The Senate unanimously passed a bill that extends the Organ and Bone Marrow Donor Act of 2006, which sunset in 2010.  The law grants a non-refundable tax credit to employers who provide a paid leave of absenceto employees donating an organ or bone marrow.

Because act lapsed in 2010, House Bill 46 was needed to reauthorize it.

The tax credit would be equal to:

  • The amount of the employee’s compensation during the leave of absence;
  • The cost of any temporary replacement that was hired to help in wake of the employee’s absence;
  • Miscellaneous expenses borne by the employer relating to the employee’s absence.

The bill is now in the governor’s hands.


* * *


The Senate unanimously passed legislation that would expand the eligibility of the Education Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) programs to career and technical schools similar to other public schools.

With amendments, House Bill 91 also combines the EITC and Educational Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit programs into one article in the Tax Reform Code and revises the implementation steps of each program.  The bill also amends the definition of a contracting authority to permit a CRIZ pilot in a municipality.

It now awaits the governor’s signature.


* * *



By a vote of 37-11, the Senate passed a controversial bill that would eliminate the need for school superintendents to evaluate the progress of homeschooled students. Under current law, parents hire an evaluator to assess the student’s work and the assessment is passed to the school superintendent for approval.

House Bill 1013 eliminates the requirement of review by the superintendant. The bill was divisive even among home-schooling advocates with some describing it as “over kill.”

The bill now awaits the governor’s signature.


* * *


The Senate unanimously passed a bill that makes numerous changes to the way Pennsylvania regulates business entities. The measure was aimed at making various state laws more consistent.

House Bill 2234 reorganizes significant portions of Title 15, and provides all business entity types the ability to engage in five fundamental transaction types: mergers, interest exchanges, conversions, divisions and domestications. Likewise, the bill consolidates provisions related to the registration of foreign business entities that do business in Pennsylvania.

The bill was signed into law as Act 172 of 2014.


The Senate unanimously passed House Bill 2278, which changes the production reporting requirements for unconventional well operators from twice a year to monthly. Under the bill, the Department of Environmental Protection must post the production reports on its website.  The first monthly report will be required by March 31, 2015.

The intent of the bill is to allow better tracking of production with royalty payments to make sure land owners are getting what they agreed to.

The bill awaits the governor’s signature.


* * *


The Senate unanimously passed a bill intended to make the terms of lease-purchase agreement more transparent.

House Bill 2345 amends Rental-Purchase Agreement Act to make the purchase price a simple matter of contract between the parties and requires that purchase agreement be accompanied by a straightforward chart showing the dollar amount required to exercise the option to purchase the rented property after each rental payment if rental payments are made as scheduled.

Under current law, the price at which a consumer can exercise the right to purchase rented property under a rental-purchase agreement is subject to a confusing statutory formula of “an amount equal at a maximum to the amount by which the cash price of the leased property exceeds 50 percent of all rental payments made by the lessee.”

The bill was signed into law as Act 185 of 2014.


* * *


The Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 508, which allows a crime victim or a member of the victim’s family to testify directly before a member of the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole when the victim’s offender is being considered for parole.

The previous law permitted a crime victim to present written or oral comments for parole board consideration, as well as to testify before a hearing examiner, but it did not allow for direct testimony before the board.

The bill was signed into law as Act 150 of 2014.

* * *
The Senate unanimously passed a bill aimed at reducing homelessness among veterans.

Senate Bill 1135 amends the Public Housing Authorities Law to require local housing authorities to give preference to veterans and families of active duty military when leasing public housing.

First preference will be given to homeless veterans, second to disabled veterans or families of disabled veterans, third to families of deceased veterans and servicemen, and fourth preference to other veterans or servicemen or their families.

The bill now awaits the governor’s signature.


* * *


The Senate unanimously passed a bill amending and clarifying regulations and procedures for Homeowner’s Associations (HOA).

Senate Bill 1302 amends Title 68 regulating creation, alteration and termination of planned communities, and creating procedures for voting and proxies.

The legislation expands the ways members of HOAs may vote during meetings including:

  • Paper ballot;
  • Absentee ballot;
  • Electronic ballot;
  • Internet-based ballot; and
  • Other methods made available by the board in order to increase participation.

The bill was sent to the House. * * *

The Senate voted unanimously for House Bill 402, which would establish the Recording ofSurrender Documents from Oil and Natural Gas Lease Act.

