A report on the Session Week of October 19, 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 October 19, 2020.
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Senate Advances Measure to Boost Broadband Availability
We approved a bill on Wednesday to boost the availability of broadband by reducing regulatory burdens on telecommunications companies and utilizing existing infrastructure to further deploy high-speed internet.
House Bill 2438 would aid in the deployment of broadband by using infrastructure that is already in place for other uses. The bill would allow electric cooperatives to utilize existing utility poles to place fiber-optic lines if the placement does not adversely affect the value or use of the property. I am the prime sponsor of the companion bill in the Senate (Senate Bill 1118).
The infrastructure necessary to expand broadband exists, but outdated easements that were originally intended for electricity or telegraph lines do not specifically allow broadband lines to be placed on existing utility poles. That means cooperatives must reopen easement agreements just to clarify that the existing infrastructure can be used for broadband purposes. That is a costly and cumbersome burden when you consider all of the easements that would have to be revisited.
The 13 electric distribution cooperatives in Pennsylvania are not-for-profit, member-owned utilities that provide affordable and reliable electric service to hundreds of thousands of consumers in rural areas. Overall, Pennsylvania’s cooperatives own and maintain about 12.5 percent of the electric distribution lines in the state, covering nearly one-third of the Commonwealth’s land area in 42 counties. These lines, an essential component of rural business and industry, represent one of the Commonwealth’s largest non-governmental investments in rural infrastructure.
I know that REA Energy Cooperative, which provides excellent electric service in our area, is looking into the possibility of providing broadband access in its area as are other cooperatives. House Bill 2438 will provide for a more efficient and cost-effective method for expanding broadband access in Pennsylvania for those electric cooperatives who wish to do so, without adversely affecting private property owners or placing an additional burden on taxpayers.
House Bill 2438 now goes to the Governor’s desk for enactment into law.
Omnibus Bill Supporting First Responders Sent to Governor
A measure that updates and expands financial assistance programs and promotes efforts to recruit, train and retain first responders received final legislative approval this week and was sent to the Governor’s desk.
Other bills sent to the Governor’s desk this week include:
Senate Bill 30, which creates a state housing tax credit.
House Bill 81, which provides for the certification of central service technicians and surgical technologists.
House Bill 86, which requires the POW-MIA flag to be flown alongside the American and state flags on property owned or under the control of the state.
Senate Bill 94, which ensures all active duty volunteer firefighters, fire police, officers or directors of a volunteer fire company, and integral members of a volunteer fire company, are covered under the State Workers Insurance Fund.
Senate Bill 273, which removes the cap on funds that can be obtained by federally qualified health centers.
House Bill 375, which eliminates state veterans’ benefits from the definition of “income” for PACE and PACENET eligibility determinations.
Senate Bill 395, which requires the POW-MIA flag to be flown alongside the American and state flags at welcome centers, rest stops and service plazas along the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
House Bill 440, which provides that an individual’s criminal history record will be expunged if the individual has been acquitted or pardoned.
Senate Bill 530, which requires that a student who is convicted or adjudicated delinquent of sexual assault to be removed from the school building, if they are enrolled in the same school district as the victim. The school district would be required to expel, transfer or reassign the offender to another school or educational program. The bill mandates that school districts must ensure the offender is not educated in the same school building, transported on the same school vehicle or allowed to participate in the same school-sponsored activities as the victim.
House Bill 703, which requires school districts and charter schools to publish on their websites an e-mail address for members of their school boards.
House Bill 716, which creates the Joint Task Force on Misclassification of Employees within the Department of Labor and Industry.
House Bill 885, which amends the Public Works Contractors’ Bond Law to tighten the requirements for acceptable financial securities required for projects.
Senate Bill 940, which amends the Municipal Code and Ordinance Compliance Act to define a condemnation order and specifies that it shall be filed against a property and filed with the county tax claim bureau and recorder of deeds. The municipality may recover the cost of recording the condemnation order from the tax sale proceeds or directly from the purchaser.
Senate Bill 952, which amends the Veterans Preference Law.
Senate Bill 976, which creates Commerce Courts and 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.
