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Senator Don White

Harrisburg Happenings
A Report on the Legislative Session of
October 23, 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 October 23, 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


Committee Holds Hearing on My Drug Pricing Transparency Bill

10/24/17 - Drug Pricing (Senate Bill 637)

The Senate Banking & Insurance Committee, which I chair, held a public hearing Tuesday on Senate Bill 637, my legislation which would require pharmaceutical manufacturers to disclose certain aspects of their drug pricing policies.

Healthcare costs overall are out of control and pharmaceuticals are a big part of that. Given the magnitude of the industry, there is a great need for transparency and accountability.  “The Pharmaceutical Transparency Commission created by my bill would be comprised of government officials and private sector representatives who will review the prices and determine if they are reasonably priced in relation to the overall cost of producing the drug.

Also on Tuesday, the Committee approved Senate Bill 373. This bill would allow patients to authorize payment of insurance benefits directly to their dental service providers, a practice known as assignment-of-benefits.

Budget Bills Sent to Governor

The General Assembly gave final approval this week to a number of bills related to the 2017-18 state budget and sent the measures on to the Governor for enactment into law.

House Bill 118 includes omnibus amendments to the Administrative Code.

House Bill 178 includes omnibus amendments to the Public School Code.

House Bill 271 expands gaming options in Pennsylvania.

Senate Bill 325 is Fiscal Year 2017-18 funding for the University of Pennsylvania.

Senate Bill 326 is Fiscal Year 2017-18 funding for Penn State University.

Senate Bill 327 is Fiscal Year 2017-18 funding for the University of Pittsburgh.

Senate Bill 328 is Fiscal Year 2017-18 funding for Temple University.

Senate Bill 329 is Fiscal Year 2017-18 funding for Lincoln University.

House Bill 674 amends the Fiscal Code.

House Bill 542 includes omnibus amendments to the Tax Reform Code.

Senate Bill 651 is the Capital Budget Project Itemization Act.

House Bill 785 amends the Capital Facilities Debt Enabling Act.

Senate Approves Bill Extending CHIP

The Senate approved legislation on Wednesday that would extend the life of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) while prohibiting the use of funds for sex change procedures.

House Bill 1388 changes the expiration date of CHIP from December 31, 2017 to December 31, 2019 and makes a clarifying exemption to the program’s expiration if federal funding for the program extends beyond December 31, 2019.

Pennsylvania’s CHIP program is one of the Commonwealth’s true success stories and has served as a model for similar programs across the country. Tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians lead healthy and productive lives because of the essential medical services they received as children through CHIP, and thousands of young people are today benefitting from the program.

Prior to the final vote, the Senate adopted amendments I introduced that bars the use of CHIP money to pay for gender or sex reassignment surgery.

It is completely inappropriate to use state funds to pay for sex change operations for children. I believe that is a position that is strongly endorsed by a vast majority of Pennsylvanians. I strongly support CHIP. This program provides vital health care services for Pennsylvania’s children. It is irresponsible to allow its limited resources to be used for sex change procedures.

The proposed restriction for CHIP is in line with current state regulations that prohibit the use of Medicaid funding for sex change procedures. Pennsylvania law already prohibits our largest state health care program from using taxpayer money for these services. It only makes sense to define in statute that this restriction includes CHIP as well.

CHIP is supported by both state and federal funding and provides insurance coverage to uninsured children and teens (up to age 19) whose families earn too much to qualify for Medical Assistance, but cannot afford private insurance. There are about 175,000 Pennsylvania children enrolled in CHIP.

Legislation Boosting Victims’ Voice on Advisory Committee Set for Enactment

Legislation providing broader representation of crime victims on the state Victims’ Services Advisory Committee (VSAC) received final legislative approval this week. Senate Bill 260 now goes to the Governor for enactment into law.

The VSAC is located within the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) and provides perspectives on behalf of all crime victims in the development of the Commission’s policies. It helps PCCD determine funding priorities and grant awards made through various funding streams, including those received under the federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA). In 2016, PCCD received $88 million in VOCA funding to support direct services, such as emergency shelter, crisis intervention, counseling and assistance in participating in the criminal justice system.

