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Below is a recap of last week’s legislative activity in the Senate, covering votes by the full Senate and committees I serve on. Plus, this week is shaping up to be a busy one in Harrisburg with activity on major issues such as liquor privatization and paycheck protection.
Scott R. Wagner
In this Edition:
The Senate passed a proposal on Tuesday that would amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to give the General Assembly the power to define what constitutes a purely public charity, a status which exempts an organization from paying local property taxes. It is important to understand that the bill does not change the current criteria outlined in law.
Senate Bill 4 specifies that the General Assembly, not the courts, has the exclusive right to set the parameters for an organization to qualify as a purely public charity. The measure is necessary following a 2012 Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling which created a great deal of confusion among charities and local governments regarding the criteria for an organization to qualify for a tax exemption.
SB 4 now goes to the House for consideration. Because the bill would amend the state Constitution, the proposal must pass in two consecutive legislative sessions before being decided by the voters via referendum. The proposal was already approved once by the General Assembly during the 2013-14 session.
In response to concerns surrounding SB 4, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on the legislation. Also, Senator Mario Scavello has introduced SB 446, which calls for the creation of a Purely Public Charities Legislative Committee to study and make recommendations on whether or not legislative changes are needed to the current law defining purely public charities.
The Senate approved legislation on Wednesday that will protect and promote conventional oil and natural gas production in Pennsylvania.
Senate Bill 279, legislation to protect the conventional oil and gas production industry from state regulations intended for companies extracting Marcellus Shale gas, now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.
SB 279 would establish the Penn Grade Crude Development Advisory Council, a panel empowered to study existing regulations and assist the Department of Environmental Protection in making changes that better address the differences between conventional and unconventional oil and gas production.
A recap of activity by the Senate committees I serve on.
The Senate Appropriations Committee reported out four bills on Tuesday.
Senate Bill 166 allows individuals who have served their punishment and remained free of arrest or prosecution for seven to 10 years, for nonviolent third and second degree misdemeanors, to petition the court for their record to be expunged.
Senate Bill 279 establishes the Penn Grade Crude Development Advisory Council. As noted above, the full Senate passed this bill and sent it to the House.
Senate Bill 293 addresses consumer protection concerns resulting from Affordable Care Act “navigators.”
Senate Bill 397 would privatize and regulate the Bail Bondsman industry in
Pennsylvania. This bill was also voted on by the full Senate and was approved
unanimously with a vote of 48-0, so it now goes to the House for consideration.
The Senate Transportation Committee approved six bills on Tuesday.
Senate Bill 42 would penalize drivers who falsely claim to be a veteran on their Pennsylvania driver’s license application.
Senate Bill 61 would officially recognize Bike Medics and permit them to operate their bicycles in the same manner as a police officer on a bicycle.
Senate Bill 385 would reform and modernize the Transit Revitalization Investment District (TRID) Act.
Additional Committee Action:
With the end of the Public Safety Emergency Telephone Act looming at the end of June, the Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee held a public hearing on Wednesday to gather testimony on the “True Costs of E-911” in Pennsylvania.
Substantial changes in technology and society since the original enactment of the law in 1990 have increased equipment and personnel costs for county dispatch centers, while whittling away at the funding sources that were intended to support those operations, according to state and county officials.
Testifiers included representatives from the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, Legislative Budget & Finance Committee, County Commissioners Association of PA, and a panel consisting of officials from the Allegheny, Philadelphia, Tioga, and Westmoreland County E-911 centers.
The committee also considered and approved House Bill 152, a measure amending the Emergency and Law Enforcement Personnel Death Benefit Act by extending the filing period for the death benefit from 90 days to three years. That bill now goes to the full Senate for consideration.
Click here for the committee’s agenda, written testimony and hearing video.
Monday, February 23rd
Wednesday, February 25th