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 April 19, 2021.
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Senate Republicans Link PUC Nominations to RGGI Rejection
I was pleased to join with the Senate Republican Caucus to put the Governor on notice of our intention to block all nominations to the state Public Utility Commission (PUC) until he pulls his unilateral decision to have Pennsylvania join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and work with the Legislature. Audio
“We are available to engage further on this issue if you so choose; however, until we can reach any agreement with your removal of Pennsylvania from RGGI and submit the compact for deliberation through the General Assembly, we will not be confirming any PUC nominees,” reads the letter signed by all 27 Senate Republicans and Independent John Yudichak of the 14th District.
We have made it clear over the past 19 months that this is about the balance of powers in Pennsylvania. One of the key components of RGGI is a tax on carbon emissions. That in and of itself would destroy thousands of family-sustaining jobs across the Commonwealth. Beyond that, the power to tax is a function of the legislative branch, not the executive branch. It is dangerous precedent to tolerate the Governor unilaterally imposing a tax. This moratorium on confirmation of PUC nominees is a reminder to the Governor that Pennsylvania has three distinct and co-equal branches of government.
On October 3, 2019, Governor Wolf directed the Department of Environmental Resources (DEP) to join RGGI — a collaboration of 11 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. The states (Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia) set a cap on total Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions from electric power generators in their states. In order to comply, power plants must purchase a credit or “allowance” for each ton of CO2 they emit.
If Pennsylvania joins RGGI, it would be the only major energy producing state in the compact and the resulting carbon tax on employers engaged in electric generation would devastate that industry and cost thousands of jobs.
Since the Governor’s edict, three DEP advisory boards have rejected the proposal. Most recently (February 16) the Independent Regulatory Review Commission called for a one-year moratorium on its implementation and questioned the Governor’s unilateral decision to join the compact without legislative approval.
In addition, the Legislature approved House Bill 2025 in September 2020, which would have created the Pennsylvania Carbon Dioxide Cap and Trade Authorization Act; clarified that the Administration does not have the authority to unilaterally join RGGI; and, prohibited the DEP from joining RGGI without Legislative approval.
The Governor retained his unilateral power by vetoing the bill on September 24, 2020.
“Three DEP advisory panels have rejected the proposal, yet the Environmental Quality Board (EQB) still proceeded with developing regulations associated with RGGI. It is our understanding that the EQB plans to advance these regulations this summer, despite a clear constitutional requirement for involvement by the General Assembly,” we wrote in our letter. “In lieu of this subversion of the constitutional process, and short of arguing this in a judicial setting, we are presented with very few options to reinstitute proper checks and balances in this particular situation. Therefore, we will be exercising our legislative authority to reject all future PUC nominees until you withdraw your executive order related to Pennsylvania’s inclusion in RGGI.”
A copy of our letter is available at: https://www.pasenategop.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/PUC-letter-042121.pdf
Visit the State Capitol Virtually
In addition to having the honor of serving as your state Senator, I also have the privilege of working in one of the most beautiful and historic buildings in the Commonwealth – our State Capitol in Harrisburg. I recently posted a video tour of the Capitol on my website (https://senatorpittman.com/) as a way for everyone to virtually visit this fantastic building.
Senators Discuss What a “Yes” Vote on May 18 Means for Pennsylvania
A group of Senators held a press conference on Tuesday to discuss what a “YES” vote on the May 18 ballot questions means and the need to protect lives and livelihoods while restoring critical checks and balances in Harrisburg. Video
Four Bills Receive Final Legislative Approval
Four bills received final legislative approval and were sent to the Governor’s desk.
House Bill 14 amends the Pennsylvania Constitution to create a two-year window for retroactive lawsuits from victims whose statute of limitations has already expired.
Senate Bill 49 designates a bridge in Johnstown, Cambria County, as the Reverend Andrew William Tilly, Jr., Bridge.
Senate Bill 55 designates a bridge in Croyle Township, Cambria County, as the Private Fredrick Kinley Memorial Bridge.
House Bill 766 changes the due date of corporate tax returns from 30 days after the due date of the federal return to the 15TH day of the month following the due date of the federal return.
Senate Votes to Protects Teachers’ Rights, Motorists
The Senate approved a bill on Monday to repeal a portion of the state’s school code that prohibits teachers from wearing religious items. Senate Bill 247, which repeals Section 1112 of the Public School Code of 1949, was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Pennsylvania is the last state in the United States with this provision still in place. In 2003, the federal courts held that the school’s religious affiliations policy violates the free exercise of religion and free speech clauses of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution after a teacher was suspended for refusing to remove or conceal a small cross necklace.
