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We’re at about the halfway point in budget month and while we haven’t seen a lot of work yet on the final state spending plan for the new fiscal year, the legislature was busy this week positioning bills to be used as vehicles when a deal is reached.

To start the week, the House and Senate Democratic Policy Committees held a joint public hearing on “Restore PA,” which has emerged as one of Gov. Wolf’s top priorities. It’s a $4.5 billion infrastructure initiative funded by a severance tax on natural gas. Restore PA would address five priority infrastructure areas:

  • High-speed internet access;
  • Storm preparedness and disaster recovery;
  • Downstream manufacturing, business development and energy infrastructure;
  • Demolition, revitalization and renewal; and
  • Transportation capital projects.

Though the Governor has released white papers detailing Restore PA and bills have been introduced with bipartisan support, it’s unclear whether or not it will be part of a final negotiated state budget deal.

At budget time, it’s typical to see the enactment of a Public School Code omnibus bill. To that end, several vehicles were moved on Monday. The House Education Committee reported out H.B. 994 (Fee, R-Lancaster), which would allow a public health dental hygiene practitioner to perform school dental screenings, and S.B. 144 (Martin, R-Lancaster), which would establish the Keystone Telepresence Education Grant Program for intermediate units to support homebound students.

In addition to a handful of bridge and highway naming bills, the House Transportation Committee reported out H.B. 37 (Brown, R-Monroe), which would prohibit the use of cellphones while operating a motor vehicle, H.B. 792 (Maloney, R-Berks), which would require vehicles to park parallel within 12 inches of the outside line of a bicycle lane, and H.B. 1392 (Carroll, D-Luzerne), which would establish an annual electric vehicle road fee on plug-in, electric vehicles ($250 for commercial vehicles and $150 for noncommercial vehicles).

On the Senate side, the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee reported three pieces of legislation out of their committee:

  • H.B. 195 (Nelson, R-Westmoreland), which would permit pharmacies to synchronize monthly medication fill dates for patients;
  • S.B. 66 (Ward, R-Blair), which would provide health insurance coverage requirements for stage-four advanced metastatic cancer; and
  • S.R. 49 (Street, D-Philadelphia), which urges the federal government to remove obstacles preventing financial institutions from providing banking services to cannabis-related businesses operating under state law.

On Tuesday, the House Commerce Committee reported out H.B. 1208 (Carroll, D-Luzerne), which would establish Airport Land Development Zones to encourage the development of vacant land and buildings owned by airports and leased to industrial or commercial businesses. Participating businesses would be eligible for a $2,100 tax credit for each new full-time job that is created.

The House Health Committee reported out four bills dealing with pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) and other pharmaceutical-related issues:

  • H.B. 941 (Heffley, R-Carbon), which would increase transparency in PBM pricing practices in Medicaid;
  • H.B. 942 (Grove, R-York), which would update the membership of the Department of Human Services’ Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee to include community pharmacists, physicians, pharmacists and other members appointed as needed to develop and maintain a preferred drug list;
  • H.B. 943 (Gaydos, R-Allegheny), which would allow pharmacists to disclose prescription drug pricing information; and
  • H.B. 944 (Fritz, R-Susquehanna), which would allow the Auditor General to conduct an audit and review of a PBM that provides services to a medical assistance managed care organization under contract with the Department of Human Services.

The House Finance Committee reported out two bills amending the Tax Reform Code: H.B. 1100 (Kaufer, R-Luzerne), which would establish an energy and fertilizer manufacturing tax credit, and H.B. 1583 (Peifer, R-Pike), which would require paid tax preparers to include their preparer tax identification number (PTIN) on state income tax returns filed on behalf of another taxpayer. The committee also advanced a bill amending the Fiscal Code: H.B. 1103 (Fritz, R-Susquehanna), which would expand the Pipeline Investment Program within the Commonwealth Financing Authority. Tax Reform Code and Fiscal Code bills are noteworthy at budget time since they are often needed to pass a balanced budget.

Also of interest, H.B. 826 (Marshall, R-Beaver), which would allow collegiate teams to conduct charitable 50/50 raffles, was reported out of the Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee. In addition, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted favorably on S.B. 320 (Killion, R-Delaware), which would provide for the disposition of digital assets upon a person’s death.

There was more maneuvering of education-related bills on Tuesday. The Senate Education Committee reported out H.B. 522 (Tobash, R-Schuylkill), which would establish a tax credit for businesses contributing to a career and technical education partnership organization, and S.B. 723 (Laughlin, R-Erie), which would require public schools to allow students to apply personal finance credits toward satisfying graduation requirements. On the floor, the full Senate finally passed H.B. 800 (Turzai, R-Allegheny) by a vote of Y:28/N:1. The bill would increase tax credits available under the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program from $110 million to $210 million. The bill was sent to the Governor, who said he would veto it.

On the House floor, the following bills received final passage and will be sent to the Senate for consideration:

  • H.B. 3 (Cutler, R-Lancaster), which would establish a state-based health insurance exchange marketplace and reinsurance program;
  • H.B. 596 (Heffley, R-Carbon), which would establish a bed registry for individuals in need of inpatient detoxification or addiction treatment;
  • H.B. 786 (Cutler, R-Lancaster), which would provide accreditation criteria and distribution of funding for trauma centers; and
  • H.B. 1437 (Keller, R-Perry), which would expand the Rural Jobs and Investment Tax Credit Program.

