By a 33-16 vote, the Senate approved a special education and charter school reform bill that would have implemented several changes to the law.

Under Senate Bill 1115, a Special Education Funding Commission would have been established to explore ways to fund special education; and a Charter School Funding Advisory Commission would have been put in place to explore ways to better fund charter and cyber charter schools.

It would also have required the state Education Department to send payments directly to charter or cyber charter schools upon request, rather than first sending to the public school district where the charter is located. The measure would also have limited funds and reserve funds that charter schools accumulate, and required that any excess dollars be returned to the school districts that paid tuition to the charter school.

The bill also would have require annual independent audits of charter and cyber charter schools; and implemented a teacher evaluation system.

The Senate amended the bill to leave out of provision that would have created a new statewide board to authorize new charter schools rather than the local school districts.

Claiming that they didn’t have the votes, majority Republicans in the House never brought the Senate’s amended version of the bill up for a vote. Governor Tom Corbett is expected to introduce a new special education funding formula in his 2013-14 budget proposal.

* * *

The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 1830, which amends the Vehicle Code to add new special registration plates for the U.S. Merchant Marines and U.S. military airborne units.

Under the bill, the plates will cost $20 in addition to the annual registration fee. The Merchant Marine plate is for those who served during World War II. The airborne plate is for veteran or current members of airborne units.

The bill was signed into law as Act 158 of 2012.

* * *

The Senate unanimously passed House Bill 1970, which adds exempts from registration any trailers (under 3,000 pounds) that transport portable traffic control signals or devices.

The bill also permits traffic control signals or devices to be mounted on a trailer and hauled in tandem if the vehicle is less than 3,000 pounds and each trailer being towed does not exceed 300 inches in length.

The bill was enacted as Act 163 of 2012.

* * *

The Senate voted 47-2 in favor of House Bill 2366, which transfers the responsibility to inspect commercial parking meters from the Department of Agriculture to local government.

Under the bill, the appropriate local government or authority would be required to thoroughly inspect the meters within five-year intervals. The bill was aimed at freeing up the Department of Agriculture’s weights and measures inspectors.

The legislation was enacted as Act 169 of 2012.

* * *

The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 2371, which increases the allowable width of vehicles and implements transporting forage crops and vegetable nutrients from 11 to 12 feet during the day, and to 14 feet, six inches at night. The bill was enacted as Act 173 of 2012.

* * *

The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 2372, which permits the daytime or night-time operation of implements of husbandry not exceeding 14 feet 6 inches in width on highways, other than freeways, for a farmer to provide agricultural services to another farmer within 50 miles.        The bill was enacted as Act 174 of 2012.

* * *

The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 2428, which requires the Department of Transportation to issue a driver’s license or non-driver identification card with an indication that the holder is a veteran of the U.S. armed forces, including a reserve component or the National Guard.

Under the measure, the special veteran designation is free. The Department of Military and Veterans Affairs will reimburse the Motor License through the Veterans Trust Fund for the actual costs incurred.

The bill was enacted as Act 176 of 2012.

* * *

The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 2467, provides an exemption from notarization and verification requirements for vehicle owners who transfer a vehicle title to an insurer to obtain a certificate of salvage.

A certificate of salvage authorizes a vehicle to be destroyed, dismantled, salvaged or recycled.

Vehicles could be transferred when the manufacturer’s statement of origin for a new vehicle is not yet in the dealer’s hands in the same way that the dealer can currently sell a vehicle that the Title is not yet in the Dealer’s hands.  A prescribed secure power of attorney must be used.

The bill was signed into law as Act 178 of 2012.

* * *

The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 2565, which exempts on-farm sales of honey from food licensing and registration.

Under the measure, retail food facilities and food establishments that are in compliance with the “Honey Sale and Labeling Act” and located on the farm of origin are exempt from licensing or registering their honey products with the state Department of Agriculture.  Producers who sell honey products at locations other than the farm of origin must still be licensed and/or registered.

The bill was signed into law as Act 180 of 2012.

