News from Second & State

Last week, the Senate was the only chamber in session. This week, it was the House of Representatives’ turn to be in Harrisburg for three session days.

On Monday, the House Consumer Affairs Committee held a public hearing on H.B. 2113 (Oberlander, R-Clarion), which would prohibit health insurers from altering coverage or premiums during the policy term when the insured has already received a specific treatment, service, or prescription. The House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, and then the House Appropriations Committee, reported out H.B. 2154 (Causer, R-McKean), which would update the Oil and Gas Act.

In addition, the House and Senate Education Committees held a joint public hearing to discuss the Joint Legislative Budget and Finance Committee’s study of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE). Based on the analysis, five options for change were proposed:

  1. Keep the broad State System structure, including current individuals universities, but with improvements;
  2. Keep the broad State System structure with improvements, accompanied by regional mergers of universities;
  3. Merge the State System universities and convert to state-related status;
  4. Place the State System under management of a state-related university; and
  5. Merge the State System universities into state-related universities.

The House Transportation Committee held a briefing with Department of Transportation (PennDOT) Secretary Leslie Richards on PennDOT’s proposed policy plan on the testing of highly automated vehicles. Along with the Autonomous Vehicles Testing Policy Task Force’s draft policy guidelines and recommendations that were made in 2016, Secretary Richards will meet with every tester in the state before the end of May. Also, the Autonomous Vehicle Task Force plans to reconvene to update the testing policy recommendations, which were first established in 2016.

On the House floor, members moved a bipartisan legislative package on career and technical education (CTE) over to the Senate. The bills were the result of last legislative session’s Select Subcommittee on Technical Education and Career Readiness. The eight bills are

  • H.B. 2155 (Bloom, R-Cumberland), which would improve the process necessary for a CTE teacher to become certified;
  • H.B. 2156 (Tobash, R-Schuylkill), which would establish a CTE Tax Credit Program for companies that contribute to career and technical partnership organizations;
  • H.B. 2157 (Grove, R-York), which would codify the existing Department of Education (PDE) pilot program for expediting the classification of instruction programs;
  • H.B. 2158 (Mako, R-Northampton); which would require schools to treat career presenters equally;
  • H.B. 2159 (Staats, R-Bucks); which would require schools to submit their articulation agreements to PDE;
  • H.B. 2203 (Harkins, D-Erie), which would establish an online career resource center;
  • H.B. 2204 (Mullery, D-Luzerne), which would require PDE to inventory workforce development programs offered at secondary and postsecondary institutions; and
  • H.B. 2206 (Roebuck, D-Philadelphia); which would require Workforce Development Boards to include at least one administrator of a CTE center in its membership.

Along with the bills above, S.B. 180 (Greenleaf, R-Montgomery), which would update the law relating to organ and tissue donation, passed as amended in the House. Now the Senate must agree to the new version of S.B. 180 before the bill can reach the Governor’s desk.

Tuesday, the House Finance and House Tourism and Recreational Development Committees held a joint public hearing on H.B. 1511 (Quinn, M., R-Bucks), which would address the collection of the hotel occupancy tax from online travel companies. In the House Commerce Committee, S.B. 234 (Blake, D-Lackawanna), which would establish Pennsylvania’s Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Program, and H.B. 2241 (Mustio, R-Allegheny), which would preempt local taxation of food, beverage, and food and beverage containers, were reported out.

The House Republican’s regulatory reform legislative package passed on a near party-line vote. The bills include:

  • B. 209 (Hill, R-York), which would establish the Independent Office to the Repealer, which would identify obsolete or outdated statutes and regulations and recommend an amendment or repeal;
  • B. 1237 (Keefer, R-York), which would establish a review process for regulations that impose a substantial cost burden on the Commonwealth;
  • B. 1792 (Benninghoff, R-Centre), which would give the legislature the ability to repeal any regulation by a concurrent resolution;
  • B. 1959 (Rothman, R-Cumberland), which would increase transparency of the permitting process; and
  • B. 1960 (Ellis, R-Butler), which would require each state agency to designate an employee as a regulatory compliance officer. Along the same lines, when it came to the roll call vote, H.B. 1659 (Tobash, R-Schuylkill), which would create a work requirement for recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), passed and heads to the Senate for consideration.

Furthermore, the full House concurred in Senate amendments to H.B. 478 (Pickett, R-Bradford), which would address supervision requirements in outpatient psychiatric clinics, sending the bill to the Governor. The House unanimously passed H.B. 1800 (Nelson, R-Westmoreland), which would provide for medication synchronization, and H.B. 1997 (Bernstine, R-Lawrence), which would provide for deemed eligibility for in-patient behavioral health services. Lastly, H.B. 1782 (Delozier, R-Cumberland), which would authorize the use of alternative rate mechanisms by public utilities, passed finally.

Wednesday was a quiet day on the hill. However, the House did pass H.B. 1843 (Grove, R-York), which would establish the Financial Watch Program. This new program would require the Treasury Department to create an online analysis of all approved state appropriations.

The Week Ahead

Expect a quiet week at the Capitol, as both the House and Senate aren’t in until the week of May 21, 2018. With the primary election on May 15, 2018, legislators up for reelection will be busy campaigning from here on out.

A full list of upcoming House committee meetings can be found here, while what’s on tap for the Senate can be found here.

In Other News

  • Governor Wolf and a bipartisan group of legislators introduced new severance tax legislation.
  • The Independent Fiscal Office released their initial revenue estimate for fiscal year 2018-19.
  • The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board launched the play of fantasy sports contests.
  • Governor Wolf announced that the special election to replace retiring Congressman Pat Meehan will be held in conjunction with the general election on Tuesday, November 6, 2018.

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