The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 202, which amends the Public School Code to change Keystone Exam requirements and allow for career and technical education (CTE) students to demonstrate proficiency standards through alternate measures.

This bill removes several required Keystone Exams in the following subjects: English composition, algebra II, geometry, chemistry, civics and government, world history and American history.  Students are still required to take Keystone exams created by the state Department of Education in algebra I, literature and biology.

The legislation allows CTE students demonstrate proficiency in subjects they failed by passing an equivalent school course.  In addition, CTE students must attain an industry-based certification in their field of study.

This bill was enacted as Act 6 of 2017.


The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 589, which increases the maximum weight allowed for Natural Gas Vehicles (NGVs) from 80,000 pounds to 82,000 pounds.

The additional 2,000 pounds was allowed because NGVs have a heavier tank and fueling system than other vehicles. Th change is in accordance with the federal FAST Act, passed by Congress in 2015, which raised NGV weight limits to 82,000 pounds and allowed states to raise weight limits on interstates.

This legislation applies to all state and interstate highways in Pennsylvania. Emergency vehicles are exempt from the bill and must instead comply with standards within the FAST Act. Automobile transporter vehicles, including “stinger-steered automobile transporters,” are exempt from length restrictions if the vehicle complies with weight limitations. In addition, tow-away trailer transporter combinations may not exceed 26,000 pounds.

The bill was enacted as Act 31 of 2017.


The Senate passed Senate Bill 624 by a vote of 32-17, which exempts planned mine subsidence from being considered pollution if the state Department of Environmental Protection. Approved the mine’s alleviation plan.

The legislation would allow for planned subsidence based on bituminous coal mining practices. It exempts the subsidence from being considered “pollution” under the Clean Streams Law if the subsidence is produced in a predictable and controlled manner that does not permanently disrupt surface waters.

This provision would only apply if the mine has an approved plan with the department to alleviate the predicted subsidence.

Proponents of the measure claimed it will make it easier to construct mines and create jobs. Opponents argued that the bill would lesson environmental protections and endanger Pennsylvania’s streams.

The bill was enacted as Act 32 of 2017 without the Governor’s signature.


The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 434, which would change the regulations for claiming title to real property by adverse possession.

This legislation would allow for adverse possession after 10 years of actual, continuous, exclusive, visible, notorious, distinct and hostile possession of real property. This bill does not apply to common interest and government-owned properties. It also does not supersede municipal codes and zoning ordinances.

Adverse possession claims may also include contiguous lots that have been used regularly as part of the real property for at least 10 years if the total area does not exceed a half-acre combined with the real property.

To make an adverse possession claim, an individual would need to complete a quiet title action. This provides notice to the record owners, their heirs, successors, and assigns on a form approved by the rule of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. If the court rules in favor of the owner, it would dispose of the quiet title action.

If no ejectment action is filed and served within a year, the adverse possession claim could be granted. The adverse possession acquisition would not nullify any easements, profits, covenants, mortgages, liens, judgements and leases that run with title to the property. It also would not supersede any state laws or municipal ordinances to which the property is subject.

The bill now goes to the House Judiciary Committee.


The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 497, which would remove the “residual waste” designation for current generation blast furnace, iron and steel slag used on-site for waste processing, as an aggregate or sold for consumption, use or further processing.

The legislation defines these elements as current generation provided they were generated at an operating steel mill and not produced prior to January 1, 2007 or commingled with residual or hazardous waste.

The legislation would remove the residual waste label from current generation blast furnace, iron & steel slag if:

  • it is used on-site as a waste processing lime agent in acid neutralization or on-site in place or aggregate or sold for consumption, use or processing; or
  • managed as a commercial item with value according to industry practices

Nothing in the legislation would affect the Department of Environmental Protection’s duty or power over a natural resource or residual waste.

The bill is now in the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.


The Senate voted 40-9 in favor of Senate Bill 1, which designs two new retirement options for PSERS (Public School Employees’ Retirement System) and SERS (State Employees’ Retirement System) members.

The legislation implements a new pension style for new state employees hired after January 1, 2019, and for new public school employees hired after July 1, 2019.  The measure eliminates the current defined benefits (DB) plan.

The bill replaces this option with a side-by-side hybrid pension plan including a DB and a defined contribution (DC) plan. Another option would be for a straight DC plan.  Current employees have the option of enrolling into these two new plans.  The new plans include a shared risk and shared gain component to mitigate risk on taxpayers.

Certain state-employed law enforcement officers are exempt from this legislation and will be required to continue their enrollment in the previous DB plan.  In addition, the bill extends the normal retirement age from 62 to 67.

The measure was prompted by Pennsylvania’s multi-billion-dollar pension deficit.

The bill was enacted as Act 5 of 2017.