* * *

The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 2630, which bans several inhumane ways of euthanizing animals.

Under the Animal Euthanasia Method Act, euthanasia must be done with drugs approved for animal euthanasia by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The drugs must be administered by a veterinarian, certified veterinary technician or other individual under the supervision of a veterinarian.

The bill specifically outlaws methods such as the decompression chamber, carbon monoxide gas, drowning, and other drugs used on younger animals. Veterinary schools, medical schools and research institutes are exempt from the law.

The bill was enacted as Act 182 of 2012.

* * *

The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 390, which regulates agricultural vehicles.

Under the measure, any implement of husbandry not exceeding 14 feet 6 inches may be driven, hauled or towed without any time restrictions on highways other than freeways if the traveling location is not more than 50 miles away. When operated at night, the implements must have hazard signals and at least one flashing or revolving yellow light or strobe light that can be seen from any direction.

The bill was enacted as Act 209 of 2012.

* * *

The Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 1147, which made several changes to vehicle laws impacting commercial drivers.

The measure adds the movement of cryogenic liquid to those commodities that necessitate an annual permit from PennDOT for movement on the state highway system.

The measure allows for the hauling of eggs in vehicles that do not exceed 95,000 pounds and the weight on a non-steering axle cannot exceed 21,000 pounds. The fee for hauling eggs is $400. No highway permit is necessary.

The bill also expands commercial driver employer prohibitions, updates the requirements for driving a commercial motor vehicle and expands the requirements for commercial drivers when approaching a railroad.

The measure was signed into law as Act 187 of 2012.

* * * 

The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 1225, which updates language in the Library Code.

The measure designate the Deputy Secretary for Libraries as the State Librarian; requires the state librarian to establish service standards that reflect current and evolving technologies; permits all libraries to apply for waivers of standards if faced with a reduction in state funding, and gives the state librarian discretion to formulate waivers to provide for more flexibility in the application and enforcement of standards; gives the state librarian authority to establish continuing education requirements for librarians; and permits the state librarian to publicize rules and regulations modifying the number of hours a library must be open each week to receive aid.

The measure also changes the composition of the Advisory Council on Library Development to include more librarians and fewer laypeople; applies the funding formula in the Library Code uniformly from year to year; converts the surplus financial effort required for a library to obtain “incentive for excellence” funding from a dollar amount to a percentage increase in funding; and reduces the maximum term of imprisonment for damaging library materials from 15 days to 10 days.

The bill was enacted as Act 210 of 2012.

* * * 

The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 1298, which permits land devoted to nutrient management and composting to be eligible for preferential tax assessment under the “Clean and Green” program.

The measure would also qualify composting under “agricultural use” and permit participants to bring in off-farm products for use as part of the composted material.

The bill also provides for reimbursement of county roll-back taxes for composting activities that occurred on land enrolled in Clean and Green prior to the effective date of this law, and for which an active appeal of the roll-back tax payment is underway.

The measure was enacted as Act 190 of 2012.

* * *

The Senate unanimously concurred in House amendments to House Bill 1310, which permits the Liquor Control Board to issue a liquor license to a ski resort without concern for the quota of the county where the ski-resort is located.

The bill was signed into law as Act 149 of 2012.

* * *

By a 45-4 vote, the Senate passed House Bill 1417, which added law enforcement officers from the state Game and Fish and Boat commissions to the list of officials protected by higher penalties for aggravated assault under Pennsylvania law.

House Bill 1417 tied the assault of officers and deputies of either commission to similar illegal acts against police and firefighters. For an assault resulting in a serious bodily injury, the penalty becomes a first-degree felony; for such acts that result in a simple bodily injury, the penalty is a second-degree felony. Penalties for a first-degree felony include jail time up to 20 years and fines up to $50,000; penalties for a second-degree felony include jail time up to 10 years and fines up to $25,000.

The bill was signed into law as Act 150 of 2012.

* * *

The Senate unanimously passed House Bill 1840, which allows contractors and public agencies to simply review the state Department of General Services’ list of exempt products instead of processing documentation for each public works project.

