The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 46, which amends the Tax Code to allow taxpayers to contribute to pediatric cancer research through their state personal income tax return.
The bill requires the Department of Revenue to offer the option on the income tax return. The donor can indicate on their tax return how much they would like to contribute.
The bill requires the Secretary of the Department of Health to identify which Pennsylvania hospitals conducting pediatric cancer research are eligible for funding.
The bill was enacted as Act 39 of 2017.
The Senate voted 35-15 in favor of House Bill 178, which provides for the Department of Education to create a new plan under the “Every Student Succeeds Act” that focuses on student assessments and school district/teacher accountability.
The measure also delays the use of the Keystone exam as a high school graduation requirement from the 2018-2019 to 2019-2020 school year.
This bill also requires newly-elected school board members to complete a mandatory training. It reduces from 150 to 90 the number of days for the board to renew a superintendent’s contract or to consider new candidates. This bill increases the time in which the state board must adopt a master plan for higher education and basic education from 5 years to 10 years.
This bill bases teacher furloughs on teacher performance and not salary or seniority. Changes will also be made to teacher certification programs.
The measure provides for specific requirements for schools regarding financial watch status. Any school that has been identified for financial watch status will be placed under the supervision of a financial administrator who can develop a financial improvement plan.
Starting with the 2018-2019 school year, students in grades six through twelve will receive instruction on preventing opioid abuse. The departments of Education and Health are required to develop the curriculum.
Under the measure, the Department of Education will no longer provide annual reports on community colleges. This legislation also requires public higher education institutions to adopt and publicize uniform standards for determining academic credit. The bill was amended to allow two or more charter schools to consolidate into multiple charter school associations. The Educational Improvement Tax Credit is increased by $10 million.
The bill was enacted as Act 55 of 2017.
The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 203, which increases the maximum amount of an individual’s final paycheck that can be left to a decedent.
Current law allows for an employer to leave up to $5,000 in wages and benefits to a deceased employee’s decedents, spouse, sibling or parent. This legislation increases the allowable amount to $10,000.
The bill was enacted as Act 41 of 2017.
The Senate voted 31-19 in favor of House Bill 271, which authorizes fantasy contests, video gaming terminals (VGTs), interactive gaming, sports wagering, multi-use computing device gaming, and iLottery and various horse racing reforms.
The bill prohibits a licensed racing entity from accepting a wager from someone located at another racetrack. In addition, the initial electronic wager license fee is reduced from $500,000 to 50,000. The renewal fee will be reduced by 10 percent down to $10,000. The bill also changes the name of the Race Horse Development Fund to the “Race Horse Development Trust Fund.”
The law will allow stand-alone casinos to provide simulcast horse racing.
Fantasy sports contests are simulated games in which a fee and a prize are administered by a licensed operator. Winnings from these contests reflect the skill of participants in the game and statistical results of their individual performance. The measure gives the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board fantasy contest oversight. The board is responsible for developing games to be offered to beginners and highly experienced players. Operators with slot machine licenses will be authorized to apply for short-term approval of fantasy contest licensure. This legislation places a 15 percent tax on a license holder’s quarterly fantasy contest adjusted revenues.
Interactive gaming is the process of placing bets over a computer network held by a licensed entity. Peer-to-peer gaming will be taxed at 16 percent and non-peer-to-peer gaming at 54 percent. Multi-use gaming and interactive gaming devices will be authorized at commercial airports servicing at least 50,000 passengers per year. These devices will be taxed at a 34 percent tax rate.
The measure also authorizes the gaming board to make Local Share Assessment distributions to counties hosting entities utilizing the gaming options. The legislation details specific amounts to be distributed within various counties to the Commonwealth Financing Authority to maintain parks and heritage sites, child advocacy centers and support services for victims of domestic violence. Funds from the Slot Machine Local Share Assessment will be distributed similarly at designated rates and locations. The bill was amended to alter the percentage the local share fund will receive under this legislation through the various forms of gaming mentioned above.
The bill allows for VGTs at truck stops throughout Pennsylvania. A county that hosts a licensed facility, may by resolution, prohibit the placement of VGTs at truck stop establishments located within the county. No more than 5 VGTs are authorized to be placed in the same location.
