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The Senate approved House Bill 1071 by a vote of 28-21. The bill would have prohibited local governments from imposing a ban, fee, surcharge or tax on a recyclable plastic bag supplied by a retailer to a customer at the point of sale.

This ban would not have included a reusable bag or pouch made of cloth, fabric or durable plastic that is designed for multiple uses.

This bill was vetoed as Veto No. 1 of 2017. Governor Wolf stated that the legislation would potentially prevent local governments from protecting and preserving environmental resources in their community. He said the bill was inconsistent with the Environmental Rights Amendment of the Pennsylvania Constitution.

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The Senate voted 45 to 4 for House Bill 267, which adds a section on the “theft of secondary metal” to Title 18 (Crimes and Offenses).

The measure makes it a crime to steal secondary metals such as wire, pipe used in utilities, railroads and other transit agencies as well as copper, aluminum and other metals that are valuable for recycling or reuse as raw material.

It also defines the grading of the offense based on the value of the metal:

  • When the value of metal is less than $50, the offense is a third-degree misdemeanor;
  • When the value of the metal is between $50 – $200, it is a second-degree misdemeanor;
  • When the value of the metal is between $200 – 1,000, is a first-degree misdemeanor;
  • When the value of the metal is $1,000 or more, it is a third-degree felony; and
  • When the offense is a third or subsequent offense, it is a third-degree felony, regardless of the value of the metal.

This bill was enacted as Act 8 of 2017.

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Senate Bill 496 passed the Senate unanimously and would allow for a person convicted of criminal trespass to be evaluated by the courts to determine if they have a gambling disorder and need counseling or treatment as part of sentencing.

This applies to cases in which the person’s name is included on a casino’s self-exclusion list and the offense was committed at that facility. The person could also be evaluated if admitted to the ARD (Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition) or other pretrial diversion program.

The evaluation would be conducted by the county’s Drug and Alcohol authority or its designee.

Senate Bill 496 was referred to the House Judiciary Committee.

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The Senate voted 29 to 20 in favor of Senate Bill 561, which would amend the Regulatory Review Act by adding a section requiring the General Assembly to approve a resolution for any economically significant regulation before it can take effect.

The Senate and House of Representatives would have 30 calendar days or 10 legislative days (whichever is longer) to adopt the resolution or it could not take effect.  Estimates of costs would be verified by the Independent Fiscal Office prior to submission.  This section would not apply to emergency-certified regulations.

The bill now goes to the House State Government Committee.

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The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 646, which would amend the Municipal Waste Planning, Recycling and Waste Reduction Act by removing the sunset for the recycling fee, which is set to expire on January 1, 2020.

The legislation would also remove the provision, which mandates that unobligated funds in the Recycling fund transfer to the Solid Waste Abatement Fund.

The bill now goes to the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.

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The Senate voted 37-12 in favor of Senate Bill 527, which amends the Administrative Code of 1929 to officially create the office of the State Inspector General.

This office will conduct investigations, inspections and other reviews to prevent waste, fraud, abuse and corruption in the State government.

The governor has the authority to appoint or remove a State Inspector General. The Inspector General may not seek election to a political office while in service.

The State Inspector General will have the following powers:

  • Make investigations into executive agencies and file necessary reports. The Inspector General may consult with the Office of General Counsel or state Attorney General to avoid interfering with any existing law enforcement proceedings;
  • May request information or assistance as needed from other federal, state and local government agencies;
  • May use written notice to obtain any information from an officer or employee of an executive agency;
  • May have direct and prompt access to the heads of executive agencies if necessary; and
  • May hire individuals to carry out the functions, powers and duties of the office.

The State Inspector General has the power to:

  • investigate executive agencies for fraud, waste, misconduct or abuse;
  • conduct civil and administrative investigations;
  • make referrals to the Auditor General for audits of executive agencies;
  • review the reliability and validity of executive agencies performance standards;
  • turn over any information and evidence of criminal acts to law enforcement;
  • investigate complaints concerning alleged abuses, frauds, and service deficiencies of executive agencies;
  • engage in prevention activities;
  • conduct joint investigations with other oversight or law enforcement agencies;
  • recommend remedial actions to an executive agency to overcome and correct deficiencies and monitor implementation of these recommendations;
  • maintain information regarding the cost of investigations and work with cooperating agencies to recover costs from nongovernmental entities involved in misconduct; and
  • issue an annual report to the General Assembly.

This bill was enacted as Act 29 of 2017.

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