This bill would require oil and gas companies (who have the right to extract oil and gas) to provide a written document relating to an oil or natural gas lease that includes: a brief description of the land where the lease is based; a statement that the oil or natural gas lease has been terminated, expired, or canceled according to the terms of the lease; the date of the termination, expiration, or cancellation; a statement stating that the oil or gas company surrenders all of their rights to extract oil and gas, duties and interests under the lease; and the signature of the company.

The bill was presented to the governor.


* * *


The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 1067, which would shield thousands of seniors from losing their Property Tax and Rent Rebate eligibility due to small Social Security cost of living (COLA) hikes.

The small Social Security COLA increases would have pushed numerous Pennsylvania seniors over the rent/rebate income limit ($35,000 for homeowners and $15,000 for renters).

For the 2013 benefit year, the state Department of Revenue will review denied claims and pay the rebates.  The new law will help shield seniors from losing their benefits through 2016. According to Senate research statistics, the moratorium will protect approximately 6,000 seniors in fiscal 2014-15, and up to nearly 9,000 by the 2016-17 fiscal year.

The bill was enacted as Act 156 of 2014.


* * *


The Senate voted 27-22 for House Bill 1565, which would amend The Clean Streams Law by allowing those who seek erosion and sedimentation approvals to have more flexibility in protecting water quality.

The legislation would clarify that vegetated and forested areas placed near waterways that provide shade and partially protect waterways from the impact of nearby land uses are not required under the act, but may be used by choice to minimize pollution from erosion and sedimentation.

The bill has been presented to the governor.


* * *


The Senate voted 36-12 in favor of House Bill 1750, which would prohibit Pennsylvanians from consuming cat or dog meat.

The bill would also prohibit killing, selling of offering a dog or cat for the sole purpose of human consumption.

Violators would be committing a first degree misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment of up to five years. Subsequent offenses would be felonies.

The bill was returned to the House.


* * *


The Senate voted unanimously in favor of House Bill 1796, which would ensure that all victims of abuse and crime may contact police or emergency assistance without penalty.

Currently, several municipalities in Pennsylvania have enacted ordinances that penalize residents or landlords when police are contacted regarding an incident at their property. The consequence of these ordinances is that victims of domestic violence face possible eviction or other penalties for making a 911 call for help.

The legislation would prohibit municipal ordinances from penalizing a resident or landlord who seeks police or emergency assistance at their property.

The bill now goes to the governor.


* * *


The Senate voted unanimously for House Bill 1907, which would establish the Hospital Observation Status Consumer Notification Act.

The legislation would require hospitals to provide oral and written notice to the patient on their outpatient status, and the impact that the outpatient status will have on their insurance coverage after they have spent a full day in the hospital outside of the emergency department.

There has been a growing trend in the hospital industry to use “observation status” when classifying patients receiving care in the hospital after evaluations in an emergency room.  Part of this is to avoid admission and audit scrutiny by the federal government. The stakes become larger for senior citizens on Medicare since a hospital admission of at least three days is required before Medicare will pay for subsequent skilled nursing care or rehabilitation in a nursing home.  If a patient is in the hospital for three days before going to a nursing home, and one of those days was on “observation,” Medicare will not cover the nursing home expenses. The problem is caused by some hospitals not making this “observation status” distinction known to patients.

The bill was presented to the governor.


* * *


The Senate passed House Bill 2354 with a vote of 31-17. The measure would establish the Pennsylvania Greenhouse Gas Regulation Implementation Act.

The legislation would require the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to develop and submit a state plan to both chambers of the General Assembly for approval through a concurrent resolution process before sending it to the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The legislation requires DEP to hold public hearings in areas specifically affected by the regulation, and it includes specific considerations that must be taken into account in developing the plan, including:

  • How best to avoid “stranded investments” in affected power plants.
  • The importance and necessity of having a diverse generation fleet to ensure electric reliability.
  • The requirement that the components of the state plan be based on a least-cost compliance approach to help shield consumers from electricity cost hikes as a result of the EPA rule.

Some lawmakers were concerned that a lack of a state plan could have disastrous consequences for the state’s electric generation and coal extraction industries. While EPA managed to develop this rule without Congressional authorization, the bill would see to it that the Pennsylvania General Assembly is the final arbiter of how Pennsylvania approaches greenhouse gas regulation.

The bill was presented to the governor.


* * *


The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 2377, which would protect out-of-state businesses from the state’s licensing and legal reporting requirements when they are only in Pennsylvania for emergency-related work during a declared disaster.

The bill would further eliminate barriers that could delay the deployment of individuals and resources during disasters.

The bill now goes to the governor.

