2015 Senate Accomplishments

The Senate passed a total of three 2015-16 state budgets in 2015, beginning with a balanced budget passed prior to the June 30 constitutional deadline. The chamber also passed three historic pension reform bills, beginning with the sweeping Senate Bill 1, which was vetoed by the Governor.

The Senate also passed House Bill 1690, taking the first step in getting the Commonwealth out of the liquor business by providing for the private sale of wine at restaurants and grocery stores, as well as many other changes that will result in increased customer convenience.


Government Reform | Public Safety | Education | Health Care | Veterans | Transportation | Community Development | Emergency Responders | Consumer Protection | AgricultureHunting and RecreationEnvironment & EnergyChildren and FamiliesAnimal Cruelty PreventionIllegal Immigration


Government Reform

Senate Resolution 256 (Gordner) mandates a full hearing regarding Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s ability to perform her duties with a suspended law license.

Act 54 of 2015 (Greenleaf) allows persons 75 years of age or older, breastfeeding mothers and judges to be excused from jury duty.

Act 59 of 2015 prohibits harassment, stalking or making threats by parties involved in a labor dispute.

Act 62 of 2015 increases the mandatory retirement age for judges and magisterial district judges from 70 to 75 years. (Proposed constitutional amendment.)

Act 63 of 2015 requires county pension plans to adopt best management practices and sets a funding threshold for when cost-of-living-adjustments may be granted.

Act 90 of 2015 (Folmer) requires commonwealth agencies to clearly note whenever tax monies are spent for advertising purposes.

Senate Bill 283 (Pileggi) continues the process to amend the state Constitution to eliminate the Philadelphia Traffic Court.

Senate Bill 316 (Folmer) provides increased public access to information concerning the awarding of no-bid state contracts.

Senate Bill 333 (Eichelberger) provides for clear state preemption of local mandated leave ordinances.

Senate Bill 411 (Pileggi) strengthens Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law for requesters and agencies by simplifying the appeals process for requesters, giving the Office of Open Records flexibility in addressing complex appeals, and reducing the burden of requests from inmates.

Senate Bill 474 requires Senate confirmation of the Chief Executive Officer of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.

Senate Bill 501 (Eichelberger) provides “Paycheck Protection” by ensuring that public employee paychecks and taxpayer resources are no longer used as a vehicle for the collection of political money by outside groups.

Senate Bill 562 (Gordner) provides additional legislative oversight of the regulatory review process.

Senate Bill 622 (Mensch) streamlines the work of the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee.

Senate Bill 644 (Folmer) requires the Independent Fiscal Office to complete a cost analysis of proposed collective bargaining agreements under the governor’s jurisdiction prior to the execution of those contracts.

Senate Bill 645 (Stefano) requires proposed state or local collective bargaining agreements be made available online within 48 hours, with agreements posted online two weeks prior to signing.

Senate Bill 695 (Scarnati) requires lobbyists and lobbying firms to register and file reports electronically with the Department of State, which must post the reports online within a week.

Senate Bill 859 (Greenleaf) consolidates the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole into a single state agency titled the “Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.”

Senate Bill 927 (Scavello) requires Senate approval of Pennsylvania’s representatives on the Delaware River Bridge Commission.

Senate Resolution 138 (Vulakovich) authorizes a study of the numerous state boards and commissions with an eye toward providing savings to the commonwealth.

Public Safety

Act 12 of 2015 reauthorizes and establishes a long-term funding plan for the Emergency 9-1-1 System in Pennsylvania.

Act 16 of 2015 (Alloway) privatizes and regulates the Bail Bondsman industry in Pennsylvania.

Act 20 of 2015 requires that providers of counseling services to sexually violent predators notify the county and local police that the provider is counseling sexually violent predators.

Act 25 of 2015 amends the continuing education requirements for police officers and magisterial district judges regarding training on recognition and techniques to be used when interacting with individuals with mental illness or intellectual disabilities.

Act 41 of 2015 (Smucker) clarifies the arrest powers and jurisdiction of campus police officers employed by Pennsylvania’s 14 State System of Higher Education universities.

Act 55 of 2015 (Argall) frees up State Police for crime fighting by eliminating mandatory trooper escort of super-sized loads and replacing them with certified pilot escorts.

Act 72 of 2015 (Gordner) bans the practice of allowing persons sentenced to community service to purchase gift cards in lieu of performing the service.

Act 80 of 2015 (Scarnati) increases opportunities for counties to provide long-acting non-narcotic, non-addictive medication combined with comprehensive substance abuse treatment to eligible offenders upon release from county correctional institutions.

Senate Bill 166 (Greenleaf) allows criminal record expungement for individuals who have served their punishment for certain non-violent offenses and remained free of arrest or prosecution.

Senate Bill 290 (Rafferty) expands the use of ignition interlock devices for offenders of Driving Under the Influence.

Senate Bill 299 (Baker) gives municipalities the option to reduce or waive their local earned income tax for volunteer firefighters and volunteers at nonprofit emergency medical service agencies.

Senate Bill 404 (Argall) sets guidelines and procedures for the investigation and interrogation of correctional officers by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections as a result of a complaint of alleged misconduct.

