Senate Republican News Brief

“Properly run recovery houses can turn lives around, but unregulated, unscrupulous recovery houses are wasting not only taxpayer dollars, but lives. Individuals and entire communities suffer when an opportunity for recovery is sacrificed for a quick profit. Passing Senate Bill 446 says we are not going to tolerate that.”

Sen. Tom McGarrigle (R-Delaware) on Senate passage of his legislation to establish quality standards for addiction recovery houses in Pennsylvania.


Preview

Senate Session Today at 1 p.m.

Negotiations to finalize a 2017-18 state budget continue. Senate Republicans remain committed to meeting Friday’s deadline for a general appropriations bill. 

Legislation that could be considered by the Senate this week includes: 

Senate Bill 183 – establishes the Plumbing Contractors Licensure Act. Sen. Tom McGarrigle (R-Delaware)

Senate Bill 431 – increases fines and the penalties for littering. Sen. Mario Scavello (R-Monroe)

Senate Bill 736 – authorizes parking authorities in cities of the second class A and third class to enforce and administer parking ordinances and resolutions. Sen. Scott Martin (R-Lancaster)

Senate Bill 383 – authorizes school districts to establish a policy allowing certain school employees to carry firearms on school property to enhance security. Sen. Don White (R-Indiana)

Senate Bill 458 – strengthens penalties for illegal household goods movers operating in Pennsylvania. Sen. David Argall (R-Schuylkill)

Senate Bill 461 — modernizes and strengthens the use of DNA technology to better fight violent crime in Pennsylvania. Sen. Tom Killion (R-Delaware)

Senate Bill 529 – provides for the automatic sealing of criminal records for minor offenses. Sen. Scott Wagner (R-York)

Senate Bill 616 – requires funeral directors, pre-need or cemetery companies to provide information regarding the availability of VA burial benefits. Sen. Chuck McIlhinney (R-Bucks)

Senate Bill 629 – amend Pennsylvania law on fraudulent transfers. Sen. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Allegheny)   

Senate Bill 630 – reforms the insurance licensure requirements for Pennsylvania travel agents by reducing unnecessary burdens on these small businesses and offering greater protection to Pennsylvania residents through new training and consumer disclosures. Sen. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Allegheny)

Senate Bill 662 establishes a second degree felony for the delivery or distribution of an illicit drug that results in “serious bodily injury” to the user. Sen. Camera Bartolotta (R-Washington)

Senate Bill 677 – establishes the Pennsylvania ABLE Tax Exemption Act providing for the taxation or exemption from taxation of amounts and events relating to the Pennsylvania ABLE Savings Program. Sen. Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne)

Senate Bill 690 – establishes a statutory mechanism for the initial apportionment of any home rule or optional plan municipality without a mayor that will be dividing into wards either partially or totally. Sen. John Eichelberger (R-Blair)

Senate Bill 691 – establishes uniform residential qualifications of office for persons seeking election to, or appointment to fill a vacancy in, a municipal elected office where recent service in the military might interfere with the person’s ability to satisfy the relevant residency requirements. Sen. Scott Hutchinson (R-Venango)

Senate Bill 590 (Stefano) – increases the maximum service charge a payee can collect on bad checks.

Senate Committee Schedule

Review

Senate Approves McGarrigle Bill to Set Standards for PA Addiction Recovery Houses 

The Senate on Wednesday approved legislation sponsored by Sen. Tom McGarrigle (R-Delaware) to establish quality standards for addiction recovery houses in Pennsylvania. 

Senate Bill 446 calls for the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs to establish standards and criteria for the administration and operation of recovery houses, sometimes referred to as “sober” or transitional houses. 

The purpose of such facilities is to provide support for those suffering from addiction after they leave inpatient treatment or correctional facilities. Recent news articles have brought to light cases of facility operators fueling addictions, exploiting residents and employing counselors who use drugs. More 

Animal Protection Bill Sent to Governor 

A comprehensive bill increasing penalties for abusing an animal received final legislative approval on Tuesday and was sent to the Governor for his signature and enactment into law. 

