Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Maryland vote to raise minimum wage should encourage Pennsylvania

I welcome the Maryland legislature’s final approval today of a $1-per-hour increase in the minimum wage in that state. The new minimum rate in Maryland will be $6.15 per hour.

Maryland’s Democratic legislature overrode a veto by the Republican governor, so the wage hike will become law there. Maryland is set to join the 18 states nationwide with minimum wages higher than the 9-year-old federal minimum wage. Pennsylvania should take the cue and be the next.

The Maryland legislature’s affirmative vote to increase the state’s minimum wage to $6.15 will mean that 46.3 percent of the nation’s population is protected by a minimum wage higher than the federal standard.

If Pennsylvania would pass one of its minimum wage proposals, which are currently being bottled up by Republican leadership, more than 50 percent of the nation’s population would be protected by a wage higher than the outdated federal rate, which has been eroded by nine years of inflation.

House and Senate Democrats will renew their efforts to increase the state’s minimum wage when the General Assembly returns to Harrisburg later this month. Unlike Maryland, the Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Edward Rendell strongly supports raising Pennsylvania's minimum wage.

With the addition of Maryland, four states bordering Pennsylvania will have minimum wages higher than the federal rate. The others are New Jersey, Delaware and New York. If you would like to learn more our efforts to raise the minimum wage and the need for this change, you can visit my home page at http://www.pahouse.net/cohen/MinimumWage.asp or one of bills I have introduced to raise the minimum wage, H.B. 2021.

Friday, October 28, 2005

HB 1631: College Vehicle Registration

H.B. 1631, P.N. 2016 (BOYD) This would amend Title 75 (Vehicles).

This would extend to a vehicle owned by an institution of higher learning to the lists of vehicles that need not be registered so long as such vehicle travels only one mile or less on a property where both sides of the road are within college property . Current law provides similar registration exemptions for vehicles driven on golf courses and on resorts.

HB 280: Sale of School Land or Building

H.B. 280, P.N. 2454 (HALUSKA). This would amend the Public School Code, Act 14 of 1949, P.L. 30.

This would prohibit a school district from selling land or buildings for less than fair market value, unless it is donating the property to a local government or to a nonprofit corporation.

The House and Senate Education Committee Chairs would be notified of all intentions of school districts to sell land or buildings.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

HB 2142: Biennial Automobile Inspections

H.B. 2142, P.N. 2921 (BALDWIN). This would amend Title 75 (Vehicles).

Automobile inspections would be required biennially instead of annually. A vehicle would not be required to be inspected for three years after being purchased if it has under 5,000 odometer miles, has a registration plate transferred from another vehicle, and has never been registered before.

HB 2141: Prohibit Regulating Fuel Additives

H.B. 2141, P.N. 2920 (GEIST). This would create the Fuel Additive Regulatory Control Act.

This would prohibit the Environmental Quality Board from regulating the specifications for motor fuel.

HB 2140: Ending the Emission Inspection Program

H.B. 2140, P.N. 2919 (BALDWIN) This would amend Title 75 (Vehicles).

The emission inspection program would end at the end of next year.

H.B. 2089. Making English the Official Language

H.B. 2089, P.N. 2879 (SATHER). This would create the Pennsylvania Official English Act.

This would make English the official language of Pennsylvania.

HB 2067: Constitutional Amendment Limiting Budget Growth

H.B. 2067, P.N. 2917 (ALLEN). This would amend the Constitution.

This would limit increases in state appropriations to allowing budget increases to be as much as increases in the consumer price index, as well as to include funds for Federal mandates, pension obligations, debt repayment, court orders, and declared emergencies or major disasters.

Surplus budget fundswould be placed in the Budget Stabilization Reserve Fund or refunded on a pro rata basis to Pennsylvania citizens.

HB 1992: Red Light Camera Statistical Information

H.B. 1992, P.N. 2734 (GEIST). This would amend Title 75 (Vehicles).
This would permit the release of statistical information on Philadelphia’s red light camera violations and fines as well as payments to vendors and manufacturers.

HB 1928: Transporting Modular Undercarraiges

H.B. 1928, P.N. 2882 (HARRIS). This would amend Title 75 (Vehicles).
Three or fewer empty modular undercarriages may be permitted for movement and for a return trip at any time except for holidays and during inclement weather.

