2021 Senate Accomplishments

Bills of Note Passed by the Senate

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State Budget 

Act 1A of 2021 (Browne) enacts a 2021-22 state budget that holds the line on taxes, supports Pennsylvania’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and establishes a financial safety net for the future.

Pandemic Response

Senate Bill 2 (K. Ward) provides for three amendments to the state Constitution: excluding measures terminating disaster emergency declarations from having to be presented to the governor, requiring legislative approval of emergency disaster proclamations beyond 21 days, and prohibiting the denial of equal rights on the basis of race or ethnicity. (Approved by voters) 

Act 1 of 2021 (Pittman) amends the state Fiscal Code to allocate $569.8 million for Rental and Utility Assistance, $197 million for education programs, and $145 million to support Pennsylvania’s struggling restaurants and taverns as they cope with the devastation created by the COVID-19 pandemic and the Governor’s mandated closings and restrictions. 

Act 21 of 2021 ensures all waivers previously effective under the COVID-19 emergency will remain in effect until Sept. 30, 2021, unless sooner terminated by the authority which initially authorized the waiver.

Act 67 of 2021 allows family members to safely visit long-term care facilities during a pandemic as essential caregivers. (Senate Bill 190, Mensch) 

Act 73 of 2021 extends waivers of an array of regulatory statutes, rules and regulations to aid in Pennsylvania’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senate Bill 618 (Phillips-Hill) prevents the excess use of power by the state Secretary of Health and prohibits vaccine passport requirements while ensuring the protection of public health. (Vetoed by governor) 

Senate Resolution 90 (K. Ward) extends the emergency temporary rules adopted to maintain continuity of operations of the Senate during the COVID-19 disaster emergency until May 31, 2021, or 10 days following the expiration of the emergency declaration, whichever is earlier. (Adopted)

House Resolution 106 terminates the pandemic emergency declaration and ends the governor’s power to close employers, limit occupancy, suspend state statutes or issue stay-at-home orders due to COVID-19. (Adopted by General Assembly)

Reform

Act 59 of 2021 (Browne) consolidates the Department of Corrections with the Board of Probation & Parole and transfers the supervision of offenders and certain administrative functions from the Board to the Department but preserves parole decision–making responsibilities within the Board.

Act 65 of 2021 (Stefano) strengthens the Sunshine Act to require that agencies make meeting agendas available to the public and prohibits official action on any item not listed on the notice. 

Act 88 of 2021 (Yaw) requires district attorneys in counties to have an active license to practice law to cover situations when a district attorney’s law license is suspended, or they are disbarred.

Senate Bill 106 (Argall) amends the state Constitution to allow gubernatorial candidates to select their running mate.

Senate Bill 140 (Browne) requires all candidates for office and political action committees to file their campaign finance reports with the Department of State electronically, making them more readily available to the public.

Senate Bill 428 (Gordner) moves Pennsylvania’s presidential primary election day from the fourth Tuesday of April to the third Tuesday of March to allow voters to have more say in the outcome of these essential elections.

Senate Bill 552 (Dush) provides a framework for burdensome records requests that will help municipalities, school boards and other agencies with Right to Know Law requests save administrative time and valuable resources and taxpayer dollars.

Senate Bill 738 (Phillips-Hill) requires the Department of State to create a publicly accessible website to provide Pennsylvanians a transparent way to track every step of the constitutional amendment process.

Senate Bill 764 (Argall) requires formal training for the Department’s employees regarding their legislative responsibilities and the constitutional amendment process.

Regulatory Reform

Senate Bill 28 (Phillips-Hill) ensures transparency in permitting. The bill would require all agencies that issue permits to post information about the permits on an accessible tracking system for applicants to check the status of their applications.

Senate Bill 126 (Brooks) provides for an automatic review after three years of all regulations with an economic impact or cost to the Commonwealth, local governments and the private sector exceeding $1 million.

Senate Bill 426 (Gordner) provides additional legislative oversight of the regulatory review process. The goal of the legislation is to ensure state agencies are implementing the law and not trying to make the laws themselves.

Senate Bill 520 (DiSanto) requires the General Assembly to approve all regulations with an economic impact or cost to the Commonwealth, local governments and the private sector exceeding $1 million.

