Senate News Brief


“Mike Waugh was a good man and a good friend. As a member of the General Assembly – first in the House, then in the Senate – he quickly became a statewide leader on agricultural issues. Mike earned universal respect from his colleagues with the quiet, determined way he approached issues.”

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) and Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware) on the passing of former Senator Mike Waugh of York County.


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Senate Convenes at 1 p.m.

The Senate will be in session Tuesday and Wednesday to wrap up legislative activity for the 2013-14 legislative session.

Senate Committee Schedule
Hearings are streamed live at PASenateGOP.com.

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Senate Acts to Speed Searches for Missing Persons

Legislation to save lives by speeding up a process for locating missing people received final legislative approval on Wednesday and was sent to the governor for enactment into law.

Senate Bill 1290, sponsored by Sen. Randy Vulakovich (R-Allegheny), requires wireless providers to “ping” the cell phone of a missing person at the request of law enforcement officials when there is sufficient information to believe there is a risk or threat of death or serious physical harm. For more on Senate Bill 1290, the Kelsey Smith Act, please see In the Spotlight, below.
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Senate Passes More Options for Customers Facing Utility Shut-Offs

The Senate unanimously approved consumer protection legislation Wednesday that would give customers who have special needs more protections from utility shut-offs.

The Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee, chaired by Sen. Tommy Tomlinson (R-Bucks), amended and approved House Bill 939 on Oct. 6. It would give families facing financial hardship more time, options and flexibility to make payments before their utilities are turned off. For details, please see Fast Facts, below.

Argall’s ‘Corrections Officers Bill of Rights’ Approved by Senate

Legislation that would establish a Corrections Officers Bill of Rights was approved by the Senate on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 476, sponsored by Sen. David Argall (R-Schuylkill), would provide standards to protect the rights of state correctional officers during certain investigations by the Department of Corrections. The measure includes provisions guaranteeing prompt notification and investigation of complaints.

Senate Bill 476 now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Legislation Permitting Low-Speed Electric Cars Sent to the Governor

The Senate gave final approval Wednesday to legislation sponsored by Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery) to permit low-speed electric vehicles on certain state roadways.

Senate Bill 83 was sent to the governor for enactment. The legislation will allow small electric cars, commonly known as Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEVs), on certain roadways with a posted speed limit of 25 mph or less.  At the discretion of local governments and the Secretary of Transportation, the cars could be permitted on roads with posted speed limits between 25 and 35 mph.

NEVs would be required to be registered, licensed, and insured like passenger vehicles.
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Senate Approves Bill Promoting Conventional Oil Production in PA

The Senate approved legislation Wednesday that will protect and promote conventional oil production in Pennsylvania.

Senate Bill 1310, sponsored by Sen. Scott Hutchinson (R-Venango), would protect the conventional oil production industry from state regulations intended for companies extracting Marcellus Shale gas. It was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Senate Bill 1310 would establish the Penn Grade Crude Development Advisory Council, a panel empowered to study existing regulations and assist the Department of Environmental Protection in making changes that better address the differences between conventional and unconventional oil and gas production.
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Senate Approves Ignition Interlock Devices for Certain First-Time DUIs

The Senate approved legislation Wednesday aimed at reducing drunk driving offenses by expanding ignition interlock requirements for certain first time offenders.

Senate Transportation Committee Chairman John Rafferty (R-Montgomery) offered an amendment to House Bill 1357 that would apply an ignition interlock requirement of one year to first time drunk driving offenders with higher blood alcohol levels.  Currently ignition interlocks only apply to second offenses.

Individuals who qualify could operate a vehicle during suspension and license restriction provided that they have an approved interlock device and meet other requirements. States requiring all convicted drunk drivers to use an ignition interlock have reduced their DUI deaths by more than 33 percent. The measure was returned to the House of Representatives.
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Legislation to Ban Community Service Gift Card Program Passes in Senate

The Senate unanimously approved legislation Oct. 6 to ban the practice of persons sentenced to community service being able to purchase gift cards in lieu of performing the service.

Sen. John Gordner (R-Columbia) introduced Senate Bill 1367 after learning of the practice in Northumberland County, as well as in at least one other county in the commonwealth. The bill was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Senator Gordner: “When a judge orders someone to perform community service, there is a reason for that and the sentence should be served. A defendant should not be able to ‘buy’ a way out of performing the service.”

In the Spotlight

Known as the “Kelsey Smith Act,” Senate Bill 1290 is named after an 18-year old Kansas woman who was abducted and murdered in 2007.  The tragedy resulted in a movement by her parents to ensure that law enforcement authorities can receive assistance from cell phone providers to help find missing persons.

Since 2005, the FCC has required cell phone manufacturers to include GPS receivers in all devices.  This has allowed first-responders to pinpoint the location of 911 callers in an emergency.  While Pennsylvania law enforcement officials can request this information from cell phone providers, in most cases a subpoena is required.  SB 1290 would expedite the process when there is the threat of imminent danger to the victim.

In addition to Kansas, 13 states have passed similar legislation.  They are Colorado, Hawaii, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah and West Virginia.

Senator Vulakovich: “In cases where there is a suspected abduction, minutes are precious. Obtaining a subpoena can take time and often delays law enforcement response to situations involving risk of death or serious injury.  This is especially true when dealing with a missing person believed to be a victim of a crime. Giving law enforcement this new tool will reduce response times and ultimately save lives.”

 

Fast Facts

Senate Approves Protections for Utility Customers: House Bill 939  

  • Bans Friday terminations so customers would not have to wait through the weekend to resolve billing issues.
  • Protects people who have serious medical conditions from shut-offs.
  • Protects victims of domestic violence from having their power terminated.
  • Shields tenants from termination when their landlord was the one responsible for utility payments.
  • Prevents utility companies from terminating an impoverished family’s (below 250 percent of federal poverty limit) power during winter months.
  • Eliminates mandatory cash deposit for customer assistance program (CAP) -eligible people.