As we close out week two of “budget month,” there’s not a whole lot to report on that front. After the Governor signed the long awaited pension reform bill on Monday, House Majority Leader Dave Reed (R-Indiana) seemed optimistic that the 2017-2018 spending plan would be enacted on time this year. On Wednesday, Republican leaders from both chambers met to discuss making this year’s budget numbers work, and now we wait until Monday when members return to Harrisburg and hopefully start the final two-week push toward the new fiscal year.
Nonetheless, the General Assembly kept busy with other initiatives this week. On Monday, the week began with the House Appropriations Committee reporting out four bills sponsored by Rep. Everett (R-Lycoming), each of which were later passed by the full House of Representatives. The bills would allow different types of municipalities to collect a storm water management fee: H.B. 913 applies to the Town of Bloomsburg, H.B. 914 applies to boroughs, H.B. 915 applies to first-class townships, and H.B. 916 applies to third-class cities.
Also on Monday, the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee reported out H.B. 1494 (Rapp, R-Warren), which authorizes the Commonwealth to enter into cooperative agreements with the federal government to provide for forest management. The Senate Appropriations Committee reported out S.B. 527 (Aument, R-Lancaster) along party lines. Sen. Aument’s bill, which establishes an Independent Office of Inspector General, then passed finally by a vote of Y: 37/N:12. The bill now heads to the House for consideration; however, its ultimate fate is uncertain: Governor Wolf vetoed similar legislation last session.
Tuesday was the busiest day of the week, as committees from both chambers held meetings throughout the day. The House Appropriations Committee reported out H.B. 864 (Mustio, R-Allegheny), which permits the Pittsburgh Airport to conduct 50-50 raffles. The full house passed the bill later in the day; it now heads to the Senate for consideration. The House Labor and Industry Committee voted favorably on H.B. 18 (Mackenzie, R-Lehigh), which requires the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry to adopt an evidence-based drug formulary for the workers’ compensation program. H.B. 1547 (Harris, J., D-Philadelphia), addressing the issues associated with “stop-n-go’s” in the City of Philadelphia, was reported from the House Liquor Control Committee. Later in the day, the House State Government Committee reported out H.B. 28 (White, R-Philadelphia) making “sanctuary cities” liable for damages to persons or property as a result of criminal activity by unauthorized aliens.
In the Senate, the Appropriations Committee reported out two bills: S.B. 178 (Scavello, R-Monroe), modernizing History Code provisions dealing with archives and sale and disposition of property to the Historical and Museum Commission; and H.B. 1071 (Farry, R-Bucks), prohibiting a political subdivision from imposing a ban, fee, surcharge or tax on recyclable plastic bags. H.B. 1071 will head to the Governor’s desk, after the Senate passed the bill by a vote of Y:28/N:21. The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee unanimously reported S.B. 471 (Blake, D-Lackawanna) to the full floor for consideration. The bill provides for an accelerated foreclosure process for vacant and abandoned property. Senate Judiciary Committee reported out S.B. 180 (Greenleaf, R-Montgomery), which facilities organ and tissue donation, and the Senate Local Government Committee reported out S.B. 252 (Vulakovich, R-Allegheny), which allocates a percentage of the Pittsburgh Parking Authority’s parking spaces to directly support private developers.
The Senate Health and Human Services Committee had a full agenda on Tuesday. Bills voted favorably by the committee include: H.B. 17 (Hahn, R-Northampton), which allows a parent or guardian to provide consent for drug treatment for their minor child; H.B. 239 (Toepel, R-Montgomery), which establishes the Rare Disease Advisory Council; S.B. 31 (Scavello, R-Monroe), which establishes the spinal cord disability research grant program; S.B. 533 (Schwank, D-Berks), which creates an emergency addiction treatment program; and S.B. 728 (Yaw, R-Lycoming), which exempts certain epilepsy drugs from the Achieving Better Care by Monitoring All Prescription Program (ABC-MAP). On the Senate floor, S.B. 561 (DiSanto, R-Dauphin) passed by a vote of Y:29/N:20. The legislation requires the General Assembly and the Governor to approve all regulations with an economic impact over $1 million.