HB 1967: Conveyance in Doylestown

H.B. 1967, P.N. 2885 (McILHINNEY). This would amend a conveyance Act 121 of 2004, P.L. 886.
This would extend for an additional year the time period in which the General Services Department may convey property in Doylestown to several parties, including the Borough of Doylestown. If the conveyance is not completed by any deadline, the property could be sold by bid or by auction. The Borough of Doylestown would be required to pay the maintenance costs and the costs of securing the land and property that used to house the Doylestown Armory.

HB 1929: Tax on Services

H.B. 1920, P.N. 2521 (ROHRER) This would amend the Tax Reform Code, Act 2 of 1971, P.L. 6.
This would have non-medical services subject to the sales and use tax.
The sales and use tax would be reduced from 6% to 5%.
The sales and use tax exclusion would be extended to include retail sales to private schools, parochial schools, and home education programs.

Capital Facilities Debt

H.B. 1802, P.N. 2566 (FEESE). This would amend the Capital Facilities Debt Enabling Act 1 of 1999, PL. 1.

The debt limit on redevelopment assistance capital projects would increase from $2,150,000,000 to $2,650,000,000. $25,000,000 or less could be used for constructing housing units.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Pennsylvania legislation to push plug-in hybrids

HARRISBURG, Aug. 31 -- State Rep. Mark Cohen, D-Phila., announced today that he is seeking co-sponsors for three bills that he will introduce to promote and increase the use of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles in Pennsylvania and is introducing a web site www.keystonehybrid.com to put up information regarding this technology.

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are similar to today’s Toyota Prius and Ford Hybrid Escape, but have larger batteries that can be charged overnight by plugging them in. With plug-in hybrids, the first 20 to 30 miles of driving each day are powered mainly by electricity rather than gasoline. This reduces gas costs for consumers to the equivalent of about $1 per gallon.
"As Pennsylvania drivers face the prospect of paying up to $3 for a gallon of gas this Labor Day weekend, we need to do more to find a better way to reduce our dependence on foreign oil supplies," Cohen said.

People testing plug-in hybrids have reported getting fuel economy of 100 miles per gallon, and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, or PHEVs, have the potential to reach fuel economy levels of 250 to 500 miles per gallon when ethanol or other alternative fuels are also used, with fuel economy figures at about 80 to 100 miles per gallon for normal commuting.

Cohen cited a speech by Takehisa Yaegashi, Toyota’s chief engineer for hybrids, who said that computer chips are the heart of a hybrid. Cohen said: "I believe we can use technology to make gasoline engines more efficient and to make electric motors more powerful."

In one of the first legislative proposals in any state legislature to specifically promote plug-in hybrids, Cohen’s bills would exempt sales taxes on the conversion of existing hybrids to plug-in hybrids, or on the battery portion of a mass produced plug-in hybrid for three years; establish a state task force with representatives from the state Environmental Protection, Transportation and Revenue departments, along with the Public Utility Commission, to examine how this technology can be promoted within the Commonwealth; and a resolution asking car makers with plants in the United States to make, market and sell plug-in hybrids here.

While the cost of additional batteries may be high today, Cohen believes that if Pennsylvania can provide incentives for the broader use of PHEVs and help convince major auto makers to mass produce them, the state’s businesses and residents would benefit.

Companies interested in this technology may be able to apply for grants under Pennsylvania’s Alternative Fuels Incentive Grant program. The application deadline for the program is Oct. 1.
To provide additional information on this issue, Cohen announced the creation of a Web site at www.keystonehybrid.com, and suggested people interested in plug-in hybrids also visit the Web site www.calcars.org to learn about the efforts of a nonprofit group, The California Cars Initiative, to convert and promote an actual plug-in hybrid electric vehicle.

"Hybrid owners today are getting real savings at the gas pump, but with plug-in hybrids we could see a person filling a tank once a month." Cohen said.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

H.R. 319: Calling for Specified Trade Protection

H.R. 319, P.N. 2033 (GRUITZA) - This resolution, citing “unfair trade practices” concerning Chinese pipe and tube importing, urges the President and Congress of the United States to utilize the China-specific safeguard provision of the Trade Act of 1974, as amended by the U.S.-China Relations Act of 2000, to prevent the dumping of steel pipes, tubes, and fittings on United States markets.

