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Senator Scott Hutchinson

Dear Friend,

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 May 22, 2017.

If you find this e-newsletter useful, I invite you to visit my website www.senatorscotthutchinson.com for more information about your state government. If you do not wish to receive these e-newsletters, please click the "unsubscribe" button at the bottom of the page. If you would like to contact my office, please go to my web page and click the "contact" button. Please do not "reply" directly to this e-mail.

Sincerely,

Scott


Finance Committee Approves Bills to Help Firefighters, Veterans Groups

5/24/17 - Consideration of Bills

The Senate Finance Committee, which I chair, approved six bills on Wednesday, including measures to help firefighters, veterans’ organizations, animal shelters and pediatric cancer research. Click for audio from the committee meeting.

House Bill 46 would allow taxpayers to designate a portion of their state income tax refund for pediatric cancer research beginning with tax year 2018 filings.

Senate Bill 430 provides for a Realty Transfer Tax exemption for nationally recognized veterans’ organizations.

Senate Bill 469 provides for a tax credit to encourage businesses to support non-profit animal shelters.

Senate Bill 594 would provide a sales tax exemption for firefighters when purchasing accessory equipment, protective equipment, or communications equipment using personal funds.

House Bill 674 requires the Department of Revenue to determine whether lottery winners of $2,500 or more owe court-ordered obligations and to deduct any amounts owed before paying out the prize. In cases where the winner is receiving public assistance, the bill directs the Department of Human Services to determine whether the winner should remain eligible to receive public assistance.

Senate Bill 677 provides that contributions into a PA ABLE account may be deducted annually from taxable income up to a maximum of the annual federal gift tax exclusion (currently $14,000) per beneficiary. It also provides that any distributions from or changes to a PA ABLE account that are not subject to federal income tax will not be subject to Pennsylvania state income tax. The ABLE savings program allows individuals with qualifying disabilities and their families to save tax-free for a wide range of disability-related expenses.

The bills now go to the full Senate for consideration.

Finance Committee Approves Public Pension Reform Measure

The Senate Finance Committee, which I chair, took the first step toward the enactment of essential pension reform with its passage of Senate Bill 1 on Tuesday.

The measure contains the same provisions as the October 2016 Conference Committee Report for Senate Bill 1071, which did not receive final approval prior to the end of the 2015-16 Legislative Session.

Senate Bill 1 would provide three options for new employees and teachers. They could opt for a defined benefit plan, similar to a 401k, or one of two hybrid defined benefit/defined contribution plans, with different levels of employee contributions and benefits.

Senate Bill 1 now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

Stroke Care Bill Sent to the Governor

The Senate gave final approval on Tuesday to legislation that will improve care for stroke victims and sent the bill to the Governor for enactment into law. House Bill 23 adds acute stroke-ready hospitals and comprehensive stroke centers to the provisions of the Primary Stroke Center Recognition Act.

The bill allows Pennsylvania to take advantage of new federal guidelines that create three specific levels of certified stroke centers to treat patients based on their individual needs. The three levels of certification are primary stroke centers, acute stoke-ready hospitals, and comprehensive stroke centers. Emergency responders will use this information when deciding where to take stroke victims for treatment, so they receive the best care possible for the severity and type of stroke occurring.

Bill Strengthens Penalties for Threatening Law Enforcement Officials

The Senate approved legislation on Tuesday that would help to protect members of law enforcement by increasing the penalty for threating law enforcement officers, sheriffs or members of their family.

Under Senate Bill 510, anyone who threatens death or serious bodily injury to a law enforcement officer, a sheriff or deputy sheriff, or a member of their family or household would commit a felony of the third degree. A second or subsequent offense would constitute a felony of the second degree. The bill now goes to House of Representatives for consideration.

Seven additional bills were approved by the Senate and sent to the House this week.

Senate Bill 108 prohibits the discrimination of any potential organ transplant recipient on the basis of a physical or mental disability.

House Bill 151 amends Title 12 (Commerce and Trade) to define “agent.” The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

Senate Bill 269 amends the Pennsylvania Uniform Construction Code.

