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Senator Don White

Harrisburg Happenings
A Report on the Legislative Session of
July 8, 2017

Dear Friend,

I am pleased to send you my Session Wrap Up e-newsletter. This e-newsletter features legislative activities during the Session Week of July 8, 2017.

If you find this e-newsletter useful, I invite you to visit my website www.senatordonwhite.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,

Don White


Property Tax Exclusion Measure Now Goes to PA Voters

The Senate’s passage of a proposed constitutional amendment on Tuesday moves Pennsylvania closer to providing a way for local governments to eliminate residential school property taxes through a homestead exemption.

Currently, the Pennsylvania Constitution allows local taxing authorities to exclude from taxation up to 50 percent of the median assessed value of homestead property within the taxing district.  House Bill 1285 would increase the allowable exclusion to 100 percent. If adopted by the voters, it would allow for the elimination of school property taxes on owner-occupied residential properties.

In order for a constitutional amendment to be enacted, it must be passed in two consecutive legislative sessions and approved by a voter referendum.  House Bill 147 was approved by the Legislature last year and with the approval of House Bill 1285 this week, the proposal now go to the voters to decide. 

Bill Renaming Bridges for Local Veterans Goes to Governor

The Senate gave final legislative approval on Monday to a bill I introduced that renames two bridges as memorials honoring the military service of local veterans.

Senate Bill 289 designates the Bairdstown Bridge on old State Route 22 over the Conemaugh River between Blairsville Borough, Indiana County, and Derry Township, Westmoreland County, as the “Blairsville Area Veterans Memorial Bridge” and a bridge on Route 85 over Plum Creek in Plumville as the “Henry Lue Weaver Memorial Bridge.”

With the Senate’s concurrence on amendments inserted by the House of Representatives, the measure now goes to the Governor’s desk for enactment into law.

Senate Bill 289 initially included only the Bairdstown Bridge, which Senator White sponsored with the endorsement of Blairsville American Legion Post 0407, Blairsville Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States Post Number 5821, the Borough of Blairsville and the Derry Township Board of Supervisors.

The community strongly supported this proposal and it was an honor to introduce this legislation on their behalf to recognize the members of the Blairsville area community who served our nation and answered the call of duty.

“We think this renaming is quite appropriate when we consider the large number of men and women in our area who answered the call of service to our nation when in war or in peace,” the officers Legion Post 0407 wrote in a letter of support. “We also want to take into account the immediacy of the newly dedicated Blairsville Area Veterans Memorial, positioned only several hundred yards east of the bridge. We think of this as being a befitting meshing of the two and also a capping off of the measures already taken to memorialize the great service and sacrifice of all local veterans killed or missing in action whose names are etched there in stone.”

The House of Representatives amended Senate Bill 289 to include several other bridge renaming proposals, including Senate Bill 669, which I introduced to honor Henry Lue Weaver.

“I was honored to assist in shepherding Senator White’s bill through the House of Representatives in recognition of PFC Weaver and the countless number of veterans from Blairsville who have fought to preserve our freedom,” said Representative Dave Reed.  “My hope is that this measure helps serve as a public reminder, and acknowledgment of gratitude, for all of their sacrifices.”

Private First Class Weaver was a native of Plumville and graduated from Marion Center Area High School. He was drafted into the Army in August 1966 and completed basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. PFC Weaver was killed in action on April 22, 1967, while serving with the 35th Infantry Regiment, 25th Division, in Vietnam.

 I am pleased that my colleagues approved this bill which recognizes PFC Weaver’s honorable service and sacrifice for our nation. This bridge will serve as a lasting reminder of the dedication and fidelity of this local hero. 

Bill Creating Independent Inspector General Sent to Governor

Legislation that would create an independent Office of Inspector General and give Pennsylvania’s top fraud, waste and abuse investigator more power and authority received final legislative approval Monday.

The Governor announced Tuesday that he plans to sign Senate Bill 527, which codifies the Office of Inspector General in law. The position currently exists only by Gubernatorial Executive Order. Under the legislation, the Inspector General will have subpoena powers and limited law enforcement authority, something the office currently does not have.

Several other bills also received final legislative approval this week and were sent to the Governor for enactment into law. 

Senate Bill 144 amends Act 537 (Pennsylvania Sewage Facilities Act) to allow “alternative systems.”

Senate Bill 399 clarifies the Second Class Township Code to stipulate that township supervisors shall not hold any other elective township office or appointed position in the township that is prohibited by the code or any other state law.

House Bill 422 amends the First Class Township Code clarifying proof of residency of officials, bonding requirements and the handling of vacancies.

Senate Bill 553 provides for chemical testing and other measures related to driving after using alcohol or drugs.

Senate Bill 589 increases the maximum allowable gross weight for commercial vehicles powered by natural gas from 80,000 pounds to 82,000 pounds.

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

Senate Bill 680 provides for expenses of the State Employees' Retirement Board for Fiscal Year 2017-18.

Senate Bill 681 provides for expenses of the Public School Employees' Retirement Board for Fiscal Year 2017-18.

Senate Bill 682 provides Fiscal Year 2017-18 funding to the Department of State for use by the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs.

Senate Bill 683 provides Fiscal Year 2017-18 funding to the Department of Labor & Industry and the Department of Community & Economic Development to cover the expenses of administering the Workers' Compensation Act.

Senate Bill 684 provides Fiscal Year 2017-18 funding for the Public Utility Commission.

Senate Bill 685 provides Fiscal Year 2017-18 funding for the Office of Consumer Advocate in the Office of Attorney General.