* * *


The Senate voted unanimously for Senate Bill 27, which would require certified medical practitioners to provide relevant medical information on a child’s current and prior health when an assessment for general protective services or a child abuse investigation is being conducted or when the family has been accepted for services by a county agency:

The bill now goes to the governor.


* * *


The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 720, which would establish an assistance program under the Disaster Emergency Act.

This legislation would help victims of flash floods, fires, tornadoes, and other natural and manmade disasters that below the federal aid threshold.

Assistance will be limited to grants for projects that do not qualify for federal assistance to help repair damage to public facilities.

The bill now goes to the governor.


* * *


The Senate voted unanimously for Senate Bill 1355, which would amend the Radiation Protection Act to increase the annual fee of $550,000 for all (nuclear facility and transport fees) nuclear power reactor sites to $650,000.

The legislation would make the new fees effective July 1, 2015.

The bill now goes to the governor.


* * *


The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 803, which would require schools to stock epinephrine medication for students experiencing anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction.

The bill would also establish requirements for how epinephrine (epi-pens) is stored, who is authorized to administer the medication, and requires the Pennsylvania Department of Health to craft regulations and guidelines.

According to the organization Food Allergy Research & Education, one in every 13 children nationally suffers from a food allergy and many students will experience their first allergic reaction in the school setting.

Following unanimous House approval, the bill now goes to the governor.


* * *


The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 1567, which allows health care facilities to educate parents and other adult family members present about immunizations for pertussis, also known as whooping cough.

The measure also requires the state Department of Health to make printable publications concerning pertussis and information on vaccinations available on their website. The publications are to include recommendations that pregnant women, family members and caregivers receive vacations against pertussis to protect newborns from transmission.

The bill was signed into law as Act 163 of 2014.


* * *


The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 1874, which would require counseling services to annually notify the county district attorney and local police chief if they are providing services to sexually violent predators.

The Senate amended the bill to prohibit attorneys from testifying or disclosing their mental impressions, conclusions, opinions, notes, legal research or theories. Exceptions include waiver by their client or if the communication involved the commission of a crime of fraud.

The bill returned to the House, where it was reverted to a prior printer’s number.


* * *


The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 2110, which would require that only the state legislature can authorize computer or Internet based games including simulated casino style lottery games, video poker, video roulette, video slot machine, video blackjack and Keno.

It was previously argued that the state secretary of revenue could authorize the games without any legislative go-ahead.

The bill would also permanently reduce the statutorily-mandated rate of return from 27 to 25 percent beginning after June 30, 2014.

This profit margin represents the minimum amount of lottery proceeds that must be dedicated to programs benefitting older Pennsylvanians, such as property tax relief (Senior Citizens Rebate and Assistance Act) and free or reduced fare transit service. The measure also requires the Department of Revenue to submit annual plans for increasing profits.

Following House approval, the bill is now in the governor’s hands.


* * *


The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 2178, which would enable state Game Commission and Fish and Boat Commission officers to use body cameras in the performance of their duties.

The bill would limit access for both enforcement officers only to the prescribed portion of the Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Control Act.  It also would require each officer to be trained on the use of the body camera by an entity approved by the State Police prior to use in the field.

The bill is now in the governor’s hands.


* * *


The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 428, which would amend the Probate, Estates and Fiduciaries Code to allow for some of the residual funds from a beneficiary’s account within a pooled trust to be distributed upon their death to other individuals with disabilities in need of services.

Under the bill, if there is an amount remaining that is not retained by the trust upon the death of the beneficiary, the trust pays from the remaining amounts in the account to the commonwealth and any other state that provided medical assistance an amount equal to the total amount of medical assistance paid on behalf of the beneficiary.

The bill was signed into law as Act 186 of 2014.


* * *


In a party line vote of 27 to 22, the Senate approved Senate Bill 1268, which would

require health insurance navigators to register with the state Insurance Department and pass a background check.

Navigators help people determine if they qualify for tax subsidies through the Affordable Care Act’s (Obamacare) health insurance exchanges.

Democrats claim the measure adds needless bureaucratic obstacles to the process, will hamstring the new healthcare law and discourage people from signing up for health insurance.

Bill proponents argue that the measure is a reasonable way to help regulators make sure that navigators are not steering consumers toward particular health plans or doing what only licensed agents and brokers can legally do.

The bill now goes to the House.


* * *


The Senate voted 32 to 16 for Senate Bill 1491, which would amend the Cemetery and Funeral Merchandise Trust Fund Law to protect consumers who purchase funeral services in advance.

