Senate Republican News Brief

“One of my primary concerns in considering any change to liquor and beer sales is how we can make the process more convenient for consumers. The final product approved by the governor today will provide a much-needed update to the system and give consumers many of the reforms they have asked for, while at the same time generating additional state revenues that could help close the budget deficit.”

Senate Law and Justice Committee Chairman Chuck McIlhinney (R-Bucks) on enactment of liquor reform legislation he championed.

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Senate Reconvenes at 1 p.m. 

The Senate reconvenes today at 1 p.m. Bills expected to be considered by the Senate are as follows:

Senate Bill 163 clarifies that parental rights may not be terminated solely because a parent is incarcerated and addresses services available to those children. Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery) 

Senate Bill 1109 amends the state Constitution to extend the state’s property tax exemption program for disabled veterans to the surviving spouse of soldiers killed in action. Sen. Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne)

Senate Bill 1113 broadens representation of crime victims on the Victims’ Services Advisory Committee within the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. Sen. Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland) 

Senate Bill 703 creates a state plumbers licensing program regulating who can call themselves a state-licensed plumbing contractor rather than who can perform plumbing services. Sen. Tom McGarrigle (R-Delaware) 

House Bill 147 proposed Constitutional amendment allowing local taxing authorities to exclude from taxation up to 100 percent of the assessed value of the homestead property.

House Bill 602 increases the base minimum state active duty pay for National Guard personnel.

House Bill 1325 allows for assessments of storm water fees without the need to establish a municipal authority in Second Class Townships.

House Bill 1199 repeals the 1965 Act authorizing the Department of Highways to erect and maintain a toll bridge over the Monongahela River.

House Bill 1766 allows future life insurance policy reserves to be based on Principle-Based Reserving.

Committee Action

Monday, 10 a.m. North Office Building, Hearing Room #1

The Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery): Hearing on HB 1947, extending the statute of limitations for victims of child abuse to sue their abuser and the institution that employed the abuser.

Tuesday, 9 a.m. East Wing, Hearing Room 8E-A

The Senate Majority Policy Committee, chaired by Sen. David Argall (R-Schuylkill): Hearing on SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)

Tuesday, 10 a.m. Majority Caucus Room

Public School Building Construction & Reconstruction Advisory Committee: Organizational Meeting

Tuesday, 11:30 a.m. North Office Building, Hearing Room #1

The Senate State Government Committee, chaired by Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon): Hearing on SB 413 (Administrative Law Procedure and Office of Administrative Hearings)

Wednesday, 10 a.m. East Wing, Hearing Room 8E-A

The Legislative Budget and Finance Committee, chaired by Sen. Bob Mensch (R-Montgomery): Release of reports on a performance audit of the PA Fish and Boat Commission, and afterschool programs in Pennsylvania.

Senate Committee Schedule

Hearings streamed live at PASenateGOP.com. 

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Consumer-Centered Liquor Reforms Signed Into Law 

Legislation championed by Senate Law and Justice Committee Chairman Chuck McIlhinney (R-Bucks) to allow grocery stores to sell wine, increase opportunities for the sale of beer, and improve consumer convenience for overall liquor sales was signed into law Wednesday.

Act 39 of 2016 provides many changes that increase customer convenience, including:

  • Allowing grocery stores that sell beer, licensed restaurants, and hotels to sell up to four bottles of wine per customer.
  • Permitting licensed wine producers to ship their products directly to Pennsylvania consumers.
  • Allowing “six-pack” shops to upgrade their “eating place” licenses to “full” restaurant licenses to sell wine as well as beer.
  • Lifting the requirement that State Stores close on certain holidays and only operate on limited hours on Sundays.
  • Allowing special discounts and sales at State Stores.
  • Permitting casinos, for a fee of $1 million, to receive a license to sell alcohol 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Allowing lottery tickets sales in State Stores.

According to a detailed fiscal analysis of the bill, the plan could generate up to an additional $100 million to 150 million in profits for the state system. In addition to modernizing liquor sales, the bill also requires a comprehensive study of the valuation of the state system and various proposals to privatize liquor sales in the future.

