A report on the Session Week of April 26, 2021
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 26, 2021.
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Committee Approves Bill Requiring Legislative Approval of RGGI Deal
The Senate Environmental Resources & Energy Committee (ERE) approved a bill I introduced that would require Legislative approval of the Governor’s proposal to have Pennsylvania join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
Senate Bill 119, which creates the Pennsylvania Carbon Dioxide Cap and Trade Authorization Act, specifically prohibits the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) from joining RGGI – or any similar pact — without Legislative approval.
In the co-sponsorship memo for Senate Bill 119 that I circulated with Senator Gene Yaw, ERE Chairman; and Senator David Argall, Chairman of the Senate Government Committee, we wrote: “Since Pennsylvania’s deregulation of electricity, 19 coal-fired electric generating units (EGUs) have or are in the process of closing or converting to natural gas. If Pennsylvania adopts a carbon tax by joining the RGGI, the remaining coal-fired EGUs would be forced to close instead of paying hundreds of millions in additional taxes.
“These closures would lead to the direct elimination of thousands of family sustaining jobs across the Commonwealth and millions in local and state tax revenues. The significant negative economic consequences would be compounded regionally as these coal-fired EGUs consume nearly one-fifth of Pennsylvania’s bituminous coal production, an employer base that provides nearly $7 billion in total economic output throughout Pennsylvania.”
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 Senate Republicans halted consideration of PUC nominees pending the Governor’s withdrawal of his unilateral decision to join the compact without legislative approval.
Under Senate Bill 119, the DEP would be required to publish its RGGI legislation in the PA Bulletin and provide a public comment period of at least 180-days. During the comment period, DEP would be required to hold a minimum of four public hearings in locations that would be directly affected economically by the proposal.
Following the public comment period, DEP would be required to submit a report to the House and Senate Environmental Resources & Energy Committees detailing the specific economic and environmental impacts that joining RGGI would have on impacted communities, the Commonwealth, and the PJM Interconnection region.
Senate Bill 119 mirrors the language of Senate Bill 950 and House Bill 2025 that were introduced during the last Legislative Session. The Governor vetoed House Bill 2025 – which had received bipartisan support in both chambers – last September.
Audio of my comments on the bill at the meeting. Video of the full meeting.
Committee Approves SGOC Option for First Responders, Veterans Groups
Recognizing that the ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic continues to place a severe financial crisis on numerous volunteer and veterans’ organizations, the Senate Community, Economic & Recreational Development Committee approved legislation I introduced that will provide a crucial financial lifeline for those vital community organizations.
Senate Bill 243 would allow volunteer fire departments, veterans organizations and other non-profits to conduct online small games of chance fundraisers during the COVID-19 disaster emergency declaration. It also allows organizations to accept payment via mobile payment applications. The measure now goes to the full Senate for consideration.
Due to restrictions implemented by the Governor’s continuing disaster declarations, these organizations have been unable to conduct many of the fundraisers they need to operate. Ensuring that these organizations have the financial resources to continue to provide critical services to our communities is vital.
Audio of my comments to the Committee on the bill. Video of the full hearing.
UA&H Committee Approves Two Bills
The Senate Urban Affairs & Housing Committee, which I chair, approved two bills on Wednesday.
Senate Bill 157 creates First-time Homebuyers Savings Accounts.
Senate Bill 439 removes the sunset provision of Act 152 of 2016, which allows counties to enact a fee of up to $15 through the Recorder of Deeds office for each deed and mortgage recorded to support demolition programs.
The bills now move to the full Senate for consideration.
Senate Hits the Brakes on PENNDOT’s Bridge Tolling Plan
The Senate approved legislation on Tuesday to reform the Public-Private Transportation Partnership (P3) statute and to void the PENNDOT plan to toll nine Pennsylvania bridges.
Senate Bill 382, which passed with a bipartisan vote of 28-19, voids the tolling plan and provides for more transparency and public participation in the future. PENNDOT will proceed with imposing tolls on the following nine bridges, unless the General Assembly passes Senate Bill 382:
Senate Bill 382 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration. Other bills approved by the Senate and sent to the House this week include:
Senate Bill 74, which would allow companies to apply for a tax credit after donating to a Pennsylvania pediatric cancer research hospital.
Senate Bill 83, which creates grants to establish fire training programs for students in high school.
Senate Bill 106, which amends the state Constitution to allow gubernatorial candidates to select their running mate.
Senate Bill 108, which dedicates additional Medicaid funding for ventilator and tracheostomy services.
Senate Bill 190, which allows for Designated Essential Family Caregivers in Long-Term Care Facilities.
Senate Bill 425, which amends the Mcare Act providing for informed consent.
Senate Bill 434, which provides for milk “sell by date” and “best by date” labeling.
In addition, the Senate gave final approval to House Bill 110 and sent the measure to the Governor’s desk. The bill changes the composition and terms of membership of the Hardwoods Development Council.
Aging & Youth
The Senate Aging & Youth Committee approved two bills on Wednesday. Video
House Bill 464 amends the Family Caregiver Support Act to align the state Caregiver Support Program with federal standards.
Senate Bill 484 adds a member of the State Veterans Commission to the Pennsylvania Long-Term Care Council.
In addition to Senate Bill 74, Senate Bill 382, Senate Bill 425 and Senate Bill 434, The Senate Appropriations Committee approved two additional bills on Tuesday Video
Senate Bill 147 requires employers having a certified safety committee as part of their workers’ compensation program to include information about the risks associated with the use of opioids.