Under the bill, consumers could still deposit a minimum 70 percent of the cost into a trust fund account. However, sellers would be required to place deposits into the trust fund within 30 business days. The measure would also prohibit sellers from retaining any deposit money if the purchaser defaults.

The seller would be required to provide a detailed price list and description of the vault and casket. Opponents of the bill argued that 100 percent of deposit funds should be placed in the trust fund.

The bill now goes to the House.


* * *


The Senate voted 34-14 in favor of an amended House Bill 80, which gives the National Rifle Association (NRA) the authority to challenge local gun laws. It also amends state law prohibiting the theft of “secondary” metals like copper, wire or aluminum.

The House concurred in the Senate amendments, 138-56.

As it related to the NRA, House Bill 80 grants legal standing to so-called “membership organizations” that sue over local gun laws. If they win their case, the complainant may collect legal fees and other costs.

The governor approved the bill as Act 192 of 2014.


* * *


The Senate voted 48-0 in favor of amendments to House Bill 1655, which would create the Patient-Centered Medical Home Advisory Council.

If enacted, the council would advise the Department of Human Services on how Pennsylvania’s Medicaid program can increase the quality of care while containing costs.

The House approved the amended proposal, 197-0. The governor received HB 1655 on Oct. 23.


* * *


The Senate concurred with House amendments and sent House Bill 1773 to the governor for his consideration.

House Bill 1773 would amend the state’s Municipal Financial Recovery Act, which is more widely known as Act 47.

If approved, the changes to Act 47 would create a two-year “early intervention” segment of the recovery program that would deliver preference to Act 47 communities in any grant process. The Act 47 program would then run for 5 years with a possible 3-year extension.

Bankruptcy or state receivership would be options as would emergence from the program. Only six communities have been able to lift themselves out of the commonwealth’s oversight since the law went into effect in 1987.

The bill now goes to the governor.


* * *


The Senate voted 48-0 in favor of House Bill 1846, which regulates and reforms the practice of physician dispensing of prescription drugs within the Pennsylvania workers’ compensation system.

Among other things, the change establishes a maximum reimbursement rate of 110 percent for physician-dispensed drugs, limits physician dispensing to drugs patients need during the first five days following initial treatment, and decreases costs in the workers’ compensation system.

The governor signed the bill as Act 184 of 2014.


* * *


The Senate voted 49-0 for House Bill 2120, which closes loopholes in the state’s Neighborhood Blight Reclamation and Revitalization Act.

To eliminate blight, the new law bans property owners from placing real estate titles in the names of shell entities or from leaving their investments under the control of a manager or landlord who cannot be held liable under the law.

Following unanimous House concurrence, the governor enacted the bill as Act 171 of 2014.


* * *


The Senate voted 48-0 for House Bill 2481, which would allow the Pennsylvania Treasury to process other states’ state supplemental payments for eligible participants who are also receiving supplemental security income payments from the Social Security Administration.

The proposal would grant legal permission to the commonwealth to enter into contractual arrangements with other states. Supporters contend House Bill 2481 would generate millions in revenue for Pennsylvania.

Following House concurrence, the bill is now in the governor’s hands.


* * *


The Senate voted 46-2 in favor of Senate Bill 1180, which establishes a statewide prescription drug database.

The database is designed to be a tool to help doctors better deal with patients who are doctor shoppers — patients who bounce from physician to physician looking to get and abuse prescription drugs.

Pennsylvania is one of the top 10 states for drug overdose rates per capita — as 15 out of every 100,000 people die each year. Prescription drugs account for about 75 percent of those deaths.

The governor signed the bill into law as Act 191 of 2014.


* * *


The Senate unanimously concurred in House amendments to Senate Bill 1239, which changes language in the state vehicle code as it affects repeat drunk driving (DUI) offenders. The state Superior Court had determined the language to be technically flawed.

The court ruled in June 2013 that a defendant who appealed his prison sentence was correct in doing so because the term “notwithstanding,” as it had been written in Section 3803(a) of the vehicle code, rendered that section legally null.

The new legal language comes directly from the court’s opinion.

The governor signed the bill into law as Act 189 of 2014.


* * *


The Senate voted 48-0 for Senate Bill 1440. The bill would authorize the State System of Higher Education and its employees to enter into economic development agreements.

The proposed change to the SSHE Intellectual Property Act would allow an employee to retain a position as an officer or director of a company formed by an agreement. It also allows the state-owned universities to contract with a company or organization that employs the worker.

Senate Bill 1440 is now before the House Education Committee.


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