Senate Bill 427 (Greenleaf) requires cash-for-gold dealers to retain precious metal items for ten business days to enable burglary victims to discover and report the theft and enable police to investigate.

Senate Bill 490 (Baker) includes the PEMA Director as a position subject to review and confirmation by the Senate. Currently, the post is filled by appointment by the Governor. (Vetoed)

Senate Bill 533 (Eichelberger) establishes a uniform procedure for the disposition of contraband left in the possession of probation and parole agencies.

Education

Act 33 of 2015 (Ward) continues the Ready to Succeed Scholarship Program, a new scholarship program administered by the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency.

Senate Bill 6 (Smucker) allows districts to plan and adopt turnaround models for school improvement or contract with outside educational providers to deliver services.

Senate Bill 590 (Tomlinson) ensures that the intellectual property rights of faculty members of state-owned universities are protected at the same level as at private universities.

Senate Bill 862 (Smucker) amends the School Code to align with stricter child abuse clearance changes made in the Child Protective Services Law.

Senate Bill 880 (Smucker) delays the Keystone Exams as a graduation requirement for two years.

Health Care

Act 7 of 2015 (Eichelberger) requires Affordable Care Act “Healthcare Exchange Navigators” to be certified by the Department of Insurance and pass a criminal background check.

Act 8 of 2015 improves access to child flu immunizations by allowing pharmacists to administer flu immunizations to children 9 and older. Senate version: Senate Bill 305 (McGarrigle)

Act 10 of 2015 (Scarnati) increases the criminal grading for impersonating a doctor of medicine and providing medical treatment, from a second degree misdemeanor to a first degree misdemeanor.

Act 39 of 2015 (McIlhinney) protects consumers from paying multiple copayments for physical therapy, chiropractic and occupational therapy services.

Act 66 of 2015 (Mensch) improves public awareness of the prevalence of prostate cancer and measures available to detect, diagnose and treat it.

Act 73 of 3015, Act 74 of 2015 (Corman) allows out-of-state team physicians to treat athletes in Pennsylvania as long as they are licensed in their home state and have an agreement with the visiting sports team to provide care for them while traveling.

Act 79 of 2015 (White) redesigns driver’s license applications to include the statement “Pennsylvania strongly supports organ and tissue donation because of its life-saving and life-enhancing opportunities” and the question “Do you wish to have organ donor designation printed on your driver’s license?”

Act 84 of 2015 reauthorizes and extends the life of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) through December 31, 2017.

Act 91 of 2015 extends protections to seniors enrolled in PACE and PACENET prescription drug assistance who would lose coverage due to increases in income from Social Security cost-of-living adjustments.

Senate Bill 3 (Folmer) legalizes the use of cannabis for certain medical purposes.

Senate Bill 396 (Vance) reauthorizes the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council for a term of four years.

Senate Bill 514 (Vance) amends the Generic Equivalent Drug Law to provide for the substitution of an interchangeable biological product for a brand name biologic.

Senate Bill 536 (Tomlinson) requires health insurers to provide coverage for orally administered chemotherapy on a basis that is at least as favorable as an insured’s co-pay, coinsurance or deductibles for intravenous or injected chemotherapy treatment.

Senate Bill 747 (Vogel) requires an investigation of punitive damages in health care cases over the past 10 years and caps punitive damages in cases against personal care homes, assisted living communities, long-term care nursing facilities.

Veterans

Act 11 of 2015 provides in-state tuition rates at community colleges and state-related/state-owned institutions of higher learning for veterans, their spouses and dependent children.

Act 17 of 2015 (Baker) authorizes the special “Honoring Our Veterans” license plate for motorcycles.

Act 18 of 2015 (Baker) allocates a portion of the funds raised through sales of “Honoring Our Veterans” motorcycle license plates to the Veterans Trust Fund to assists veterans in need.

Act 23 of 2015 ensures that a veteran’s military education and training are given strong consideration for the purpose of fulfilling requirements for professional credentials.

Act 32 of 2015 (Baker) sets fines and penalties for those who falsely claim to be a veteran on their Pennsylvania driver’s license application.

Act 50 of 2015 extends the deadline for Pennsylvania veterans to apply for the Persian Gulf Conflict Veterans’ Bonus to August 31, 2018.

Act 82 of 2015 (Vulakovich) standardizes the term “other than dishonorable” when dealing with a veterans eligibility for programs and benefits, eliminating confusion among veterans as to state benefits eligibility.

Act 83 of 2015 (Vulakovich) codifies the standards for the promotion for the Pennsylvania National Guard and ensures compliance with U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force uniform regulations.

Senate Bill 652 (Baker) ensures that all active-duty military pay remains exempt from local income tax.

Senate Resolution 171 (Argall) directs the Pennsylvania Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to study the potential cost-savings and effectiveness of allowing the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs to partner with the private sector to provide additional care for veterans.

Transportation

Act 49 of 2015 (Rafferty) updates the qualification standards for the commercial driver learner’s permit and the commercial driver’s license.

Act 61 of 2015 (Brooks) adds roadside protections for electric utility workers during disaster emergencies.

