We’ve turned the corner of the final 10 days before the June 30 budget deadline, so you can expect us to be full throttle between now and then – then meaning whenever the budget is completed. This week, it became clear in public and private statements that all sides – House, Senate and the governor’s office –are anticipating that the work may bleed into July, at least a bit, especially if the governor is going to hold out for not only a balanced budget, which is required by the Pennsylvania constitution, but also for pension reform and some kind of liquor bill.
In that vein, starting Monday, the House and Senate will hold session every day through the June 30 budget deadline. In addition, you might notice the legislative committees adding meetings to the calendar with “to be announced” agendas. Essentially, they are sharpening the legislative tools to react quickly in the event that supporting budget legislation or other bills, such as pension and liquor, need to make it to the floor in the flurry of activity that always comes these last few weeks.
What to Watch
The General Appropriations bill, H.B. 2328, is listed on the House Voting Schedule for Monday, which is the first day that debate on the bill can begin, according to House rules. So far, 13 amendments have been filed to the bill, but we are expecting to see many, many more as negotiations shake out and legislators figure out how to support individual initiatives in what is turning out to be the tightest budget year in recent memory. Other budget bills on Monday’s House Voting schedule include bills making appropriations to the special funds. Check out our previous blog that talks about these bills: http://www.pagovernmentrelations.com/?p=438.
H.B. 907 (Reese,R-Fayette) has also been added to the House Calendar. This bill would amend the Public Welfare Code to prohibit people receiving cash assistance from purchasing tobacco or tobacco products with their electronic benefits cards.
H.B. 1353 (Kampf, R-Chester) is also on the House Voting Schedule which as been for the last few weeks understood to be the vehicle for Rep. Mike Tobash’s (R-Schuylkill) hybrid pension bill.
As the possible enactment of a severance tax becomes more and more likely, we can expect to see a number of Tax Reform Code bills being positioned for possible vehicles. Rep. Bryan Cutler’s (R-Lancaster) H.B. 2188, which would make utilization of the Community-Based Services Tax Credit easier for mental health care and intellectual disability service, and Rep. Michele Brooks’ (R-Crawford) H.B. 2232, which would phase out the inheritance tax have both been added to the House voting schedule.
The Senate Calendar indicates that votes on a number of bills to amend the Public School Code could be up for consideration. Sen. Lloyd Smucker’s (R-Lancaster) charter school reform bill, S.B.1085, is on third consideration in the upper chamber and could be sent to the House for consideration early next week, as is Rep. Pat Browne’s S.B. 1316, a special education funding bill.
The Senate is also positioned to consider H.B. 1337 (Toohil, R-Luzerne), on third consideration, which would provide increased funding for the Access to Justice Account. The Access to Justice Account funds legal services for low-income Pennsylvanians.
Politically speaking, all eyes are going to be on the Attorney General’s office Monday when it will release the long-awaited report regarding the investigation into Jerry Sandusky. Current Attorney General Kathleen Kane promised to conduct the review as part of her campaign for Attorney General. The Sandusky investigation began under then-Attorney General Tom Corbett. Leaked information shared in recent news reports about the pending release of the report indicates there is no smoking gun of the political sort.
Because there are so many meetings currently on the books with open agendas, this week we are going to highlight meetings that are running bills of interest.
Monday, June 23
The House Insurance Committee will hold a public hearing examining insurance coverage for consumers when utilizing experimental service for transportation. There has been an increase in dialogue on this issue since the introduction of H.B. 2295 (Killion, R- Delaware) earlier this month. The Ridesharing Arrangements Act would provide ridesharing arrangements to commuters and employers without being regulated as a public utility by the PUC. Killion’s bill passed in the House unanimously last week. Rep. Thomas Killion stated that the legislation would increase vanpooling and decrease emissions. In addition, fewer vehicles would be on the road. The upcoming public hearing should address questions on another facet of the matter, insurance coverage, before the bill is considered by the Senate. This hearing will take place at 10 a.m. in room G-50 of the Irivs Office Building.