This bill allows for iLottery within Pennsylvania. ILottery provides lottery products through mobile applications and gives customers “instant gaming options.”
The bill was enacted as Act 42 of 2017.
The Senate voted 29-21 in favor of House Bill 542, which amends the Tax Reform Code to provide language for implementation of the fiscal year 2017-18 budget.
The measure requires remote sellers, or out-of-state vendors who sell taxable items in Pennsylvania, but do not collect the sales tax, to collect and remit sales tax for purchases. Sellers must elect to be subject to the provisions of remitting sales tax with the Department of Revenue or comply with the notice and reporting requirements within this law.
In addition, this legislation makes the following amendments:
- Adds kegs used to contain malt or brewed beverage to exclusions under the Sales and Use Tax, if they are reused in the products delivery;
- Converts the Data Center Sales Tax refund into an exemption and removes the $5 million cap;
- Provides for the expansion of available fireworks and implements a 12 percent sales tax;
- Codifies the Pennsylvania ABLE Savings Program Tax Exemption Act; and
- Provides for the concert rehearsal and tour production tax credit, film production tax credit, City Revitalization and Improvement Zones, Neighborhood Improvement Zones and Keystone Opportunity Zones.
The bill was enacted as Act 43 of 2017.
The Senate voted 41-9 in favor of House Bill 674, which amends the Fiscal Code to implement the 2017 General Appropriation Act.
- requires the Department of Revenue to monitor lottery winnings over $2,500 to ensure the winner does not owe any delinquent child support;
- makes several transfers between the Tobacco Settlement Fund, Race Horse Development Fund and several restricted accounts;
- provides for the Actual Value Initiative (AVI) for Philadelphia;
- requires that any person, association or agency that has been audited by the Auditor General’s Office to respond to the audit recommendations;
- repeals and reenacts the Oil and Gas Lease Fund and adds provisions to oil and gas lessor production restrictions;
- provides for data collection authorization related to the Department of Human Services seeking information relating to ambulatory surgical centers;
- adds $15 million to the available funds for small water and sewer projects that cost between $30,000 and $500,000;
- requires the Joint Underwriting Association to pay $200 million to the State Treasurer for expenses related to medical assistance payments;
- allows public municipality authorities to use funds to replace private water and sewer lines;
- creates the First Chance Trust Fund Account within the General Fund; and
- creates and transfers funds to the State Employees’ Retirement System and Public School Employees’ Retirement System restricted accounts;
The bill was enacted as Act 44 of 2017.
The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 785, which amends the Capital Facilities Debt Enabling Act and adjusts the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Project (RACP) debt ceiling to provide for the implementation of the capital budget for 2017-18.
This legislation changes the debt structure amounts for capital projects financed by debt. The bill provides for the maximum outstanding obligations for redevelopment assistance. The maximum RACP debt is now set to $3.150 billion, $300 million less than the previous year.
The bill was enacted as Act 45 of 2017.
The Senate voted 37-13 in favor of House Bill 1388, which reauthorizes the Pennsylvania Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) through 2019.
This bill amends The Insurance Company Law to extend the CHIP program to December 31, 2019. The program was previously set to expire on December 31, 2017. This bill also ensures that funding does not expire for at least 90 days after federal funding for the program ends.
The bill was amended to prohibit the reimbursement of funds for gender or sex reassignment surgery or gender or sex transition services. The bill was later amended to remove the services restriction, but kept the prohibition on using funds to reimburse gender or sex reassignment surgery. The bill was later amended in the House to remove the controversial amendments.
The bill was enacted as Act 58 of 2017.
The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 1490, which amends the Public Utilities Code to place authority of Pittsburgh water or wastewater services under the jurisdiction of the Public Utility Commission (PUC).
The bill requires the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) to file a new tariff with the PUC. The new rates must be approved by the PUC and comply with PUC regulations. This legislation requires PWSA to file a compliance plan with the PUC to implement plans for the restructuring of practices. The PUC will be authorized to require the PWSA to replace existing equipment. This legislation does not deem the PWSA as a public utility under the Public Utility Code.
