A report on the Legislative Session from the week of
May 22, 2017
I am pleased to send you my Session Wrap Up e-newsletter. This e-newsletter features events and legislative activities during the Session Week of May 22, 2017.
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Senate Approves Local Share Assessments Bill
The Senate approved legislation on Wednesday providing for the continuation of Local Share Assessments (LSA) from casinos, including Presque Isle Downs & Casino, to support their host communities.
House Bill 271, which provides for LSAs and allows new gaming options in the Commonwealth, was returned to the House of Representatives for concurrence on Senate amendments.
Last September, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the state’s current LSA provision was unconstitutional and gave the Legislature and Administration until May 26 to find a legislative solution that would meet conditions set by its ruling.
Under House Bill 271, all casinos would pay an annual fee of $10 million. Since the fee structure in the bill is uniform for all casinos regardless of annual net revenue it should meet the conditions set by the Supreme Court ruling.
This is an issue that has wide ranging impacts not only for Erie, but for communities across Pennsylvania that receive LSAs. It was incumbent upon the General Assembly and the Wolf Administration to finalize legislation that will ensure the flow of funding from the casinos to counties and local entities continues unabated. I appreciate the efforts of my colleague Senator Mario Scavello, who as Chairman of the Senate Community, Economic & Recreational Development Committee worked tirelessly to push this bill through the legislative process.
Presque Isle Downs & Casino is a vibrant part of the Erie community and a key attraction for visitors to the region. However, it does increase the burden on the community’s services and infrastructure. Presque Isle Downs is a good neighbor and has indicated that it will continue its support for the community, but not every community is that fortunate. If we did not meet the court-imposed deadline and casinos were to withhold local share funding, the burden of additional financial costs would fall directly on taxpayers in many communities.
That’s what made finding a legally sound solution to this issue a matter of utmost importance. Senate Bill 271 will help our community and allow Presque Isle Downs to invest and grow in the future.
Senate Approves Optional Real ID Compliant Cards
Working to meet an upcoming deadline to address issues from the federal Real ID Act of 2005, the Senate passed legislation on Tuesday that would give residents the option to get a state driver’s license or photo ID card that meets security requirements imposed by the national law.
Senate Bill 133 provides for issuance of voluntary travel IDs and repeals the state Real ID Nonparticipation Act (Act 38 of 2012), which prohibits Pennsylvania from complying with the Federal Real ID Act.
The House concurred on the Senate’s amendments and sent the measure to the Governor for his signature and enactment into law.
Pennsylvania faces a June 6 deadline set by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to show that it is complying with the federal law or residents could be barred from entering federal buildings and military installations as early as next month and from commercial air travel next year without a passport or military ID.
Senate Bill 133 does not require residents to obtain the Real ID compliant license or ID card, but only makes it an option for those who want them.
The federal government has approved the use of the two-tiered system by other states.
Finance Committee Approves Public Pension Reform Measure
The Senate Finance Committee 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.
One difference between Senate Bill 1 from the previous measure is that current state employees and teachers will be able to opt-in to the new plan.
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.
Five 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 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.
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.
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 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.
Rules & Executive Nominations
The Senate Rules & Executive Nominations Committee amended House amendments and approved to Senate Bill 133 on Tuesday. The bill provide for issuance of voluntary travel IDs and repeals the REAL ID Nonparticipation Act (Act 38 of 2012), which prohibits Pennsylvania from complying with the Federal REAL ID Act.
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.
The Senate Finance Committee approved six bills on Wednesday.
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.
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.
For more information on issues of importance to Pennsylvania, please visit my website at www.senatorlaughlin.com and connect with me on Facebook (www.facebook.com/senatorlaughlin/) and Twitter (twitter.com/senatorlaughlin).