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The Senate narrowly passed Senate Bill 1 by a vote of 27-22.  The measure would create a taxpayer-funded school voucher program to allow children in low-income households and failing school districts to attend a private or parochial school.

The bill would enable children from families with incomes of $29,000 or less transfer their children to other schools with vouchers ranging from $5,765 to $13,905, depending on the district.  In the second year, the vouchers would also be offered to low-income students already attending private schools.

The bill would also expand the powers of school boards to convert public schools to charter schools, increasing the number of charter schools in these districts.

The measure would also lift the $75 million cap on the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC), which gives tax breaks to businesses that donate tuition dollars to help low-income students.

El proyecto de ley está ahora en la Cámara.

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The Senate voted 35 to 14 in favor of Senate Bill 595, which would allow traffic enforcement through the use automated red light cameras at intersections in Pittsburgh, Scranton and 17 third-class cities — if approved by their city council. Philadelphia already has red light enforcement cameras.

A warning would be sent to violators or the first 60 days of automated enforcement at the initial intersection and for the first 45 days at any subsequent intersections. After that time, the penalty would be $100. However, a lesser amount could be set by local ordinance.

The violation would not be made part of the driver record; no points would be assessed; and the violation could not be used against an individual for insurance purposes.

Signage would be in place to make motorists aware of the devices at designated intersections.

Half of the fines collected would go toward funding transportation enhancement grants in the city in which the violation was prosecuted. The other half would go toward funding transportation enhancement grants to eligible sponsors in other communities across the state.

El proyecto de ley se encuentra ahora en la Comisión de Transportes de la Cámara de Representantes.

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The Senate unanimously passed a bill outlining the obligations of landlords and tenants if a tenant leaves personal possessions in the property after the lease has expired.

Under Senate Bill 887, a tenant would have 10 days to inform the landlord of intention to remove any left-behind property and a landlord has 10 days to notify the tenant of intention to dispose of the property.  If the tenant gives notice, a landlord must keep the property for 30 days at a location of the landlord’s choice.  If the landlord gives notice and the tenant does not respond, the landlord can dispose of the property in 10 days. (If the tenant does respond, the landlord must wait 30 days.)  In either case, if the property remains for 10 days, the landlord can charge appropriate storage fees for the items up to 30 days.

El proyecto de ley está ahora en la Cámara.

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The Senate unanimously passed a package of legislation that increases the threshold for when a competitive bid and public advertising are required for purchases and contracts from $10,000 to $18,500.

House Bills 278 (Second Class Townships), 279 (First Class Townships), 284 (County Code), 288 (Public Auditorium Authorities), 289 (municipal flood improvements), 290 (Second Class County Code), and 291 (Municipalities Generally) also increases the threshold for telephonic bids from between $4,000 and $10,000 to between $10,000 and $25,000.

The thresholds can be adjusted based on the Consumer Price Index every five years.

House Bills 278, 279, 284, 288, 289, 290 and 291 were signed into law as Acts 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89 and 90 of 2011, respectively.

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The Senate unanimously passed House Bill 1459, which further clarifies promotion procedures for Civil Service employees in Third Class Cities.

The bill was signed into law as Act 99 of 2011.

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The Senate unanimously passed House Bills 1460 and 1461. Under these bills, only candidates on an eligibility list or those certified to the township commissioners (1460) or borough council (1461) are subject to a background investigation for an original position in the police force or fire department.

The bills were signed into law as Act 100 and 104 of 2011, respectively.

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By a vote of 47-2, the Senate passed Senate Bill 367, which would provide new options for the leasing of state-owned real property for mining or removal of valuable coal, oil, natural gas, coal bed methane, limestone and mineral resources.

Under this legislation, the Department of General Services would have the power to make and execute the contracts or leases.

Currently, only a few state agencies such as the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Game Commission and Fish and Boat Commission are authorized to enter into leases for resource development.

Under Senate Bill 367, also known as the “Indigenous Mineral Resources Incentives Development Act,” payments or royalties received pursuant to contracts or leases on state-owned land would be equally apportioned into four areas: the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund; the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST); the Commonwealth Financing Authority’s H2O PA program; and the Oil and Gas Lease Fund.

El proyecto de ley está ahora en la Cámara.

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The Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 469, which would encourage recreational walking, jogging, bicycling, exercising and horseback riding on nature trails by limiting a land owner’s liability.

El proyecto de ley está ahora en la Cámara.

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The Senate passed Senate Bill 747 by a vote of 35-14. This bill would establish the State Board of Plumbing Contractors within the Department of Labor and Industry and would also create the Plumbing Contractors Licensure Account in the state treasury.

Under this legislation, the board would consist of the Secretary of Labor and Industry, two public members and six professional members.  The Senate would advise and consent on the board appointments.

The funds collected on the Plumbing Contractors Licensure Account would be used to fund processing of licenses and renewals, as well as for costs of board operations.

An appropriation of $85,000 would be provided to the board for licensing, board operations and other costs.  The bill would require these funds to be paid back within three years.

The measure is now in the House.

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