A report on legislative actions from the Session Week of July 13, 2020
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 July 13, 2020.
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Senate Approves Job-Creating Energy Tax Credit Program
Bipartisan legislation that could create thousands of family-sustaining jobs and provide a boost to Pennsylvania’s economy was sent to the Governor this week.
House Bill 732 creates the Local Resource Manufacturing Tax Credit Program as an incentive for manufacturers to invest in Pennsylvania. The program would be available to facilities that use dry natural gas to produce fertilizer and other petrochemical products. Under the program, a business would be required to invest at least $400 million in a Pennsylvania facility and create a minimum of 800 jobs in order to qualify for a tax credit.
The measure is similar to the Pennsylvania Resource Manufacturing tax credit, which was enacted in 2012 to help establish the Shell Pennsylvania Petrochemicals Complex in Beaver County. Construction of that plant has already created thousands of jobs and is projected to have a long-term economic impact of $6 billion.
Senate Approves Judicial Election Reform Proposal
The membership of Pennsylvania’s appellate courts would better reflect the regional diversity of the state under a sweeping judicial election reform bill that was approved by the Senate on Wednesday.
House Bill 196 would amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to change the way that appellate court judges are elected. The bill would divide the Supreme Court, Superior Court and Commonwealth Court into judicial districts to ensure a broader range of regional interests are represented on Pennsylvania’s highest courts. Because the legislation would amend the Pennsylvania Constitution, it must be approved in two consecutive legislative sessions and be approved by voters in a statewide referendum
Members of the appellate courts are currently elected by a statewide vote. Five of the seven Supreme Court Justices are from Allegheny or Philadelphia counties — leaving 79 percent of the state’s population underrepresented on Pennsylvania’s highest court — and more than half of the members of Pennsylvania’s Superior Court and Commonwealth Court are from two counties.
Senate Approves Constitutional Amendment Limiting Disaster Declarations
The Senate approved a proposed constitutional amendment on Wednesday that would limit the length of future emergency disaster declarations unless an extension is approved by the General Assembly.
Currently, a Governor’s emergency declaration can last up to 90 days and be renewed indefinitely. Under Senate Bill 1166, emergency declarations would be limited to 21 days unless the General Assembly approves a longer duration. It also clarifies that the legislature is not required to present the resolution ending the declaration to the Governor for his consideration.
The House of Representatives amended the bill prior to final approval on Tuesday and returned it to the Senate for concurrence. As a constitutional amendment, the legislation must be approved again in the next legislative session before being put on the ballot as a referendum.
Legislation Preserving Government Transparency Sent to Governor
Pennsylvanians would maintain access to public records during a disaster declaration under a bill approved by the Senate on Wednesday. House Bill 2463 would require state agencies to address requests for public information during an emergency declaration. Under the bill, requests could only be denied for reasons authorized under the state’s Right-To-Know Law.
The legislation is intended to prevent situations like the Administration’s refusal to answer public records requests during the COVID-19 pandemic, including ignoring a subpoena for information related to the confusing and inconsistent waiver process for businesses to remain open during the outbreak.
Other bills sent to the Governor this week include:
House Bill 256, which expands the definition of institutional sexual assault to include law enforcement officers and any person in an officer’s custody and sets tougher penalties for inmates who assault prison staff.
House Bill 672, which amends state law to increase the age of consent for mental health services for minors from 14 to 18 years of age.
House Bill 632, which allows licensed dealers or insurers to use a secure power of attorney that is signed electronically when transferring a vehicle.
Senate Bill 836, which requires student athletes to be informed about electrocardiogram testing and provided an opportunity to request an electrocardiogram.
Senate Bill 927, which addresses the verification process for a veteran’s designation on driver licenses.
House Bill 943, which bars pharmacy benefit managers from prohibiting pharmacies from informing customers when they can save money on a drug by paying with cash instead of using health insurance.
Senate Bill 1125, which gives school districts the option to extend real estate tax discount periods and base periods and removes penalties for payments through June 30, 2021.
Senate Bill 1188, which clarifies taxation methodologies and collections under Act 511 of 1965.
House Bill 1437, which revises the Rural Jobs and Investment Tax Credit Program.
House Bill 1459, which creates a mental wellness and stress management program for emergency responders.
House Bill 2455, which requires the Governor to submit to the General Assembly the plan for COVID-19 testing — including any amendments — that was submitted to the federal Department of Health and Human Services pursuant to the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act.
House Bill 2484, which allows non-profit organizations and charitable trusts to designate up to 10 percent of the total value of the trust or assets held as spendable income and provides for non-judicial settlement agreements.
Senate Approves Legislation Increasing Flexibility for Teacher Certifications
The Senate approved legislation on Tuesday to provide more flexibility in Pennsylvania’s teacher certification process to address issues created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Senate Bill 1216 would assist teachers, recent graduates, undergraduate students and paraprofessionals when attempting to navigate the certification process by:
The flexible provisions created by Senate Bill 1216 would expire June 30, 2021. The measure now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Also sent to the House this week were:
Senate Bill 14, which updates probation policies.
Senate Bill 932 gives certain municipalities the option to ban the use of consumer fireworks.
Senate Bill 940, which amends the Municipal Code and Ordinance Compliance Act regarding condemnation orders.
Senate Bill 1235, which authorizes a long-term lease of land in the Delaware River watershed in the City of Philadelphia.
Senate Bill 881 directs a portion of state-allocated farmland preservation funding to be set aside annually for use by land trusts.
House Bill 942 amends the membership of the state Pharmaceutical and Therapeutics Committee by including two individuals representing community pharmacists as well as physicians, pharmacists and other members to be appointed as needed to develop and maintain a preferred drug list.
Senate Bill 1039 amends Title 16 (Counties), consolidates the County Code, and makes a related repeal.
Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure
The Senate Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure Committee approved House Bill 2293 on Wednesday. The bill provides for emergency response plans by public utilities operating a natural gas pipeline.
Health & Human Services
The Senate Health & Human Services Committee approved Senate Bill 1189 on Wednesday. The bill requires nursing homes to follow CDC guidelines immediately upon the issuance of an emergency proclamation by the Governor.
Rules & Executive Nominations
The Rules & Executive Nominations Committee approved Senate Resolution 347 on Tuesday. The measure extends the emergency temporary rules adopted to maintain continuity of operations of the Senate during the COVID-19 disaster emergency until September 30, 2020, or 10 days following the expiration of the emergency declaration, whichever is earlier. The full Senate adopted the Resolution on Wednesday.
In addition to House Bill 196, the Senate State Government Committee approved four bills on Monday.
House Bill 1069 amends the Sunshine Act to require that agency agendas are posted at least 24 hours prior to a public meeting.
Senate Bill 1235 authorizes a long-term lease of land in the Delaware River watershed in the City of Philadelphia.
House Bill 1780 exempts volunteer EMS, fire or rescue companies from the Right-to-Know Law.
House Bill 2463 amends the Administrative Code to add a new Article relating to Access to Public Records During Disaster Declarations.