This law directs the department to prepare a list of machinery and equipment made of steel products that are exempt from the contract provision in the Steel Products Procurement Act. The contract provision requires public works contracts between public agencies and contractors to contain language requiring the contractor to use steel products made in the United States.

The bill was signed into law as Act 159 of 2012.

* * *

By a 45-4 vote, the Senate passed an amended version of House Bill 1857, which expands the use of voter approval of borrowing in home rule counties.

This law allows county home rule charters to include referendum requirements for local government borrowing in addition to any currently contained in the Local Government Unit Debt Act.

The House concurred in Senate amendments and the bill was signed into law as Act 160 of 2012.

* * *

The Senate unanimously passed an amended version of House Bill 1868, which allows cosmetology students to take the theoretical portion of the licensing test prior to completing their schooling.

The law reduces from 1,250 to 900 the number of hours of instruction time required before students would be permitted to take the theoretical portion of the two-part licensing examination – allowing them to take the test while still in school.

The House concurred in Senate amendments and the bill was signed into law as Act 161 of 2012.

* * *

The Senate unanimously passed an amended version of House Bill 2043, which expanded the definition of training history to be taken into account when considering municipal police officer candidates for employment.

The law allows partial waivers of mandatory basic training to be granted to federal law enforcement and military police officers who have successfully completed previous equivalent training. Under prior law, the Municipal Police Officers’ Education and Training Commission had the power to grant waivers of mandatory basic training only to police officers who had successfully completed previous equivalent training or who had acceptable full-time police experience, or both.

The House concurred in Senate amendments and the bill was signed into law as Act 165 of 2012.

* * *

The Senate unanimously passed House Bill 2116, which permits the separation of the positions of tax collector and treasurer in many Pennsylvania municipalities, allowing for more flexibility in first-class townships and giving them the option of splitting the responsibilities into two offices.

The bill was signed into law as Act 166 of 2012.

* * *

The Senate unanimously passed an amended version of Senate Bill 341, which authorizes random testing of octane levels in gasoline.

Under the law, the Department of Agriculture is required to implement an Automotive Fuel Testing and Disclosure Program to test automotive fuel on a random, unannounced basis. The department will take samples of automotive fuel wherever it is sold, inspect the labeling of automotive fuel dispensers and storage tanks, enter into contractual agreements with qualified laboratories for analysis, and promulgate any necessary regulations.

The bill was signed into law as Act 208 of 2012.

* * *

The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 623, which encourages state agencies to contract with veteran-owned and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses.

Senate Bill 623 requires the state to set annual goals for contracting with small businesses owned by veterans.  The bill was modeled after similar veteran work promotion programs established by federal procurement standards.

Under the law, the state Department of General Services is required to provide training to help veteran-owned businesses learn how to apply for state contracts. The department will also make available lists of veteran-owned businesses to encourage participation with these businesses.

The bill was signed into law as Act 185 of 2012.

* * *

The Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 709, which would have allowed emergency medical services personnel to use Volunteer Firefighter Relief Association (VFRA) funds to offset expenses incurred while attending training programs.

Pennsylvania’s 1,957 VFRAs hold $361 million in assets that are used to purchase equipment, obtain insurance, pay death benefits or attend training.  The organizations receive the funds through a 2 percent tax on fire insurance.

The bill died in the House.

* * *

The Senate unanimously passed a pair of bills – House Bills 1718 and 1719 – introduced on behalf of the Pennsylvania Builders Association, which  require municipalities to designate at least three professional consultants from multiple firms who are able to review proposed development plans and monitor projects; clarify that the municipality may only retain 10 percent of the original financial security for public improvement projects as they are completed; and extend the time period for a property owner to dispute the amount of review fees from 30 days to 180 days.

House Bills 1718 and 1719 were signed into law as Act 154 and Act 155 of 2012, respectively.

* * *

The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 135, which adds the position of “executive director of the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing” to the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD).

