The Senate voted 26-22 for House Bill 278, the state’s Fiscal Code.
Originally enacted in 1929, the fiscal code defines the powers and duties of the various departments, boards, commissions and row offices as to the collection of taxes and money due to the state as well as disbursement of state dollars.
Some of the key provisions in the legislation will:
- Suspend the transfer to the Rainy Day Fund;
- Transfer $225 million of tobacco venture assets to PSERS (Public School Employees’ Retirement System);
- Horseman transfers of $17 million from the governor’s budget;
- Legislative intent language for state forest leases; transfers of $95 million;
- Reduce Small Games of Chance licenses from $2,000 to $500; and
- Increase the judicial surcharge by $10.
The House made several amendments to the bill, which the Senate concurred with, including:
- Removed a surcharge on bank shares tax for 2014-15;
- Removed the City Revitalization and Improvement Zones-CRIZ (Later added into House Bill 1177),
- Removed a subsidy for $1.45 million for basic education in the Allentown School District;
- Updated the Abandoned and Unclaimed Property Code reducing the amount of time it takes to designate a property as abandoned from five to three years; and
- Increased the Oil and Gas Lease Fund transfers to the General Fund to $95 million, up from $50 million.
Finally, Gov. Tom Corbett blue-lined the following pieces of the bill:·
- From the Treasury, $45,000 dedicated to intergovernmental organizations;
- From the Department of Community and Economic Development, $250,000 dedicated to financial grants in addition to $300,000 dedicated to intergovernmental cooperation;
- From the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, $500,000 dedicated to heritage and other parks;
- From the Department of Environmental Protection, $150,000 dedicated to environmental program management in addition to $700,000 in grants for sewage facilities planning;
- From the Department of General Services, $5 million set aside for parking costs, which the governor said could be covered by the Legislature’s reserves;
- From the Department of Labor and Industry, $250,000 dedicated to general government operations;
- From the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, $100,000 dedicated to Civil Air Patrol;
- The Machinery and Equipment Loan Fund was reduced from $100 million to $85 million; and
- Small Business First Fund was reduced from $100 million to $95 million.
The bill was signed by the governor on July 10 as Act 126 of 2014.
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The Senate voted unanimously to approve House Bill 993, which would change the name of the Department of Public Welfare to the “Department of Human Services.”
To control costs, any official actions already in effect (including licenses, contracts, and deeds) would not be changed. In addition, badges, licenses, contracts, deeds, stationary and signage will not be changed until all of the existing supplies are used.
A toll-free DHS fraud tip line and email address would also be established. The governor will receive an annual report on the tip line activity.
Businesses that accept food stamps or medical assistance are required to post a sign for the tip line. Failure to do so could bring a maximum fine of $500 for the owner, manager or provider.
The bill now goes to the House for consideration.
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The Senate voted 43-5 for an amended version of House Bill 1177, which would include changes in hotel room excise taxes, the cigarette tax, regulation of airport authorities, City Revitalization and Improvement Zones (CRIZ) and a charter school appeal process.
The biggest changes in this edition involved the CRIZ and cigarette tax.
The CRIZ, which was placed in the last Senate edition of the Fiscal Code and then removed by the House, was added to the bill. CRIZs at the most basic level, establish an area of up to 130 acres in which any taxes collected above a certain threshold can be kept within the zone for job creation and economic improvements. The latest revision would allow for the creation of four new zones as well as three pilot zones (to be designated by 2015).
The bill would also allow The Philadelphia School District to add a 10 cent-per-cigarette tax within its district. This money would go directly to the school district; however, the funds could not be used to issue or repay bonds. The tax would expire after June 30, 2019.
The original bill dealt with voting to form commissions to study municipalities merging.
The bill is now in the House, where it is scheduled to be considered in early August.
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The Senate voted unanimously to approve Senate Bill 145, which would amend the Mechanic’s Lien Law to create certain exceptions for liens filed by subcontractors.
Under the measure a subcontractor would not be able to file a lien against a homeowner if: the owner already paid the contractor in full for the contract price, or if the property is a townhouse that is a primary residence for the homeowner.
Also, if the owner of the property only paid the contractor in part, the lien imposed by the subcontractor could not total an amount larger than unpaid portion.
A lien is a legal movement to keep property belonging to another person, until they pay or settle their debt.
This legislation was put in place because subcontractors were placing liens on homes, while the owners had paid the main contractor in full. The contractors were not forwarding the correct payment to the subcontractors, and yet the property owners were being punished.
The bill was signed by the governor as Act 117 of 2014.
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