Senate Bill 533 (Yaw) prohibits the consideration or adoption of new regulations during the existence of a disaster emergency, unless the action is directly related to responding to the disaster emergency.

Elections 

Senate Bill 735 (J. Ward) allows voters to decide if the Pennsylvania Constitution should be amended to require identification each time a voter casts a ballot.

House Bill 1300 enacts comprehensive voter rights bill designed to transform our election system and restore public confidence in the outcome of elections. (Vetoed by Governor)

Probation Reform

Senate Bill 904 (Baker) allows probation meetings to be held remotely.

Senate Bill 905 (Baker) improves the scheduling of probation and parole meetings.

Senate Bill 913 (Baker) provides an opportunity for early release from probation and ensures fewer individuals return to prison by offering incentives that reward positive behavior and participation in education, employment, vocational and drug treatment programming shown to reduce recidivism.

Children & Families

Act 20 of 2021 aligns the Family Caregiver Support Act with federal standards, expands the definition of “care receiver” to add a child being raised by a grandparent and an adult with a disability who is cared for by an older adult, and makes other changes to help families.

Act 29 of 2021 amends the Tender Years Hearsay Act to permit the introduction of out-of-court statements made by children 12 years of age or younger concerning violent or sexual offenses.

Act 42 of 2021 allows a criminal justice agency to share information relating to an allegation or instance of child abuse with a county agency or the Department of Human Services to investigate, or with a children’s advocacy center to provide services to investigating agencies.

Act 48 of 2021 gives the Attorney General’s office concurrent jurisdiction to investigate individuals who use their position of trust to financially exploit older adults and care-dependent people.

Act 49 of 2021 targets elder abuse by making it a misdemeanor crime for a professional caretaker to post pictures of care-dependent individuals on social media without permission with the intent to ridicule or demean.

Act 53 of 2021 (Baker) increases the penalties for those convicted of child pornography and permits the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing to create a sentencing enhancement for those convicted of the sexual abuse of children when the victim is known to the defendant.

Act 69 of 2021 (Mensch) allows individuals with disabilities to increase earnings under a new category of Medical Assistance for Workers with Disabilities entitled Workers with Job Success.

Senate Bill 78 (Baker) establishes Kayden’s Law clarifying that the most important issue in making custody and visitation decisions is the protection of the child. 

Senate Bill 157 (Mensch) allows individuals to open a first-time homebuyer savings account with a financial institution.

Senate Bill 521 (Mensch) makes the offense of “upskirting” a third-degree felony for a first offense and a second-degree felony for subsequent offenses of invasion of privacy of a minor when committed by a person of authority, such as a teacher.

Senate Bill 563 (Laughlin) designates the locations where smoke detectors must be installed and requires that they are interconnected so that if one is triggered, they all go off.

Senate Bill 924 (Brooks) institutes a moratorium on the scheduled closing of the Polk and White Haven State Centers for individuals with intellectual disabilities.

House Bill 14 amends the Pennsylvania Constitution to create a two-year window for retroactive lawsuits from victims whose statute of limitations has already expired. (Adopted)

Health Care

Act 11 of 2021 creates the Living Donor Protection Act.

Act 23 of 2021 (Mensch) gives individuals renewing either their vehicle registration or driver’s license an option to donate to the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition.

Act 56 of 2021 (Bartolotta) dedicates additional Medicaid funding for ventilator and tracheostomy services.

Act 60 of 2021 (Gordner) recognizes Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists under Pennsylvania statute to prevent them from leaving Pennsylvania because of designation issues.

Act 68 of 2021 authorizes the Commonwealth to join the Nurse Licensure Compact recognizing mutual agreement in the requirements for nurse licensing, and provides the benefit of easier transfer of licenses from states within the compact. 

Act 78 of 2021 & Act 79 of 2021 (Pittman) modernizes state law to encourage more physician assistants to stay and practice in the Commonwealth resulting in a wider range of medical professionals across the healthcare delivery system.

Act 98 of 2021 (J. Ward) addresses nursing home labor shortages by allowing individuals participating in a state-approved nurse aide training program to complete the education portion online.