The bill also allows the Attorney General, Chief Justice, judge of a court of common pleas and any member of the cabinet or the General Assembly who is a member of PCCD to delegate an employee of the commonwealth to represent the member at PCCD meetings. The delegate may lawfully vote and otherwise act on behalf of the member.

The bill also makes a number of editorial and technical changes to the PCCD Law.

The bill is now on the governor’s desk.

* * *

By a 37-12 vote, the Senate approved legislation that reduces the penalties for the crime of “sexting” by minors.

House Bill 815 makes it a summary offense for a minor to knowingly transmit, distribute, publish or disseminate an electronic communication containing a sexually explicit image of himself or herself. A minor commits a third degree misdemeanor when he or she knowingly transmits, distributes, publishes, disseminates, possesses or knowingly views an electronic communication containing a sexually explicit image of another minor who is 12 years of age or older.

Under the bill, a judge can consider referring the summary offense violator to a diversionary program that would include an educational component explaining the consequences of sharing sexually explicit images.  If the minor successfully completes the diversionary program, the minor’s record will be expunged

Additionally under the bill, a minor commits a third degree misdemeanor when he or she transmits, distributes, publishes, disseminates or takes a photo of any minor age 12 or older in the state of nudity without the photographed minor’s knowledge and consent. The crime is upgraded to a second degree misdemeanor when the minor takes or disseminates these photos without consent in order to coerce, intimidate, torment, harass or cause emotional distress to the victim.

The bill is now on the governor’s desk.

* * *

The Senate unanimously passed legislation that would toughen penalties on individuals who illegally purchase firearms for criminals — a practice commonly known as straw purchasing.

House Bill 898 mandates a five-year minimum sentence for individuals who are convicted of making multiple straw purchases of firearms.

The bill is now on the governor’s desk.

* * *

The Senate unanimously approved legislation that creates a new business class that would provide for the recognition of Benefit Corporations, or “B-Corps.”

Previously under the law, corporations were required to make decisions based exclusively on maximizing profits.

House Bill 1616  allows for-profit companies to make a positive social and environmental impact on their communities as part of their corporate mission. Under the bill, the Benefit Corporation designation reclassifies the fiduciary duties of corporation directors, allowing them to take non-financial interests into consideration when making decisions for the corporation. Benefit Corporations may not be held liable for lost monetary value as a result of socially conscious decisions made.

The process of becoming a Benefit Corporation is entirely voluntary and based on shareholder desire. If a business chooses to become a Benefit Corporation, it must provide yearly disclosures of the public benefit efforts the company has undertaken to shareholders.

The bill is now on the governor’s desk.

* * *

The Senate unanimously approved legislation that establishes the HIV-Related Testing for Sex Offenders Act.

House Bill 1794 provides a statutory mechanism for victims of certain sex crimes to request that a court order the defendant to submit to HIV testing.

This bill complies with the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which requires all 50 states to enact a statute allowing testing of certain sexual offenders within 48 hours of an indictment of, or filing of an information against, the defendant when the request for testing is made by the victim. Failure to enact such a provision results in a 5 percent reduction in federal grants made under VAWA.

The bill is on the governor’s desk.

* * *

The Senate unanimously approved legislation that updates the Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Control Act.

House Bill 2400  allows any individual to intercept the contents of any wire if that person is under a reasonable suspicion that the intercepted party is committing, about to commit or has committed a crime of violence.

Also under the bill, a law enforcement officer may use a lawfully obtained device and pose as the actual person who is the intended recipient if he has received the approval of the Attorney General or district attorney (or a designated deputy) in writing.

The bill also allows for target-specific wiretaps in certain situations, such as when specific information regarding a location or a precise phone number cannot be ascertained due to the target’s attempts to thwart interception.

The bill also permits the use of wiretap evidence from other jurisdictions but the intercepted recording must have been made in accordance with the laws of that jurisdiction and the laws of that jurisdiction required at least probable cause that the target of the surveillance was engaged in criminal conduct.

The bill also allows a law enforcement officer to use the contents of a wire communication obtained by someone else as long as the contents show evidence of a crime of violence or a first degree felony.

