Harrisburg Happenings

A report on the Legislative Session Week of May 5, 2014

Measure ending “summer gasoline” mandate goes to Governor

I am pleased to report that my legislation eliminating a hidden tax that drives up the costs of gasoline for western Pennsylvanians received final legislative approval Wednesday and is headed to the Governor for his signature and enactment into law.

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.

I appreciate the support of my colleagues in the Senate and House for this bill that will eliminate an unfair and costly regulation on the people of western Pennsylvania. Basically, the RVP regulation is nothing more than a hidden tax, not only at the pump but also on goods and services. Currently, the people in a seven-county area of western Pennsylvania are forced to pay at least 10 to 15 cents more per gallon for gas than those in neighboring counties and just across the border in Ohio.

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.

Also sent to the Governor this week for enactment into law were:

Senate Bill 31 — eliminates the separate standards that currently exist for school employees and staff in institutions in regard to reporting suspected child abuse.

House Bill 434amends current state law to eliminate separate standards for school employees with regard to child abuse investigations and background clearances.

House Bill 1164 — allows veteran students to receive priority course scheduling each semester at public colleges and universities in Pennsylvania.

Senate approves prescription drug monitoring program

            The Senate approved legislation on Tuesday that would expand the state’s prescription drug monitoring program to include Schedule II through V controlled substances.

Senate Bill 1180 creates the Achieving Better Care by Monitoring All Prescriptions (ABC-MAP) Program within the Department of Health for the purpose of improving patient care and preventing drug abuse. The ABC-MAP Program will consist of an electronic data system listing controlled substances that are prescribed and dispensed in the Commonwealth.

An advisory group including dispensers, law enforcement, addiction specialists and privacy advocates will assist the board with its duties. Patients can annually review their information at no cost and correct any errors. Data will be referred to the appropriate licensing board only in instances when there is a pattern of irregular data deviating from the clinical standard.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for its consideration.

Other bills sent to the House this week include:

Senate Bill 705 would grant District Attorneys in 3rd, 4th and 5th class counties the option of serving on their respective county prison Board of Inspectors.

Senate Bill 1224 would extend pharmaceutical cost saving measures to veterans residing in assisted living residences and personal care homes.

 Banking and Insurance Committee reviews co-pay legislation

The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee held a public hearing Tuesday on Senate Bill 594, which addresses cost sharing arrangements in health insurance policies such as co-payments and co-insurances. The Committee previously approved the bill on April 9, with the stipulation that I hold this hearing to better highlight the issues. Written testimony and video of the hearing are available at http://banking.pasenategop.com/.

 State Government Committee holds hearing on museum support measure

The Senate State Government Committee held a public hearing Wednesday on Senate Bill 1070, the Pennsylvania Museum Preservation Act.  The measure would provide a consistent source of funding to assist Pennsylvania museums that do not receive general operating support from other state sources. Written testimony and video of the hearing are available at http://stategovernment.pasenategop.com/.

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