The Senate voted 43-7 for House Bill 218, which is the $31.9 billion General Appropriation Bill for the 2017-18 fiscal year. This amount is an increase of $54 million over the fiscal 2016-17 budget.
Notable appropriations in this year’s budget include:
- $2 billion in cuts and savings (complement management, corrections population decline and facility closures, agency consolidations and debt management);
- $190 million on new education investments, including funds for Pre-K counts, Head Start Supplemental Assistance, Basic & Special Education and the State System of Higher Education;
- $20.4 million to fight the opioid epidemic;
- Restores funding for agriculture research, education and promotion programs;
- Restores funding for various tourism, community, and economic development programs; and
- Supports home and community based services for seniors, individuals with physical disabilities and those with intellectual disabilities.
House Bill 218 became Act No. 1A of 2017 without the governor’s signature. Governor Tom Wolf said he would allow the budget to become law without his signature. He refused to sign the bill because the legislature did not produce a revenue measure that would spell out how the spending plan would be paid for.
“In the coming days, it is my hope that the General Assembly will come together to pass a responsible solution to balance our books,” Wolf said. “There are many options available to balance the budget in the long-term, like those I presented earlier this year. Our creditors and the people of Pennsylvania understand a responsible resolution must take real and necessary steps to improve Pennsylvania’s fiscal future.”
The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 239 which creates the Rare Disease Advisory Council.
The advisory council may at any time advise the departments on additional at large appointments to the council to help carry out duties. The council will meet periodically, a minimum of three times a year.
Purposes of the Rare Disease Advisory Council include:
- coordinating statewide efforts for the study of rare disease in the state;
- advising the legislature and relevant state and private agencies on rare diseases; and
- coordinating with other rare disease advisory bodies and other interested entities regarding research, diagnosis and treatment of rare diseases.
Duties of the Rare Disease Advisory Council include:
- researching, collecting rare disease data and conducting comprehensive surveys of rare diseases in Pennsylvania;
- ensuring that the duties are coordinated with similar research at the federal and state level;
- researching and identifying priorities concerning the quality and cost effectiveness of and access to treatment and other services provided to individuals with rare diseases;
- identifying best practices in other states and at the national level for rare disease management;
- developing public awareness strategies; and
- creating a task force comprised of council members and others to develop a report to the state legislature.
The Rare Disease Advisory Council may apply for grant money available for rare disease programs. Within a year the council will submit a comprehensive report to the Health & Human Services committees of the House and Senate.
House Bill 239 became Act No. 14 of 2017.
The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 423 which amends the process by which second class townships handle vacancies in office. These positions include supervisor, tax collector, auditor and any other elected position.
Under this legislation, an individual’s resignation does not create a vacancy until accepted by a majority vote of the board of supervisors. The board must accept the resignation no later than 45 days after the resignation. If 45 days pass, it will be deemed accepted.
If the board of supervisors is unable to fill the vacancy within 30 days, it will be filled within 15 additional days by the vacancy board. The vacancy board consists of the board of supervisors and one registered elector. If two or more vacancies occur on a three-member board, or three or more vacancies occur on a five-member board, the court of common pleas will fill vacancies.
House Bill 423 became Act No. 16 of 2017
The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 424 which amends the Vital Statistics Law to add physician assistants to the list of health care practitioners authorized to certify medical information for death certificates.
House Bill 424 became Act No. 17 of 2017.
The Senate unanimously passed House Bill 1269 which grants municipal authorities extra time for certain construction projects.
Municipal authorities that serve as least five or more municipalities will be granted an additional five years (up to 20 from 15) to impose tapping fees to fund construction projects. If the project is not completed after 20 years, the fees are refunded, plus interest.
House Bill 1269 became Act No. 19 of 2017.
The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 325, which appropriates $30.135 million to the University of Pennsylvania for the 2017-18 fiscal year. This appropriation is the same amount that was provided for in the 2016-17 fiscal year. The bill was enacted as Act 11A of 2017.
The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 326, which appropriates $22.074 million to the Pennsylvania State University of Technology for the 2017-18 fiscal year. This appropriation is the same amount that was provided for in the 2016-17 fiscal year. The bill was enacted as Act 12A of 2017.
The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 327, which appropriates $2.763 million to the University of Pittsburgh for the 2017-18 fiscal year. This appropriation is the same amount that was provided for in the 2016-17 fiscal year. The bill was enacted as Act 13A of 2017.