The bill also permits a court having jurisdiction over an offense to authorize the installation and use of mobile tracking devices upon a showing of probable cause that the use of the device will yield information relevant to an investigation of criminal activity.

The bill also allows for an interception where the person “may resist with the use of weapons” or if the person is “threatening suicide or harm to himself or others.”

The bill was signed into law as Act 202 of 2012.

* * *

The Senate unanimously approved legislation that enacts the Uniform Interstate Depositions and Discovery Act (UIDDA)

Previously under law, the Uniform Interstate and International Procedure Act states that a tribunal of the commonwealth may exercise personal jurisdiction over a person who acts directly or by an agent, as to cause of action or other matter arising from the transaction of business.

Under Senate Bill 79, litigants can present the clerk of the court located in the state where discoverable materials are sought with a subpoena issued by a court in the state in which the trial is to be held.

Once the clerk receives the foreign subpoena, the clerk will issue a subpoena for service upon the person or entity on which the original subpoena is directed. The terms of the issued subpoena must incorporate the same terms as the original subpoena and contain the contact information for all counsel of record and any party not represented by counsel.

The UIDDA requires minimal judicial oversight and eliminates the need for obtaining a commission or local counsel in the discovery state, letters of request, or the filing of a miscellaneous action during the discovery phase of litigation. Discovery authorized by the subpoena must comply with the rules of the state in which it occurs.

The bill was signed into law as Act 183 of 2012.

* * *

By a 44-5 vote, the Senate approved legislation regarding the collection, analysis and use of DNA samples, and storage of DNA profiles in the State DNA Database for comparison with DNA profiles collected during criminal investigations.

Senate Bill 775 would require the State DNA Data Base to store and maintain DNA records related to “arrested and charged” offenders required to provide samples, and records used for statistical research into the frequency of DNA genotypes or the development of new DNA identification methods.

The bill would also require the State Police DNA identification system to be compatible with FBI quality assurance standards for DNA testing and data basing laboratories, and federal CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) policies and procedures.

The bill would also expand the definition of “other specified offenses” for which a DNA sample is required after conviction or adjudication of delinquency to include misdemeanor offenses requiring registration of sex offenders and violations relating to simple assault, unlawful restraint, criminal trespass, concealing the death of a child, and dealing in infant children.

The bill would also establish a new subsection relating to arrest that provides that, unless a DNA sample is already in the DNA data base:

  • A person arrested for criminal homicide or a felony sex charge would have a DNA sample collected no later than five days after arrest or if not done then, anytime thereafter and prior to release on bail.
  • Collection of DNA from those arrested for criminal homicide would begin one year after the effective date of the bill. Collection from those arrested for felony sex offenses would begin two years after the effective date.

The bill would also require that arrestee DNA samples and records be maintained in a separate category within the state data base.

The bill would also require the collection of a DNA sample from inmates, parolees and probationers convicted of criminal homicide, a felony sex offense or “other specified offense” and accepted from another state or the federal government under an interstate agreement or otherwise, unless the person’s DNA sample is already on file.

The bill died in the House.

* * *

By a 37-12 vote, the Senate approved legislation that ensures greater protections for juvenile offenders and defines “cyber bullying.”

In response to the judicial abuses that occurred in Luzerne County between 2005 and 2008, Senate Bill 850 expands the list of situations under which juvenile records may be expunged. Once the individual is 18 years old or older and has satisfied all terms and conditions of the sentence imposed following a conviction for a summary offense (except underage drinking), their criminal history record information and all administrative records of the Department of Transportation may be expunged.

The bill also provides juvenile offenders a rebuttable presumption in favor of indecency and the appointment of counsel. In delinquency cases, all children are presumed indigent. Under the bill, it may be rebutted if the court believes that the child has the financial resources to retain counsel.

The bill also puts Pennsylvania under compliance with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that sentencing juveniles to life in prison without parole is unconstitutional.

The bill also defines the crime of cyber bullying by minors. These activities would only be considered a crime if a minor knowingly transmits an electronic message or photo to harm or harass another person. The crime is a third-degree misdemeanor.

