The Senate unanimously approved legislation that would broaden language in the Rail Freight Preservation and Improvement Act (Act 119 of 1984) pertaining to grant work.

The law currently allows a railroad to use in-house employees to do a project that receives a Rail Freight Assistance grant. Therefore, prevailing wage does not apply and the project does not have to be put out to bid.

Senate Bill 745 would broaden language to allow a railroad company that has a “wholly-owned subsidiary” to do the work at their cost without putting the project out for contract.

Rail Freight Assistance grants are used for a variety of infrastructure improvement and economic development projects on railroad properties and rail-served facilities. The bill does not affect grant eligibility or the amount of grant money that a railroad would be eligible for.

The bill is now in the House Transportation Committee.


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The Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 260, which would implement recommendations of health experts to streamline HIV testing in Pennsylvania.

This bill would amend the Confidentiality of HIV-Related Information Act to allow individuals to opt out of routine HIV testing.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued revised recommendations for HIV testing in 2007, which called for routine HIV screening of all persons in a healthcare setting. 

Senate Bill 260 would eliminate the requirement for pre-test counseling, and provide for an “opt-out” provision, whereby a patient is advised that a blood test would include testing for HIV unless he or she refuses. 

The bill is now in the House.

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The Senate unanimously passed legislation intended to make more state spending records available online.  Senate Bill 105 would create PennWATCH, requiring the Independent Fiscal Office to create a searchable website containing revenue and expenditure information for commonwealth agencies.  Implementation would take place in two phases.

The first phase, to be implemented by December 2011 would include:

  • Annual appropriation information and funding action/expenditure (payment) information for state agencies.
  • The name, address and applicable vendor identifier of any entity receiving payment.
  • The amount of the expenditure.
  • The fund source (agency) of the funding action or expenditure.
  • The appropriation and fiscal year from which the expenditure is made.
  • A counter showing the number of times the website is visited.


The second phase would be implemented by December 31, 2013 and includes all information required in the first phase, in addition to the following:

  • If a payment was made under a contract, a hyperlink to the contract maintained under Chapter 17 of the Right-to-Know Law.
  • A description of the program under which the funding action or expenditure was made.
  • The expected performance outcomes of the expenditure, if available.
  • A hyperlink to a final state audit report relating to the entity, the program or the funding source administering the funding action or expenditure.


The bill is now in the House.

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The Senate passed Senate Bill 101 by a 48-2 vote.  This bill would increase the penalties for intentional violations of the state Sunshine Law.

Senate Bill 101 would increase current penalties of the state’s Sunshine law to a fine of up to $1,000 for the first offense and up to $2,000 for a subsequent offense.  Currently, a violation of the Sunshine Act is a summary offense and carries a fine not to exceed $100 plus costs of prosecution. 

The bill would also prohibit the use of tax dollars to pay the fines.

The Sunshine Law guarantees the public the right to attend and comment at open meetings held by state and local government entities.

The bill is now in the House State Government Committee.

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The Senate passed Senate Bill 916 by a 50-0 vote.  This bill amends the Pennsylvania Election Code to apply the standards adopted by the Voting Standards Development Board and published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin on August 2, 2003, to any primary, municipal, special, and general election in 2011 and 2012.

The bill was signed into law as Act 3 of 2011.