It was a relatively quiet week in the capitol with only the Senate in Harrisburg for session. On Monday, the Senate Judiciary Committee met to consider S.B. 261 (Scarnati, R-Cameron), which would eliminate the statute of limitations for civil and criminal claims brought against an alleged perpetrator of childhood sexual abuse. The bill seems to be on the fast-track; it was passed unanimously by the full Senate on Wednesday.
The news from Tuesday’s Senate Appropriations Committee is what didn’t happen: S.B. 10 (Reschenthaler, R-Allegheny), which would impose liability on “sanctuary cities,” was up for consideration, but then passed over.
On Wednesday, the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee met to consider bills related to the powers and duties of Game Commission Officers as well as Sunday hunting.
This week’s biggest news came from the Governor’s Office. On Monday, Gov. Tom Wolf announced that as part of the 2017-2018 budget he plans to consolidate the Departments of Human Services, Health, Aging, and Drug and Alcohol Programs under one umbrella, the Department of Health and Human Services.
Read more here.
And finally, a fond farewell as Gov. Wolf announced that his Chief of Staff Mary Isenhour will go on campaign duty. Isenhour has been with Wolf from the very start; having worked on his campaign and serving as Secretary of Legislative Affairs, before assuming the role of Chief of Staff. Wolf’s Executive Deputy Chief will be named Chief of Staff upon Isenhour’s departure.
Wolf’s statement can be read here.
A Look Ahead
Next week’s main event comes on Tuesday, when the Governor is slated to give his 2017-2018 budget address to a joint session of the General Assembly. This year’s state budget battle is expected to be contentious, as the Commonwealth is looking at a minimum of a $700 million budget deficit and a $1.4 billion and growing structural deficit. With outstanding issues like pension reform and expanded gaming yet to be addressed, it’s hard to guess what will be in Wolf’s speech. However, we’ve seen a few hints so far, including savings from the consolidation of human services-related agencies discussed above, as well as:
- $80 million in savings from the closure of a state prison
- $10 million in dedicated funding for expanded access to the opioid antidote Naloxone
Agency budget hearings are expected to begin on February 21st in both the House and Senate.
Though the budget address will be the main event, there’ll still be some business as usual in the capitol next week. On Monday, the House Education Committee will meet to consider legislation. Among the bills on the agenda are: H.B. 202 (Turzai, R-Allegheny), allowing career and technical education students to show graduation readiness by taking a test other than the Keystone Exams; H.B. 224 (Simmons, R-Lehigh), providing for the administration of epi-pens on school buses; and H.B. 250 (Turzai, R-Allegheny) increasing the amount for tax credits available under the Educational Improvement Tax Credit and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit programs.
Also on Monday, the House Labor and Industry Committee will meet to consider three bills amending the Pennsylvania Construction Code Act: H.B. 162 (Maloney, R-Berks), requiring the Department of Labor and Industry to contract with the International Codes Council to publish PA-specific code books; H.B. 176 (Pickett, R-Bradford), exempting road side stands from construction code provisions; and H.B. 177 (Pickett, R-Bradford), also exempting maple sugar stands from construction code requirements.
On Tuesday the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee will hold a public hearing on the impacts of pharmaceuticals on Pennsylvania’s waterways. In addition, the Senate Education Committee will hold a public hearing to consider the nomination of Estelle Richman to the Philadelphia School Reform Commission.
Wednesday looks busier, when the House Insurance Committee will hold a public hearing on drug price transparency and the House Aging and Older Adult Services Committee will hold an informational hearing on programs and services for our elderly population. Also on Wednesday, the House Health Committee will meet two bills sponsored by Chairman Matt Baker (R-Tioga): H.B. 126, allowing entities like sports facilities and amusement parks to keep non-patient specific epi-pens on hand, and H.R. 27, encouraging increased awareness of unethical organ transplant services in China.
Finally, the House Consumer Affairs Committee will consider H.B. 104 (Godshall, R-Montgomery), increasing the transparency of municipal authority acquisitions and transfers, and H.B. 179 (Day, R-Berks), penalizing movers of household goods who fail to comply with state law.
For anticipated action on the House floor, check out The Week Ahead.
For Senate floor action, see the Senate Calendar.
In Other News
- Sen. Larry Farnese (D-Philadelphia) was acquitted in a federal conspiracy and fraud trial.
- The Pennsylvania Senate Republican Campaign Committee has a new leader.
- It’s not quite election season, but the Bar Association has published their recommendations for judicial candidates.
Groundhog Day? Legislators are requesting a special session on property tax reform. The last similar special session was held in 2005-2006.