Several other bills received final legislative approval this week and were sent to the Governor’s desk.

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 181 establishes a performance-based budget component.

House Bill 203 amends the Probate, Estates and Fiduciaries Code to increase from $5,000 to $10,000 the amount an employer may pay directly to a surviving relative for the decedent’s final paycheck.

Senate Bill 222 adds Court of Common Pleas judges in several counties across the state.

Senate Bill 242 transfers enforcement authority for the Pennsylvania One Call System from the Department of Labor & Industry to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.

Senate Bill 690 establishes a mechanism for the initial apportionment of any home rule or optional plan municipality without a mayor that will be dividing into wards either partially or totally.

Senate Bill 691 establishes uniform residential qualifications of office for persons seeking election to, or appointment to fill a vacancy in, a municipal elected office where recent service in the military might interfere with the person’s ability to satisfy the relevant residency requirements.

House Bill 790 establishes the Controlled Plant and Noxious Weed Act to provide for the regulation of noxious weeds and controlled plants and repeals the Noxious Weed Control Law.

Senate Approves Bill Addressing Costs, Opioid Abuse Under Workers’ Comp

10/25/17 - Worker's Compensation Drug Formulary

On Wednesday, the Senate approved legislation I introduced that would save costs and address opioid abuse under Pennsylvania’s Workers’ Compensation program. Senate Bill 936 would require the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry to adopt an evidence-based drug formulary for Pennsylvania’s Workers’ Compensation program.  Audio

In addition to lowering costs and providing better care for patients, this proposal will greatly assist the Commonwealth in our battle against the opioid addiction crisis. The adoption of a drug formulary, which is commonplace in health insurance, will begin to reduce the over-prescription of opioid painkillers by setting evidence-based standards for the medication that can be prescribed for a Workers’ Comp patient. The legislation will also eliminate payments for overpriced, unproven pain creams.

My legislation would also address ethical problems illustrated in a recent Philadelphia newspaper article. Some law firms that specialize in Workers’ Compensation have purchased their own pharmacies. This has enabled them to refer clients to doctors with which they have referral agreements and, in turn, the doctors write prescriptions and send them to the pharmacy the firm owns. In addition to this ethically questionable practice, the newspaper article pointed out that arrangements such as these have led to increased prescriptions of opioids and expensive, unproven pain creams. While the article only addresses one Philadelphia law firm, the problem is statewide.

Senate Advances 11 Measures

The Senate approved 11 measures, sending them to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Senate Resolution 168 directs the Joint State Government Commission to establish an advisory committee to analyze the potential impact of removing Cambria County from the emissions testing program. 

House Bill 203 amends the Probate, Estates and Fiduciaries Code to increase from $5,000 to $10,000 the amount an employer may pay directly to a surviving relative for the decedent’s final paycheck. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate Amendments.  

Senate Resolution 227 urges the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to swiftly consider the United States Department of Energy’s proposed Grid Resiliency Pricing Rule and implement policies and adopt tariffs to ensure fuel-secure generation resources receive proper compensation.

Senate Bill 542 permits pharmacists to dispense emergency prescription refills for up to 30 days pursuant to certain restrictions.

Senate Bill 625 requires the flying of a POW/MIA flag at rest areas and welcome centers.

Senate Bill 676 addresses ongoing funding deficiencies in the Workers’ Compensation Uninsured Employers Guarantee Fund.

Senate Bill 822 requires the flying of a POW/MIA flag at state-owned properties.

Senate Bill 900 transfers a property title.

Senate Bill 921 conveys a property.

Senate Bill 935 addresses time of service for the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission.

House Bill 1490 places the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority under the oversight of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

Committee Roundup

Aging & Youth

The Senate Aging & Youth Committee approved House Bill 425 on Wednesday. The bill provides for a COLA exemption for PACE/PACENET recipients through December 31, 2019.

Appropriations

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved eight bills on Monday.

