Harrisburg Happenings

A report on the Legislative Session Week of June 16, 2014

Committee approves bill to increase state support for housing program

The Senate Housing and Urban Affairs Committee approved legislation I introduced that would increase state support for a program that promotes housing affordability and rehabilitation in communities across the Commonwealth.

Senate Bill 1380 would dedicate a portion of funds raised from the state’s Realty Transfer Tax (RTT) for use by the Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement Fund (PHARE) for projects across the state. The legislation does not increase the RTT rate, but solely changes how the revenues under the existing rate are used.

Currently, PHARE’s only revenue is from Act 13 impact fees and those monies may only be spent in Marcellus Shale counties.  Revenues generated through impact fees provide resources for home repairs, new construction, rental assistance, home rehabilitation, and demolition.

The economic case for strengthening PHARE – which has already proven its power to help alleviate blight, reduce homelessness, create jobs and drive economic activity – is compelling.  But the broader good that we have the opportunity to offer vulnerable residents, families and communities, is even more profound.

Last week, Governor Corbett recognized the substantial importance of investing in Pennsylvania’s housing market, and I am hopeful that my colleagues in the General Assembly will view this legislation as another chance to make that investment work for families throughout the Commonwealth.

Reduced-fee hunting, fishing licenses for disabled vets goes to Governor

Legislation to offer disabled Pennsylvania veterans reduced-fee hunting and fishing licenses received final legislative approval Wednesday and was sent to the Governor for his signature and enactment into law.

Senate Bill 1090 and Senate Bill 1102 reduce the cost of annual hunting and fishing licenses to $1 each for all Pennsylvania veterans certified as 60 percent or more disabled as determined by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.  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.

Other bills receiving final legislative approval and sent to the Governor this week include:

Senate Bill 177 creates a task force within the Department of Health to provide greater public awareness and education about Lyme disease.

House Bill 198 provides for a Dyslexia and Early Literacy Intervention Pilot Program.

Senate Bill 403 uses state Educational Assistance Program funding to encourage medical officers to continue their service in the National Guard. The measure specifically targets the retention of physicians, physician assistants, behavioral health, public health and environmental science officers.

Senate Bill 1077 restricts scrap processors and recycling facilities from purchasing railroad property from individuals. Railroad materials, as defined in the bill, include crossing signals, spikes, track and other materials specifically used by railroads.

Senate Bill 1115 amends the Pennsylvania National Guard Educational Assistance Program to help ensure proper distribution of federal and state financial aid.

House Bill 1424 amends the Public School Code to allow public schools to offer instruction in the Holocaust, other forms of genocide and human rights violations. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

House Bill 1559 amends the School Code concerning youth suicide awareness and prevention and child exploitation awareness education.

House Bill 1989 designates the Piper J-3 Cub as the official state aircraft and the Pennsylvania Long Rifle as the official state firearm.

House Bill 2013 requires school boards to declare a temporary vacancy when a school director is called to active duty in the military or naval forces of the United States.

House Bill 2026 increases the penalty for torturing, mutilating, injuring, disabling, poisoning or killing a police animal to a second degree felony.

Committee holds hearing on local use of radar

The Senate Transportation Committee held a public hearing on Tuesday to gather testimony on Senate Bill 1340, legislation that would allow the use of radar by local police departments. Currently, only the Pennsylvania State Police are permitted under state law to use radar to enforce traffic speed limits.

Click here to watch the committee’s public hearing.

Senate approves several bills

The Senate approved and sent to the House several bills:

House Bill 43 updates the state’s Volunteer Services Act with the goal of better serving military personnel and their families by allowing retired Pennsylvania psychologists, psychiatrists and counselors to volunteer to provide free mental health services to military personnel and their families outside a clinic setting through approved programs such as “Give an Hour.” Under current state law, volunteer services may be provided only in an approved clinic setting. The bill was returned to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

Senate Bill 428 allows for some of the residual funds from a beneficiary’s account within a pooled trust to be distributed to other individuals with disabilities in need of services upon their death. Under current law, a trust may retain up to 50 percent of the remaining balance for the benefit of other beneficiaries. The remaining 50 percent of the balance must be reimbursed to the Commonwealth and any other state that provided medical assistance up to an amount equal to the total amount of medical assistance paid on behalf of the beneficiary. This legislation would simply add the phrase “or other individuals with disabilities” to the provision for the portion the trust is permitted to keep and would not affect the portion that goes back to the Commonwealth.

Senate Bill 1253 makes a number of significant changes to the Pennsylvania History Code by updating the law, providing additional clarity for some provisions and streamlining the process for disposing of property on loan to the Historic and Museum Commission that has been abandoned.

Senate Bill 1337 removes certain recurring projects from the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to allow personnel to work on new studies.

Senate Bill 1400  provides for the Capital Budget Act of fiscal year 2014-2015 and establishes the maximum bond indebtedness that the Commonwealth may incur during the fiscal year for capital projects.

House Bill 1429  makes numerous changes to state law concerning powers of attorney. The bill was returned to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

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