The bill was signed into law as Act 204 of 2012.

* * *

By a 46-2 vote, the Senate approved a measure that strengthens penalties for underage drinking and public drunkenness.

Senate Bill 941 raises the fine for underage drinking and public drunkenness to a maximum fine of $1,000. Previously under law, the fines were $300 for all offenses, and $500 for second and subsequent offenses.

The bill was signed into law as Act 205 of 2012.

* * *

The Senate unanimously approved legislation that provides for bonding and reclamation financial guarantees for surface mining operations.

House Bill 1813 establishes a “Land Reclamation Financial Guarantee” program to provide financial guarantees to qualified operators, using monies in the Conversion Assistance Fund to start this program.

The Department of Environmental Protection can determine eligibility requirements for operators who want to participate in the program.  The department can consider the environmental and safety hazards of the site for which a guarantee is proposed; the availability of coal reserves at the site; the operator’s financial stability; the operator’s compliance history; and the operator’s ability to complete the reclamation and pay the required premiums.

The department can also determine the total amount of financial guarantees that can be supported by the Land Reclamation Financial Guarantee account.

The bill was signed into law as Act 157 of 2012.

* * *

The Senate has unanimously approved legislation that would encourage the use of mine water for Marcellus shale well development, rather than the continued heavy use of municipal and fresh water sources.

Senate Bill 1346 would change the definitions of “eligible land and water,” “mine operator,” “treated mine drainage,” and “water pollution abatement facilities” so that such definitions would include the use of acid mine water for hydraulic fracturing.

Under the bill, a landowner or mine operator who allows for the withdrawal of acid mine water, or a natural gas operator who withdraws the water, to hydraulically fracture a well, would not be deemed to assume legal responsibility or to incur liability with respect to cost, injury, or damage that arises out of the use of the acid mine water; including any injury or damage suffered by a downstream riparian landowner.

The bill died in the House.

* * *

By a 36-13 vote, the Senate approved legislation that would provide exemptions for emission inspection testing for certain vehicles.

Current law provides for an annual vehicle emission inspection test.

Senate Bill 1532  would provide an exemption for vehicles that are 10 years old or newer, as well as electric, alternative fueled and hybrid vehicles from emission inspection testing. The visual anti-tampering inspection of emissions control components would still be required.

The bill also exempts new vehicles from safety inspection requirements for the first two years after the vehicle is manufactured.

The bill died in the House.

* * *

The Senate unanimously passed House Bill 140, which creates the Methadone Death and Incident Review Act.  Under the legislation, an Incident Review Team will be created to oversee drug and alcohol programs within the Department of State.  Currently, reviews of deaths possibly caused by methadone are done by the Department of Health.

By a vote of 190 to 1, the House concurred on Senate amendments and the bill was signed into law as Act 148 of 2012.

* * *

The Senate unanimously passed House Bill 235, which creates the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline.  The hotline will provide for awareness and assistance for reporting instances of human trafficking, and also establishes a victim services program under the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.

The House concurred on Senate amendments and the bill was signed into law as Act 197 of 2012.

* * *

The Senate unanimously passed House Bill 272, which creates the Lyme and Related Tick-Borne Disease Surveillance, Education, Prevention and Treatment Act. The bill creates a task force to investigate and recommend ways to prevent, treat, and educate the public about Lyme disease and related tick-borne diseases.  The Department of Health will create a tick surveillance program with the help of the Department of Environmental Protection.

The bill died in the House.

* * *

The Senate unanimously passed House Bill 1682, which will allow municipalities to create public land bank authorities to oversee and develop abandoned properties.  Under the legislation, any city, county or borough with a population of at least 10,000 can form a land bank to manage and rehabilitate vacant or tax-foreclosed properties.  Two municipalities of populations less than 10,000 can come together to create a land bank as well.

The House concurred on Senate amendments and the bill was signed into law as Act 153 of 2012.