Act 92 of 2021 extends the Social Security cost-of-living-adjustment moratorium for individuals enrolled in PACE and PACENET to preserve access to these senior citizen prescription drug programs. (Senate Bill 323, J. Ward)

Act 94 of 2021 expands income eligibility for the PACENET senior prescription drug program.

Senate Bill 74 (Martin) allows companies to apply for a tax credit after donating to a Pennsylvania pediatric cancer research hospital. 

Senate Bill 705 (Vogel) improves access to telemedicine by defining it, offering guidelines outlining who can provide telemedicine services and providing clarity around insurance company reimbursement for these services.

Senate Bill 709 (Tomlinson) establishes the CMV Education and Newborn Testing Act to create public awareness of cytomegalovirus and provide for CMV screening for certain newborns.

Opioid Epidemic

Act 35 of 2021 requires recovery house staff to notify an emergency contact if the resident self-discharges or leaves the recovery house and fails to return as expected.

Act 41 of 2021 requites rehabilitation facilities to notify a designated contact when a person backslides during treatment and discharges themselves against medical advice.

Act 57 of 2021 (Langerholc) requires employers who have a certified safety committee to include information about the risks associated with the use of opioids.

Act 72 of 2021 extends the successful Achieving Better Care by Monitoring All Prescriptions to help doctors and pharmacists battle opioid abuse.

Senate Bill 69 (Langerholc) creates a “Recovery to Work” pilot program to connect individuals in recovery with occupations through local workforce development boards.

Emergency Response

Senate Bill 36 (Phillips-Hill) provides for license fee exemptions for service dogs used by a fire department, sheriff’s office or in the performance of rescue services or medical emergency services.

Senate Bill 83 (Brooks) creates grants to establish fire training programs for students in high school.

Senate Bill 158 (Regan) provides for medals of commendations for law enforcement, fire and EMS personnel.

Senate Bill 243 (Pittman) allows volunteer fire departments, veterans organizations and other non-profits to conduct Small Games of Chance fundraisers online until May 1, 2022 to make up for fundraising revenue lost during the pandemic.

Senate Bill 739 (Stefano) implements Emergency Services Loan Assistance Program aid to Pennsylvania fire departments approved by voters in a May referendum.

Senate Resolution 96 (Stefano) directs the Legislative Budget & Finance Committee to conduct a performance audit on the Pennsylvania’s 9-1-1 System and make recommendations in advance of the reauthorization of the 9-1-1 Law. (Adopted)

House Resolution 159 extends the state disaster emergency declared in response to Hurricane Ida until Oct. 27, giving Pennsylvanians more time to apply for recovery assistance. (Adopted)

Education

Act 24 of 2021 (Fiscal Code) allocates $500 million in federal funds to help to ensure schools reopen safely, sustain safe operation and address student needs resulting from the pandemic.

Act 26 of 2021 (Martin) makes permanent a temporary program that gave schools the option to utilize individuals training to be teachers to serve as a substitute teacher, provided the individual has valid clearances and at least 60 credit hours.

Act 66 of 2021 (Corman) allows parents the option to have their child repeat a grade level during the 2021-22 school year due to COVID-19. 

Act 84 of 2021 provides school nurses the option to complete free seizure management training covering seizure recognition, a seizure action plan and related first aid.

Act 91 of 2021 eases Pennsylvania’s day-to-day substitute teacher shortage by providing schools with more hiring flexibility.

Senate Bill 224 (Bartolotta) simplifies the process for out-of-state teachers to obtain certification in Pennsylvania to address the statewide teacher shortage.

Senate Bill 247 (Phillips-Hill) repeals a provision of the Public School Code that prohibits teachers from wearing any garb, mark, emblem or insignia that would indicate he or she is a member of or adherent to any religious order or sect while in the performance of their duties.

Senate Bill 351 (Langerholc) creates the Community Engaged Schools for Success pilot program to bring community-based services into schools.

Senate Bill 786 (Aument) broadens the state’s Open Campus Initiative to include charter schools, regional charter schools and cyber charter schools to combat learning loss caused by the pandemic.

Senate Bill 931 (Martin) excludes pandemic stimulus payments from a household’s income when determining eligibility for the Educational Improvement Tax Credit and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit programs.

