The House and Senate will be back in session Monday, June 16 at 1:00 p.m. As June – otherwise dubbed “budget month” – ticks away, both chambers have four session days scheduled next week, and the House Appropriations Committee has scheduled meetings Monday through Thursday, which puts the House at the ready to deal with budget-related procedural moves and amendments as the final agreement is settled on between leadership and the governor’s office. Expect to see additional House and Senate Appropriations Committee and Rules Committee meetings to be scheduled as the month wears on.
We also anticipate more session days to be added to the schedule through the remainder of the month and possibly into July as Harrisburg tries to plug a deficit of over a billion dollars during a gubernatorial election year. In years past, it was practically the norm to have the legislature – and all of us – working on and beyond the Fourth of July, but this will be a first, should it happen, for the Corbett Administration. While the Capitol Building is buzzing with speculation on when the budget might be completed, the LasVegas odds are changing day-to-day and sometimes hour-to-hour. The safest bet is to just keep ears to the ground.
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What to Watch
Earlier this week, debate was delayed on a hybrid pension reform proposal by Rep. Mike Tobash (R-Schuylkill), which would combine a limited traditional defined-benefit pension with a 401(k)-type defined contribution plan. Pension reform is a pretty complicated issue, but with over a billion-dollar budget deficit to address, Gov. Corbett has indicated that he may be willing to hold up the budget in order to get pension reform passed. Corbett has signaled his support for the Tobash plan, and there have been signs that it could get aired on the House floor next week.
S.B. 150 (Pileggi, R-Delaware) is also on the “watch” list on the House calendar next week. The bill aims to modernize and reform the administration, application and use of the Pennsylvania State DNA Database; however, it also contains a very controversial provision regarding when DNA can be collected from a perpetrator of a crime. Under current law, DNA can only be collected from a person who is convicted or adjudicated of criminal homicide, a felony sex offense, the offense of luring a child into a motor vehicle, indecent assault or an offense that requires registration under Megan’s Law. S.B. 150 amends the DNA Act to allow collection of a person’s DNA upon arrest for the above named offenses, as well as for certain violent misdemeanors. Last session, Sen. Dominic Pileggi introduced S.B.775, which included basically the same language. That bill was amended in the house to remove certain controversial provisions related to collection of DNA on arrest and never made it back to the senate for a concurrence vote.
We are not sure how it happened, but on Monday, other than the House Appropriations Committee, and a regular business meeting of the Center for Rural Development, there is nothing else on the hearing schedule at this time. It gets busier, however, as the week goes on.
Tuesday brings about a House State Government Committee hearing to discuss H.B. 2239 (Evankovich, R-Westmoreland), which would allow for P3 municipal agreements for water and sewer treatment facilities. A P3 agreement involves a contract between a public sector authority and a private party, in which the private party provides a public service or project and assumes substantial financial, technical and operational risk in the project. Last session, the legislature passed a P3 bill for transportation projects.
The House Judiciary Committee will also meet on Tuesday, and among the bills on the agenda is H.B. 2345 (Marsico-R, Dauphin), amending the Rental-Purchase Agreement Act. Under current law, when a tenant exercises the option to buy the rented property, the transaction is governed by a complicated formula and statutory dictates that can make purchase of the property quite challenging. This bill would provide that purchase of rented property be governed by the terms of the contract between the tenant and the owner, making the transaction simpler for both parties.
The House Judiciary Committee will also consider S.B. 1164 (Pileggi-R, Delaware). This bill would provide immunity from prosecution for certain drug crimes for a person who reports a drug overdose. In the interest of promoting public health while ensuring that this provision is not misused by criminals to avoid prosecution, the bill states that four conditions must be met before immunity will apply: (1) the person making the report must give his or her name to the authorities and cooperate with them; (2) he or she must remain with the person who overdosed until the authorities arrive; (3) he or she must reasonably believe that they are the first to report the overdose; (4) and law enforcement must become aware of the overdose due to that person’s report.
Another meeting of interest on Tuesday will be the House Finance Committee which will take up H.B. 314 (Moul, R-Adams), the Solicitation of Funds for Charitable Purposes Act. The purpose of the bill is to ease the regulatory and financial burden this statute currently imposes on some volunteer organizations, such as veteran’s groups, volunteer fire companies, ambulance and rescue squads, and their auxiliaries. The committee will also vote on H.B. 2292 (Grove, R-York), which would create the Delinquent Tax Intercept Authority (DTIA), an independent authority to assume the outstanding taxes owed to the commonwealth or local governments. The DTIA would be set up similar to the United States Treasury’s Offset Program (TOP).
The House Environmental Resources and Energy meets on Wednesday to consider HR 815 (Snyder, D-Greene), a resolution related to carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants, urging the EPA to rely on state regulators when regulating carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants. The resolution says those regulations should take into account the unique policies, energy needs, resource mix and economic priorities of Pennsylvania and other states.
Also on Wednesday, the House Veterans’ Affairs and Emergency Preparedness will meet to consider S.B. 1224 (Vance, R-Cumberland), which would allow repackaging of medications received through the Veterans’ Administration for veterans living in assisted living residences. This change is being sought because the drugs purchased through the Veterans’ Administration are not in single unit doses as required by state law.
The House Aging and Older Adult Services Committee will hold an informational hearing 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. 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.
Finally, the House Human Services Committee will consider H.R. 241 (Cox-R, Berks). This resolution mandates that the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee conduct a study of the Medicaid Home and Community-Based Waiver program in order to determine under what circumstances family members can serve as caregivers under the program, as well any barriers that exist to their doing so. The purpose of the MA Waiver program is to allow people to receive long-term care services in their homes in order to reduce the costs to the Commonwealth for nursing homes and facilities.
The Independent Regulatory Review Commission meets on Thursday. Among the regulations being considered are:
Regulations No. 3024 Dept. of Public Welfare #14-536: Rate Setting for County Nursing Facilities that Change Ownership;
No. 3020 PA Higher Education Assistance Agency #58-24: Student Financial Aid;
No. 3036 Phila. Parking Authority #126-5: Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle Taxicabs;
No. 3039 Phila. Parking Authority #126-6: Taxicab Medallion Sales by the Authority; and
No. 3008 Environmental Hearing Board #106-10: Practice and Procedure.
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