Harrisburg Happenings

A report on the Legislative Session Week of October 15, 2013

My bill expanding job opportunities for veterans goes to Governor

I am pleased to report that legislation I introduced to expand job opportunities for Pennsylvania’s service members and veterans is headed to Governor Corbett’s desk for his signature and enactment into law.

The Senate concurred Wednesday on House amendments to Senate Bill 277, legislation regarding commercial driver’s license qualification standards for members of the armed services.

Currently, military personnel and veterans who have two years of experience driving a military commercial vehicle are eligible to waive the CDL skills test when certain criteria are met. One such requirement states that the applicant is eligible for waiver if the applicant has legally operated certain equipment for at least two years immediately preceding application for a commercial driver’s license.

SB 277 strikes “immediately preceding” from the law, providing military personnel and veterans with at least two years of military commercial driving experience the opportunity to apply for a CDL with the possibility of a waiver within five years of their leaving military service.

Right now, Pennsylvania offers these waivers, but military personnel have to act immediately. That’s an unnecessary and vague requirement. The military offers top-notch, real life training that more than prepares its personnel to handle those vehicles.  We should provide every opportunity for service members and veterans to use their skills and training in the civilian world. This will benefit our men and women who serve our nation and Commonwealth as well as the companies that ultimately employ them.

Governor signs legislation ending “triple dipping” of UC benefits

The Senate and House approved legislation this week to end so-called “triple dipping” of Unemployment Compensation benefits by retirees. The practice involves an individual who collects a public pension or private retirement benefit while returning to temporary work, only to collect unemployment compensation when leaving the job.

The Governor signed House Bill 421 on Wednesday. This new law prohibits individuals from collecting unemployment compensation if they leave employment to preserve pension/retirement/annuity benefits.

Governor signs benevolent gesture bill

Health care professionals can again say “I’m sorry” without fear of legal consequences under legislation Governor Corbett signed into law on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 379 makes any benevolent gesture made prior to the commencement of a medical liability action by certain health care workers inadmissible as evidence of liability or an admission against interest. A benevolent gesture is defined in the bill as any action that conveys a sense of apology, condolence, explanation, compassion, or commiseration emanating from humane impulses. The new law applies to health care providers and assisted living residence workers who make a benevolent gesture regarding a patient’s discomfort, pain, suffering, injury or death.

The bill was approved by House of Representatives on Tuesday and by the Senate on June 25. Thirty-six states, the District of Columbia and Guam have provisions allowing medical professionals to make apologies or sympathetic gestures.

Ag Committee approves potato packaging bill

I am pleased to report that the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, which I chair, approved legislation on Tuesday that would peel away an unnecessary regulatory burden imposed on Pennsylvania’s potato farmers.

Currently, state law requires potatoes be packaged in containers for sale weighing 3, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 50, 100 and multiples of 100 pounds. Senate Bill 1131 would allow potato packagers to package potatoes without any weight restrictions.

This is good commonsense legislation that will benefit Pennsylvania’s potato producers. There is no logical reason to restrict the packaging of potatoes to specific weights. We should be working with Pennsylvania’s farmers to promote our fine agricultural products, not enforcing useless regulations.

The premise behind Senate Bill 1131 is similar to that of Act 31 of 2010, legislation I introduced that stopped the Department of Agriculture from citing non-profit community groups such as volunteer fire companies, churches, and school booster clubs for selling non-hazardous home-baked food at fundraisers.  I also believe that the Commonwealth could make better use of its resources than to hinder the livelihood of our farmers. It’s time to restore a little common sense to government.

According to the Pennsylvania Field Office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service, Pennsylvania’s acreage of fall potatoes harvested in 2012 totaled 8,600 acres, up 800 acres from 2011. The value of production was $36.2 million, up from $24.5 million in 2011.

Landowner liability measure heads to Governor’s desk

The Senate concurred Wednesday on House amendments to a Senate Bill that will limit the liability of land owners who allow hunting on their property. Senate Bill 648 will prevent land owners from being prosecuted for Game Code violations committed by hunters who are permitted to use the property. The bill now goes to the Governor for his signature and enactment into law.

Under current law, land owners who allow hunting on their property could be held responsible for violations by hunters, such as taking an animal out of season. Property owners could still be held responsible for violations if they receive a fee, payment or gratuity from the hunter.

Senate approves reduced-fee hunting, fishing licenses for disabled vets

The Senate unanimously approved legislation on Monday to offer disabled Pennsylvania veterans reduced-fee hunting and fishing licenses.

Senate Bill 1090 and Senate Bill 1102 reduce the cost of annual hunting and fishing licenses to $1 each for all disabled veterans in the Commonwealth. Currently, Pennsylvania law allows for free hunting and fishing licenses only for veterans who are either certified as 100 percent disabled or who have lost the use of one of their arms or legs.

Any Pennsylvania veteran eligible for disability compensation as determined by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs would qualify for the $1 licenses.  Veterans certified as having a total disability would continue to qualify for free licenses.  Pennsylvania currently offers $1 hunting and fishing licenses to certain active duty military personnel as well.

Both bills now go to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Legislation sets background checks for PA Bar applicants

The Senate approved legislation on Tuesday that will enhance the capacity of the Pennsylvania Board of Law Examiners to check the backgrounds of individuals applying for admittance to the Pennsylvania Bar.

Senate Bill 894 requires each applicant be fingerprinted and undergo an FBI criminal records check.  The use of an FBI records check will improve the ability of the Board to verify criminal histories. It will make it easier for applicants since they will not have to compile criminal records from multiple states.  Application for the bar includes a tight timeframe and some applicants have reported that they have been unable to obtain a records check from certain states within that timeframe.

Four local government bills among other measures approved this week

The Senate approved four local government measures among the bills considered this week:

Senate Bill 497 updates and recodifies the Third Class City Code.

Senate Bill 1046 amends the Second Class Township Code to increase the cap on township operating reserves from 5 percent to 25 percent.

Senate Bill 1081 amends the First Class Township Code, providing for filing and recording of ordinances.  

Senate Bill 1082 amends the Second Class Township Code, providing for filing and recording of ordinances.

Other bills approved this week include:

Senate Bill 81 amends the “Volunteer Health Services Act” to allow for the issuance of mental health volunteer licenses to providers of mental health services for military families.

House Bill 88 provides for paid and unpaid military leaves of absences for certain government employees.

House Bill 290  amends the Local Option Small Games of Chance Act of 1988 (P.L. 1262, No. 156) to amend and add definitions, increase prize limits, provide for the licensing and payment of fees, provide for raffle sales and pool selling, provide for locations, and to provide for additional rules and regulations for the licensing of organizations.

Senate Bill 895 reduces the length of each term for members of the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Board of Commissioners, while allowing for multiple terms of continued service.

Senate Bill 1068 provides regulatory relief for the beagle trainers.

House Bill 1098 makes changes to the Local Option Small Games of Chance Act by permitting non-profit organizations affiliated with professional sports teams and racetracks to conduct 50/50 raffles, updating certain reporting requirements for club licensees, and allowing for bars and restaurants to conduct tavern games.

Back to Top