Senate Bill 932 (Martin) revises the definition of “school-related fees” so students can use Educational Improvement Tax Credit and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit scholarships toward dual enrollment programs.

Senate Bill 937 (Brooks) prohibits a child from being required to be immunized for COVID-19 as a condition of attendance in any public or private K-12 schools.

Senate Resolution 144 (Aument) establishes the 2030 Commission on Education and Economic Competitiveness to create a long-term vision for Pennsylvania’s education system and a legislative plan for achieving it. 

House Bill 1332 would require K-12 schools to post curricula online in a standardized, user-friendly manner. (Vetoed by governor)

House Bill 1642 loosens the threshold for schools to be considered “economically disadvantaged,” which would allow more students to access a supplemental tax credit scholarship offered through the Educational Improvement Tax Credit and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit’s Economically Disadvantaged Schools program.

Jobs

Senate Bill 347 (DiSanto) brings Pennsylvania in line with federal tax law governing “like-kind” exchanges, allowing small business employers to invest in the job-creating assets businesses need to remain competitive.

Senate Bill 349 (Hutchinson) increases small business expense deduction limits to make it easier for employers to buy equipment, invest and create jobs.

Senate Bill 706 (Robinson) establishes the Max Manufacturing Initiative Fund and Max Manufacturing Endeavor Loan Fund. This bill aims to create stronger public-private partnerships between state universities and private entities and maximizes research capabilities with cutting edge technologies.

Senate Bill 562 (Scavello) creates the Airport Land Development Zone program, providing tax credits to employers that make a significant new investment by expanding operations and creating new jobs.

Crime

Senate Bill 516 (Browne) provides for the referral of unpaid fines, fees and restitution for Magisterial District Judge and Common Pleas debt to a collection agency when a defendant fails to appear. (Vetoed by Governor)

Senate Bill 708 (Bartolotta) uses savings generated by the 2012 Justice Reinvestment Initiative to strengthen crime victim access to services and compensation.

Senate Bill 814 strengthens the crimes code by adding penalties for fleeing an officer by foot to evade arrest.

Human Trafficking

Act 32 of 2021 prohibits defendants from introducing evidence of a human trafficking victim’s past sexual victimization in any human trafficking prosecution.

Act 38 of 2021 requires that a court consider whether a party or member of that party’s household has been convicted of human trafficking prior to awarding child custody.

Act 45 of 2021 requires any offender that subjected a minor to sexual servitude (human trafficking) to undergo treatment while in prison, helping to reduce recidivism.

Act 52 of 2021 (Langerholc) permits expert witnesses in cases of domestic violence and human trafficking.

Veterans and Military

Act 31 of 2021 extends employment protections to Pennsylvania citizens who are members of another state’s National Guard.

Act 55 of 2021 (Robinson) increases the maximum donation amounts to the Veterans’ Trust Fund from $3 to $5 when applying for or renewing a driver’s license, ID card or vehicle registration and from $6 to $10 when applying for a two-year vehicle registration.

Act 63 of 2021 (Stefano) adds a member of the State Veterans Commission to the Pennsylvania Long-Term Care Council.

Act 87 of 2021 (Phillips-Hill) designates March 6 as Persian Gulf War Veterans Day and October 7 as Global War on Terrorism Veterans Day.

Senate Bill 486 provides members of the PA National Guard and reserve components of the U.S. Armed Forces who serve on active duty, as well as their spouses, preference for placement into job training programs for one year after discharge. 

Senate Bill 830 establishes a Veteran-owned Business Loan Guarantee Program. 

Senate Bill 849 (Stefano) clarifies the Veterans Preference Law to include veterans who served honorably but were discharged with a disability before completing their initial obligation.

Community Development

Act 37 of 2021 establishes a process for local governments to develop microenterprises in downtown business communities to reduce blight and move residents from government assistance to work.

Act 50 of 2021 increases access to 5G technology by providing uniform regulation of small wireless facilities, accelerating high-speed deployment while protecting local rights-of-way.

Act 96 of 2021 improves access to high-speed internet in underserved communities by creating the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority, a single point-of-contact for federal broadband funding.

