarize documents electronically using audio-video communication. In addition, the House State Government Committee reported out H.B. 1642 (Hill, R-York), which would require the Department of General Services to conduct an annual inventory of all state-owned communication towers, poles, buildings, facilities and other assets, and to leverage existing assets for high-speed broadband in unserved and underserved areas.
The Senate unanimously passed H.B. 595 (Brown, R., R-Monroe), which would assign the investigation and mediation of complaints regarding planned communities, cooperatives and condominiums to the Office of Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, and S.B. 1078 (Tomlinson, R-Bucks), which would allow state and local governments, school districts and state-related colleges to discuss security measures during executive session. The upper chamber also finally passed H.B. 866 (Dunbar, R-Westmoreland), which would clarify and make changes to the collection of local taxes by political subdivisions. On the House floor, H.B. 2138 (Dowling, R-Fayette), which would add work requirements for eligible enrollees on Medical Assistance, passed on a near party-line vote.
Moving to Wednesday, the House Commerce Committee held a public hearing on S.B. 234 (Blake, D-Lackawanna), which would create the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Program in the Commonwealth. The House Professional Licensure Committee held a public hearing on H.B. 789 (Christiana, R-Beaver), which would put the Department of Health regulation requiring physician supervision of the administration of anesthesia into statute. Also, the House Aging and Older Adult Services Committee held an informational meeting to receive a budget review for aging services in the Commonwealth.
In the House Human Services Committee members reported out two bills: H.B. 1535 (Ward, R-Blair), which would provide transparency in intellectual disability and autism rate development, and H.B. 2069 (Miller, D-Allegheny), which would provide grants to the Centers of Independent Living that provide services to individuals who are deafblind. The Senate Urban Affairs Committee also reported two bills out of committee: S.B. 735 (Brewster, D-Allegheny), which would allow counties to impose a fee on the assessed price of properties sold for delinquent taxes, and S.B. 962 (Dinniman, D-Chester), which would increase blighted property code violations when owner has received state funds for construction, rehabilitation, repair or maintenance. Finally for committees, the House Appropriations Committee voted favorably on S.B. 180 (Greenleaf, R-Montgomery), which would make changes to provisions regarding organ donation.
Then on the Senate floor, the following three bills passed finally: S.B. 653 (Browne, R-Lehigh), which would further consolidate the collection of local, non-real estate taxes, and S.B. 877 (White, R-Indiana) and S.B. 878 (White, R-Indiana), which would allow insurers to offer an insured or prospective insured a rebate or inducement.
The Week Ahead
The Senate will be in session next week, while House members don’t return to Harrisburg until the following week.
Monday, the Senate Aging and Youth Committee will consider two bills: S.B. 891 (Argall, R-Schuylkill), which would require the Department of Aging to cross-check their list of PACE and PACENET beneficiaries with death records maintained by the Department of Health, and H.B. 1232 (Murt, R-Montgomery), which would require schools to publicly display a poster that contains the statewide toll-free number for reporting suspected child abuse or neglect. The Senate State Government Committee will hold a public hearing on redistricting legislation while the House Labor and Industry Committee will hold a public hearing on harassment and sexual misconduct in the workplace.
On Tuesday, the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy and Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee will hold a joint public hearing on flooding and emergency response. The Joint Legislative Budget and Finance Committee will meet to release the report on the long-term sustainability and viability of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE).
In Other News
- The Senate unanimously confirmed the nomination of Public Utility Commission (PUC) Chairman Gladys Brown to her second five-year term as a PUC Commissioner.
- The Department of Health announced they will implement the recommendations of the Medical Marijuana Advisory Board.
- The latest Category 4 casino auction ended with no bids.
- Pennsylvania traffic fatalities last year were the lowest ever.
- Pennsylvania Congressman Charlie Dent announced he will resign from Congress in May.