The Senate voted 48-0 on Senate Bill 497, which would modernize Pennsylvania’s Third Class City Code.
The legislation deletes obscure language, and updates with laws and case law that have been enacted during the past 79 years. Specifically, according to The Pennsylvania Municipal League, the measure would, among other things:
- authorize a council to create the position of city administrator or manager,
- authorize a council to appoint a firm rather than an individual for the positions of engineer and solicitor,
- separate the duties of city controller and transfer auditing and financial reporting to an appointed independent auditor,
- allow a mayor to appoint a police chief and fire chief from outside a department if no qualified officer from within applies,
- increase general tax levy to 30 mills; and
- add a 5 mill tax for street lighting.
Senate Bill 57 was presented to the governor for his consideration on March 11.
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The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 1239, which would correct language in Pennsylvania’s vehicle code that deals with certain repeat drunk driving (DUI) offenders.
The proposal looks to replace the language in Section 3803(a) of the code with the language included in the opinion written by the state Superior Court dealing with maximum sentence for repeat offenders.
The court ruled in June 2013 that a defendant who appealed his 90-days-to-max-five-years-in-prison sentence was correct in doing so because the term “notwithstanding,” as it was written into Section 3803(a), rendered that section legally null.
“The American Heritage Dictionary defines the word notwithstanding as ‘in spite of’ or ‘although’ … Our Supreme Court has defined ‘notwithstanding’ as ‘regardless of’ … Given these definitions, the Commonwealth’s interpretation might be persuasive if the legislature had instead prefaced subsection (a) with ‘except as provided in subsection (b),’ or began subsection (b) with ‘notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (a).’ But it did not,” Superior Court Judge Eugene B. Strassburger III wrote in his opinion.
The bill is now in the House Transportation Committee.
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The Senate unanimously passed House Bill 21, which would amend the state’s Mental Health Procedures Act (MHPA) to:
- permit the court to appoint a licensed psychologist to conduct an incompetency examination ordered for an individual charged with a crime;
- permit a licensed psychologist retained by the defendant or the commonwealth to witness and participate in the examination; and
- permit the court to appoint a licensed psychologist for a defendant who is financially unable to retain one if the defendant has a substantial objection to the conclusions reached by the court’s appointed expert.
The bill also amends the MHPA to permit the attorney for the commonwealth or defendant to call a licensed psychologist as a witness at trial or an incompetency hearing to offer opinion evidence on the individual’s mental condition. A “licensed psychologist” is defined as an individual licensed under the Professional Psychologists Practice Act (Act 52 of 1972).
The bill now goes to the governor for enactment.
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The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 798, which would to reduce the length of each term for members of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s Board of Commissioners from 8 to 4 years, while providing for a maximum of three terms (12 years).
Each member can hold office for three consecutive terms of 4 years and may continue to hold office for a period of time not to exceed 6 months or until a successor is appointed and qualified, whichever comes first.
The bill now goes to the governor.
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The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 1187, which would amend the Vehicle Code to provide for a special registration plate for recipients of the Combat Infantry Badge.
Under the bill, the veteran would be required to show proof, pay a one-time fee of $20 (in addition to the annual registration fee).
The plate could be used on a passenger car and some trucks.
The bill would also provide for a new PA hunting heritage plate. The fee would be $35 – with $15 of the fee deposited into the Pennsylvania Hunting Heritage Fund.
The bill would also add the following wars or conflicts that individuals who served in the U.S. Merchant Marines can get a special plate – the Korean War, the Vietnam Conflict or any of the Gulf Wars. Currently, only Merchant Marines who served during World War II are eligible for the special plate. The fee remains $20.
The bill now goes to the House.
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The Senate unanimously passed legislation that will update the state’s sexual offender registry law to both comply with federal law and a recent Supreme Court decision.
When Pennsylvania replaced the provisions of Megan’s Law with the tougher, federal Adam Walsh Act, in 2012, the new law did not credit registrants with time spent on the registry under the previous law, an oversight to which the state Supreme Court objected. House Bill 1985 fixes the problem.
The bill was signed into law as Act 19 of 2014.
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The Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 771, which would create a 17-member Geospatial Coordinating Board.
Under the bill, the board would advise the governor on geospatial issues, uniform data standards, and the coordination and efficiency of geospatial policy and technology among federal, state and local agencies, academic institutions and the private sector.
Geospatial information is gathered by numerous entities, including government, private sector and higher education institutions and is widely used for mapping and emergency response.
The bill now goes to the House.
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By a narrow, 25-23 party-line vote, the Senate passed a bill that would make changes to the worker’s compensation system that will tighten requirements for workers to collect in order to save as much as $1.5 million annually.
Among changes to the claims process contained in Senate Bill 1195, workers would be required to file a claim petition within 180 days of the currently required notice to the fund, and must provide proof of wages before filing a claim. In addition, the bill would allow the fund to create lists of designated healthcare providers. Injured workers would be required to receive care through the options available on the list.
Democrats objected, saying the proposed new requirements would make it difficult for employees working for out-of-state employers to provide proof they are not covered by the other state in order to apply for worker’s Compensation in Pennsylvania. It also fails to provide employees with sufficient means to offer proof of earned wages when their wage loss benefit is being determined.
Democratic amendments were voted down on party lines. The bill now goes to the House.
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