Senate News Brief


“If there is a need to re-open the existing gaming laws to address new trends and changes surrounding the gaming industry, then we should address that now, in order to maintain the industry’s health and vitality in the future.”

Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee Chair Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland) on Tuesday’s hearing to discuss the future of gaming in Pennsylvania.


 Preview

Senate Convenes Monday at 1 p.m.

Tuesday: Hearing on Statewide Gaming Report 

The Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee, chaired by Sen. Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland), will hold a public hearing to further discuss the findings in The Current Condition and Future Viability of Casino Gaming in Pennsylvania.  The report was commissioned by the Joint Legislative Budget and Finance Committee, chaired by Sen. Bob Mensch (R-Montgomery). (Tues., 9:30 a.m., N. Office Bldg. Room 1) 

Tuesday: Committee to Consider Proposals to Reduce Size of Legislature

The Senate State Government Committee, chaired by Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster), will meet to consider proposed constitutional amendments to reduce the size of the General Assembly.

The committee will consider an amendment to Senate Bill 324, sponsored by Sen. Elder Vogel (R-Beaver), which would reduce the number of state Senators from 50 to 45. The committee will also weigh in on House Bill 1234, legislation to trim the number of districts in the House of Representatives from 203 to 153. (Tues., 12:30 p.m., Rm. 8E-B) 

June 10: Committee to Hold Second Hearing on Medical Cannabis

Following an informational hearing earlier this year regarding legislation to legalize the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes, the Senate Law and Justice Committee, chaired by Sen. Chuck McIlhinney (R-Bucks), will hold a second public hearing on the issue.

The hearing will focus on an amendment to Senate Bill 1182, the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act, sponsored by Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon). (Tues., June 10, 10 a.m., N. Office Bldg. Room 1) 

Senate Committee Schedule
Hearings will be streamed live at PASenateGOP.com.

Review

Baker Renews Push for Tougher Hit-and-Run Penalties 

Sen. Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne), Luzerne County legislators and the District Attorney are joining in a renewed effort to increase the minimum mandatory sentence for drivers who fatally hit an individual and then flee the scene.

Efforts to close the loophole have come to be known as “Kevin’s Law” in memory of five-year-old Kevin Miller who was killed in a hit-and-run crash in December 2012.  Senate Bill 1079, sponsored by Senator Baker, would increase the mandatory minimum penalty from one year to three years for fleeing the scene of an accident where a death resulted. For more on “Kevin’s Law” and action taken by the Senate to improve public safety, please see In the Spotlight and Fast Facts below. 

Vogel Bill Ending “Summer” Gasoline Mandate Becomes Law

Legislation sponsored by Sen. Elder Vogel (R-Beaver) eliminating a “hidden” tax that drives up the costs of gasoline for western Pennsylvanians was signed into law May 14.

Senate Bill 1037 eliminates statutory requirements for low Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) gasoline in Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland Counties during the summer months. This “summer gas” is routinely more expensive than gasoline sold in the rest of Pennsylvania and also in neighboring Ohio and West Virginia.

Since 1999, the state Department of Environmental Protection and federal Environmental Protection Agency have required that gasoline sold between May 1 and September 15 in the seven-county Greater Pittsburgh Area have a RVP of 7.8 psi. Regular gasoline has an RVP of 9.0.

Senator Vogel: “Basically, the RVP regulation is nothing more than a hidden tax, not only at the pump but also on goods and services. The people in a seven-county area of western Pennsylvania have been forced to pay at least 10 to 15 cents more per gallon for gas than those in neighboring counties and just across the border in Ohio.”

In the Spotlight

The hit-and-run death of five-year-old Kevin Miller was one of five similar incidents occurring in Luzerne County in 2012.  In each case, the driver fled the scene. Homicide by vehicle while DUI carries a three-year mandatory minimum, but leaving the scene of an accident involving death has only a one-year mandatory minimum.

In addition to Senator Baker’s legislation, House Bill 1422, sponsored by Rep. Mike Carroll (D-118), would increase the mandatory minimum penalty from one year to three years for fleeing the scene of an accident where a death resulted.  A third measure is also being introduced by Rep. Tarah Toohil (R-116).

Senator Baker: “There is no question in this area about the justice and the purpose behind the sentencing changes known as ‘Kevin’s Law.’  The remedy is simple and appropriate.  Bills have been in since last year, so it is not a new subject.  And this is an issue that has not run into a problem of partisan politics. Now that the case has been decided and the sentence rendered, the way is cleared for a concerted push on corrective legislation.”

 

Fast Facts

 

Highlights of 2013-14 Anti-Crime Measures

  • Senate Resolution 6 directs the Joint State Government Commission to establish an advisory committee to study the underlying causes of mass shootings and other violent crimes.
  • Act 14 of 2013 allows crime victims or their families to testify before the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole when a perpetrator is being considered for parole.
  • Act 1A of 2013 includes a $3 million increase for the Child Predator Interceptor Unit and $2.5 million for a new Mobile Street Crimes Unit to combat gang-related activity.
  • Act 131 of 2013 closes a loophole in current law that enables repeat retail theft offenders to avoid more serious penalties.
  • Act 16 of 2014 significantly strengthens Pennsylvania’s arson laws and creates the new crime of “aggravated arson.”
  • Act 25 of 2014 authorizes a sexual assault victim to petition the court requesting protection from the defendant regardless of whether the victim seeks criminal prosecution.
  • Act 91 of 2013 increases the punishment for the offense of harassment where the offender has previously violated a Protection from Abuse Order involving the same victim or the victim’s family or household member.