Senate Bill 341 (Phillips-Hill) modernizes regulations that apply to landline telephone companies to facilitate the deployment of broadband services in rural Pennsylvania.

Senate Bill 442 (Phillips-Hill) directs all revenue generated from leasing state-owned assets to various carriers to expanding access to high-speed broadband and requires state agencies to conduct an inventory of all state-owned assets to help with the further deployment of broadband.

Agriculture

Act 27 of 2021 promotes agritourism in Pennsylvania and provides them with limited liability protection.

Act 62 of 2021 (Vogel) extends the regulatory milk date labeling for to help bolster Pennsylvania’s dairy farms.

Act 90 of 2021 (Bartolotta) allows farmers to use a Class A, B or C driver’s license when operating farm vehicles with a combined weight of more than 26,000 pounds on roadways.

Senate Bill 64 (Martin) directs a portion of the state-allocated farmland preservation funding to be set aside annually for use by land trusts.

Senate Bill 191 (J. Ward) provides an exemption from the Uniform Construction Code for barns and other structures that are occasionally used for weddings or special events, if certain requirements are satisfied.

Senate Bill 736 (Langerholc) helps Pennsylvania farmers make home deliveries by enabling them to register a farm vehicle for the delivery of milk and other agricultural products to both businesses and homes.

Environment and Energy

Senate Concurrent Regulatory Review Resolution 1 disapproves the regulation allowing Pennsylvania to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), to prevent higher energy costs, loss of jobs and erosion of the legislature’s authority over taxes.

Senate Bill 119 (Pittman) requires legislative approval before Gov. Tom Wolf can have Pennsylvania join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

Senate Bill 251 (Yaw) sets standards for the application of fertilizer to turf to reduce the environmental impact of fertilizer applied to areas such as lawns, golf courses and athletic fields.

Senate Bill 275 (Yaw) limits municipal entities from banning any specific type of fuel source for appliances and heating homes or businesses, ensuring Pennsylvania homes and employers have access to diverse energy options.

Senate Bill 302 (Yaw) restricts the use of “Class B” firefighting foams containing added per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) for training purposes.

Hunting & Outdoor Recreation

Senate Bill 241 exempts the cost of fishing licenses in Pennsylvania for veterans and other individuals taking steps towards physical or mental recovery as part of therapeutic recreation events or programs.

Senate Bill 403 (Robinson) aligns the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s boat registration period with the calendar year.

Consumer Protection

Senate Bill 82 (Brooks) establishes a Lemon Law for motorcycles, providing consumer protections for motorcycle buyers similar to those of car buyers under Pennsylvania’s Automobile Lemon Law.

Senate Bill 236 (Brooks) crack downs on deceptive and nuisance telephone calls by bill banning the practice of caller ID “spoofing.”

Transportation

Senate Bill 153 (Langerholc) increases the permitted weight of electric powered trucks from 80,000 pounds to 82,000 pounds to accommodate the weight of the battery or battery pack.

Senate Bill 382 (Langerholc) reforms the Public-Private Transportation Partnership statute.

Senate Bill 419 (Scavello) permits municipal police in Pennsylvania to use radar for speed limit enforcement. 

Senate Bill 777 (Langerholc) exempts the five newest model year vehicles from the outdated emissions test.

Senate Bill 827 (J. Ward) directs PennDOT to establish an electronic weigh station bypass system for motor carriers to reduce dangerous congestion at weigh stations, reduce emissions and reduce lost time for drivers.

Senate Resolution 53 (Baker) directs the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to research and report on the effectiveness of PennDOT’s highway maintenance funding formula.

Second Amendment

Senate Bill 448 (Langerholc) allows citizens to sue a county or municipality that implements a local firearms ordinance in violation of existing state law; allows for individuals adversely affected by local action to seek relief and damages; puts the burden on the municipality to defend its actions instead of placing the burden on the individual; and makes it clear the General Assembly is the only elected body responsible for passing legislation related to the right to bear arms.

Senate Bill 565 (Dush) decriminalizes the carrying of guns without a license, leaving use of firearms controlled by other Pennsylvania statutes that remain unchanged. (Vetoed by Governor)