By a vote of 33-17, the Senate passed a bill that repeals the requirement for automatic sprinkler systems in new home construction, and alters the operation of the advisory body that recommends changes in Pennsylvania’s construction code.

Opponents of House Bill 377 said the changes are intended to favor special interests over consumer safety.

In 1999, Pennsylvania passed a Uniform Construction Code that corresponded with updates from national and international building codes.  In 2008, the legislature created a 19-member Review and Advisory Committee (RAC) to recommend which changes in the international code should be omitted from the state code.

The RAC drew the ire of state builders’ groups when it voted to approve the national code requirement of automatic sprinkler systems in single family homes and duplexes. 

House Bill 377 calls for a two-thirds vote of the RAC to approve any future changes in the statewide construction code.  The House concurred in Senate amendments by a vote of 129-68, and the bill was signed into law as Act 1 of 2011.

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The Senate unanimously passed a bill intended to protect firefighters and their families from the unseen hazards of duty.

Senate Bill 654 would specifically add cancer to the Workers’ Compensation Act as a work-related illness if no other obvious cause for the disease is present. The bill also amends the law to include cancer suffered by firefighters and caused a group of known carcinogens recognized by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.  

The measure would cover professional and volunteer firefighters in Pennsylvania who have been on the job for more than four years and have been exposed to known carcinogens.  There are provisions in the bill that would allow the presumption of job-related cancer to be rebutted by evidence of cancer-causing activity – such as smoking — during a firefighter’s non-duty hours.  Both the Senate and the House passed similar legislation last session, but the measure was vetoed by former Gov. Ed Rendell.

There are more than 3,500 professional and 60,000 volunteer firefighters in Pennsylvania.  The bill now goes to the House. 

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The Senate unanimously approved legislation that would allow the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs to provide burial details for veterans at the Washington Crossing National Cemetery, which opened in 2010.

Currently, the law allows the department to provide burial details for veteran soldiers who are interred at Fort Indiantown Gap National Cemetery and the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies. Senate Bill 264 would allow Washington Crossing National Cemetery, located in Bucks County, to be included as well.

The bill is now in the House.

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The Senate unanimously approved legislation that would ban the removal of flag holders from veterans’ graves.

The County Code provides for the distribution and preservation of flags to veterans’ graves and places duties associated with the flags on the authorities responsible for cemeteries. 

Senate Bill 456 would mandate that flag holders not be removed unless they are immediately replaced with new flag holders.

This legislation addresses incidents in the past where, for one reason or another, usually grass cutting or other maintenance operations, flag holders were removed and not replaced. Without the flag holders, placement of the flags is difficult.

The bill is now in the House.  

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The Senate unanimously passed a package of legislation that would allow for the sale of personal property by online or electronic auction.

Currently in Pennsylvania, sale by auction is allowed, but law does not specify whether an online or electric auction can take place.

Senate Bills 357, 358, 359, and 360 make these changes to the Borough Code, First Class Township Code, Incorporated Towns, and the Third Class City Code, respectively.

The four bills were sent to the House for consideration.