The bill was enacted as Act 65 of 2017.
The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 181, which creates the requirement for a version of performance-based budgeting and tax credit efficiency review.
The bill establishes a Performance-based Budget Board, which will act as a review board to “approve the performance-based budget plans developed by the Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) for agencies and to make recommendations on how each agency’s operations and programs may be made more transparent, effective and efficient.”
Every state agency is required to create a performance-based budget. Performance measurements are required to include efficiency measures, cost analyses, status improvements of the applicable demographic receiving the services, economic outcomes and agency benchmarks. Agencies need to detail the number of individuals served by a program. They are also required to include their mission statement and program goals.
This measure includes provisions for the Independent Fiscal Office to evaluate tax credits offered to various companies and individuals within Pennsylvania. This evaluation will examine the tax credit’s current use and determine if it can be more efficiency and effectively carried out.
The bill was amended to allow the General Assembly to direct the IFO to conduct a tax credit review by concurrent resolution.
The bill was enacted as Act 48 of 2017.
The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 222, which increases the number of judges in certain judicial districts and reinstates the senior judge operational support grant program that sunset earlier in 2017.
Specifically, this bill adds one new judge to the court of common pleas in: Bucks, Cumberland, Delaware, Washington and Wayne counties. Montgomery County has two judges added.
The new judges are to be elected in 2019, and take their place on the court by January 2, 2020. The new judgeship in the Ninth Judicial District is effective January 6, 2020 and the new judgeship effective date for the 22nd Judicial District is January 3, 2022.
The bill was enacted as Act 49 of 2017.
The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 242, which moves oversight responsibilities of the One Call System from the Department of Labor and Industry to the Public Utility Commission (PUC) and places additional responsibilities on facility owners, designers and excavators.
The One Call System is the state’s communication system for excavators and designers to call facility owners to let them know about planned excavations. The One Call System may not require its members to locate lines or facilities installed before this bill, unless they have existing maps that meet requirements of the One Call System’s member mapping solutions.
This legislation assigns the following duties to facility owners:
- Members may voluntarily submit to maps of lines or facilities installed before this law;
- Facility owners must communicate to the excavator within two hours with information about its facility location when the owner has failed to respond to notification from the One Call System; and
- Maintain records of abandoned main line locations and report all alleged violations to the PUC if the cost of repair is over $2,500. In addition, owners will be responsible for maintaining underground line mapping information.
- Adds two representatives to represent convention and unconventional wells on the One Call System board of directors.
The legislation places the following additional responsibilities on the One Call System:
- Requires a report of alleged violations, including photographs;
- Removes excavation work exclusions for extracting resources;
- Requires the lawful start date to be three business days through 10 business days following notification to the One Call System;
- Notifies a facility owner as soon as possible if an excavator has identified, unmasked or incorrectly marked a facility and of the owner’s responsibilities under the law; and
- Requires that an entity that requests information from the One Call System must pay an annual fee to the system.
This legislation assigns the following duties to excavators:
- Report any incident in which a facility owner’s line is damaged during excavation or any other violation within 10 days;
- Request facility information for the One Call System and pay the applicable fee;
- Renotify the One Call System of any unmarked or incorrectly marked facility. Excavation may not begin until sufficient information has been received to safely excavate. If the owner fails to provide information within three hours after notification of the One Call System, the Excavator may proceed subject to legal limitations; and
- Make locale request to the One Call System prior to the excavation and pay the applicable fee.
The PUC will be required to establish a Damage Prevention Committee. The committee will advise the PUC on matters related to damage prevention for underground facilities.
The bill was enacted as Act 50 of 2017.
The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 242, which changes the structure and membership of the Victims’ Services Advisory Committee by adding more members.
The bill changes one member from the Secretary of Public Welfare or a designee to Secretary of Human Services or a designee; adds a representative of a comprehensive victim service agency, adds a person who represents a disabilities treatment provider and changes nine members appointed by the governor to 17 members appointed by the governor. The bill allows the mental health treatment representative to be a mental health advocate or provider.
