Summer in the Capitol city has been long and slow, with little activity under the dome since enactment of the 2018-2019 state budget in late June. The coming weeks will be the final few of the current legislative session, but before we look ahead to what might be on the agenda for the fall, let’s highlight a few newsworthy hearings and announcements from the summer.
Energy and Utilities:
- The House Consumer Affairs Committee held a public hearing on H.B. 2564 (Farry, R-Bucks), which would provide for small wireless facilities deployment. This would make regulations uniform and efficient in order to deliver the next generation of high-speed wireless broadband throughout the Commonwealth.
- Also, the Public Utility Commission created a new Office of Cybersecurity Compliance and Oversight, to help protect the Commonwealth’s utilities from cyber attacks. Michael C. Holko will head the new office.
Health and Human Services:
- The Department of Health issued 13 grower/processor permits in “Phase II” of the Medical Marijuana Program. Added to the 12 grower/processor permits issued last year, Pennsylvania now has 25 permitted medical marijuana growers. Patients can get medical marijuana, with a recommendation from a doctor who participates in the program, at one of the state’s medical marijuana dispensaries. Last year, 27 dispensary permits were issued; applications for an additional 23 have been submitted to the department but the awardees have not yet been announced.
- The Department of Health also promulgated new temporary regulations for the implementation of “Chapter 20” of the Medical Marijuana Program. Chapter 20 allows partnerships between entities holding a grower/processor and dispensary license and Commonwealth medical schools in order to advance medical marijuana research.
- The House Professional Licensure Committee held a public hearing on S.B. 780 (Vogel, R-Beaver), which would authorize healthcare providers to use telemedicine and require insurers to provide coverage and reimbursement for its use. The Committee is scheduled to vote on the bill on Tuesday.
Labor and Employment:
- Earlier this month, the Independent Regulatory Review Commission unanimously approved regulation 3211 Department of Labor and Industry #12-107, which updates regulations for the Uniform Construction Code (UCC). Department of Labor and Industry Secretary Jerry Oleksiak said that, “It’s been nearly a decade since there has been a major adoption of more current codes, a change that is expected to have a positive impact on both commercial and residential construction projects across the commonwealth.”
- The House Labor and Industry Committee held three public hearings this summer. The first was on the proposed rulemaking that would modernize the minimum weekly salary someone must earn to be exempt from overtime compensation. The second was a hearing on legislation regarding workplace harassment and sexual misconduct. Finally, the Committee held a hearing to discuss H.B. 2571 (Klunk, R-York), which would ensure that nonmembers of public-sector unions are aware of their rights not to contribute financially to the union. This legislation is in response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME. The Committee is scheduled to vote on the bill on Monday.
- Just last week, the House State Government Committee held an informational meeting on H.B. 2614 (Topper, R-Bedford), which would end the cooperative purchasing program for school district construction contracts.
Public Safety Issues:
- The Senate Republican Policy Committee held roundtable discussions throughout the state on school safety. The Senators heard from a variety of stakeholders including school district superintendents, law enforcement and the school bus industry.
- The House Aging and Older Adult Services Committee held a public hearing on H.B. 2549 (Hennessey, R-Chester), which would make extensive changes to the Older Adults Protective Services Act.
News from the Governor’s Office:
- Throughout the course of the summer, the Governor announced awardees of RACP grants. The Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program provides grants for the acquisition and construction of regional economic, cultural, civic, recreational and historical improvement projects. This year, $230,800,000 in grants was awarded.
- Pennsylvania is set to receive over $55 million to continue its efforts to combat opioid addiction. Details of how this federal funding is to be used are forthcoming. This is in addition to $5.1 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in opioid emergency response funding.
The Week Ahead
After a summer-long legislative break, both chambers will return to Harrisburg for session this week. With an election looming and adjournment sine die on November 30, there are limited session days over the course of the next three months. In addition to any possible retiring member legacies, we could see legislative activity related to voting and elections, the statute of limitations on sexual assault and a few outstanding pharmacy-related issues. The agenda will likely be developed as we go, but in the meantime, here’s what is on tap for next week.
On Monday, the House Labor and Industry Committee will consider H.B. 861 (Grove, R-York), which would preempt local regulation of employer policies and practices, and H.B. 1781 (Keller, F., R-Snyder), which provide a method to certify whether an individual is an independent contractor for the purpose of workers’ compensation. Also, the House Education Committee will vote on S.B. 1095 (McGarrigle, R-Delaware), which would authorize the Department of Education to establish a satisfactory composite score necessary for graduation, rather than requiring “proficient” on each Keystone Exam, and S.R. 228 (Eichelberger, R-Blair), which would establish a Global Education Task Force that would look at ways to improve education throughout the state.
In addition, the House Insurance Committee will consider S.B. 1003 (White, R-Indiana), which would provide for managed care plans reimbursement for emergency services. The House Commerce Committee will vote on two bills of note: H.B. 32 (Thomas, R-Philadelphia), which would establish a Cybersecurity Innovation and Excellence Commission to create a more centralized model for cybersecurity policy and implementation in the Commonwealth, and H.B. 1863 (Thomas, R-Philadelphia), which would create the Internet Privacy Act in order to prevent telecommunications companies or internet service providers from collecting and sharing a customer’s personal information without express consent from the customer. Lastly, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a public hearing to examine issues relating to civil proceedings in the courts of common pleas.
Moving to Tuesday, the House Finance Committee will hold a joint public hearing with the House Local Government Committee and the House Urban Affairs Committee on Act 47, also known as the Financially Distressed Municipalities Act. The House Health Committee will consider a slew of bills:
- H.B. 2504 (Cox, R-Berks), which would add information to the Achieving Better Care by Monitoring All Prescriptions Program (ABC-MAP) when Narcan/naloxone is used to combat an overdose by emergency responders or medical professionals;
- H.B. 2520 (Jozwiak, R-Berks), which would establish the Advisory Council on PANDAS and PANS, an autoimmune condition that disrupts the normal neurologic function of the brain;
- H.R. 969 (Culver, R-Northumberland), which urges the Secretary of Health to designate Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia disorders as a public health issue; and
- S.B. 6 (Regan, R-Cumberland), which would provide comprehensive changes to eradicate waste, fraud and abuse within the Public Welfare Code.
On the Senate side, the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee will consider H.B. 2075 (Charlton, R-Delaware), which would authorize rate recovery by a water public utility for costs incurred to replace customer-owned lead water service lines. The Senate State Government Committee will attend a demonstration of Dauphin County’s voting machines and hold a public hearing on S.B. 1249 (Vogel, R-Beaver), which would establish an Election Law Advisory Board that would make recommendations regarding election-related matters. Finally, the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee will hold a public hearing to review and discuss foreign influence on natural gas development in Pennsylvania.
On Wednesday, the House Human Services Committee will hold a public hearing to learn more about the role and importance of short and long-term licensed residential addiction treatment.
Full list of committee meetings:
Anticipated floor action:
In Other News:
- Three casinos operators were approved by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to offer interactive gaming.
- Pennsylvania jobless rate hits 18-year low.
- Ex-Pa. Treasurer Rob McCord was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison.
- The latest poll has Governor Tom Wolf (D) and U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D) with double-digit leads over their challengers.