The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 328, which appropriates $150.586 million to Temple University for the 2017-18 fiscal year. This is the same amount that was appropriated for the 2016-17 fiscal year. The bill was enacted as Act 14A of 2017.
The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 32, which appropriates $14.436 million to Lincoln University for the 2017-18 fiscal year. This is the same amount that was appropriated for the 2016-17 fiscal year. The bill was enacted as Act 15A of 2017.
The Senate voted 28-22 in favor of Senate Bill 383, which would amend the Public School Code to allow school districts to allow certain school employees to have access to firearms in schools.
This legislation would allow school directors to establish policies allowing certain school personnel to access firearms in the building to protect students. School districts that implement these policies would be required to establish a firearm safety plan. The firearm safety plan would need to be coordinated with local law enforcement.
Any individuals authorized to have access to the firearms must have a license to carry a concealed firearm. Also, any individuals authorized to access the firearms on school property would be required to complete a psychological evaluation.
Identities of school personnel authorized to access firearms would not be made available to the public.
The bill now goes to the House Education Committee.
The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 458, which would amend the Public Utilities Code to add additional penalties for transporting property between homes, for compensation, without the appropriate licensure.
This legislation would add stricter penalties to illegal household goods movers. Individuals who move household items are required to register and obtain a permit with the Public Utility Commission (PUC). The PUC oversees enforcement of this law, and has struggled to effectively deter the crime.
The tougher penalties would result in a $5,000 fine for the first offense. Additional penalties could result in forfeiture of the offender’s vehicle or a $10,000 fine.
The bill now goes to the House Consumer Affairs Committee.
The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 461, which would modernize the use of DNA collection and testing as evidence in criminal investigations.
This legislation would re-establish a statewide DNA database maintained by the State Police for storing forensic DNA profiles and records. The State Police would continue to oversee regulations and guidelines surrounding the collection and submission of collected DNA samples.
This bill would add homicide, sexual offense, felonies, and certain violent crimes to the list of criminal offenses that mandate the collection of DNA data. DNA may be removed from the State Police database if it was included by mistake or by a court order.
The bill now goes to the House Judiciary Committee.
The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 529, which would require that nonviolent misdemeanor convictions to be sealed after an individual is crime-free for 10 years.
This legislation aims to give individuals a “clean slate” by expunging their records after they have served their sentence. Provided for in the bill are a list of crimes that would not be expunged, such as assault, sexual offenses and offenses relating to firearms. Details of crimes sealed under this bill would not need to be disclosed for the exception of conflicts with federal law.
In cases where someone is charged, but not convicted, the record would be sealed after 60 days.
Criminal justice agencies would be required to restrict access to eligible criminal records within 30 days of their eligibility. The Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts would be required to update agencies of eligible expungement cases. An expungement reversal could occur if an individual is convicted of a subsequent misdemeanor or felony.
The bill now goes to the House Judiciary Committee.
The Senate voted 49-1 in favor of Senate Bill 560, which expands audio and video recording laws regarding law enforcement officers and public records.
This bill amends the Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Act by clarifying that communications in the presence of a law enforcement officer are not private and may be recorded. This legislation provides for the use of recordings obtained while an officer is operating within their role and the legal capacity.
Specifically, the legislation allows for the use of oral communications recorded within a residence’s home or within a prison. Inmates must be notified if their communications are being recorded. Officers would be banned from intercepting communication between an attorney and client. Each police department utilizing recording devices is required to implement guidelines for their use.
The bill does not subject Law Enforcement Recordings to the Right-to-Know Law but instead to a separate request procedure for public access to the recordings. The bill was amended in the House to require body camera training policies established by municipalities to be made publicly available.
The bill was enacted as Act 22 of 2017.
The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 630, which would create the “Travel Insurance Modernization Act” to allow travel agents to sell a limited line of travel insurances without being required to be licensed as an insurance producer.
The insurer issuing the travel insurance would be required to supervise the development and administration of the training program for employees or representatives of the travel agency, either directly or through a designee.
Travel retailers would be required to be listed by the insurance producer in an ongoing registry of eligible retailers in Pennsylvania. Applicants for the limited licenses would be required to pay a $400 application or renewal fee.
The bill now goes to the House Insurance Committee.