Senate Bill 686 provides Fiscal Year 2017-18 funding for the Office of Small Business Advocate in the Department of Community & Economic Development.

Senate Bill 687 makes appropriations from restricted revenue accounts within the State Gaming Fund and from the State Gaming Fund to the Attorney General, the Department of Revenue, the Pennsylvania State Police and the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board for Fiscal Year 2017-18.

Senate Bill 688 makes appropriations from the Philadelphia Taxicab & Limousine Regulatory Fund and the Philadelphia Taxicab Medallion Fund to the Philadelphia Parking Authority for Fiscal Year 2017-18.

House Bill 1426 allows certain trucks to operate during holidays.

House Bill 1494 authorizes the Commonwealth to enter into Federal cooperative agreements to conduct forest management activities upon Federal lands. 

Senate Approves New Protections for Domestic Violence Victims

Victims of domestic violence would be better protected against retribution from their abusers under a bill approved by the Senate on Saturday.

Senate Bill 449, also known as Tierne’s Law, would allow Magisterial District Judges to use a risk assessment tool when determining bail in domestic violence cases.

The bill was named in honor of Tierne Ewing, a Washington County resident who was kidnapped and murdered by her estranged husband in August 2016. The killer had been arrested a few weeks prior to the kidnapping for domestic violence and other offenses, but was granted bail in spite of the prosecutor’s request for bail to be raised or revoked.

Last year, Pennsylvania assisted more than 89,000 victims of domestic violence. Ewing was one of 102 domestic violence homicide victims in 2016.

Several other bills were approved by the Senate this week and sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Senate Bill 6 aims to eradicate waste, fraud, and abuse within the Commonwealth's Public Welfare Code. 

House Bill 59 makes a number of amendments and additions to the Human Services Code. The bill was returned to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

House Bill 97 makes extensive changes to the Public School Code concerning charter schools. The bill was returned to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

Senate Bill 172 provides a five-year trial period for PENNDOT to place speed cameras in active work zones on limited access highways. 

House Bill 176 exempts roadside agricultural stands from the Uniform Construction Code. The bill was returned to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

House Bill 290 amends the Storage Tank and Spill Prevention Act to address a vacancy on the Underground Storage Tank Indemnification Board. The bill was returned to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

Senate Bill 403 removes the Governor’s appointment of an FBI Agent to the Municipal Police Officers Education & Training Commission and replace it with a Governor’s appointment of a member of the State Fraternal Order of Police.

Senate Bill 431 increases fines for littering. 

Senate Bill 590 increases the service charge for bad checks.

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.

Senate Bill 697 establishes the Capital Budget for Fiscal Year 2017-18.

House Bill 785 amends the Capital Facilities Debt Enabling Act. The bill was returned to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

House Bill 1431 renames several roads and bridges. The bill was returned to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

The Senate also approved two Resolutions on Sunday.

Senate Resolution 165 amends Senate Rules regarding Senate Citations.

Senate Resolution 166 amends Senate Rules regarding expenses. 

Committee Roundup

Appropriations

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved 12 bills on Saturday.

Senate Bill 6 aims to eradicate waste, fraud, and abuse within the Commonwealth's Public Welfare Code. 

House Bill 97 makes extensive changes to the Public School Code concerning charter schools.

House Bill 211 establishes a statewide 2-1-1 System Grant Program.

House Bill 234 requires counties that do not currently outsource their collections of restitution, costs and fees, to establish a collections enforcement unit in order to collect and track payments of restitution, costs and fees.

House Bill 236 prioritizes wage attachment for restitution, court costs and fines.

House Bill 285 requires the Department of Corrections or a correctional facility to deduct a portion of an offender’s wages and other deposits to satisfy any restitution, costs and fines.

House Bill 409 makes comprehensive changes to the process used by the Uniform Construction Code Review and Advisory Council to evaluate and adopt building code updates.

House Bill 631 requires those convicted of a Tier 3 sexual offense be sentenced to a mandatory period of probation of three years consecutive to and in addition to any other sentence issued by the court.

Senate Bill 781 would allow constituents to obtain handicap parking placards in their respective legislative district offices rather than waiting to receive them in the mail.

House Bill 785 amends the Capital Facilities Debt Enabling Act.

House Bill 1494 authorizes the Commonwealth to enter into Federal cooperative agreements to conduct forest management activities upon Federal lands.

House Bill 1523 modernizes and reforms the state DNA database.

The Appropriations Committee approved two bills on Tuesday.

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

House Bill 1285 proposes a constitutional amendment that would allow for the elimination of residential school property taxes through the homestead exclusion. 

Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness

The Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee approved two bills on Saturday.

Senate Bill 52 establishes the National Guard Youth Challenge Program.

House Bill 824 establishes the National Guard Youth Challenge Program. 

Rules & Executive Nominations

The Senate Rules & Executive Nominations Committee approved two Resolutions on Saturday.

Senate Resolution 165 amends Senate Rules regarding Senate Citations.

Senate Resolution 166 amends Senate Rules regarding expenses.

The Rules & Executive Nominations Committee approved House-amended versions of five Senate Bills on Sunday.

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

Senate Bill 289 renames several bridges.

Senate Bill 527 creates an independent Office of Inspector General.

Senate Bill 553 provides for chemical testing and other measures related to driving after using alcohol or drugs.

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

Labor & Industry

The Senate Labor & Industry Committee approved House Bill 176 on Saturday. The bill exempts roadside agricultural stands from the Uniform Construction Code.

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