The Senate unanimously concurred in House amendments to House Bill 48, which would broaden the definitions of “eligible entity” and “public venue.”

House Bill 48 would change the definition of eligible entity to allow clubs, recognized by Rotary International, located in a Fourth Class County (Beaver, Butler, Cambria, Cumberland, Fayette, Schuylkill, Washington), to obtain a special occasion permit.

Additionally, the definition of a “public venue” would be amended to include a visitor center, regardless of the floor area or seating capacity, and this bill would lower the seating capacity that a performing arts facility must have from 500 to 250 people.

Lastly, the bill would allow hotel licensees that have been exempted from the bedroom requirement to use all areas of the hotel as either storage areas or licensed serving areas.

The bill is now awaiting the Governor’s signature.

The Senate voted unanimously in favor of House Bill 975, which would update continuing education requirements for engineers, land surveyors and geologists.

The bill would update continuing education requirements with specific provisions based on the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying model language. The new language would require professional engineers, land surveyors and geologists to complete 24 professional development hours of continuing education every two years.

In addition, the legislation also provides geologist-in-training certification to improve the marketability of recent geology graduates. Currently, geologists must pass the fundamentals of geology examinations, but they are required to wait until they have completed their five-year work experience before they may take the licensure exam.

Engineering and land surveying students typically take their fundamentals exam at the time of graduation and then can market themselves to potential employers as certified engineers-in-training (EIT) or surveyors-in-training. House Bill 975 would provide the same benefit to geology students.

The bill now goes to the Governor.

The Senate voted unanimously in favor of House Bill 1041, which would expand the role of pharmacists in the state’s health care system.

House Bill 1041 would allow pharmacists to practice drug therapy management beyond what is permitted under current law.

This proposal would permit pharmacists to enter into a collaborative agreement with a physician to perform drug therapy management outside of an institutional setting if the pharmacist meets certain requirements. Some of these requirements include providing evidence of training in the diseases they are managing through drug therapy, compliance with registration requirements and providing proof of professional liability insurance covering $1 million per occurrence.

The bill will now go back to the House.

By a unanimous vote, the Senate passed a bill intended to address a chronic shortage of nurses and other health providers.

Senate Bill 174 would amend the Workforce Investment Act to create “The Pennsylvania Center for Health Careers” within the state’s Department of Labor and Industry.

The center will focus on increasing the capacity of nursing education, retaining health-care workers, increasing diversity and training new critical care workers.

The idea is part of Gov. Ed Rendell’s statewide “Workforce Investment Board” initiative.  Senate Bill 174 would make the office a permanent part of the department, rather than just a gubernatorial policy priority.

The bill now goes to the House.

The Senate voted 32-18 in favor of Senate Bill 288, which would establish state licensing of plumbing contractors.

Under the bill, a “State Board of Plumbing Contractors” would be created to issue licenses, develop regulations, and administer the law.

An exception for licensing would exist for a journeyman or apprentice plumber working under the direction and supervision of a master plumber.  Anyone not in the business of providing plumbing services who performs minor repairs in a residence would not be required to obtain a license.

To be eligible to apply for licensure, a master plumber must show five years experience as a master plumber or one year as a journeyman plumber and four years as an apprentice plumber and provide a $500,000 certificate of liability.  A master plumber must show five consecutive years of possession of a current business license as a plumber from a municipality or other agency recognized by the respective county and the board.

The difference in eligibility to apply for licensure as a journeyman plumber requires no less than four years as an apprentice plumber or 8,000 hours as an apprentice plumber and 576 hours of related technical education at an accredited school.

The bill will now go to the House.

The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 383, which would establish problem-solving courts.

These courts would have specialized jurisdiction in the various county Courts of Common Pleas and the Municipal Court of Philadelphia. Examples of the areas of specialized jurisdiction would be drug courts, mental health courts and driving under the influence courts. The court could adopt local rules for the administration of problem solving courts and their related treatment services, as long as they are consistent with Title 42 and any rules established by the state Supreme Court.

Currently, there is no specific authorization or requirement that county Courts of Common Pleas establish or operate separate drug courts.  However, several counties such as Philadelphia, Allegheny and Lackawanna have established drug courts for the purposes of diverting offenders with substance abuse problems so they receive intensive supervision, enhanced coordination of services and treatment during their criminal sentence.

The bill now goes to the House.

The Senate voted 49-1 in favor of Senate Bill 507, which would create a nonprofit legal entity called the “Pennsylvania High-Risk Health Insurance Pool.” The pool would help provide health coverage for those who are denied health insurance for medical reasons.

The governing board would be known as the State Comprehensive Health Insurance Pool Board.

The pool would be funded with federal dollars – and will only be established if federal funding is available.

The bill now goes to the House.

The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 629.  The bill would add “school social worker” to the definition of “professional employee” in the Public School Code.

If a school employs a school social worker, that individual would have to hold a school social worker certificate issued by the Department of Education.  This would not apply if the individual meets the exception of a school social worker as set forth in the Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors Act or was employed as a school social worker prior to the development of the school social worker certificate by the Department of Education.

The measure now goes to the House.

By a vote of 42-7, the Senate passed Senate Bill 928, which would require Pennsylvania’s two largest pension funds and the Pennsylvania Treasury Department to divest from investments in Sudan and Iran.

At a Senate Appropriations budget meeting in February, PSERS officials said they were steadily reducing investments in companies investing in Sudan and Iran. Both PSERS and SERS claim that less than 1 percent of their total investments are in companies doing business in Sudan or Iran. There are 28 other states that have either passed divestment laws or divested from Iran, Sudan, or both through executive orders.  The bill now goes to the House for consideration.

The Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 1155, which would provide a means of protection in the event of a loss of money or other property by county officers or employees because of improper or fraudulent conduct.

This bill would also permit the county commissioners from counties of the second through the eighth class to set the amount of security and to select the form of the security that would be used to protect counties

The bill is now in the House.

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