H.B. 1526: Providing for Deliquency Charges within the Consumer Discount Company Act

H.B. 1526, P.N. 1859 (GEIST) – This bill would amend the act of April 8, 1937 (P.L. 262, No. 66), known as the Consumer Discount Company Act.
This bill would supplement existing language in the Consumer Discount Company Law by providing for a delinquency charge of the greater of $20 or 10% of each payment or contract which is in default for more than 15 days.

H.B. 1509: Land Transfer in Westmoreland County

H.B. 1509, P.N. 1843 (TANGRETTI) - This bill would authorize the Department of General Services to grant to the F&L Group, Inc. an easement in Hempfield Township, Westmoreland County, in exchange for improvements on Commonwealth land for the benefit of SCI-Greensburg. The improvements include paving, a privacy fence, and water and sewage connections.

H.B. 1580: Delegating Regulatory Responsibility of Antlered Livestock Operations to the Dept. of Agriculture; Expanding Cervidae Operation Licensing

H.B. 1580, P.N. 1981 (PHILLIPS) - This bill would amend Title 3 (Agriculture).
The bill declares that cervidae (antlered) livestock operations are agricultural enterprises and designates the Department of Agriculture as the agency responsible for regulating all aspects of cervidae livestock operations (cervids behind fences). Additionally, the types of free licenses for which an owner of cervidae livestock may apply is expanded to three classes of license: Hobby, Breeding and Ranch.

H.R. 299: Studying Early Retirement Proposals

H.R. 299, P.N. 1893 (DALEY) – This resolution would direct the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to perform a study of early retirement proposals.
This resolution cites a lack of study in this particular field. The Legislative Budget and Finance Committee is requested to analyze H.B. 130, P.N. 631 (2005), and H.B. 131, P.N. 632 (2005) as they both pertain to retirement enhancements for state employees and public school teachers.

H.B. 1427: Amending Local Tax Law

H.B. 1427, P.N. 1737 (DENLINGER) – This bill would amend the act of December 31, 1965 (P.L. 1257, No. 511), known as the Local Tax Enabling Act.
This bill would further providing for collection of taxes, audits of earned income taxes, earned income taxes, suits for tax collection, penalties and delinquent tax collection costs.

H.B. 600: Providing Tax Credits for Employers of Active Military Personnel

H.B. 600, P.N. 673 (NAILOR) – This bill would amend the act of March 4, 1971 (P.L. 6, No. 2), known as the Tax Reform Code of 1971.
This bill would provide for military tax credits for employers who pay or subsidize the wages of an employee called to active duty.

H.B. 522: Expanding the Definition of Gifts which Public Officials Need to Publicly Record

H.B. 552, P.N. 600 (STERN) – A00890 (TANGRETTI) - This bill would amend the act of April 9, 1929 (P.L.343, No.176), known as The Fiscal Code.
This bill would further provide for unclaimed property, in this case, gift cards. This legislation does not apply to gift certificates or gift cards issued by a restaurant.

H.B. 519: Expanding the Definition of Property Subject to Sales Tax

H.B. 519, P.N. 568 (VEON) – This bill would amend the act of March 4, 1971 (P.L. 6, No. 2), known as the Tax Reform Code of 1971.
This bill would expand the already existent definition of sales of tangible property within this State to include sales in which property is shipped from within this State and the purchaser is the Federal Government or the taxpayer is not taxed in the state of the purchaser.

H.B. 338: Repealing a Telecommunications Tax

H.B. 338, P.N. 359 (SCAVELLO) – A00126 (SCAVELLO) - This bill would amend the act of March 4, 1971 (P.L. 6, No. 2), known as the Tax Reform Code of 1971.
This bill would repeal the gross receipts tax on wireless telecommunications on January 1, 2006.

H.B. 1648: Changing Eligibility for and Compensation of District Attorneys

H.B. 1648, P.N. 2076 (O’BRIEN) – This bill would amend the act of August 9, 1955 (P.L. 323, No. 130), known as The County Code.
This bill would make changes regarding the eligibility and service requirements and the compensation level for district attorneys in third through eighth class counties. This bill would also make the position of District Attorney within third through seventh (and depending upon certain criteria, eighth) class counties a full-time occupation. Additionally, the following standards would be established for District Attorney eligibility: an increased minimum age from 18 to 25; required admission to the bar at least one year prior to serving as a district attorney; and a two-year requirement of residency in the county of election or appointment prior to taking office.

