Harrisburg Happenings

A report on the Legislative Session Week of March 17, 2014

Senate approves my bill ending “summer” gasoline mandate

The Senate, on Wednesday, unanimously approved legislation I introduced 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 House of Representatives for consideration.

Since 1999, the state Department of Environmental Protection and federal Environmental Protection Agency have required that gasoline sold between May 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 sends “snow day” bill to the House

Recognizing the impact that the harsh winter of 2013-14 has placed on school districts across the Commonwealth, the Senate approved a “snow day” bill on Wednesday and sent the measure to the House of Representative for consideration.

Senate Bill 1281 provides schools with flexibility in making up missed time due to weather emergencies. The measure gives schools the discretion to calculate the school year on an hourly, rather than daily basis, and permits schools to hold class one Saturday per month.

The bill mirrors previous weather emergency legislation passed by the General Assembly as a result of the 1996 flooding in the northwestern part of the state.

Marking the 100th anniversary of the Co-Op extension system

The Senate unanimously adopted Senate Resolution 323, a measure I introduced to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Smith-Lever Act, which founded the nationwide Cooperative Extension System. Click here to watch as I speak from floor of the Senate in support of this resolution and in support of the Penn State Cooperative Extension program.

 Rural Regional Community College Initiative approved by Senate

The Senate approved legislation on Wednesday which will create a Rural Regional Community College Initiative.

Senate Bill 1000 also includes a pilot program to establish a rural community college in an 11-county rural area that is underserved by the current community college system.

The legislation is a bi-partisan measure which is based largely on recommendations by a Legislative Budget and Finance Committee study completed in December 2011. The study concluded that there is a significant need for public community college programs in rural Pennsylvania.

According to the report, by 2018 most jobs will require post-secondary education training, however 25 of the 26 rural counties in Pennsylvania have no community college programs.

SB 1000 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration. Other measures approved by the Senate and sent to the House this week include:

House Bill 316 provides for children’s advocacy centers and creates a grant program to fund those agencies. The bill returns to the House of Representatives for concurrence on Senate amendments.

Senate Bill 874 creates a more flexible, local funding system for Harrisburg Area Community College and its 22 sponsoring school districts.

House Bill 770 authorizes PENNDOT to issue specialty license plates supporting the Appalachian Trails Conservancy and makes various other changes to the Vehicle Code. The bill returns to the House of Representatives for concurrence on Senate amendments.

Senate Bill 1197 makes changes affecting the juvenile justice system within the Commonwealth.

Senate Bill 1205 streamlines the process for a college to change its designation to university.

Senate sends bills to Governor for enactment into law

The Senate gave final approval to two bills this week and sent them on to the Governor for his signature and enactment into law.

Senate Bill 681 allows sexual violence victims to petition the court for a protective order for up to 36 months.

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.


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