House Bill 1238, which was unanimously approved by the Senate on Tuesday, strengthens existing animal abuse laws and makes it easier to prosecute a person who knowingly mistreats, abuses or neglects an animal. The bill categorizes animal cruelty based on the egregiousness of the offense. 

The rewrite of Pennsylvania’s animal abuse laws is based in part on a bill introduced by Sen. Richard Alloway (R-Franklin) in the Senate last year in response to the story of Libre, a Boston terrier puppy who was rescued from a Lancaster County farm after suffering from weeks of severe neglect. More 

Stefano Bill to Increase School Hiring Transparency Passed by Senate 

The Senate on June 19 approved a measure to increase transparency in the process of hiring of school officials and ensure that taxpayers have access to employment contract information.  

Senate Bill 592, sponsored by Sen. Pat Stefano (R-Fayette), gives taxpayers an opportunity to examine the terms of employment contracts that the local school board extends to key district employees. 

Under the bill, when a school board extends an offer of employment to a district superintendent, assistant district superintendent, associate superintendent, or any principal, it must first post the terms of employment on the school district’s public website at least two weeks prior to it being approved. The posting must provide the details of the final offer, including salary and the length of the employment contract. More 

Senate Approves Baker Bill to Increase Public Safety by Expanding PA One Call 

The Senate unanimously approved legislation sponsored by Sen. Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne) that would ensure greater public safety by extending and expanding provisions of the PA One Call Law. 

Also known as 811, the communications system helps prevent damage to underground utilities and avoid tragedies by requiring companies and people to “Call Before You Dig.” That information is then used to determine if there are any lines at-risk in the area, so they can be marked prior to excavation. 

Chief among the changes proposed in Senate Bill 242 is assigning enforcement powers from the state Department of Labor to the Public Utility Commission. More

Senate Confirms Revenue Secretary 

The Senate confirmed the nomination of Dan Hassell to serve as Secretary of the Department of Revenue on June 19. Hassell had served as Acting Revenue Secretary since the April 21 retirement of Revenue Secretary Eileen McNulty. He has served in several posts in the Revenue Department over his career and had previously served as Revenue Secretary in 2010. 

Lawmakers Unveil Legislation Creating Trust Fund for Youth Impacted by Prison System 

A bipartisan group of state senators including Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh) and Sen. Richard Alloway (R-Franklin) joined Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel on Wednesday to unveil legislation establishing a public charitable trust to help children impacted by the prison system and reverse the direction of youth who are on a path leading to incarceration in Pennsylvania. 

The legislation would create the “First Chance Trust Fund,” which would be used to create scholarships and provide grants to programs that benefit children of incarcerated loved ones and children facing challenges. 

The trust fund would be administered by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency and would be funded by private, tax-deductible donations and a 1 percent surcharge on vendors that have a contract with the Department of Corrections exceeding $5 million. Other Pennsylvania agencies would also have the option to include a similar provision in their contracts. It would not require the use of taxpayer dollars. More 

Bills Sent to the Governor for Enactment 

Senate Bill 8 reforms state law regarding the seizure and forfeiture of property.

House Bill 168 makes it a crime for anyone to fraudulently present themselves as a soldier or a veteran of any branch of the armed forces, or to be the recipient of a service medal or other military decoration.

House Bill 217 amends the Crimes Code concerning endangering the welfare of children.  

Bills Approved by the Senate and Sent to the House 

Senate Bill 144 amends Act 537 (Pennsylvania Sewage Facilities Act) to allow the use of “alternative systems” for planning purposes.

Senate Bill 178 updates and modernizes the state History Code.

Senate Bill 180 updates and revises state law relating to organ and tissue donations.

Senate Bill 242 transfers enforcement authority for the Pennsylvania One Call System from the Department of Labor and Industry to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.