Wednesday was a quiet day in Harrisburg, as both chambers wrapped up in preparation for an expected busy upcoming week. The Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee reported two bills from committee: S.B. 472 (Yaw, R-Lycoming), which limits the prescription for a controlled substance containing an opioid to seven days, unless there is a medical emergency that puts the patients’ health or safety at risk; and S.B. 542 (Browne, R-Lehigh), which permits pharmacists to dispense emergency prescription refills for up to 30 days, subject under certain circumstances.
Budget season typically ramps up after Father’s Day and holds a steady, busy pace until a spending plan is finally adopted. In next week’s report, we’ll have a better sense of whether Pennsylvania will meet its June 30 budget deadline. In the meantime, committees will be busy moving bills around to be used as potential vehicles for budget-related initiatives, as well as any legislation that members want to finally pass before the summer break.
Kicking off the week, on Monday, the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee will hold an informational meeting regarding the use of micro grids to provide reliable energy distribution during disaster emergencies. In both chambers, the Education Committee will also meet. The House Education Committee will consider H.B. 121 (Kaufer, R-Luzerne), which updates anti-drug curricula to include new prevention programs, and H.B. 1448 (Cutler, R-Lancaster), which creates a college comparison tool to compare different factors important to students and their parents. The Senate Education Committee will consider S.B. 756 (Dinniman, D-Chester), which eliminates the Keystone Exams as a high school graduation requirement, and H.B. 178 (Day, R-Lehigh), which enhances school safety and security by allowing schools to perform the safety and security drill in place of a fire drill.
Also in the House, the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee will meet to consider a handful of bills related to mining and coal, among them, S.B. 624 (Scarnati, R-Jefferson), which clarifies that planned mining subsidence does not constitute potential pollution under the state Clean Streams Law if it is not predicted to result in permanent damage to waterways. The Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee will consider: S.B. 334 (Fontana, D-Allegheny), which allows municipalities and municipal authorities to make public funds available to repair or replace broken laterals on private property; S.B. 639 (Fontana, D-Allegheny), which allows municipalities to make public funds available to repair or replace broken sewer laterals and water lines on private property; and S.B. 692 (Blake, D-Lackawanna), which allows a local agency to charge a fee to verify a sewage system is located in accordance with siting requirements.
Tuesday, the House Game and Fisheries Committee will hold an informational meeting on hunting and fishing license fees, and the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee will consider H.B. 187 (Sonney, R-Erie), which provides a preserved farmland owner with more than 50 acres the access to grant a right-of-way to install a wind power generation system, and H.B. 790 (Pashinski, D-Luzerne), which repeals the Noxious Weed Control Act (Act 74 of 1982) and replaces it with the Controlled Plants and Noxious Weed Act.
On Wednesday, the House Commerce Committee will meet to consider H.B. 1519 (Ellis, R-Butler), which establishes the Multimedia Tax Credit Fund.
On Thursday, which is currently scheduled as a session day, the House Human Services Committee will hold a public hearing on possible changes to the Affordable Care Act and the effect those changes could have on Medicaid recipients. The House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee will consider H.B. 1412 (Barrar, R-Delaware), which creates a pathway for utilities to develop pilot projects that will deliver highly advanced levels of reliability to serve essential public infrastructure and community services during emergency events.
For a full list of committee meetings:
For anticipated floor action:
In Other News
- Lt. Gov. Mike Stack will have a primary challenger in his upcoming re-election run.
- Jury selection will begin on Monday for former Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams trial on bribery and campaign expense fraud charges.
- The Attorney General announced that state Sen. Scott Wagner won’t be charged for his altercation with a campaign tracker.
- Philadelphia’s beverage tax was upheld by the Commonwealth Court.
- Grower/processor and dispensary permits for Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program are expected to be issued by the end of June.