The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 662, which would establish a third-degree felony for the distribution of an illicit drug that lead to a user’s “serious bodily injury.”
This legislation defines the offense as “intentionally administering, dispensing, delivering, giving, prescribing, selling or distributing any controlled substance or counterfeit controlled substance and another person suffers serious bodily injury resulting from using the substance.”
The bill now goes to the House Judiciary Committee.
The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 680, which appropriates $32.619 million for the administrative costs of the State Employees Retirement System (SERS) for the 2017-18 fiscal year. The bill was enacted as Act 2A of 2017 without the governor’s signature.
The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 681, which appropriates $45.841 million for the administrative costs of the Public School Employee’s Retirement System (PSERS) for the 2017-18 fiscal year. The bill was enacted as Act 3A of 2017 without the governor’s signature.
The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 682, which appropriates $59.707 million from the Professional Licensure Augmentation Account and from restricted revenue accounts within the General Fund to the Department of State for operations. The bill was enacted as Act 4A of 2017 without the governor’s signature.
The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 683, which appropriates funds from the Workmen’s Compensation Administration Fund for the 2017-18 fiscal year — and to pay bills unpaid from the previous fiscal year.
This bill also allocates $78.4 million to the Department of Labor and Industry and $275,000 to the Office of Small Business Advocate in the Department of Community and Economic Development for obligational costs associated with the Workers Compensation Act and the Pennsylvania Occupational Disease Act.
Senate Bill 683 became Act No. 5A of 2017 without the governor’s signature.
The Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 684 which appropriates $73.5 million in state funds from the restricted revenue account within the General Fund to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) for the 2017-2018 fiscal year.
The bill also appropriates federal funds to the PUC which includes $3.8 million for the National Gas Pipeline Safety fund and $1.7 million for the Motor Carrier Safety fund.
Senate Bill 684 became Act No. 6A of 2017 without the Governor’s signature.
The Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 685 which appropriates $5.7 million from the General Fund to the Office of Consumer Advocate in the Office of Attorney General for the upcoming fiscal year. Senate Bill 685 became Act No. 7A of 2017 without the governor’s signature.
The Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 686 which appropriates $1.7 million from the General Fund to the Office of Small Business Advocate in the Department of Community and Economic Development to pay for operations of that department for the upcoming fiscal year.
Senate Bill 686 became Act. No 8A of 2017 without the governor’s signature.
The Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 687, which is known as The Gaming Control Appropriation Act, and sends funds from the State Gaming Fund to the Attorney General, the Department of Revenue, the Pennsylvania State Police and the Pennsylvania Gaming Board.
Senate Bill 687 lowers the state appropriation to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board from $30.7 million to $28.6 million.
The bill was enacted as Act No. 9A of 2017 without the governor’s signature.
The Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 688 which appropriates $3.6 million from the Philadelphia Taxicab and Limousine Regulatory Fund to the Philadelphia Parking Authority for the upcoming fiscal year. It also appropriates $2 million from the Philadelphia Taxicab Medallion Fund to the Philadelphia Parking Authority.
Senate Bill 688 became Act. No 10A of 2017 without the governor’s signature.
The Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 690, which provides a mechanism for the initial apportionment of any home rule charter for a municipality without a mayor.
The apportionment will be dividing into wards either partially or totally or changing the number of members of the governing body. The initial apportionment is made by members of the governing body consistent with the Municipal Reapportionment Act. Municipalities with a mayor can also use this procedure.
The legislation also allows for subsequent apportionment under the Municipal Reapportionment Act. Senate Bill 690 was enacted as Act No. 53 of 2017.
The Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 691, which grants residency for a person during military service.
The bill states that a person’s active military status will not disqualify them from fulfilling residency requirements. Also, a person residing in a municipality for at least one year before absence due to active military duty will be considered an ongoing resident. This is the case unless and until the person demonstrates an intent to establish a new dwelling outside the municipality.
Senate Bill 691 become Act No. 54 of 2017.
The Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 736, which enables Scranton and third-class cities to enact and enforce parking-related laws through their parking authorities.
This bill allows agreements between Scranton and third-class cities to authorize their parking authorities to transfer portions of fines and penalties collected to the city. Certain infractions include: stopping, standing and parking. Previously, Pittsburgh was the only city authorized to issue ordinances and resolutions through its parking authority for these infractions.
Senate Bill 736 became Act No. 80 of 2017.