Harrisburg Happenings

A report on the Legislative Session Week of November 18, 2013

Senate approves Livery Providers Fair Lien Act

The Senate approved legislation I introduced creating the Pennsylvania Livery Providers Fair Lien Act as a way to ensure stable owners are properly compensated for the costs of caring for horses placed in their care on Monday.

Senate Bill 995 creates a lien attachment for services rendered as soon as the horse is placed in the care of a stable owner. I have heard from horse stable owners of cases where customers have chosen to abandon their property rather than pay for the care for their horses. My bill provides a way to ensure stable owners are reimbursed for feeding and the veterinary costs of caring for the abandoned animal.

Senate Bill 995 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Other bills sent to the House include:

Senate Bill 267 assists school entities in making automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) available in all school buildings. Specifically the bill requires the Department of Education, in consultation with the Department of Health and Department of General Services, to biennially issue an invitation to bid for the cost of automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) and other equipment and supplies necessary for the proper operation of the device. School entities, including nonpublic schools, would then be able to purchase AEDs at the contract bid price.

Bills approved by the Senate this week and returned to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments include:

House Bill 1193 amends the First Class Township Code to allow police officers to serve on their local school board without having to resign from the police force.

House Bill 1348 and House Bill 1351set requirements for physician review of patient records completed by physician assistants.

Committee approves bill ending “summer” gasoline mandate

The Environmental Resources and Energy Committee unanimously approved legislation I introduced designed to end a “hidden” tax that drives up the costs of gasoline for western Pennsylvanians.

Senate Bill 1037 eliminates statutory requirements for low Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) gasoline in Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland Counties during the summer months. This “summer gas” is routinely more expensive than gasoline sold in the rest of Pennsylvania and also in neighboring Ohio and West Virginia.

The bill now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

Since 1999, the state Department of Environmental Protection and federal Environmental Protection Agency have required that gasoline sold between June 1 and September 15 in the seven-county Greater Pittsburgh Area have a RVP of 7.8psi. Regular gasoline has an RVP of 9.0.

This means that people in a seven-county area of western Pennsylvania often pay 10 to 15 cents more per gallon for gas than those in neighboring counties and just across the border in Ohio. Basically, the RVP regulation is nothing more than a hidden tax, not only at the pump but also on goods and services. Senate Bill 1037 ends that unfair and costly regulation on the people of western Pennsylvania.

Senate approves transportation improvement funding package

The Senate approved a comprehensive transportation improvement funding package on Wednesday. House Bill 1060 raises approximately $2.3 billion in sustainable annual funding by FY 2017-18 through a number of sources including adjusting vehicle and driver fees for inflation, surcharging fines for drivers who violate traffic laws, uncapping the Oil Company Franchise Tax, and achieving significant cost savings by modernizing many PENNDOT services. In addition to providing additional funding for Pennsylvania’s highway and bridge infrastructure and transit agencies, the plan addresses dirt and gravel roads, rail, aviation, ports, and bicycle/pedestrian funding needs.

Senate sends small games of chance bills to Governor

The Senate gave final approval Monday to legislation expanding Pennsylvania’s small games of chance law and permitting 50-50 drawings at minor league home games. House Bill 1098 now goes to the Governor for his signature and enactment into law.

The bill allows restaurants and taverns to apply for a license to operate pull-tab games, daily drawings or raffles, while requiring that 60 percent of proceeds from those games to be distributed to the state’s General Fund. Five percent of the proceeds would be distributed to local governments.

Senate Bill 1098 also changes requirements for certain nonprofit organizations that are currently licensed to operate small games of chance, including relaxed reporting requirements, clarifications to the distribution of proceeds and an increase in the amount of proceeds a licensed organization may retain.

On Tuesday, the Senate concurred on House amendments to House Bill 290, a comprehensive measure amending provisions of the Small Games of Chance Act. These changes include the addition of allowable games, clarification of the term “public interest charities,” drawings and prize limits, special raffle permits, record keeping, licenses and fees, location of games and enforcement responsibilities.

 Senate approves bill to maximize state tuition assistance for National Guard

The Senate approved legislation amending the Pennsylvania National Guard Educational Assistance Program (EAP) to help ensure proper distribution of federal and state financial aid on Monday.

Senate Bill 1115 clarifies that grants under the EAP will be applied after federal assistance programs such as the GI Bill and Federal Tuition Assistance. In addition, the legislation ensured that EAP funds are only used for tuition/fees, room/board and books as long as such costs are documented by the educational institution. 

Senate passes military physician incentive legislation

The Senate approved legislation intended to assist the Pennsylvania National Guard in its efforts to recruit and retain military resident physicians on Monday.  The intent of the Military Physician Incentive Program in Senate Bill 403 is to use state Educational Assistance Program (EAP) funding to encourage those officers to continue their service in the National Guard.

Although military physicians qualify for various federally-funded bonuses and incentive programs that include military obligations, none of them currently require continued service in the National Guard.  Senate Bill 403 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Local government purchasing bills sent to Governor

The Senate approved legislation this week to make it easier for municipal officials to purchase used equipment from another governmental unit.

Generally under the local government codes, municipal officials must advertise and bid contracts over $10,000.  One exception to this requirement is to purchase used equipment, vehicles parts, etc. from a public utility.

House Bill 668 amends the Second Class Township Code and House Bill 669 amends the First Class Township Code to expand the exception to include the purchase of used equipment, vehicles, parts, etc. from another municipality, a county, school district, municipal authority, council of government or the state or Federal government.

The bills now go to the Governor for his signature and enactment into law. Other bills receiving final legislative approval this week and sent to the Governor include:

House Bill 27 increases the penalties for certain types of harassment if the offender is violating a protection from abuse order when committing the harassment.

House Bill 388 gives municipalities an additional enforcement mechanism to collect delinquent property taxes.

House Bill 714 increases the penalty for stealing the Social Security number of a child in order to obtain a credit card, secure a loan, or buy property.

Senate Bill 802 modernizes and revises the Commonwealth’s Boiler and Unfired Pressure Vessel Law.

House Bill 1356 extends the state Wiretap Act for five years to December 31, 2018

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