Senate Bill 288 would increase fines and suspend the licenses of repeat offenders of Pennsylvania’s “Steer Clear” law.

Senate Bill 522 amends Title 42 and Title 61 to merge the Department of Corrections and the Board of Probation and Parole as the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Senate Bill 523 amends the Crime Victims Act to merge the Department of Corrections and the Board of Probation and Parole as the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Senate Bill 651 is the Capital Budget Project Itemization Act of Fiscal year 2017-18.

Senate Adopts Resolution Addressing Rape Kit Accountability

The Senate unanimously adopted a measure on Wednesday calling for a formal study of rape kit accountability in the Commonwealth. Senate Resolution 75 directs the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to review how Pennsylvania accounts for and analyzes forensic evidence kits (rape kits). According to the Rape Kit Action Project, there are at least 100,000 forensic evidence kits that are sitting untested or unaccounted for across the United States.

Senate Confirms McDonnell as Environmental Protection Secretary

The Senate confirmed Patrick McDonnell to serve as Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection on Monday. McDonnell served as Acting Secretary since last May, replacing John Quigley who resigned in the wake of an email controversy. Prior to that, McDonnell served as director of policy for DEP, ran the State Energy Office and worked for the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.

Committee Roundup

Appropriations

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved five bills on Monday.

House Bill 23 adds acute stroke-ready hospitals and comprehensive stroke centers to the provisions of the Primary Stroke Center Recognition Act.

Senate Bill 144 amends Act 537 (Pennsylvania Sewage Facilities Act) to allow the use of “alternative systems” for planning purposes.

House Bill 151 amends Title 12 (Commerce and Trade) to define “agent.”

Senate Bill 592 gives taxpayers an opportunity to examine the terms of employment contracts that the local school board extends to key district employees.

Senate Bill 651 is the Capital Budget Project Itemization Act of Fiscal year 2017-18.

On Wednesday, the Appropriations Committee approved House Bill 271, which provides for new gaming options in the Commonwealth and provides for county local share assessments.

Environmental Resources & Energy

The Senate Environmental Resources & Energy Committee approved two bills on Monday.

Senate Bill 624 amends the Bituminous Mine Subsidence and Land Conservation Act, providing for planned subsidence and for retroactivity.

Senate Bill 649 extends the Underground Storage Tank Environmental Cleanup Program and the Pollution Prevention Program which are set to terminate on June 30.

Education

The Senate Education Committee approved three bills on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 53 would permanently allow for distance education inclusion in the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency State Grant Program.

Senate Bill 634 expands on the Transfer and Articulation Program.

Senate Bill 725 requires Department of Education to submit any proposed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan to the Education Committees of the General Assembly prior to its submission to the federal government and would require legislation to be enacted prior to its implementation.

The Senate Education Committee approved three bills on Tuesday.

Transportation

The Senate Transportation Committee approved five bills on Tuesday.

House Bill 269 renames several highways and bridges.

House Bill 303 renames a bridge.

Senate Bill 564 requires PENNDOT to include protective fencing in the construction of new bridges and major renovations of existing bridges over interstate highways.

Senate Bill 669 renames a bridge.

Senate Bill 724 amends Title 75 (Vehicles), in motor carrier safety, repealing findings and declaration of policy and further providing for definitions and for Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee.

Community, Economic & Recreational Development

The Senate Community, Economic & Recreational Development Committee approved House Bill 271 on Tuesday after amending the measure to provide for new gaming options in the Commonwealth and for county local share assessments.

Urban Affairs & Housing

The Senate Urban Affairs & Housing Committee approved four bills on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 586 bans spot appeals of property assessments.

House Bill 595 provides for complaints that can be filed with the Bureau of Consumer Protection regarding planned communities, cooperatives and condominiums.

Senate Bill 667 gives redevelopment authorities the same powers currently allotted to land banks through the Pennsylvania Land Bank Act.

House Bill 758 creates the Tax Exemption and Mixed-Use Incentive Program, which will allow for tax exemption incentives for developers that improve certain deteriorated areas, with a special emphasis on promoting mixed-use housing and development.


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