News from Second and State

by Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC


Weekly Wrap:

The laws of physics tell us that objects in motion tend to stay in motion, and that rule held true for the Pennsylvania General Assembly this week. Carrying over from the hustle and bustle of last week, we saw plenty of action on the House and Senate floor as well as in the committees.

This week’s biggest development came in the world of pensions. The need to reform the state run pension systems has been a budget issue for what seems like eons, and it seems to have had some traction in recent years. Though an agreement on pension reform couldn’t be reached for the 2015-2016 budget cycle, the issue was front and center this week, possibly indicating that it will be a part of the discussions for 2016-2017. The House amended Sen. Browne’s S.B. 1071 to create a “stacked hybrid pension benefit” which would include a defined benefit (up to $50,000 on the first year, then would increase three percent a year) and a 401-K style defined contribution. The bill has returned to the Senate, where its fate is unclear; Sen. Browne, who serves as the Senate Appropriations Chairman, indicated that it will be subject to further review.

We’ve got other newsworthy things to report, too. On Monday, the House Appropriations Committee reported out H.B. 2087 (Day, R-Berks), requiring school security drills; the full House passed the bill later that day and sent it to the Senate for consideration. Also on Monday, the House Education Committee reported out two bills that could push Pennsylvania’s educational system into the future: H.B. 1915 (Ortitay, R-Allegheny), which would require the Department of Education to establish a central repository for online courses, and H.B. 1578 (Fee, R-Lancaster), which would allow the Department of Education to use funds to increase the use of technology in classrooms.

The state’s opioid epidemic continues to draw attention, and on Monday, the House Human Services Committee met to consider two bills to begin to address the issue. H.B. 2128 (Heffley, R-Carbon) would require that recovery houses keep the opioid antidote Narcan on the premises, and H.R. 893 (Readshaw, D-Allegheny) directs the Joint State Government Commission to conduct a study on opioid dependence treatment programs. Similarly, the Senate Appropriations Committee met to consider S.B. 1202 (Yaw, R-Bradford), requiring continuing medical education in pain management and opioid prescription practices for licensed medical professionals, which was passed by the full Senate later in the week.

Tuesday turned out to be busier yet. The House passed S.B. 1077 (Vogel, R-Beaver), allowing electronic notification of the use of audio tape on school buses, which will now head to the Governor’s desk for signature, as well as S.B. 1104 (Greenleaf, R-Montgomery), modernizing the Probate Code, which will return to the Senate for concurrence in House amendments.

Tax bills get a lot of attention this time of year, and on Tuesday, the House Finance Committee reported out H.B. 1888 (Quinn, R- Bucks) which would provide a tax amnesty program, and H.B. 1871 (Taylor, R-Philadelphia), which would amend the Uniformity Clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution to allow the city of Philadelphia to alter its tax structure to maximize revenue collections.

Speaking of Philadelphia, the House Urban Affairs Committee also met on Tuesday; among the bills considered was H.B. 1998 (Petri, R-Bucks), modernizing the structure of the Philadelphia Parking Authority Board. The committee also reported out H.B. 1774 (Brown, R.R-Monroe) providing for the resolution of complaints in planned communities, and H.B. 2008 and H.B. 2009, both by Rep. Sonney (R-Erie), requiring that information related to the previous production of methamphetamine be disclosed to potential  homeowners or renters.

Standing committees were busy again on Wednesday. The House Gaming Oversight Committee reported out H.B. 2150 (Dunbar, R-Westmoreland), requiring that the Gaming Control Board regulate fantasy sports contests. It remains to be seen if fantasy sports or any sort of expanded gaming will be part of the budget package this year.

The House Health Committee also to consider additional legislation related to opioids: H.B. 1698 (Heffley, R-Carbon) would require insurance coverage for opioid abuse deterrent drugs, H.B. 1699 (Brown, R. R-Monroe) would  regulate the use of opioids in emergency rooms and H.B. 1805 (Masser, R-Columbia) would require licensing boards to require professional education in the treatment of addiction; the House Human Services committee held a hearing on Wednesday on the state’s opioid crisis where Department of Drug & Alcohol Programs Secretary Gary Tennis provided an update.

Also on Wednesday, the House Appropriations committee reported out H.B. 1104 (Godshall, R-Montgomery), which allows patients with terminal illnesses the opportunity to use drugs not yet approved by the FDA, and H.B. 1619 (Topper, R-Bedford), which authorizes Pennsylvania to join the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact. Both bills were approved by the full House on Wednesday.

The week wouldn’t be complete without at least a little bit of budget action: on Wednesday the House finally passed out H.B. 2137, H.B. 2138, H.B. 2139, H.B. 2140 and H.B. 2141. These bills, all introduced by Appropriations Chairman Bill Adolph (R-Delaware) are the non-preferred appropriations bills for Penn State, the University of Pittsburgh, Temple University, Lincoln University and the University of Pennsylvania. The bills now head to the upper chamber for consideration.

On the Senate side, two energy related bills were finally passed and are now heading to the Governor’s desk for his signature. S.B. 1195 (White, R-Indiana) extends the time the state has to comply with the EPA Clean Power Plan, and S.B. 279 (Hutchinson, R-Butler ) creates the  Penn Grade Crude Oil Advisory Council, but also abrogates recent regulations related to conventional oil and gas wells. The abrogation will send those regulations (Chapter 78) back to the drawing board, but allow the regulations for unconventional oil and gas wells (Chapter 78a) to take effect. Gov. Wolf is expected to sign the bills.

And finally on Wednesday the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission welcomed its newest member: David Sweet. Sweet, a former state representative and member of the BIR team, had been confirmed by the full Senate on Tuesday.

A Look Ahead:

Next week start what we can only hope is the home stretch of the 2016-2017 budget season. The House will return for voting session on Monday; the Senate on Wednesday. Then both chambers are expected to be in Harrisburg through June 30th, including the weekend of the 25th.

As of this writing, there aren’t a lot of meetings posted. On Tuesday, the House will advance two pieces of legislation dealing with Public Private Partnerships. H.B. 2113 (Evankovich, R-Westmoreland) would amend the state Procurement Code to establish a P-3 pilot program and partnership board and is scheduled to be reported form the House State Government committee, and H.B. 2013 (Ellis, R-Butler) which would give the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources the opportunity to enter into P-3 agreements that would provide additional recreational activities in state parks, is scheduled to be reported from the House Tourism and Recreational Development Committee.  Also on Tuesday, the Senate Labor and Industry Committee will hold a joint hearing with the Senate Appropriations committee on the impact of recent federal overtime regulations on businesses, non-profit entities and the state budget.

On Wednesday, the Senate and House Education Committees will hold a joint hearing on the Every Student Succeeds Act, and on Thursday, the House Human Services Committee will hold a public hearing on H.B. 1692 (Readshaw, D-Allegheny), which  would allow for involuntary treatment for individuals suffering from drug and alcohol abuse. Also on Thursday, expect a House Health Committee meeting to consider H.B. 2028 (Pickett, R-Bradford), which provides for psychiatric supervision at outpatient psychiatric clinics.

With ten straight days of session scheduled, the committee meeting schedule is likely to change at a moment’s notice. Expect the House and Senate to both hold Rules Committee and Appropriations Committee meetings daily, and follow us on twitter for updates.

A full list of committee meetings can be found here:

We’ll post The Week Ahead on twitter later today; in the meantime, check out the House Calendar:

And in to see what’s expected in the Senate, find the Senate Calendar here:

In Other News:


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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