Capital Wrap-Up for the Week of March 31

by Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC
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Scott Wagner Sworn-In

The Senate’s newest member, Scott Wagner was sworn in on Wednesday.  Wagner won the March 18 special election to complete the current term of former Senator Mike Waugh in the state Senate, which runs through 2014. It was the first such write-in victory for a Pennsylvania legislative seat in recent memory, if not ever. Wagner is now running against Republican Zachary Hearn of Windsor Township in the May 20 primary for the GOP nomination for the new four-year term for the 28th state Senate seat.

House Leaders Ban Cash Gifts

The House Bipartisan Management Committee this week adopted a new ethics rule that prohibits most types of cash gifts. The one-page “action in writing” was approved by the committee, which consists of the House speaker and the floor leaders and whips of both parties.  Exceptions include money from specified close family members and non-lobbyist friends.  The document also specifically allows members to continue to accept campaign contributions that are “otherwise authorized by law.”  The ban comes in response to recent allegations that some state representatives accepted cash from a confidential informant in a criminal investigation.

Child Protection Bills Headed to the Governor

Two child protection bills stemming from recommendations of the Governor’s Task Force on Child Protection, were sent to the governor’s desk this week.  House Bill 316 (Harhart, R-Lehigh) establishes a dedicated funding stream for child advocacy centers (CACs) through an increased fee for birth certificates.  The second piece of legislation sent to the governor was Senate Bill 24 (Vulokovich, R-Allegheny) which would establish a statewide database of protective services within the Department of Public Welfare. The database shall include reports of child abuse and children in need of general protective services.  It is also possible that House Bill 431 (Gingrich, R-Lebanon) will hit the governor’s desk next week, as it is only awaiting signature in the Senate.  This bill requires that licensing boards issue regulations to require that licensees who are mandated reporters of child abuse be trained on child abuse recognition and reporting. The Senate reconvenes on Monday.

Bayada Home Health Care Honored

The Senate adopted Senate Resolution 326 (Vance, R-Cumberland) recognizing Bayada Home Health Care’s 39 years of service.  Bayada employees supply home care 24 hours a day, seven days a week in 59 counties in the Commonwealth. The company was founded in January 1975 in Philadelphia in order to allow people to have a safe home life with comfort, independence and dignity. Bayada Home Health Care is the largest provider of pediatric home health care for medically fragile children in Pennsylvania. It serves more than 22,620 clients annually and employed more than 11,330 people in the Commonwealth in 2013. We always love seeing Bayada “Red” in Harrisburg!

Patient Observation Status 

HB 1907 was scheduled for third consideration and final passage this week in the House.  An agreed to amendment was offered to the bill to reflect concerns raised by the hospital community.  Due to House rules, a bill cannot be amended on third consideration so a vote to ‘reconsider’ the second consideration was taken in order  to allow the sponsor to ‘go back in time’ procedurally to a stage in the process where amendments could be offered.  This vote, which was taken on Wednesday, passed overwhelmingly with a vote of 195-4.  The bill will now be reposted on the calendar and we will be able to take up the amendment we all agreed upon.  The vote on the amendment and final passage will occur next week.

Medical Marijuana Rally

There was a rally at the Capital in support of Senate Bill 1182 (Folmer, R-Lebanon and Leach, D-Philadelphia), which establishes the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act, but no action was seen on the bill.  The bill would allow patients who have a recommendation from their doctor to purchase and use medical cannabis from licensed Care Centers. From the growth of plants to the administration of the medicine to the patient, the entire process would be regulated and overseen by the Departments of Health and Agriculture.

Bills Addressing Post Production Costs Move to the Senate Floor

The Senate Appropriations Committee reported Senate Bill 1237 (Yaw, R-Lycoming) and Senate Bill 1238 (Yaw, R-Lycoming) to the floor for consideration. S.B. 1237 would prohibit a gas company from retaliating against leaseholders by threatening to shut off production or terminate a lease agreement if the landowner questions a royalty payment. S.B. 1238 requires a company to file a surrender document within 30 days after the expiration, termination or forfeiture of an oil and gas lease in a court recorder of deeds office. Another drilling-fee related bill sponsored by Senator Yaw, S.B. 1236 is currently awaiting floor action. This bill would allow leaseholders to audit post-production costs to verify royalty payments.

State Horse Racing and Harness Racing Commissions

Senate Bill 1188 (Vogel, R-Butler) was reported from Agriculture and Rural Affairs, moving the State Horse Racing Commission from the Department of Agriculture to the Gaming Control Board.

Heard at the Hearings

The Senate Consumer Affairs and Professional Licensure Committee held a hearing on variable rates this week.  PUC Chairman Richard Powelson testified, among others. Powelson’s testimony can be read here: http://wallaby.telicon.com/pa/library/2014/20140401tn.pdf

The Senate Banking and Insurance held a public hearing on Senate Bill 1268 (Eichleberger), related to health care navigators. Insurance Commissioner Michael Consedine testified. Consedine’s testimony can be read here: http://wallaby.telicon.com/PA/library/2014/20140402TZ.PDF

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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