The House and Senate will reconvene on Monday, June 23, 2014. Here is what happened in Harrisburg this week:
House and Senate members were told this week to not make any plans for the first part of July as the leaders and the governor continue to work on a budget deal. This week, Gov. Tom Corbett’s spokesperson Jay Pagni told the Associated Press that the governor is prepared to “stay as long as it takes to accomplish his goals,” which include some kind of pension reform bill. Formal talks between the legislature and the governor’s office slowed a bit this week, but all indications are they are continuing to work toward finishing the budget in the shadow of billion dollar-plus deficit.
Legislatively speaking, the Senate did its part this week to ensure that there will be a full range of options to advance budget bills once all the players decide upon revenue and spending numbers. This week, Senate Appropriations Chair Sen. Jake Corman (R-Centre) and Majority Leader Sen. Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware) introduced S.B. 1431, a 2014-2015 budget bill. The bill had second consideration in the Senate and was re-referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee. Last week a budget bill was also introduced in the House, had first consideration and was re-referred to the House Rules Committee. No matter which bill is chosen as the vehicle for the final budget, expect the appropriations language to change dramatically once negations between the leadership and the governor’s office are completed. Nevertheless, with the June 30 deadline fast approaching, it’s good to see the flow of the legislative budget pipeline moving along.
In our blog (http://www.pagovernmentrelations.com/?p=443) earlier this week, we highlighted comments made by the governor and his team at a Tuesday news conference, where they not only stressed the challenging revenue situation given the nearly $1.4 billion deficit, but also indicated that two major gubernatorial priorities – pension reform and some form of liquor bill – are also part of the mix. Additionally, Budget Secretary Charles Zogby said the administration was not ruling out a severance tax, which would be a major policy shift for the Republican governor.
You can also glean some bits and pieces from the otherwise carefully worded statements in the links below. When asked by PoliticsPA, House Appropriations Chair Rep. Bill Adolf (R-Delaware) echoed the governor’s statements this week, saying that pensions are one of the House priorities, and Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi noted that the introduction of the Senate’s budget bill this week gives legislators a full range of options when they need to finally move bills.
Governor Tom Corbett’s 6/17/14 comments on budget (PAcast): http://www.pacast.com/display_media_video_feed.asp
Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi’s comments on budget (PoliticsPA): http://www.plsreporter.com/Home/TabId/56/ArtMID/472/ArticleID/151/VIDEO-Sen-Pileggi-We-are-doing-what-we-can-do-to-advance-the-process-on-the-state-budget-.aspx
House Appropriations Chair Bill Adolf’s comments on budget (PoliticsPA): http://www.plsreporter.com/Home/TabId/56/ArtMID/472/ArticleID/150/VIDEO-House-Appropriations-Chair-gives-some-insight-into-budget-negotiations-.aspx
It’s no secret that the issue of property taxes –and how to lower them –has been much debated in Pennsylvania over the last decade. And while no one has been able to put forth a comprehensive overhaul that a majority of members (and Pennsylvanians) can support, the issue of spot assessments and appeals has seen some traction over the last few sessions. This week, the House advanced H.B. 2348 (Milne, R, Chester). The bill limits when a taxing district (typically a school district) can appeal a property owner’s assessment. A similar bill was introduced by Sen. Dave Argall (R-Schuylkill) last session but didn’t make it to the governor’s desk. Similar bills did make it to the governor’s desk during the Rendell administration but were vetoed for not going quite far enough to address the property tax issue in the commonwealth. We’ll be watching this one closely from now until the end of the session.
The Senate reported H.B. 46 (Godshall, R-Montgomery) from the Appropriations Committee this week. Pennsylvania law had allowed employers, who grant paid leave to employees who are donating organs or bone marrow, the opportunity to apply for a tax credit. The amount would total the paid leave, paid by the employer. That program expired in 2010, and Godshall’s bill would revive it with no expiration date. With nearly 8,000 people in the commonwealth awaiting life-saving organ transplants, the bill is one of a series of bills that are part of the current legislative mix.