Senate Bill 446 provides for the regulation and certification of addiction recovery houses.

Senate Bill 553 provides for chemical testing and other measures related to driving after imbibing alcohol or using drugs.

Senate Bill 639 amends the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST) Act to allow municipalities or municipal authorities to include private lateral rehabilitation or replacement in PENNVEST funding applications under certain conditions.

Senate Bill 656 would allow municipalities and municipal authorities to make public funds available to repair or replace contaminated private water lines when they pose a threat to the public health or safety.

Senate Bill 741 extends or removes sunset provisions related to funding for the courts and indigent legal services.

Committee Round-Up 

Appropriations 

The Senate Appropriations Committee, chaired by Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh), approved 10 bills on June 19.

Senate Bill 180 updates and revises state law relating to organ and tissue donations.

House Bill 217 amends the Crimes Code concerning endangering the welfare of children.

Senate Bill 326 is Fiscal Year 2017-18 funding for Penn State University.

Senate Bill 327 is Fiscal Year 2017-18 funding for the University of Pittsburgh.

Senate Bill 328 is Fiscal Year 2017-18 funding for Temple University.

Senate Bill 329 is Fiscal Year 2017-18 funding for Lincoln University.

Senate Bill 446 provides for the regulation and certification of addiction recovery houses.

Senate Bill 662 establishes a second degree felony for the delivery or distribution of an illicit drug that results in “serious bodily injury” to the user.

Senate Bill 741 addresses sunset provisions related to funding for the courts and indigent legal services.

House Bill 1238 updates and clarifies the existing animal abuse statute and increases the penalties for abusing any animal. 

The committee approved five bills on Tuesday. 

Senate Bill 211 enhances the PA 2-1-1 system.

Senate Bill 242 transfers enforcement authority for the Pennsylvania One Call System from the Department of Labor & Industry to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.

Senate Bill 529 provides those with low-level, nonviolent criminal records a mechanism to have their record sealed from public view.

Senate Bill 639 allows municipalities or municipal authorities to include private water lines in Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST) funding applications under certain conditions.

Senate Bill 656 allows municipalities and municipal authorities to make public funds available to repair or replace contaminated private water lines when they pose a threat to the public health or safety. 

On Wednesday, the committee approved Senate Bill 677, which allows contributions into a PA ABLE account to be deducted annually from taxable income up to a maximum of the annual federal gift tax exclusion (currently $14,000) per beneficiary. It also provides that any distributions from or changes to a PA ABLE account that are not subject to federal income tax will not be subject to Pennsylvania state income tax. 

Agriculture & Rural Affairs

The Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, chaired by Sen. Elder Vogel (R-Beaver), approved two bills on Tuesday.

House Bill 187 provides for wind power generation systems on preserved farmland.

House Bill 790 establishes the Controlled Plant and Noxious Weed Act to provide for the regulation of noxious weeds and controlled plants and repeals the Noxious Weed Control Law. 

Community, Economic and Recreational Development

The Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee, chaired by Sen. Mario Scavello (R-Monroe), held a hearing Tuesday on Partnerships for Regional Economic Performance (PREP) programs and partners, specifically the funding and delivery of these programs, as well as the economic impact to the Commonwealth. Hearing Video & Written Testimony 

Education

The Senate Education Committee, chaired by Sen. John Eichelberger (R-Blair), approved two bills on June 19.

House Bill 178 requires the chief administrator of each school building to conduct a security drill, other than a fire drill or natural disaster drill, to practice procedures to respond to an emergency situation that may include an act of terrorism, armed intruder situation or other violent threat.

Senate Bill 756 eliminates the Keystone Exams as a high school graduation requirement. 

Environmental Resources & Energy

The Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, chaired by Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming), approved four bills on June 19.

House Bill 290 amends the Storage Tank and Spill Prevention Act to address a vacancy on the Underground Storage Tank Indemnification Board.