Senate Bill 995, which increases the width of multipurpose agricultural vehicles that are allowed on public roadways.
House Bill 1033, which clarifies that revaluation company personnel who are directly responsible for the valuation of real property must be certified as a Certified Pennsylvania Evaluator.
Senate Bill 1076, which removes the sunset provision for the Military Family Relief Assistance Program.
Senate Bill 1110, which requires the Department of Health or local health authority to release identifiable health information to first responders within 24 hours of receiving information of a confirmed case of a communicable disease. It also requires real-time reporting of COVID-19 cases and deaths in nursing and personal care homes and assisted living facilities.
Senate Bill 1164, which amends the County Code to clarify that all deaths in a county suspected of COVID-19 shall be referred to the county coroner for investigation.
Senate Bill 1195, which amends the Insurance Company Law of 1921.
Senate Bill 1199, which establishes rules for the use of personal delivery devices.
Senate Bill 1281, which rebrands the “Steer Clear Law” as the “Move Over Law” to clarify how motorists should react when approaching or passing an emergency response area. It would establish a new point system for a “Move Over” violation; double the fines for a summary offense; strengthen public awareness by requiring PennDOT to educate the public throughout the year; and implement new requirements for drivers approaching an emergency response area.
House Bill 1439, which requires insurers to annually file a statement with the Insurance Department attesting to its efforts to comply with federal laws and regulations relating to mental health and substance use disorder parity.
House Bill 1584, which removes restrictive language that bars Fish and Boat Commission Waterways Conservation Officers from being included in Act 111 for the purpose of seeking collective bargaining.
House Bill 1838, which increases the funding for and modifies the eligible uses of money deposited in the Emergency Medical Services Operating Fund.
House Bill 1961, which requires the State Employees’ Retirement System Board to prepare a separate report regarding investment performance for the period of July 1 through June 30 of each year.
House Bill 1984, which provides for special provisions in adoption cases where the child was conceived as a result of rape or incest.
House Bill 2073, which modernizes and recodifies the First-Class Township Code.
House Bill 2293, which provides for emergency response plans by public utilities operating a natural gas pipeline.
House Bill 2370, which permits electronic notarization of documents.
House Bill 2561, which updates the Optometric Practice and Licensure Act.
Senate Recognizes “Drugs Kill Dreams Day in Pennsylvania”
The Senate adopted Senate Resolution 385, a measure I introduced, that designates October 23 as “Drugs Kill Dreams Day” in Pennsylvania on Wednesday.
Drugs Kill Dreams is a model for many similar community-based drug prevention programs across the Commonwealth. It was established in 1994 by Armstrong County Magisterial District Judge, J. Gary DeComo. In 2000, it was renamed “Drugs Kill Dreams” following a fourth-grade poster contest.
Drugs Kill Dreams is a great program that partners with schools, churches and other community organizations to share education materials and prevention messages with young people. It effectively and successfully promotes drug and alcohol prevention awareness in schools and communities throughout Western Pennsylvania with the strong belief that if we increase prevention we will decrease addiction and crime.
Senate Approves Bill Honoring Law Enforcement Officers
The Senate approved a measure on Wednesday to recognize the service and sacrifice of local law enforcement officers. Senate Bill 1246 creates a statewide system of medals to honor the service of law enforcement officers.
Under the bill, the Municipal Police Officers Education & Training Commission would design three medals: the Bronze Star of Valor — for exceptional gallantry, heroism and bravery in the face of life-threatening circumstances; the Blue Heart — for those injured in the line of duty; and the Medal of Ultimate Sacrifice — for those who have fallen in the line of duty. The Governor would make the final decision on the awarding of a medal.
The bill 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 120, which expedites the voluntary termination of parental rights in the course of the legal adoption process.
House Bill 616, which adds Carfentanil to the list of Schedule II controlled substances in the Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.
House Bill 770, which requires pharmacy technicians to register with the State Board of Pharmacy. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.
Senate Bill 793, which exempts municipal trucks from state bonding requirements when they are traveling short distances to maintain local roads.
