Harrisburg Happenings

A report on the Legislative Session Week of February 23, 2015

Ag Committee Approves Horse Racing Industry Bill

I am pleased to report that on Tuesday the Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee, which I chair, approved my legislation that would make substantial regulatory changes necessary to protect and bolster Pennsylvania’s horse racing industry.

Senate Bill 352 now moves to the full Senate for consideration. This legislation will bring the regulations regarding the horseracing industry into the 21st Century. The parameters and guidelines for the oversight of the racing industries in Pennsylvania have not be updated in over twenty years despite drastic changes in the way the industry is funded, raced and regulated. The Senate unanimously approved this measure last session and hopefully we can take the next step and get it to the Governor’s desk and enacted into law this year.

Senate Bill 352 makes a number of substantial and essential changes to the state’s oversight of the horse racing industry. One major change dissolves the separate state commissions under the Department of Agriculture for thoroughbred and harness racing in favor of a single oversight commission.

We have seen the economic benefits of our racing industries. Purses, racing days, employees and horses operating at our tracks have all increased. At the same time, the regulation of the industry has become more expensive and complex. My bill makes a number of changes to licensure, fines, fees and the pari-mutual tax structure to properly fund regulatory oversight and drug testing.

The Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee also approved Senate Bill 201. This measure would allow land owners with a property enrolled in the Clean-and-Green program to lease the site to a third party in certain cases without penalty.

Click here to hear my comments on Senate Bill 352.

Residency Requirement Bill Sent to House

The Senate approved legislation on Tuesday that would ensure that illegal immigrants residing in Pennsylvania do not receive public benefits like Medicaid, welfare and unemployment compensation.

Senate Bill 9 would require anyone requesting public benefits in the Commonwealth to provide identification proving they are a legal resident. They would also be required to sign an affidavit stating they are a U.S. citizen or an immigrant lawfully present in the United States.

The Federation for Immigration Reform estimates the current local annual costs of illegal immigration amount to about $36 billion nationwide. In Pennsylvania, which has more than 100,000 illegal immigrants, the current estimated cost is $285 million.  That cost is expected to grow to $812 million by the year 2020.

Earlier this year, Pennsylvania agreed to pay the federal government $48.8 million to settle claims that it paid non-emergency Medicaid, family assistance and food stamp benefits to immigrants who did not qualify for them.

Senate Bill 9 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Committee Approves Bill Regulating Healthcare Exchange Navigators

The Senate approved legislation on Monday that would provide essential protection of consumers’ rights and personal information under the federal health care act.

Senate Bill 293, also known as the Navigator Accessibility and Regulation Act, would require Healthcare Exchange Navigators be certified by the Department of Insurance and pass a criminal background check. The federal Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) relies on individuals, generally called “navigators,” to educate and enroll millions of uninsured Americans in either Medicaid or a private insurance plan.  Although in many respects these navigators act like insurance agents, they have almost no qualifications or restrictions placed upon them.

Other bills approved by the Senate this week include:

Senate Bill 166 which would allow courts to grant expungement if the crime is a misdemeanor of the third or second degree and the individual has not been arrested or prosecuted for seven to ten years following the completion of the sentence or judicial supervision.

Senate Bill 179  which consolidates several statutes relating to hotels and other lodging establishments.

Senate Bill 316 which would provide more accountability in the awarding of state sole-source/no-bid and emergency contracts.


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