The Senate voted 35-15 in favor of House Bill 59, which would have instituted work requirements for those who receive government assistance benefits.
This legislation would have required the Department of Human Services (DHS) to seek federal approval for changes that would have mandated that recipients work or actively seek work. It would have exempted disabled, pregnant, or elderly Medicaid-eligible people. The measure would have also placed appropriation limits on non-essential benefits.
Under the bill, DHS would have been required to request a waiver to receive federal funds to help provide services for people receiving treatment for substance abuse disorder at institutions for mental disease. The department would have had to seek federal financial assistance for the state’s medical assistance programs before submitting a supplemental appropriation request to the legislature.
The bill would have mandated DHS to issue a request for proposals for a total population coordinated care management pilot program in one Medicaid managed care region. The purpose of this program was aimed at increasing the use of primary and preventative medical care, and decrease use of specialty care and emergency services.
Other new elements to the Human Services code would have included compensation for employees who are injured by persons in their care while working at DHS. This would have included their salary and medical expenses for up to three years. This legislation would have empowered a child applying for or receiving adoption assistance to appeal the amount of the adoptive subsidy awarded under the Adoption Opportunities Act.
House Bill 59 became Veto No. 2 of 2017. Governor Wolf stated in his veto letter that he did not approve House Bill 59 because the “legislation increases costs, creates unnecessary delays and confusion, penalizes individuals who need healthcare and terminates health coverage for those who need it most.”
The Senate approved House Bill 118, the state’s 2017-18 Administrative Code, by a vote of 37-13. The legislation:
- requires employees with access to federal tax information to provide federal criminal history, State Police record, or proof of eligibility to work in the U.S. and fingerprints for police and FBI background checks;
- changes the composition of the Pennsylvania commission on crime and delinquency;
- increases the cost of a certified copy of a death record from $9 to $20 and prohibits the Department of Human Services from charging more than $13 for a child abuse clearance.
- allows the State Police to increase the fee for a criminal history record;
- allows the Attorney General’s office to use up to one-fourth of money collected for the office’s operations (not exceeding $2.5 million annually);
- creates the Higher Education Regulatory Restricted Account. This account provides funds for administration and managing services of higher education. The bill also sets fees for services provided to colleges and authorizes the Board of Education to increase the fees if estimated revenues are insufficient to meet expenses projected for a two-year period;
- requires the Joint Underwriting Association (JUA) to transfer $200 million in excess funds the General Fund;
- removes the end date for the recycling fee under the “Municipal Waste, Planning, Recycling and Waste Reduction Act” and allows the money accumulated to remain in the Recycling Fund;
- allows water treatment facilities that exclusively treat water from conventional oil and gas well operations to continue operating under existing permits;
- requires the Department of Health to establish the Drug and Alcohol detoxification facilities and provide detoxification in licensed health facilities;
- specifies standards for state classification as an alternative energy source by requiring sources using solar energy to be directly delivering electricity to a retail customer or distribution company in the state; and
- reauthorizes Senior Judge Operational supports grants to assist counties with the costs of judicial administration. This legislation renews the grants through the year 2020.
House Bill 118 was enacted as Act No. 40 of 2017.
The Senate voted 34-16 in favor of House Bill 178, which would require the Department of Education to create a new plan under the “Every Student Succeeds Act” that would focus on student assessments and school district/teacher accountability.
The legislation would also delay the use of the Keystone exam as a high school graduation requirement until the 2020-21 school year.
The bill would also require newly-elected school board members to complete a mandatory training. The legislation would also reduce, from 150 to 90, the number of days for the renewal of a superintendent contract or to consider new candidates. This bill would increase 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 legislation would enable school districts to base teacher furloughs on performance rather than salary or seniority. Changes would also be made to teacher certification programs.
The bill would provide for specific requirements for schools regarding financial watch status. Any school that has been identified for financial watch status would be placed under the supervision of a financial administrator who would develop a financial improvement plan.
Starting with the 2018-2019 school year, students in grades six through twelve would receive opioid prevention instruction. The Departments of Education and Health would be required to develop the curriculum.
This bill would also repeal the requirement that the Department of Education provide annual reports on community colleges; and require public higher education institutions to adopt uniform standards for determining academic credit.
The bill now goes to the House Rules Committee.
The Senate voted 40-10 in favor of House Bill 453, which would require that any entity being audited by the Department of the Auditor General respond within 120 days.
The department would need to post responses on its website and notify the governor if no response is received. The bill would also give the Auditor General the authority to audit the Susquehanna River Basin Commission and the Delaware River Basin Commission.
This bill also transfers $6 million from the Trust Account for the Building Pennsylvania Program to the Natural Gas Infrastructure Development Fund for use by the Commonwealth Financing Authority.
The bill would require taxicabs in Philadelphia to pay 1 percent of their gross receipts to the parking authority on a quarterly basis. The authority could suspend or revoke the license of companies that do not comply.
This legislation would establish the First Chance Trust Fund, which would receive revenues from selected contractors, grants, gifts, donations and other payments.
House Bill 453 was referred to the House Rules Committee.
The Senate voted 26-24 for House Bill 542, which would amend the Tax Reform Code to require marketplace providers to keep all records and information required by marketplace vendors.
The bill would require the Independent Fiscal Office and the Department of Revenue to conduct a study on the legal implications and fiscal impact of mandating notice requirements for remote sales.
The bill would also create the natural gas optimization program to fund projects that promote and expand access to natural gas infrastructure and access to natural gas in residential areas. The Public Utility Commission would be required to review which projects would best utilize and promote the use of natural gas in the state.
This legislation would establish a natural gas severance tax that would be imposed on a per volume basis at a rate of 1.5 – 3.5 cents per million cubic feet when average annual price is $2.25 or less – more than $5.99. Revenue generated would be directed to an unconventional gas well fund to ensure local impact fee fund is no less than $200 million.
The Department of Environmental Protection would be required to review unconventional oil and gas development permits and review backlogs of permits. The legislation would also establish the Air Quality Permit Advisory Committee to review air quality permits.
The legislation would provide for a 5 percent electric grid virtual financial transaction tax on the gross transactions. The bill also outlines criteria for the entertainment economic enhancement program, concert rehearsal, tour production and film production tax credits and expands the types of fireworks that could be sold to the public and specifies regulations for facilities that sell fireworks.
The bill now goes to the House Rules Committee.
The Senate voted 46-3 in favor of Senate Bill 667, which would give redevelopment authorities the same powers as lands banks.
The legislation would allow redevelopment authorities to accept the transfer of property of the county held by the tax claim bureau in a repository for unsold property. An authority would also be authorized to accept property donations and extinguish delinquent claims for taxes and the remittance or dedication of property taxes collected, including property taxes for a school district if the district enters into an agreement with the authority.
An authority would be allowed to allocate tax revenues collected in the first taxable year after the date of conveyance and for five taxable years thereafter.
The bill was referred to the House Urban Affairs Committee.