By a narrow 26-23 vote, the Senate passed House Bill 934, the controversial Voter ID bill that will require voters to present photo identification each time they vote. 

Democrats railed against the Republican pushed initiative, calling it a “solution in search of a problem” because voter fraud is incredibly rare in Pennsylvania. They added that another problem with requiring ID to vote is that an estimated 340,000 senior citizens in Pennsylvania do not have the form of photo identification required by this law.

The law, which will be in effect for the November elections, would require Pennsylvanians to present one of the following forms of ID each time they vote:

  • A current Pennsylvania driver’s license, or one that expired after November 2011;
  • A current Pennsylvania photo ID card issued by Penn DOT, or one that expired after November 2011;
  • A current U.S. passport;
  • A U.S. military or Pennsylvania National Guard photo ID (note: it must include “a designation that the expiration date is indefinite”);
  • A U.S. government-issued photo ID, e.g., agency employee, armed services, etc.;
  • A current employee photo ID issued by a Pennsylvania county, city, town, township or borough;
  • A current student photo ID issued by a Pennsylvania college or university that contains an expiration date; or
  • A current photo ID issued by a licensed nursing, personal care or assisted living facility that contains an expiration date.

If a person does not have one of the necessary forms of photo identification, they will have to obtain a photo ID from PennDOT. However, to qualify for a PennDOT photo ID card, the person must produce an original Social Security card and either an original birth certificate (with a raised seal), a US citizenship certificate, naturalization certificate or a valid US passport.

In addition to the foundation identification documents, the applicant for a PennDOT photo ID must also present two forms of proof of residency such as tax records, lease agreement, mortgage documents, a W2 form, current firearm permit or recent utility bill.

The bill was signed into law as Act 18 of 2012.

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The Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 1049, which would give the Fish and Boat Commission additional licensing flexibility.

Under this legislation, the Fish and Boat Commission would be allowed to offer multi-year licenses, licenses to cover a group of individuals who meet criteria established by the commission and a license or permit for marketing or promotional purposes that would cost less than the current fee.

The bill is now in the House.

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By a 46-2 vote, the Senate passed legislation that would assist landowners who, through no fault of their own, cannot gain ownership of their subsurface mineral, oil and gas rights.

Senate Bill 1324 would amend the Action to Quiet Title law in Pennsylvania to create a “rebuttable presumption” that mineral, oil and gas rights have been abandoned in favor of a surface owner after a 50 year period of non-use. Under the legislation, the plaintiff landowner would still be required to prove their case in court by a preponderance of the evidence.

The bill would exempt fee interests, including deeds and long-term leases for coal and other minerals and oil and gas reserved or acquired by a duly recorded conveyance.

The bill is now in the House.

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By a 38-10 vote, the Senate approved Senate Bill 1386, which would remove a regulation requiring a special “boutique” blend of gasoline from being sold in the seven county Pittsburgh-area of Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland counties during the summer months. 

Currently, gas retailers in the Pittsburgh-area counties are required to sell a unique blend of gasoline with lower evaporation rates to prevent pollution in hot weather. The regional blends required under the regulations have become increasingly scarce, causing price spikes and supply shortages.

In addition, the legislation would allow for the termination of another regulation requiring gas stations in the same seven county region in Pittsburgh, as well as the five county region of Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia, to install Stage II vapor recovery systems on fuel pumps.

The bill is now in the House.

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By a unanimous vote, the Senate passed two bills aimed at giving the City of Philadelphia the tools it needs to update and improve its system of property assessments.

Senate Bill 1301, the Homestead Exemption bill, would authorize the city to provide a property tax exemption for low-income citizens and seniors.  Currently, Philadelphia is the only jurisdiction in Pennsylvania without the authority to offer a homestead exemption.

Philadelphia is in the process of reforming its property assessment system by undertaking a full, citywide reassessment. Senate Bill 1301 would protect low-income and senior homeowners from losing their homes by alleviating a portion of their assessments should their property tax increase significantly under the full valuation system and render them unable to pay their property tax bill.

Senate Bill 1302 would authorize the city to create a new independent appellate board, the Philadelphia Board of Property Assessment Appeals.

The bills now go to the House.

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