H.B. 1597: Requiring Registration of Personal Care Residences

H.B. 1597, P.N. 2003 (WALKO) – This bill would enact the Personal Care Resident Registration Act.
This bill would require any personal care residence, defined as a private residence providing care to 3 or less care-dependent persons who are not related to the owner, excluding domiciliary care, to register annually with the Department of Public Welfare. Initial registration would include background checks of all non-care-dependent adults in the residence. This information would be made available to care-dependent persons (or their representatives) living in the residence or considering moving to the residence. This bill would also authorize the Department of Public Works to inspect the residence.

H.B. 1578: Providing for the Offense of Neglect of a Care-Dependent Person

H.B. 1578, P.N. 1979 (GINGRICH) – This bill would amend Title 18 (Crimes and Offenses).
This bill would further provide for the offense of neglect of a care-dependent person, and create the offense of abuse of a care-dependent person. This bill would require the Departments of Aging, Health and Public Welfare to make reports to local law enforcement or the Attorney General when there is reasonable cause to believe a violation has occurred.

H.B. 1525: Removing a Requirement for Hotel Liquor Licensing

H.B. 1525, P.N. 1858 (HARHART) – This bill would amend the act of April 12, 1951 (P.L. 90, No. 21), known as the Liquor Code.
This bill would provide that, upon application and inspection by the Liquor Control Board, hotel liquor licensees will no longer be required to maintain bedrooms for public accommodation.

H.B. 446: Requirements for the Importation of Foreign Liquor

H.B. 446, P.N. 485 (PETRI) – This bill would amend the act of April 12, 1951 (P.L. 90, No. 21), known as the Liquor Code.
This bill would require that all liquor imported from foreign countries into this Commonwealth enter through ports located in-State.

H.B. 93: Providing Incentive to Individuals to Insure Against the Costs of Providing for their Long-term Care Needs

H.B. 93, P.N. 87 (SATHER) – This bill would enact the Long-Term Care Partnership Program Act to be administered by the Insurance Department, Department of Aging, and Department of Public Welfare.
This bill would provide incentives for individuals to insure against the costs of providing for their long-term care needs, provide a mechanism for individuals to qualify for coverage of the cost of their long-term care needs under Medical Assistance without first being required to substantially exhaust their resources, provide counseling services to individuals planning for their long-term care needs, and alleviate the financial burden on the State’s Medical Assistance Program by encouraging the pursuit of private initiatives

H.R. 43: Amending the Social Security Act to Provide for Long-term Caregivers

H.R. 43, P.N. 168 (BISHOP) – This resolution would recommend that the Congress of the United States amend the Social Security Act to provide benefits for long-term caregivers.
Recognizing the economic burden with which long-term caregivers struggle while caring for their loved ones, this resolution urges Congress to provide for assistance.

H.B. 493: Providing for a County Records Improvement Fund

H.B. 493, P.N. 532 (PISTELLA) – This bill would amend the act of June 12, 1919 (P.L. 476, No. 240), known as the Second Class County Recorder of Deeds Fee Law.
This bill establishes a County Records Improvement Fund and five dollar charge for each document recorded by the recorder of deeds. The fee would be in addition to the “regular” fee charged by a recorder of deeds. 60% of the additional fee shall go towards a independent fund that will be used to develop and improve office records management and systems in the office of recorder or deeds. The remaining 40% of the money raised by the fee will be used to fund the County Records Improvement Fund, which will be used to bring to standards the management capabilities of all counties. Each county shall establish a County Records Improvement Committee charged with assessing the records management capabilities and records management needs of each office and developing recommendations to the county council.

H.B. 372: Establishing Residency Requirements for New Appointments to Public Offices

H.B. 372, P.N. 399 (CAPPELLI) – This bill would amend the act of June 3, 1931 (P.L. 932, No. 317), known as The Third City Class Code.
This bill establishes that any appointee to a vacancy of a public office must have resided within the city for at least one year continuously immediately prior to the appointment.

H.R. 307: Commemorating the Lillian Marrero Memorial Library in Philadelphia

H.R. 307, P.N. 1927 (CRUZ) – This resolution would urge the City of Philadelphia to name the branch of the Free Philadelphia on Lehigh Avenue the Lillian Marrero Memorial Library.
This resolution honors Lillian Marrero, who was employed as a librarian for 13 years at the Lehigh Avenue branch of the Free Library in Philadelphia. Her exemplary service and special interest in helping children, teenagers and the underprivileged made her an invaluable asset to the community.