The Senate approved Senate Bill 114, a measure that would require drivers to remove ice and snow from their vehicles, on Wednesday. The current law only penalizes a driver when serious bodily harm occurs from a snow or ice projectile. Senate Bill 114 would give police officers discretion to pull over a vehicle where the buildup of ice or snow poses a potential hazard.
Both bills now go to the House of Representatives for consideration. Other bills approved by the Senate this week include:
House Bill 203, which creates the Living Donor Protection Act.
Senate Bill 248, which designates March 6 as Persian Gulf War Veterans Day and October 7 as Global War on Terrorism Veterans Day.
Senate Bill 282, which designates a bridge in Jackson Township, Cambria County, as the Sgt. Harry Lewis Amigh Memorial Bridge.
Senate Bill 317, which provides for the authority to prescribe or personally furnish antibiotics to treat sexually transmitted infections without having examined the individual for whom the drug is intended.
Senate Bill 381, which makes permanent a temporary program providing for substitute teachers.
Senate Bill 420, which addresses instances where a District Attorney’s law license is suspended, or they are disbarred.
Senate Bill 83 creates grants to establish fire training programs for high school students.
Senate Bill 108 dedicates additional Medicaid funding for ventilator and tracheostomy services.
House Bill 110 changes the composition and terms of membership of the Hardwoods Development Council.
Senate Bill 190 allows for Designated Essential Family Caregivers in long-term care facilities.
Senate Bill 457 amends the state Constitution to require the Attorney General to have an active law license.
Banking & Insurance
Senate Bill 425 amends the Mcare Act to provide for informed consent.
Senate Bill 432 strengthens the independence of the Banking Fund and ensures a strong dual banking system in the Commonwealth.
Communications & Technology
Senate Bill 341 addresses regulations applicable to landline telephone companies to facilitate the deployment of broadband services in rural areas.
Senate Bill 442 directs the Department of General Services to include information on the possible use of such assets for fixed or mobile broadband services in its surveys and inventories of Commonwealth properties.
Education officials and advocates discussed school reforms involving accountability for all schools, school choice, charter schools and other potential changes during a Senate Education Committee hearing on Monday. Video
Senate Bill 454 provides for a volunteer firefighter tax credit of up to $500 for those with at least two full years of service and who have responded to at least 20 percent of their company’s emergency calls.
Senate Bill 463 provides for an exemption on equipment used in the construction and operation of computer data centers.
Senate Bill 562 creates the Airport Land Development Zone program to incentivize development on vacant land and buildings owned by airports and leased to private businesses.
House Bill 766 changes the due date of corporate tax returns from 30 days after the due date of the federal return to the 15th day of the month following the due date of the federal return.
House Bill 184 provides for enhanced penalties for causing or aiding suicide when the individual who dies by suicide is under the age of 18 or has an intellectual disability or autism spectrum disorder.
Senate Bill 521 criminalizes the act of “upskirting.”
House Bill 951 addresses the statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse cases.
Rules & Executive Nominations
The Senate Rules & Executive Nominations Committee approved Senate Resolution 90 on Monday. Video The Resolution extends the emergency temporary rules adopted to maintain continuity of operations of the Senate during the COVID-19 disaster emergency until May 31, 2021, or 10 days following the expiration of the emergency declaration, whichever is earlier. The Resolution was subsequently adopted by the full Senate on Monday.
The Rules Committee approved Senate Resolution 29 on Tuesday. Video The Resolution, which sets a temporary rule of the Senate for amendments to supplements to the state budget, was adopted by the full Senate on Wednesday.
Special Committee on Election Integrity and Reform
The Senate Special Committee on Election Integrity and Reform held a public hearing on Tuesday on the administration of elections in Allegheny and Philadelphia counties. Video
Senate Resolution 53 directs the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to study PENNDOT’s highway maintenance funding formula.
House Bill 26 designates a bridge in Pine Creek Township, Clinton County, as the Tech. Corporal Lee R. Phillips Memorial Bridge.
House Bill 56 designates a bridge in Northern Cambria Borough, Cambria County, as the Sergeant William Stock Memorial Bridge.
House Bill 124 designates a bridge in the City of Johnstown, Cambria County, as the City of Johnstown Firefighters Memorial Bridge.
Senate Bill 283 requires PENNDOT to maintain all surface and subsurface drainage facilities connected with the state highways within boroughs and incorporated towns with populations equal to or less than 2,500 people.
Senate Bill 445 provides for donations to the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition when renewing a vehicle registration or driver’s license.
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