Senate Bill 845, which increases the maximum allowable gross weight for electric-powered commercial vehicles from 80,000 pounds to 82,000 pounds.
House Bill 941, which provides for pharmacy benefit manager pricing transparency. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.
House Bill 1032, which provides for the appointment of two Certified Pennsylvania Evaluators to serve on the State Board of Certified Real Estate Appraisers. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.
Senate Bill 1112, which addresses regulations applicable to landline telephone companies.
Senate Bill 1252, which ensures that, through assistance of volunteer teaching corps, all school children are afforded the opportunity to continue education efforts during mandatory school closures.
Senate Bill 1279, which allows for Designated Essential Family Caregivers in long-term care facilities.
Senate Bill 1339, which conveys a permanent easement in Clinton Township, Lycoming County.
Senate Bill 1341, which conveys property in West Pittston, Luzerne County.
House Bill 1538, requires those individuals designated as Sexually Violent Predators to wait three years before re-applying for parole. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.
House Bill 1617, which provides for the conversion of hotel liquor licenses (H licenses) issued before 1949 into restaurant liquor licenses (R licenses). The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.
House Bill 1662 amends the Methadone Death and Incident Review Act to include deaths and incidents attributable to any medication approved for the treatment of opioid use disorder and renames it the Medication Death and Incident Review Act. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.
House Bill 1696, which requires insurers to annually file a statement with the Insurance Department attesting to its efforts to comply with federal and state laws concerning mental health parity and substance use disorder treatment benefits.
House Bill 2175, which allows expert testimony in sexual assault cases. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.
House Bill 2296, which creates stricter requirements for when a CDL driver must notify their employer after being arrested, cited, charged or convicted with a non-parking traffic violation. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.
House Bill 280 amends the Unemployment Compensation Law to increase the periods of time allotted for parties to appeal the determination of an Unemployment Compensation Service Center and the decision of an Unemployment Compensation referee from 15 days to 21 days.
Senate Bill 763 provides the Department of Environmental Protection with greater flexibility in controlling the costs in meeting the data analysis report requirements outlined in the Bituminous Mine Subsidence and Land Conservation Act.
In addition to House Bill 81, House Bill 440, House Bill 770, House Bill 1032, Senate Bill 1112, House Bill 1673, House Bill 1961, House Bill 2175, House Bill 2176, House Bill 2293 and House Bill 2561, the Appropriations Committee approved two bills on Tuesday.
Senate Bill 658 establishes the Pennsylvania Center for Effective Indigent Defense Legal Representation.
House Bill 1617 provides for the conversion of hotel liquor licenses (H licenses) issued before 1949 into restaurant liquor licenses (R licenses).
The Appropriations Committee approved House Bill 616, House Bill 941, Senate Bill 1252, House Bill 1662 and House Bill 2296 on Wednesday. The committee also approved House Bill 2233 on Wednesday. The bill allows political subdivisions and volunteer services to share a common bulk storage tank for the storage of tax-exempt motor fuel.
Banking & Insurance
The Senate Banking & Insurance Committee approved two bills on Wednesday.
Senate Bill 1229 addresses motor vehicle service contracts and theft protection program warranties.
Senate Bill 1331 strengthens the independence of the Banking Fund.
Rules & Executive Nominations
The Rules and Executive Nominations Committee approved Senate Bill 30, Senate Bill 94, Senate Bill 395, Senate Bill 976, Senate Bill 1076, Senate Bill 1110, Senate Bill 1195, Senate Bill 1281 on Wednesday. The Committee also approved three Senate Resolutions on Wednesday in addition to Senate Resolution 385. The Resolutions were later adopted by the full Senate.
Senate Resolution 360 honors the life of Dr. Frank Erdman Boston.
Senate Resolution 375 designates November 2020 as “Carbon Monoxide Awareness Month.”
Senate Resolution 393 commemorates the 125th anniversary of Frederick Douglass’ last public lecture, at the West Chester Normal School.
House Bill 2065 amends Chapter 91 (Public-Private Transportation Partnerships) of Title 74 (Transportation) to increase reporting requirements and provide additional transportation-related services.
House Bill 2191 renames a bridge in Blair County.
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