Senate Bill 334 allows municipalities and municipal authorities to make public funds available to repair or replace broken laterals on private property when the leaks pose a threat to the public health or safety.

Senate Bill 639 amends the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST) Act to allow municipalities or municipal authorities to include private lateral rehabilitation or replacement in PENNVEST funding applications under certain conditions.

Senate Bill 692 adjusts the cap on the fee that a municipality may charge for a sewage enforcement officer’s inspection of a site. 

Finance

The Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Sen. Scott Hutchinson (R-Venango), approved two bills on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 760 establishes a tax exemption for equipment purchased by data centers and their tenants.

Senate Bill 770 exempts help desk and other tech support services from the sales and use tax.  

Health & Human Services

The Health and Human Services Committee, chaired by Sen. Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne), approved four bills on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 6 is designed to eradicate waste, fraud, and abuse within the Commonwealth’s Public Welfare Code. 

House Bill 45 would allow eligible patients to request and use investigational drugs, biological products and medical devices not yet approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as long as the patient has a terminal illness and passes other requirements.

House Bill 424 would allow physician assistants to sign a death certificate for a patient under their care.

Senate Bill 655 requires mandatory implementation of opioid prescribing guidelines developed by the Safe and Effective Prescribing Practices Task Force. 

Labor & Industry 

The Senate Labor and Industry Committee, chaired by Sen. Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland), held a public hearing Wednesday to receive input on Senate Bill 429, regarding apprenticeship ratios. The bill aims to increase accessibility of training and hiring for thousands of industries by codifying access to a ratio of one supervisory journeyman for each apprentice. Hearing Video & Agenda

Local Government Committee

The Senate Local Government Committee, chaired by Sen. Scott Wagner (R-York), approved Senate Bill 656 on June 19. The bill would allow municipalities and municipal authorities to make public funds available to repair or replace contaminated private water lines when they pose a threat to the public health or safety.

On Friday, the committee held a public hearing in Philadelphia to gather testimony on the recently enacted Philadelphia Soda Tax.

Rules & Executive Nominations

The Rules & Executive Nominations Committee approved Senate Resolution 146 on June 19. The Resolution sets a temporary Senate rule for consideration of the Fiscal Year 2017-18 budget. The Resolution was adopted by the full Senate on Tuesday. 

State Government

The Senate State Government Committee, chaired by Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon), approved three bills on Monday.

Senate Bill 622 requires all state agencies to display a general contact phone number on the home page of their internet websites.

Senate Bill 774 revises provisions on the practice and procedure of Commonwealth agencies, establishes the Office of Administrative Hearings, and revises provisions on judicial review of Commonwealth agency actions.

Senate Bill 775 establishes the Pennsylvania Museum Preservation Fund. 

Transportation

The Senate Transportation Committee, chaired by Sen. John Rafferty (R-Montgomery), approved six bills on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 56  would require window tinting be included as part of the vehicle safety inspection process  and subjects businesses to the Unfair Trade Practices law if they fail to inform a purchaser that window tinting will cause a motor vehicle to be out of compliance with the Vehicle Code.

Senate Bill 785 would allow golf carts use on public highway crossovers for recreational purposes as well as golf carts and low-speed utility vehicle use for incidental travel on public highways for maintenance purposes.

Senate Bill 786 prohibits novice drivers (16 and 17 years old) from using cell phones while driving.

House Bill 1219 renames a bridge in Cherryhill Township, Indiana County, as the Sgt. Robert Eugene Goodlin Memorial Bridge.

House Bill 1288 adds optometrists to the list of medical providers who may certify an application for a disability placard or registration plate.

House Bill 1431 designates a portion of Routes 54, 901 and 2023 in Northumberland County and Schuylkill County as the Honorable Robert E. Belfanti, Jr., Memorial Highway. 

The committee also recommended to the full Senate approval of the nomination of John Wozniak as Commissioner of the PA Turnpike Commission. You can view the proceedings here.