I am pleased to send you my Session Wrap Up e-newsletter. This e-newsletter features events and legislative activities from the Session Week of January 27, 2020.
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Appointed to Serve as Urban Affairs & Housing Committee Chairman
I am pleased to report that Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati appointed me to serve as Chairman of the Senate Urban Affairs & Housing Committee for the remainder of the 2019-20 Legislative Session.
The Committee is responsible for reviewing legislation and resolutions related to a number of subjects pertaining to housing and community revitalization, including:
The panel also oversees the operations of the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency.
In recent years, the Committee has focused on helping municipalities address abandoned and blighted properties and returning the land to productive use; implementing community revitalization initiatives; protecting property buyers and tenants; and addressing veteran homelessness and housing needs.
The Urban Affairs & Housing Committee is a significant committee when it comes to dealing with the issue of blight. In particular, Armstrong and Westmoreland counties have done a great job with a local land bank effort. It is allowing them to go into communities, reclaim blighted properties and turn them around and get them on the tax rolls. It has been a great program. It is a critical program and the Urban Affairs & Housing Committee has historically taken a leadership role in that effort. Audio
Marion Center Area Water Project Receives $10.7M PENNVEST Grant
The Indiana County Municipal Services Authority (ICMSA) was awarded a $10,775,000 grant on Wednesday by the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST) to extend water service to the Marion Center area, according to state Senator Joe Pittman, a member of the PENNVEST Board.
ICMSA will use the funding to extend its Plumville system through much of northern Indiana County in the area along Routes 85 and 119, through the Village of Home, to the borough of Marion Center — a project that includes 100,000 feet of waterlines, a new storage tank, meters and fire hydrants.
As a member of the PENNVEST Board, I strongly supported this $10.7 million grant to extend public water lines throughout northern Indiana County, particularly in the Plumville and Marion Center areas and to support the Marion Center School District.
Historically, the school district has relied on a private water source that has been less than adequate. This project will be very significant for the entire community of Marion Center, as well as the Route 85 and 119 corridors. Public water supplies are important for property values and fire protection and ultimately benefit homeowners by reducing their insurance premiums. It will also open up opportunities for economic development in northern Indiana County. Audio
Human Trafficking Bill Sent to Governor
The Senate gave final approval on Monday to a measure setting significant penalties for the solicitation or advertisement of the sexual services of victims of human trafficking. Senate Bill 60 now goes to the Governor’s desk. The bill, commonly called the “Buyer Beware Act,” builds on recent efforts by the General Assembly to curb human trafficking.
The measure imposes a first-degree felony charge on those who recruit, harbor, entice, transport, or advertise human trafficking victims for sexual servitude. The bill also significantly increases monetary penalties on those who patronize a victim of human trafficking.
Other measures sent to the Governor this week include:
Senate Bill 690, which increases the public bidding threshold requirement from $1,500 to $6,000 for Incorporated Towns.
Senate Bill 691, which increases the public bidding threshold requirement from $1,500 to $6,000 for Second Class Townships.
Senate Bill 692, which increases the public bidding threshold from $1,500 to $6,000 for Boroughs and Third Class Cities.
Senate Bill 906, which institutes a moratorium on the closing of the Polk and White Haven State Centers.
Senate Approves Bills to Support Fire, EMS Companies
The Senate approved two bills on Tuesday that would help fire and EMS companies deal with some of the most significant challenges they face. The package focuses on easing the financial pressures faced by fire and EMS companies due to increasing costs of equipment and training.
The bills also address the dwindling number of volunteers and other personnel dedicated to providing emergency response in Pennsylvania communities. According to the State Fire Commissioner, Pennsylvania currently has nearly 2,450 fire companies – including about 2,350 volunteer departments, more than any other state.
Senate Bill 908 would create a voter referendum to expand the Volunteer Fire Company, Ambulance Service and Rescue Squad Assistance Program to include paid fire and EMS companies. The bill would also increase the maximum loan amounts allowed by the program, expand the allowable list of uses of Fire Relief Funding and review the current funding formula. It would also move the administration of the Fire Relief Program from the Auditor General to the State Fire Commissioner.
The program was originally created with a bond issue approved by voters in 1976. The referendum would allow the state’s 22 paid companies and 72 combination paid and volunteer companies to access the program. In 2018, $55.1 million was distributed to over 2,500 municipalities to be turned over to fire relief associations.
Senate Bill 910 would extend the life of the Fire Company and Emergency Medical Service Grant Program to June 2024. The program, which was created in 2003, is currently set to expire in June of this year. The bill would also expand the use of the program to include recruitment and retention programs, as well as volunteer fire length of service awards.
Senate Approves Bill Increasing Penalties for Repeat DUI Drivers
The Senate approved legislation on Tuesday that substantially increases the legal penalties imposed on repeat DUI offenders.
Senate Bill 773 — known as Deana’s Law in memory of Deana Eckman, a Delaware County woman who was killed by a drunk driver who had five previous DUI convictions — would increase jail time for those convicted of three or more DUIs and doubles the required period for anti-DUI interlock devices on any vehicle operated by a person with three or more DUI convictions. Offenders arrested for a third or subsequent DUI would also be required to wear continuous alcohol monitoring devices.
