Weekly Wrap

This week was the first time this year that both the House of Representatives and Senate were in session. That made for a busy few days at the Capitol.

On Monday, the House and Senate Education Committees held a joint public hearing on the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Matthew Stem, Deputy Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education at the Department of Education, provided an overview of ESSA and what Pennsylvania schools can expect in the upcoming year as the state drafts their own plan. In the House Gaming Oversight Committee, HB 271 (Ortitay, R-Allegheny) was reported as amended. The bill, which gives the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs authority over problem gaming programs, was amended to authorize the Gaming Control Board to issue an airport gaming certificate to a casino. The permit would allow the casino to place gambling applications on multi-use devices (tablets) in international airports.

Moving from committee to the House floor, the controversial HB 27 (White, R-Philadelphia) passed by a vote of Y:157/N:39. The bill provides that the name and identifying information of a law enforcement officer involved in a discharge of a firearm or use of force during their duties may not be released to the public before the investigation is complete.

On Tuesday, the House and Senate Transportation held a joint public hearing on Highly Automated Vehicle (HAV) testing legislation. SB 427 (Vulakovich, R-Allegheny) would make Pennsylvania the tenth state to enact a form of HAV testing legislation. Representatives from various stakeholder groups testified before the committee, discussing the language of the bill and concerns they had. The House State Government Committee considered two pieces of legislation, both by Rep. Ryan Warner (R-Fayette). Each bill was reported from committee along party line votes, with the Democrats voting in the negative. HB 110 establishes spending limits that the Commonwealth must abide by each fiscal year, and HB 410 requires all state departments and agencies to justify their budget requests for all existing and proposed activities before they can receive consideration for budget funding. In Senate Appropriations Committee, SB 30 (Eichelberger, R-Blair), which authorizes the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission to establish the fees charged by the agency, and SB 192, which gives the Commission the authority to establish hunting and fur-taking license fees (Stefano, R-Fayette), were both unanimously reported as committee.

Health care was the topic of the day on Wednesday. The House Human Services reported four bills out of committee: HB 45 (Godshall, R-Montgomery) allows eligible patients with a terminal illness to use investigational drugs, biological products and devices not yet approved by the US Food and Drug Administration; HB 381 (Snyder, D-Greene) gives the Department of Human Services the ability to issue guidelines and promulgate rules and regulations regarding the Allowing Minors to Consent to Medical Care Act; HB 396 (DiGirolamo, R-Bucks) requires that prescribers query the prescription drug monitoring program system every time a controlled substance is prescribed for every patient; and HB 398 (DiGirolamo, R-Bucks) ensures funding for county level human services in the event of a budget impasse.

In the House Children and Youth Committee, HB 235 (Watson, R-Bucks) was reported out. The bill establishes an Opioid Abuse Child Impact Task Force, responsible for identifying strategies and making recommendations on prioritizing the prevention and health of substance-exposed infants, and improving outcomes for recovering pregnant and parenting women.

The following bills were unanimously reported from the House Appropriations Committee and passed finally in the House on Wednesday: HB 104 (Godshall, R-Montgomery) provides greater transparency over municipal authority acquisitions and enhances annual reporting requirements for municipal authorities; HB 114 (Baker, R-Tioga) requires the non-custodial parent of children for whom Medical Assistance is sought to enroll their children in their own health insurance plan before the Commonwealth would pay for medical care; HB 424 (Benninghoff, R-Centre) allows a physician assistant to sign a death certificate for a patient under the care of that PA;  HB 478 (Pickett, R-Bradford) addresses psychiatric supervision requirements in outpatient psychiatric clinics; and HB 644 (Baker, R-Tioga) removes the artificial 25% limitation on funds for federally qualified health centers distributed in accordance with the Community-Based Health Care Act.

A Look Ahead

On Monday, the House Democratic Policy Committee will be in Pittsburgh for a public hearing on the Governor’s proposed state police fee for municipalities without local police. On Tuesday, the House Gaming Oversight Committee is in Erie for a public hearing on gaming expansion, local share assessment, and casino competiveness. On Wednesday, the Senate Aging and Youth, Health and Human Services, and Inter-Governmental Operations will hold a joint public hearing to examine the impact on the Commonwealth of the consolidation of the Departments of Health, Human Services, Aging, and Drug and Alcohol Programs.

The Senate is in session next week. For a complete list of committee meetings, click here.

In Other News

  • Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams plead not guilty to corruption charges earlier this week.
  • Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate slides to 5 percent.
  • There was some excitement outside the Capitol on Tuesday after a sewer line collapsed, causing a bus to drop into the ground.
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