Wednesday was the final session day of the week for both chambers. The House Consumer Affairs Committee held a public hearing on H.B. 1400 (Farry, R-Bucks), which would provide for the regulation of small wireless antennas for the deployment of high-speed wireless broadband. The bill will be on the Committee’s voting agenda on Monday.

The Senate Communications and Technology Committee took up to two resolutions on broadband:

  • S.R. 47 (Phillips-Hill, R-York), which would establish a legislative task force on the delivery of high-speed broadband services and direct the Joint State Government Commission (JSGC) to conduct a study on the delivery of services in unserved and underserved areas; and
  • S.R. 48 (Phillips-Hill, R-York), which would direct the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee and JSGC to conduct a review of the compliance of telecommunication carriers with the high-speed broadband deployment mandates of the PUC.

The House Local Government Committee reported out H.B. 1563 (Moul, R-Adams), which would allow owners of multiple properties or buildings with multiple units that are served by a single meter to request a rate study using a year’s worth of usage data to determine if an adjustment is needed in the amount that the property owner pays.

Also, the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee reported three bills of interest out of their committee:

  • S.B. 325 (Gordner, R-Columbia), which would recognize certified registered nurse anesthetists in statute;
  • H.B. 64 (Readshaw, D-Allegheny), which would authorize state professional and occupational licensing boards to allow carryover of excess continuing education credits; and
  • H.B. 751 (Roae, R-Crawford), which would make water and wastewater public utilities solely responsible for funding the income taxes on taxable contributions in aid of construction and customer advances for construction. The utilities shall also record the income taxes paid in accumulated deferred income taxes for accounting and ratemaking purposes.

The Senate Transportation Committee took up, and reported out, the Senate Republican’s emissions testing package of bills:

  • S.B. 742 (Ward, R-Westmoreland), which would exempt gas-powered passenger cars, vans and light-duty trucks from the emissions program for the first eight years after manufacture in counties that require emissions testing;
  • S.B. 743 (Ward, R-Westmoreland), which would eliminate the annual vehicle emissions testing and replace it with a two-year testing requirement for gas-powered passenger cars, vans and light-duty trucks older than eight years after manufacture in counties that require emissions testing;
  • S.B. 744 (Langerholc, R-Cambria), which would exempt Blair, Cambria, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Lycoming, Mercer and Westmoreland Counties from the vehicle emissions testing (all have met air quality standards);
  • S.B. 745 (Stefano, R-Fayette), which would replace the tailpipe test in Pittsburgh and the 2-speed idle test via a dynamometer/treadmill in the Philadelphia region with a gas cap test and a visual inspection for model year 1994-95 vehicles; and
  • S.B. 746 (Vogel, R-Beaver), which would extend the transition date for existing emissions inspection stations required to obtain new emissions testing equipment to July 1, 2021.

On the Senate floor, the following bills passed finally and will be sent to the House for its consideration:

  • S.B. 25 (Bartolotta, R-Washington), which would provide for licensure of advanced practice registered nurse-certified nurse practitioners (APRN-CNP);
  • S.B. 314 (Baker, R-Luzerne), which would establish the Rural Health Redesign Center Authority, a public-private collaborative entity, to address challenges facing rural hospitals;
  • S.B. 698 (Gordner, R-Columbia) and S.B. 699 (Gordner, R-Columbia), which would amend the Medical Practice Act Osteopathic Medical Act respectively, to allow a physician to utilize a designee to prepare written agreements; and
  • S.B. 700 (Browne, R-Lehigh), which would implement the recommendations of the Public School Construction and Reconstruction Advisory Committee.

The Week Ahead

Though the days will get busier and busier between now and June 30, only a few meetings have been sunshined so far. Be sure to check back for additions to the House and Senate Committee meeting schedules.

On Monday, the House Education Committee will consider S.B. 440 (Phillips-Hill, R-York), which would establish the Flexible Instructional Days Program in the state.

Tuesday, the House Commerce Committee will consider H.B. 1104 (Toohil, R-Luzerne), which would require the Department of Community and Economic Development to establish a registry for abandoned manufacturing sites, and H.B. 1105 (Nelson, R-Westmoreland), which would establish a consolidated standards permit for remediation activities.

Finally, on Wednesday, the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee and House Local Government Committee will hold a joint public hearing on regulatory compliance and costs associated with stormwater management. The House Human Services Committee will hold a public hearing on Suboxone and Buprenorphine. Lastly, the Joint Legislative Budget and Finance Committee will release two reports: (1) the Department of Environmental Protection’s Water Permit Programs and (2) Standardized Testing in Public Schools.

Also, see here for what to expect on the House floor next week.

In Other News

  • The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board approved the state’s first “mini-casino.”
  • Pennsylvania nursing homes received a failing grade from advocacy group.
  • Two Senators were sworn-in and received their committee assignments.

[View source.]

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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