Bills Sent to Governor for Enactment into Law

Senate Bill 61 officially recognizes bike medics and permits them to operate their bicycles in the same manner as a police officer on a bicycle. Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery)

Senate Bill 489 reduces the maximum fee that a check casher may charge for cashing government checks, requires the public posting of fees for cashing the checks, and allows for recovery of losses due to fraudulent misrepresentation. Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming)

Senate Bill 847 adds a representative from the Korean War Veterans Association to the State Veterans Commission, a panel composed of representatives from Pennsylvania’s major veterans associations. Sen. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster)

House Bill 57 amends the Public Utility Code to change the interest rate associated with recovery of purchased gas costs, eliminate the migration rider, and provide for recovery of costs incurred to implement customer choice.

Senate Acts to Protect Energy Jobs

The Senate on Wednesday approved legislation to protect family-sustaining Pennsylvania jobs placed at risk by the new federal regulations.

Senate Bill 1195, sponsored by Sen. Don White (R-Indiana), provides procedures for the General Assembly’s consideration of the Department of Environmental Protection’s implementation strategy for the Clean Power Plan before its submission to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Senate Bill 1195 is a compromise agreement between the General Assembly and Governor Wolf that provides important safeguards that protect local energy-producing industries and the thousands of workers they employ from overreaching regulations that could come with Pennsylvania’s compliance with the federal regulations.

Senate Bill 1195 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Committee Approves Measure to Increase Education for Opioid Prescribing 

The Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee, chaired by Sen. Tommy Tomlinson (R-Bucks), approved legislation Tuesday that would require continuing medical education training as a way to stem the tide of opioid and prescription drug abuse in the state.

Senate Bill 1202, sponsored by Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming), requires state licensing boards to call for two hours of continuing education in “pain management” and two hours in “opioid prescribing practices” for individuals applying for an initial license or renewal of an existing license or certification to prescribe medications in the Commonwealth.

The increased use of heroin, which often has roots in the abuse of prescription painkillers like Vicodin and OxyContin, has catapulted Pennsylvania to seventh in the nation for drug-related overdose deaths in recent federal statistics.  According to a National Survey of Primary Care Physicians, nine out of 10 doctors reported prescription drug abuse as a moderate to large problem in their communities, and 85 percent believed that prescription drugs are overused in clinical practice.
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Stefano Bill to Deny Public Benefits to Illegal Immigrants Advances

Legislation sponsored by Sen. Pat Stefano (R-Fayette) that would deny public benefits, such as Medicaid, welfare, and unemployment compensation to illegal immigrants living in Pennsylvania passed the House State Government Committee last week.

Senate Bill 9 would require anyone receiving public benefits in the Commonwealth to provide identification proving they are legal residents.  In addition, individuals would be required to sign an affidavit stating they are a United States citizen, or an immigrant lawfully residing in this country.  Any illegal immigrant who falsely claims they are residing in the country legally, in order to obtain public benefits, will have committed a second degree misdemeanor and be subject to arrest.

Federal law prohibits illegal immigrants from receiving state or local public benefits.  However, Senator Stefano said Pennsylvania is simply too lenient in enforcing the federal provisions.

Bills Approved by the Senate and Sent to House

Senate Bill 428 provides additional sentencing provisions for trespassing at gaming establishments. Sen. Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland)

Senate Bill 1270 amends the Real Estate Appraisers Certification Act to bring Pennsylvania into compliance with updated Federal appraiser standards. Sen. Tom Killion (R-Delaware)

Senate Bill 1227 transfers the responsibilities of the Public Employee Retirement Commission with regard to pension legislation to the Independent Fiscal Office and the Office of the Auditor General.

House Bill 264 requires carbon monoxide detectors to be installed in long-term care nursing facilities, personal care homes and assisted living residences that use fossil fuel burning devices or appliances. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

House Bill 1241 amends the definition of public utility in state law to exempt water or sewer service provided by a resort and to exempt the provision of service by a municipal corporation under certain circumstances. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.