Tuesday, June 24
The Senate Aging and Youth Committee and the House Aging and Older Services Committee will hold a joint meeting to hear a presentation by the Department of Aging Secretary Brian Duke on Pennsylvania’s Alzheimer’s State Plan. Last week, Gov. Corbett approved Pennsylvania Alzheimer’s Disease State Planning Committee’s plan, which included recommendations and a strategic approach to combat the issue in the future. This meeting will take place at 9:30 a.m. in Hearing Room 1 of the North Office Building. The Pennsylvania State Plan’s recommendations include:
Improve awareness, knowledge and sense of urgency about medical, social and financial implications of Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care (ADRD) across the commonwealth;
Identify financial resources to implement this plan through federal, state, foundation, private and other innovative funding mechanisms and partnerships;
Promote brain health and cognitive fitness across the life cycle, from birth onward;
Provide a continuum of care and support that responds to social and cultural diversity, with services and supports ranging from early detection and diagnosis through end-of-life care;
Enhance support for family and nonprofessional caregivers and those living with ADRD;
Build and retain a competent, knowledgeable, ethical and caring workforce;
Promote and support novel and ongoing research to find better and effective cures, treatments and prevention strategies for ADRD.
The House Children and Youth Committee will hold an informational hearing on the Front Porch Project at 10 a.m. on Tuesday in Room B31 of the Main Capitol Building. The Front Porch Project examines why adults are reluctant to report suspected child abuse. Here’s a link to the project: https://www.pa-fsa.org/assets/Intro_sheet_who-what-why_7-12.pdf
The Senate Labor and Industry Committee will meet on Tuesday at 11 a.m. in Room 461 of the Main Capitol. Among the bills up for consideration is H.B. 1846 (Quinn, R-Bucks), which provides for physician dispensing of drugs under the Workers’ Compensation Act
Wednesday, June 25
The House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee will hold a meeting to discuss Rep. Pam Snyder’s (D-Fayette) legislation on carbon dioxide emissions. H.B. 2354, introduced last week, would require the Department of Environmental Protection to receive approval from the General Assembly for a state plan to regulate CO2 emissions for existing stationary sources prior to submitting to the EPA for approval. Under the new preliminary EPA rule, Pennsylvania is given an emissions target to meet by 2030. Also, the state is given the flexibility to adapt its own state plan in order to determine the best way of meeting the EPA’s requirements. H.B. 2354 would give elected officials, rather than the EPA regulators, the authority to ensure that the state plan is created exclusively for the specific needs of the commonwealth. Rep. Snyder says she is primarily concerned about the preservation of coal-generation in the state, which she believes to be a reliable and economic source of energy. This meeting will take place at 9 a.m. in Room G50 in the Irvis Office Building.
Last week, you might recall the House Aging and Older Adult Services Committee held an informational hearing last week on H.B. 2014 (Hennessy, R-Chester), which would revise the Older Adults Protective Services Act (Act 79 of 1987) to amend the criminal background check provisions in the current act, clearly defining the crimes that would prohibit individuals from being employed in long-term care facilities, in response to a previous Supreme Court ruling. That hearing will continue Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. in Room 60 in the East Wing of the Capitol. The bill also has a provision that would impact financial institutions, requiring them to provide employee-training programs in recognizing signs of potential financial abuse of an older adult and the process to make an abuse report. You can check it out as it happens, as it will be webcast live.
The House Local Government Committee meets to consider a number of bills. Among them is Rep. Robert Freeman’s (D-Northampton) H.B. 700, which would extend the duration of grants under the Main Street Program. The Main Street Program provides grants to municipalities to revitalize their downtown areas.
Thursday, June 26
The House Health Committee has scheduled a voting meeting on H.B. 1760 (Denlinger, R-Lancaster). Known as the Volunteer Health Care Practitioner Act, the bill provides for the certification of a health care practitioner as a volunteer health care practitioner by the Department of Health. A volunteer would be immune from civil liability as long as he provides 48 hours of uncompensated, voluntary care at a free health clinic within the Commonwealth every quarter. According to the sponsorship memo, the bill is designed to help stem the tide of medical talent leaving the state, provide quality health care services to those who cannot afford to pay and address some of the state’s outdated medical malpractice rules and regulations. This hearing will take place at 10 a.m. in Room G-50 of the Irvis Office Building.
Friday, June 27
The Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee will hold a public hearing in Hearing Room 1 of the North Office Building to solicit testimony regarding the energy of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. The proposed EPA regulation was announced on June 2, 2014 and implementation of the regulation is expected to begin beg finalized in 2015. States would then have to submit an initial plan by June 2016 and then until 2017 (or 2018 if they make joint efforts with another state) to submit a final copy. According to the Obama administration, the proposed Clean Power Plan would reduce carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants by 30 percent. For Pennsylvania, the Plan proposes a state renewable energy generation goal of 16 percent. Currently the state is at 2 percent. Additionally, Pennsylvania’s output-weighted-average CO2 emission rates are expected to drop from 1,179 to 1,052. On July 31, 2014, one of only four federal public hearings throughout the country will take place in Pittsburgh.
Committee meetings are added and taken off the schedule continually.