Harrisburg Happenings

A report on the Legislative Session Week of April 28, 2014

Senate approves school bus length legislation

I am pleased to report that the Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 1312 on Monday. I introduced this legislation to bring Pennsylvania’s school bus laws in line with 45 other states and allow school districts and school bus contractors to choose the most appropriate vehicles based on their needs.

Currently state law arbitrarily limits school buses to 40 feet in length, despite the fact that other types of “non-school” buses are legal in lengths up to 45 feet.

Manufacturers are selling buses in lengths between 40 and 45 feet in other states, but our school districts and their contractors are prohibited from using them in Pennsylvania. By allowing school districts and school bus contractors to purchase longer buses, they will be able to better control their costs by streamlining routes.  Furthermore, it will allow school districts and contractors to choose from among the full selection of vehicles available with the latest technology and safety features to best meet the needs of their districts.

Pennsylvania is only one of five states that restrict the length of a school bus to 40 feet.  The National Congress on Student Transportation, a group of pupil transportation experts from each state, supports this concept by recommending the overall length of a school bus shall not exceed 45 feet, excluding accessories.  This legislation will mirror this recommendation by allowing buses to transport students on a school bus up to 45 feet in length.

SB 1312 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Click here to hear my comments on the bill.

Senate approves bill to improve school safety

            The Senate approved a bill on Wednesday that would give local school districts the option to contract for police service as a way to improve safety in classrooms and reduce response times in the event of an emergency. Specifically, Senate Bill 1194 would give public and non-public school districts in communities where police services are furnished solely by the Pennsylvania State Police the option to contract with municipal police from nearby jurisdictions to provide security as well as school resource officers in their schools.

SB 1194 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Several other bills were sent to the House this week

House Bill 434 amends current state law to eliminate separate standards for school employees with regard to child abuse investigations and background clearances.  The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

Senate Bill 799 updates Pennsylvania’s laws regarding self-storage facilities.

Senate Bill 959 officially recognizes Nurse Anesthetists as Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists, CRNAs, in Pennsylvania law.

Senate Bill 1255 would allow storm water authorities to establish programs that could save both the authorities and ratepayers money by implementing and maintaining storm water best management practices that address their own contributions to the problems caused by storm water runoff.

Senate Bill 1287 updates the ATV definition in state law to allow for titling and registration of innovative new vehicles.

Senate Bill 1325 amends state law regarding to county board of inspectors in counties of the eighth class.

State Government Committee studies gift ban proposals

The Senate State Government Committee examined proposals on Monday that would prohibit legislators from receiving non-cash gifts from those seeking to influence the legislative process. The hearing focused on proposals that have been introduced in the General Assembly and ethics laws enacted in other states. The Senate recently approved legislation (Senate Bill 1327) and a Senate Rule (Senate Resolution 339) to ban cash gifts to legislators. Click here for video of the hearing.

Measures sent to the Governor for enactment into law

Two bills received final legislative approval this week and were sent to the Governor for his signature and enactment into law.

House Bill 1259 creates the Indoor Tanning Regulation Act to provide safety standards and oversight of tanning facilities.

House Bill 1513 amends the Local Tax Enabling Act to clarify when a political subdivision may levy a business privilege tax.

Finance Committee holds hearing on property tax reform plan

The Senate Finance Committee held a public hearing on Wednesday on a comprehensive amendment to Senate Bill 76, legislation that would eliminate school property taxes and replace those taxes with a combination of funding from the Personal Income Tax and the Sales and Use Tax.  For hearing details including video and testimony, visit https://finance.pasenategop.com.

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