Both the House and Senate will convene at 1:00 p.m. Monday.
If comments made earlier this week by House Appropriations Chair, Rep. Bill Adolph (R-Delaware) hold true, the General Appropriations bill, the chief vehicle for the budget, could be introduced in the House sometime next week. In preparation, the House Appropriations Committee has announced meetings Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Legislative leaders and the governor’s office are still deep in negotiations as they work toward filling a budget gap of more than $1 billion, so expect things to change daily, sometimes hourly. Check out our Twitter feed and blog for updates and information as we get it.
On the Floor
With the budget negotiations going on behind the scenes, other pieces of legislation are active and moving. This week, watch for S.B. 1312 (Vogel, R-Lawrence) to receive second consideration in the House. This bill would allow school districts to use school buses up to 45 feet in length. Current law requires school buses to be no more than 40 feet in length.
In a sign of the times, a possible final vote in the House is expected on H.B. 573 (Fleck, R-Blair), which would allow neighborhood electric cars to be operated on any roadway where the speed limit posted is 35 miles per hour or less, and would permit cars to cross an intersection where the highway or roadway has a posted speed limit of more than 35 miles per hour.
Another bill to watch next week is H.B. 1822 (Kauffman, R-Cumberland), which would require pharmacies located outside of Pennsylvania to register with the State Board of Pharmacy if they fill prescription orders for residents of the commonwealth. Expect to see it on the calendar for second consideration on Tuesday.
The week’s committee meetings kick off Monday when the House Insurance Committee meets to consider H.B. 2299 (Pickett, R-Bradford), which would streamline the eligibility, enrollment and renewal process for coverage under the Children’s Health Insurance Program, commonly known as CHIP. The goal of the legislation is to ensure that children eligible for coverage under CHIP get enrolled in the program and stay enrolled. CHIP is designed to provide insurance coverage to children and teens that may not be eligible for coverage under Medicaid. It was enacted in 1992 and Pennsylvania’s law has become a model for the entire country.
Natural gas leases and royalty bills are part of the agenda for the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee meeting Monday. Among the bills that will be voted on are:
S.B. 1236 (Yaw, R -Bradford), which would require certain payment information to be given to an interest owner when a payment is made for oil or gas production;
S.B. 1237 (Yaw, R-Bradford), which would enact The Natural Gas Lease Anti-Retaliation Act, which would protect a lessor of natural gas rights that reports a violation or suspected violation of a contractual agreement; and
H.B. 402 (Pickett-R, Bradford), which would enact the Recording of Release from Oil and Natural Gas Lease Act, to provide a formal method for landowners holding oil and natural gas leases to obtain a release from the lease upon its termination or cancellation, so that a landowner may sign a lease with a new natural gas development company upon expiration of the original lease.
Expect a busy day Tuesday, which begins with a House State Government Committee public hearing to discuss H.B. 1872 (Dunbar, R-Westmoreland). This bill would further the legislature’s efforts to provide transparency in state government by requiring public officials and public employees to disclose any gift over $50 and any hospitality over $100 on their annual statement of financial interest to be filed with the State Ethics Commission. Under current law, only gifts over $250 and hospitality over $650 must be disclosed.
The House Consumer Affairs Committee will also meet Tuesday. Among the bills on the agenda is H.B. 2295 (Killion, R-Chester). This bill would ensure that certain ride-sharing arrangements—vanpools—would not be subject to regulation by the Public Utility Commission. As ridesharing arrangements such as Uber and Lyft increase in popularity, we may see additional bills attempting to regulate or deregulate them.
Later on Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee will meet to consider H.B. 1848 (Cutler, R-Lancaster), a proposed joint resolution to amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to provide for merit selection of appellate judges. Currently, state and local judges in Pennsylvania run for election in their first ten-year term and are then subject to a retention vote for each additional term. Cutler’s legislation, described as a judicial reform measure, would require an Appellate Court Nominating Commission be established to make recommendations for judicial appointments to the governor. If the bill is passed in both the House and Senate before the end of the legislative session, it will still need to be approved in the 2015-2016 session before being presented to the voters as a proposed constitutional amendment.
Also Tuesday, the Senate Law and Justice committee will hold a public hearing to hear testimony on S.B. 1182 (Folmer-R, Lebanon), the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act. The legislation would allow people with certain medial conditions to be allowed to purchase medical cannabis from state-licensed Care Centers. The entire operation, from crop to consumer, would be overseen by the Department of Health and the Department of Agriculture. Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia already have similar laws on the books.
On Wednesday, the House Education Committee will vote on S.B. 874 (Vance, R-Cumberland), which amends the Public School Code to allow school districts that sponsor community colleges the ability to negotiate how much they contribute to the community college for operation costs and capital expenses. The bill is limited to community colleges that are sponsored by more than one school district, maintain an enrollment in excess of 20,000, and have more than four campuses that are approved by both the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) and the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. At this time, only the Harrisburg Area Community College meets these criteria.
Also of interest next week, the House Transportation Committee hits the road on Friday for a public hearing at Pointe Park College on Transportation Revitalization Investment Districts (TRID) and Residential and Commercial River Docks in the Pittsburgh Region.