* * *

The Senate unanimously passed House Bill 1767, which amends the Manufactured Home Community Rights Act that gives protections to Pennsylvanians who own manufactured (mobile) housing on leased land.

Under the legislation, expenses are allocated to help homeowners move their homes, create immunity of abandoned properties from certain liabilities, and describes how abandoned manufactured homes can be leased or sold.

The bill was signed into law as Act 156 of 2012.

* * *

The Senate unanimously passed House Bill 1991, which amended the Energy Conservation and Assistance Act to better verify the income eligibility of users receiving energy assistance and weatherization services.

Under the legislation, the Inspector General is assigned to deal with any fraudulent behavior, and the Auditor General must complete performance audits of all energy assistance programs and weatherization services.

The House unanimously concurred on Senate amendments and the bill was signed into law as Act 164 of 2012.

* * *

By a vote of 194 to 2, the Senate passed House Bill 2270, which creates a planning committee in the Department of Aging to create a State Alzheimer’s Plan.  Under the legislation, the planning committee would measure the current and future impact of Alzheimer’s disease on Pennsylvania residents and create a state response strategy to combat the disease, and provide assessments and recommendations on how to deal with Alzheimer’s disease.

The House amended the bill and returned it to the Senate where it died.

* * *

The Senate passed a series of bills designed to update Pennsylvania’s Banking Code, which had not seen significant change since 1965, to recognize changes in modern banking and align with federal law including the federal Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010, commonly known as “Dodd-Frank.”

House Bill 2368 creates mandatory Dodd-Frank lending limits to safeguard the state from credit exposure to derivatives.  It also gives state-chartered banks more power to invest in their branches.  The Senate passed the bill unanimously.  It was signed into law as Act 170 of 2012.

House Bill 2369 bolsters the Department of Banking’s enforcement authority contained in the Banking and Securities Code.  The Senate passed the bill by a vote of 47-2.  It was signed into law as Act 171 of 2012.

House Bill 2370 amends the Loan Interest and Protection Law to repeal requirements for redundant mortgage loan disclosures. The Senate passed the bill unanimously.  It was signed into law as Act 172 of 2012.

* * *

The Senate unanimously passed House Bill 2407, which amends the Older Adults Protective Services Act to strengthen criminal background checks for health-care employees.  Under the legislation, health and social service employees must complete a criminal history background check by the Pennsylvania State Police or Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The bill was signed into law as Act 175 of 2012.

* * *

The Senate unanimously passed House Bill 2530, which amends the Pennsylvania Construction Code of 1999 to address a Commonwealth Court ruling.  In April, the court ruled that the law required municipalities enforcing the code to create their own boards of appeal. 

Under the legislation, local municipalities can create or designate a board of appeals to hear challenges to local decisions.

The bill was signed into law as Act 179 of 2012.

* * *

The Senate unanimously passed legislation to clarify the various retirement benefit calculations governing members of the State Employees Retirement System (SERS) who enter military service.

Currently SERS members who enter military service have pension benefits determined under three different statutes: USERRA, PA Military Code and SERS Retirement Code.

House Bill 2591 will bring SERS into compliance with the Federal Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Act of 2008 (HEART) before the December 31 implementation deadline.

USERRA and the HEART Act govern the pension rights of state employees who leave state service to perform military service and either return to state service or become disabled or die during their military service.

The House unanimously passed the bill and it was signed into law as Act 181 of 2012.

* * *

By a near party-line vote of 33-16, the Senate passed controversial legislation aimed at attracting businesses by allowing them to keep most of the state income taxes withheld from employees’ paychecks.

House Bill 2626 creates the Promoting Employment Across Pennsylvania Program, which most analysts said was done to attract software company Oracle to the State College, Centre County, area.

The program will allow employers who hire at least 250 new workers to keep 95 percent of their employees’ state income taxes instead of sending it to the state treasury.  Supporters say the program will create jobs.  Opponents said it significantly raises the stakes in a war among the state over jobs, and punishes existing companies.

The House concurred in Senate amendments and the bill was signed into law as Act 206 of 2012.

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