Senate Bill 156 creates a new category under Medical Assistance for Workers with Disabilities.
Appropriations and Education
The Senate Appropriations Committee and the Senate Education Committee held a joint public hearing on Thursday to receive an update on the State System of Higher Education. Video
Communications & Technology
The Senate Communications & Technology Committee held a public hearing on Wednesday on the expansion of 5G and small cell wireless infrastructure. Video
Environmental Resources & Energy
The Senate Environmental Resources & Energy Committee and the House Environmental Resources & Energy Committee held a public hearing on Alternate Septic Systems – Act 34 Implementation. Video
Health & Human Services
The Senate Health & Human Services Committee held a public hearing on Monday on the use of Lyme Disease funding by the Department of Health and Department of Environmental Protection. Video
The Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee approved six bills on Tuesday. Video
Senate Bill 28 requires all agencies that issue permits to increase transparency throughout the process.
Senate Bill 32 includes several regulatory reform measures.
Senate Bill 126 provides for a one-time automatic review of all economically significant regulations.
Senate Bill 426 provides additional legislative oversight of the regulatory review process.
Senate Bill 520 requires General Assembly approval of all regulations with an economic impact or cost to the Commonwealth, to its political subdivisions, and to the private sector exceeding $1 million.
Senate Bill 533 prohibits the consideration or adoption of a proposed or final rulemaking subject to the Regulatory Review Act during the existence of a disaster emergency, unless the action is directly related to responding to the disaster emergency or adhering to a state or federal statutory timeline or court order.
Labor & Industry
The Senate Labor & Industry Committee approved four bills on Tuesday. Video
House Bill 178 increases the time allotted to appeal the determination of an Unemployment Compensation (UC) Service Center and the decision of a UC referee from 15-days to 21-days.
Senate Bill 319 clarifies language in the Worker’s Compensation Act in consideration of the state Supreme Court’s decision in Whitmoyer v. WCAB (Mt. Country Meats).
Senate Bill 486 provides military personnel and their spouses with preference for placement into job training programs.
Senate Bill 563 requires the Department of Labor & Industry to update the Fire and Panic Act to include family daycare facilities and require that smoke detectors be interconnected.
Law & Justice
The Senate Law & Justice Committee approved four bills on Tuesday. Video
House Bill 425 allows a liquor license holder that is permanently closing to sell their remaining stock of wine and liquor to a license holder that is qualified to sell the products.
House Bill 427 increases the discounted price for liquor license purchases from 10 percent to 15 percent.
Senate Bill 503 expands the Pennsylvania Heart and Lung Act to include several law enforcement entities that are not currently protected by this coverage.
Senate Bill 566 addresses the sales of expired restaurant liquor licenses.
Legislative Reapportionment Commission
The Legislative Reapportionment Commission met on Monday Video and Tuesday Video to interview individuals who applied to Chair the Commission.
The Senate Local Government Committee approved five bills on Wednesday. Video
Senate Bill 477 amends the Consolidated County Assessment Law to more precisely define changes to real property that could occur without authorizing the assessment office to adjust an assessment, and to increase the value of other improvements that may occur before the assessment office is required to be notified.
Senate Bill 478 authorizes political subdivisions and authorities to enter into contracts for services when two consecutive advertisements fail to induce bids.
Senate Bill 479 provides for the responsibilities of coordinators and receivers appointed to assist financially distressed municipalities by requiring compliance with ethics statutes.
Senate Bill 480 makes various changes to the Borough Code.
Senate Bill 524 amends the Home Rule Law.
Performance-Based Budget Board
The Performance-Based Budget Board held a public hearing on Monday to review a variety of state tax credit programs. Video The Board held a public hearing on Tuesday on PENNDOT and the Department of Human Services. Video The Board held a public hearing on Wednesday on the State Police and the Department of Military & Veterans Affairs. Video
The Senate State Government Committee approved five bills on Tuesday. Video
House Bill 104 requires agencies to assess improper payments on any program which is not required under federal law.
House Bill 108 establishes the Do-Not-Pay Initiative.
Senate Bill 312 reforms the Right-to-Know law.
Senate Bill 552 allows agencies to petition the Office of Open Records for relief from vexatious requestors.
Senate Bill 554 amends the Sunshine Act to require that agencies make their meeting agendas available to the public and to bar agencies from acting on any item not listed on the notice — except in emergency situations or to consider matters that are de minimis in nature.
The committee also re-referred Senate Bill 166, which authorizes the Department of Drug & Alcohol Programs to impose fees for substance abuse treatment facilities and activities, to the Senate Health & Human Services Committee for consideration.
Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness
The Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee held a public hearing on fire and EMS accomplishments and approved five measures on Wednesday. Video
Senate Resolution 96 directs the Legislative Budget & Finance Committee to conduct a performance audit of the Pennsylvania’s 911 System.
Senate Bill 150 increases the monthly pension amounts for the Blind Veterans Pension Program and the Amputee and Paralyzed Veterans Pension Program from $150 to $180.
Senate Bill 461 requires Senate confirmation of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency Director.
Senate Bill 550 amends the Second–Class County Code to ensure proper upkeep of the graves of Pennsylvania veterans.
Senate Bill 556 ensures that first responders and National Guard Members who die from COVID-19 are covered under the Emergency and Law Enforcement Personnel Death Benefits Act.
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