Senate Bill 773 is now before the House of Representatives for consideration. Other bills approved by the Senate and sent to the House this week include:
Senate Bill 30, which creates a state housing tax credit.
House Bill 427, which sets health insurance coverage requirements for stage four, advanced metastatic cancer. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.
Senate Bill 491, which provides for the appointment of two Certified Pennsylvania Evaluators by the Governor to serve on the State Board of Certified Real Estate Appraisers.
Senate Bill 595, which provides for insurance coverage for breast density screenings.
Senate Bill 779, which moves Pennsylvania’s Presidential primary election day to the third Tuesday of March.
Lieutenant Governor Selection Process Reform Advances
Legislation amending the Pennsylvania State Constitution to change how the lieutenant governor is selected received final approval this week. Senate Bill 133 would let gubernatorial candidates select their running mates after the primary election – a process that mirrors how presidential candidates currently select their vice presidential running mates. Currently, voters select their party’s lieutenant governor candidate.
Since constitutional amendments must be approved during two consecutive sessions of the General Assembly, the exact language of Senate Bill 133 must be ratified again by both chambers during the 2021-22 Legislative Session before it can go on the ballot as a referendum for voter approval.
Senator Dave Arnold Sworn into Office
Senator Dave Arnold was sworn into office on Wednesday. He was elected to represent the 48th Senatorial District in a January 14 special election. The 48th District includes all of Lebanon County, as well as northern York County and southern Dauphin County. Prior to running for the Senate, Senator Arnold served 14 years as the Lebanon County District Attorney.
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved nine bills on Monday.
Senate Bill 30 creates a state housing tax credit.
Senate Bill 309 creates First-time Homebuyers Savings Accounts.
Senate Bill 462 repeals outdated School Code provisions.
Senate Bill 494 authorizes political subdivisions and authorities to enter into contracts for services when two consecutive advertisements fail to induce bids.
Senate Bill 640 authorizes the Commonwealth to join the interstate Physical Therapist Compact.
Senate Bill 798 removes a loophole relating to dangerous dogs from the Dog Law.
Senate Bill 908 creates a voter referendum to expand the Volunteer Fire Company, Ambulance Service and Rescue Squad Assistance Program to include paid fire and EMS companies. The bill would also increase the maximum loan amounts allowed by the program.
Senate Bill 910 reauthorizes the Fire & EMS Grant Program until June 30, 2024.
House Bill 1578 amends Title 68 (Real and Personal Property) to make technical changes and clarifications.
The Appropriations Committee approved nine bills on Tuesday.
House Bill 64 authorizes state professional and occupational licensing boards to allow carryover of excess continuing education credits.
Senate Bill 417 requires successful write-in candidates receive at least the same number of write-in votes as would be required if they had filed nomination petitions.
Senate Bill 679 directs the Environmental Quality Board to develop regulations that authorize counties to adopt a program for stream cleaning and maintenance and the removal of obstructions and flood-related hazards from local waterways.
Senate Bill 773 increases penalties for those who have multiple DUI convictions.
House Bill 775 requires the Department of Aging to review the PACE and PACENET programs to remove deceased enrollees.
Senate Bill 779 moves Pennsylvania’s Presidential primary election day to the third Tuesday of March.
Senate Bill 997 clarifies military service credit for retirement purposes for Pennsylvania State Police members.
House Bill 1001 establishes standards for the licensure and regulation of (human) milk banks.
House Bill 1100 establishes the Energy and Fertilizer Manufacturing Tax Credit program.
The Senate Finance Committee approved Senate Bill 997 on Monday. The bill clarifies military service credit for retirement purposes for Pennsylvania State Police members.
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved three bills on Wednesday.
Senate Bill 968 consolidates the Department of Corrections with the Board of Probation and Parole and transfers the supervision of offenders and certain administrative functions from the board to the department and preserving parole decision–making responsibilities within the board.
Senate Bill 969 amends the Crime Victims Act to make technical changes related to the consolidation of the Department of Corrections and the Board of Probation and Parole.
Senate Bill 976 adds Veterans Courts to the list of problem-solving courts that may be established by a court of common pleas and by the Municipal Court of Philadelphia.
Rules & Executive Nominations
The Senate Rules & Executive Nominations Committee approved three amended bills on Monday.
Senate Bill 133 amends the State Constitution to allow gubernatorial candidates to select their running mate.
Senate Bill 432 allows Medicaid Managed Care Organizations to have access to information in the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.
Senate Bill 906 institutes a moratorium on the closing of the Polk and White Haven State Centers.
Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness
The Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee approved three bills on Monday.
Senate Bill 932expands the allowable uses for volunteer firefighter relief associations regarding state funding and would allow organizations with paid and volunteer firefighters to use that funding.
Senate Bill 987 restructures and enhances the Office of State Fire Commissioner. The measure would require Senate Confirmation of the Fire Commissioner, designates the Office of Fire Commissioner as the lead agency for fire services in the Commonwealth, and establishes a State Fire Advisory Board.
Senate Bill 996 exempts individuals driving Emergency Medical Service (EMS) vehicles, such as ambulances, from the requirement to hold EMS certification.
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