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 113 would allow family members to have access and visitation rights with regard to a family member who is incapacitated and under court-appointed guardianship.

House Bill 203 amends the Probate, Estates and Fiduciaries Code to increase from $5,000 to $10,000 the amount an employer may pay directly to a surviving relative for the decedent’s final paycheck.

Senate Bill 625 would require the flying of a POW/MIA flag at rest areas and welcome centers.

House Bill 674 amends the Fiscal Code.

Senate Bill 775 establishes the Pennsylvania Museum Preservation Fund.

Senate Bill 822 would require the flying of a POW/MIA flag at state-owned properties.

House Bill 1388 changes the expiration date of CHIP from December 31, 2017 to December 31, 2019 and prohibits the use of funds for sex change procedures.

The Appropriations Committee approved two bills on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 52 establishes the National Guard Youth Challenge Program.

Senate Bill 935 addresses time of service for the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission.

The Appropriations Committee approved two bills on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 792 sets labeling requirements for lawn fertilizer. 

Senate Bill 936 requires the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry to adopt an evidence-based drug formulary for Pennsylvania’s Workers’ Compensation program. 

Community, Economic & Recreational Development

The Senate Community, Economic & Recreational Development Committee approved Senate Bill 234 on Tuesday. The bill would establish the Property Assessed Clean Energy program.

Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure

The Senate Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure Committee approved Senate Resolution 227 on Tuesday. The measure urges the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to swiftly consider the United States Department of Energy’s proposed Grid Resiliency Pricing Rule and implement policies and adopt tariffs to ensure fuel-secure generation resources receive proper compensation.

Education

The Senate Education Committee approved four measures on Tuesday.

Senate Resolution 228 establishes a Task Force on Global Education.

Senate Bill 521 adds CPR instruction to the state education curriculum for high school students.

Senate Bill 540 allows students who are performing at events and funerals honoring our veterans to be excused from school, and allow that time to be counted toward volunteering or community service requirements. 

House Bill 1448  charges the Department of Education with creating a website to compare institutions of higher education.

Game & Fisheries

 The Senate Game & Fisheries Committee approved Senate Bill 935 on Monday. The bill addresses time of service for the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission.

Labor & Industry

The Senate Labor & Industry Committee approved four bills on Monday.

Senate Bill 537 and Senate Bill 538 provide for an Athletic Leave of Absence for state and school employees who have qualified as a member of a United States team for competition in a sport sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee.

Senate Bill 936 requires the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry to adopt an evidence-based drug formulary for Pennsylvania’s Workers’ Compensation program.

Rules & Executive Nominations

The Senate Rules & Executive Nominations Committee approved five bills on Monday.

Senate Bill 222 adds Court of Common Pleas judges in several counties across the state.

Senate Bill 242 transfers enforcement authority for the Pennsylvania One Call System from the Department of Labor & Industry to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.

Senate Bill 260 addresses representation of crime victims on the Victims’ Services Advisory Committee within the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.

Senate Bill 741 addresses sunset provisions related to funding for the courts and indigent legal services.

House Bill 785 amends the Capital Facilities Debt Enabling Act.

The Rules & Executive Nominations Committee approved House Bill 178 on Tuesday. The bill includes omnibus amendments to the Public School Code.

The Rules & Executive Nominations Committee approved five bills on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 181 establishes a performance-based budget component.

House Bill 271 expands gaming options in Pennsylvania.

House Bill 542 includes omnibus amendments to the Tax Reform Code.

Senate Bill 651 is the Capital Budget Project Itemization Act.

House Bill 785 amends the Capital Facilities Debt Enabling Act.

Transportation

The Senate Transportation Committee approved six measures on Wednesday.

Senate Resolution 209 directs the Joint State Government Commission to study the consolidation of interstate operations of the Department of Transportation and the Turnpike Commission.

Senate Bill 894 renames a highway.

House Bill 1294 allows motorcycles to be equipped with a special registration plate for Purple Heart recipients.

House Bill 1602 renames a bridge.

House Bill 1608 renames a bridge.

House Bill 1778 renames a bridge.

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