The bill also adjusts the term limits for the Pennsylvania Court Appointed Special Advocates Association representative and the appointed county children and youth agency representative. These members may not serve more than a four-year term and may not be appointed for more than one additional consecutive term.
The bill was enacted as Act 51 of 2017.
The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 542, which would allow a pharmacist to provide up to a 30-day supply emergency prescription refill.
To grant an emergency prescription. the pharmacist must have tried to obtain authorization from the prescriber within a 72-hour frame. The medication refilled cannot be a controlled substance. The pharmacist is empowered to decide if the medication is essential for life maintenance and chronic conditions and that a delay in treatment would cause health consequences.
The emergency prescription is limited to only one refill at a time. Once the prescription is filled, the pharmacist must enter the prescription type, date, and his or her signature in the pharmacy record and notify the prescriber that an emergency prescription has been granted to the patient.
The bill now goes to the House Health Committee.
The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 625, which would require that the POW/MIA flag be displayed at all roadside rest stops and welcome centers.
The flag would specifically be displayed at rest stops and welcomes centers where the U.S. flag is also displayed. The flag could be flown from an existing flag pole and may be temporarily removed if another flag is designated to be flown at half-staff.
The bill now goes to the House State Government Committee.
The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 651, which allows for the Capital Budget Project Itemization Act of 2017-2018 for capital projects to be itemized in the amount of
approximately $22 billion.
The legislation establishes the categories of capital projects that may be partially or fully state funded.
The bill was enacted as Act 52 of 2017.
The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 676, which would amend the Workers’ Compensation Act to address underfunding of the Uninsured Employers Guaranty Fund (UEGF).
The UEGF was established to provide for injured workers in cases where their employer failed to provide the required workers compensation insurance. The legislation would:
- amend the procedures by which employees may file a claim with the UEGF to receive compensation;
- increase the Workmen’s Compensation Administration Fund to provide for the UEGF. The UEGF assessment would be increased from 0.1 percent to 0.25 percent of the previous year’s insurance payout in compensation. To compensate for the increase amount being distributed to the UEFG, the carryover balance for the Administration Fund would be capped at 120 percent rather than 133 percent;
- authorize the Department of Labor and Industry to verify with employers located in other states that an employer has met the required insurance guidelines of that state — and when an employee who resides in Pennsylvania would be entitled to the workers’ compensation from that state;
- provide for the situation where an employee is injured and not compensated by an out-of-state employer. The injured worker would be required to submit a petition to the UEGF and to any judge to affirm that he or she is not entitled to any benefits from the other state;
- add provisions to the Uninsured Employers Guaranty Fund. The process by which claims are made to this fund would be altered and new penalties would be established. In addition, the bill provides a list of healthcare providers for individuals receiving compensation and benefits from this fund; and
- provide for claim petitions in situations where the individual filing is not voluntarily accepted as payable from the UEGF.
Similar legislation was introduced last session as Senate Bill 876. It passed the Senate, but was never acted upon in the House Labor and Industry Committee. This bill is also now in the House Labor and Industry Committee.
The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 822, which would require the POW/MIA flag to be displayed on any ground owned by the commonwealth where the United States flag is displayed.
The bill now goes to the House State Government Committee.
The Senate voted 34-16 in favor of Senate Bill 935, which would establish a term limit of eight years for executive directors of the Fish and Boat Commission. This position does not currently have a term limit.
The bill now goes to the House Game and Fisheries Committee.
The Senate voted 34-16 in favor of Senate Bill 935, which would require the Department of Labor and Industry to adopt an evidence-based prescription drug formulary for prescription medications under the Workers’ Compensation Act.
This formulary would be used to resolve issues related to drugs prescribed for those suffering from work-related injuries. The formulary would go through a public comment period and eventually be published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin and on the department’s website.
In addition, the bill requires standards for Utilization Review Organizations and Peer Review Organizations. These organizations are used to help determine if medical treatment in necessary and how frequent medical treatment should occur. Organizations accepted by the department would need to be nationally accredited.
The bill now goes to the House Labor and Industry Committee.