Act 70 of 2015 (Bartolotta) protects highway workers, first emergency responders and others from careless and reckless drivers traveling in work zones.

Senate Bill 62 (Greenleaf) reduces the time period for qualifying for probationary driver’s licenses.

Senate Bill 385 (Pileggi) reforms and modernizes the Transit Revitalization Investment District Act.

Senate Bill 984 (Bartolotta) allows transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft operate safely in every county in Pennsylvania.

Community Development

Act 34 of 2015 (Ward) expedites the process for dealing with blighted properties.

Act 37 of 2015 (Browne) amends the Uniform Planned Community Act to correct a conflict created by a Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision.

Act 38 of 2015 (Browne) amends the Uniform Condominium Act to correct a conflict created by a Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision.

Act 58 of 2015 (Vogel) increases state support for a program that promotes housing affordability and rehabilitation in communities across the Commonwealth.

Act 81 of 2015 eliminates the sunset provisions of the Commonwealth’s First Industries Program.

Senate Bill 4 (Aument) amends the Pennsylvania Constitution to give the General Assembly the power to determine whether an institution is a purely public charity and thus exempt from paying local property taxes.

Senate Bill 486 (Argall) gives counties a new option to finance the demolition of blighted and abandoned properties.

Senate Bill 898 (Hutchinson) amends the Second Class County Code to strengthen “anti-windfall” provisions, which specify that if the outcome of a countywide reassessment of the real property would result in an increase in the revenues collected from tax rates, then the county must decrease the rate of tax to a rate that would yield the same amount of revenue as the previous year.

Senate Bill 942 (Argall) requires the purchaser of any blighted building known to have one or more substantial code violations to bring it into compliance or demolish it within 12 months.

Senate Resolution 28 (Scavello) creates a bipartisan panel to conduct statewide hearings to determine whether additional legislation is needed to define purely public charities.

Emergency Responders

Senate Bill 891 (Ward) waives Turnpike tolls for vehicles accompanying a fallen firefighter, ambulance service or rescue squad member, law enforcement officer or armed services member killed in the line of duty. 

Act 57 of 2015 allows first responders — after getting local approval — to fundraise on local roadways, with programs such as those in which firefighters collect donations in a boot.

Consumer Protection

Act 6 of 2015 requires that property disclosure statements provide notification of any sinkholes, the location and condition of defined stormwater facilities, and whether the purchaser is responsible for the ongoing maintenance of the stormwater facilities.

Senate Bill 538 (Tomlinson) strengthens licensee suspension reporting requirements for the Department of State’s Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs’ 29 licensing boards.

Senate Bill 857 (Argall) provides new penalties for illegal household goods movers.

Agriculture

Senate Bill 352 (Vogel) makes substantial regulatory changes necessary to protect and bolster Pennsylvania’s horse racing industry.

Senate Bill 356 (Folmer) amends the Local Tax Enabling Act to further provide for filings and quarterly payments of the local earned income tax by persons who make their living from farming.

Hunting and Recreation

Act 76 of 2015 allows for the use of a motorized wheelchair by permanently disabled hunters, and provides permits for individuals with disabilities.

Senate Bill 648 (Stefano) ensures that funds received through the registration, certification and enforcement of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) in Pennsylvania are used specifically to support ATV activities.

Senate Bill 737 (Hutchinson) allows for the limited use of semi-automatic sporting rifles for hunting coyotes and woodchucks.

Senate Bill 1065 (Scavello) adds falconry to the list of exemptions for Sunday hunting.

Environment & Energy

Act 47 of 2015 (Bartolotta) reduces the use of fresh water in oil and gas drilling operations by allowing the use of treated mine water.

Senate Bill 147 (Yaw) allows royalty interest owners the opportunity to inspect records of natural gas companies to verify proper payments and requires all royalty payments to be made within 90 days of production.

Senate Bill 148 (Yaw) prohibits a gas company from retaliating against a royalty interest owner by terminating the lease agreement or ceasing development because a landowner questions the accuracy of the royalty payments.

Senate Bill 279 (Hutchinson) protects the conventional oil and gas production industry from state regulations intended for companies extracting Marcellus Shale gas.

Children and Families

Senate Bill 663 (Vulakovich) allows courts to terminate the parental rights of a convicted rapist, thereby eliminating the abuser’s access to custody of a child conceived by rape.

Senate Bill 751 (Greenleaf) prohibits the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors.

Animal Cruelty Prevention

Senate Bill 373 (Alloway) strengthens laws regarding the tethering of dogs.

Senate Bill 78 (Alloway) prevents kennel owners who lose their license due to violations of the Dog Law from continuing to operate a kennel at the same location by having a license issued to a family member or another individual at the same address.

Senate Bill 294 (Eichelberger) updates the enforcement and application of Pennsylvania’s cruelty laws, particularly as they pertain to horses.

Senate Bill 594 adds a section to Pennsylvania’s Animal Cruelty Law to specifically address when it happens in a domestic-violence situation.

Illegal Immigration

Senate Bill 9 (Stefano) requires anyone applying for Medicaid, welfare, unemployment compensation and other public benefits to provide proof of citizenship.