Rep. John Sabatina (D-Philadelphia) is sponsoring a bill to prohibit discrimination against transplant recipients who have a physical or mental disability, and H.B. 30, The Donate PA Life Act (Petrarca, D-Armstrong) is also out there and was subject to a public hearing earlier this spring.
Ready, Set, Action on Film Tax Credit Bill
Since the enactment of the film tax credit program several years ago, Pennsylvania has become a desired location for movie and television program production. In return, there have been ample economic benefits for the commonwealth. It is estimated that the $367 million in tax credits awarded through the program has led to $2.7 billion in economic activity and supported 19,000 jobs.
H.B. 2083 (Stern, R-Blair), which was reported out of the House Finance Committee this week, would allow for the recapture of tax credits not used from previous years. An estimated $22 million in credits could be accessed this way. Currently the credits are capped at $60 million a year, and the Department of Community and Economic Development, which administers the credit, cannot access those credits or award them to another production unless it’s in the same fiscal year.
Immunizations at Pharmacies
The Senate Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure Committee unanimously voted in favor of S.B. 819 (Erickson, R-Chester), which amends the Pharmacy Act. The bill provides pharmacists the ability to immunize individuals over seven years of age. Pharmacists must meet certain requirements and carry at least $1 million in professional medical liability insurance. In addition, children under the age of 18 would need parental consent before the injectable immunization or medication could be administered. The bill is now set on the Senate Calendar for second consideration.
Power of Attorney Act Amendment on Governor’s Desk
Legislation to amend the Pennsylvania Power of Attorney Act was approved unanimously by the House this week. H.B. 1429, sponsored by Rep. Mark Keller (R-Perry/Franklin), now heads to the governor’s desk for his signature. The bill addresses problems in the law that were created by a Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision that have the potential to increase liability for third parties, including a family member, an attorney or a bank, when they accept powers of attorney in good faith. The power to act legally on behalf of an individual may include the power to give away property and the power to acquire real estate. As a result of the Supreme Court’s decision, family members may run into problems when seeking to assist elderly and disabled relatives by becoming their agent through the power of attorney.
Highway Naming Bill Includes Lehigh Valley’s Chrin Interchange
For over 65 years, Charles Chrin has been an active member of the Lehigh Valley community, as well as a successful businessman and co-founder of the Charles Chrin Companies. Now it looks like he will also have a highway named in his honor. H.B. 1831 (Regan, R-Cumberland) unanimously passed both Chambers and will now go to the Governor’s desk for signature. Among the roads receiving new names in the bill, is the interchange at the crossing of State Route 33 and Main Street (State Route 1022) in Palmer Township, Northampton County. If signed by the governor, it will now be known as the Charles Chrin Interchange.
Philadelphia DA Convenes Grand Jury in Sting Case
Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams (D) announced this week that he will convene a grand jury to examine the evidence in a sting operation that allegedly caught Philadelphia-area officials on tape accepting cash or gifts Attorney General Kathleen Kane (D) declined to press charges in the investigation that was initiated under then-Attorney General Tom Corbett and continued under his predecessors, calling the case deeply flawed. The files were turned over to the D.A.’s office after much public back-and-forth between the two prosecutors. In turning the case over to the grand jury, Williams said a decision could take “months, not years” and that the grand jury’s review may be “much more expansive” than the four state legislators and Traffic Court judge that were originally revealed to have been investigated.
In Other News:
S.B. 1400 (Corman, R-Centre), which authorizes debt for the capital budget has been sent to the House;
Sen. Robert Tomlinson (R-Bucks) introduced S.B. 1422, regarding successor liability. It was reported from Senate Judiciary Committee and is on second consideration in the Senate;
Bridge and Highway Capital Budget bills are on the move: H.B. 2244, H.B. 2219, S.B. 1383 andS.B. 1384;
S.B. 1164 (Pileggi-R, Delaware) moved out of committee and received first consideration in the House. This bill would provide immunity from prosecution for certain drug crimes for a person who reports a drug overdose;
Rep. Mike Turzai’s (R-Allegheny) bill H.B. 2234, to modernize the Business Entity Law, is heading to the Senate for consideration
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