H.B. 1413: Providing Economic Incentives to Animal Waste Recycling Facilities

H.B. 1413, P.N. 1701 (CALTAGIRONE) – This bill would enact the Animal Waste Recycling Act. In doing so, this bill would amend the act of March 4, 1971 (P.L. 6, No 2), known as the Tax Reform Code of 1971.
This bill would create economic incentives to spur development of animal waste recycling facilities. Three types of incentives would be authorized: an investment tax credit of up to 75% of the initial cost of the facility, the creation of a special fund to provide low-interest loans to animal waste recycling facilities, and an exemption from the sales and use tax on electricity sold or consumed by the facility.

H.R. 88: Commissioning a Sewage Management and Treatment Task Force

H.R. 88, P.N. 560 (HUTCHINSON) – This resolution would create a joint (House/Senate) task force to study sewage management and treatment issues.
The task force would have three specific missions: determining how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 2000 Clean Water Needs Survey applies to the Commonwealth, assessing the ability of treatment plants to meet the compliance goals established in the survey, and identifying how the use of new and innovative technologies can be used to help meet these goals. An advisory committee would be established to assist the task force.

H.R. 326: Encouraging Congress to Increase Funding for the Federal Leaking Underground Storage Tank Fund

H.R. 326, P.N. 2040 (ADOLPH) – This resolution would encourage Congress to release additional funds to the states from the federal Leaking Underground Storage Tank Fund.
This resolution notes that Pennsylvanian distributors and tank owners contribute almost $5 million more to the fund than Pennsylvania received from the fund. Congress is urged to adjust their funding formula.

H.B. 1108: Providing Financial Assistance to Homeowners for Water and Sewage System Related Expenses

H.B. 1108, P.N. 1270 (RUBLEY) – This bill would amend the act of March 1, 1988 (P.L. 82, No. 16) known as the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority Act.
This bill would establish the Water and Wastewater System Connection Funding Program, a financial assistance program, to provide grants and low-interest loans to homeowners for tapping or facilities extension fees and eligible costs related to installation of water or sewage laterals for homes constructed prior to installation of publicly or privately owned water or sewer systems as part of an upgrading or reconstruction project.

H.B. 1419: Providing Additional Payments to Private Residential Rehabilitation Institutions

H.B. 1419, P.N. 1707 (PETRONE) – This bill would amend the act of March 10, 1949 (P.L. 30, No. 14), known as the Public School Code of 1949.
This bill provides additional payments to Private Residential Rehabilitation Institutions (PRRI’s) for reimbursement of indirect special education costs.

H.B. 1408: Classifying the Offense of Improperly Spending Bond Proceeds

H.B. 1408, P.N. 1974 (SCHRODER) - This bill adds new Section 641 (relating to Improper Use of Bond Proceeds) to the Public School Code of 1949 (P.L. 30, No. 14)
The bill classifies knowingly or recklessly authorizing the improper use of bond proceeds as a misdemeanor. The bill also provides the Attorney General and district attorneys with the authority to investigate and bring charges relating to improper use of bond proceeds. Lastly, the bill mandates all state agencies or departments to report reasonably-suspected violations of this provision to the Attorney General or local law enforcement agencies.

H.B 876: Making Education Support Grants Payable Only to Educational Service Providers

H.B. 876, P.N. 999 (SCHRODER) – This bill would amend the act of March 10, 1949 (P.L. 30, No. 14), known as the Public School Code of 1949.
This bill amends the Public School Code to provide for procedural changes for the reimbursement process of educational support services grants, by making educational support grants payable only to the provider of these services, not the parent or guardian. This would hope to limit the opportunity for fraud on the part of the parent or guardian.

H.B. 1222: Increasing School District Information Listed on the State Report Card

H.B. 1222, P.N. 1435 (STAIRS) - This bill would amend the act of March 10, 1949 (P.L. 30, No. 14), known as the Public School Code of 1949.
This bill adds information to be reported on schools and school districts for the report known as the State Report Card. Among the new statistics added will be the following: the number of schools achieving and not achieving yearly progress targets, the number of schools meeting specific target performances in different areas of study, the number of schools with higher levels of newly enrolled students, and the number of schools with significant levels of students with limited English proficiency.

S.B. 147: Requiring the Dept. of Education to Provide Technical Assistance to Schools that Do Not Meet Adequate Yearly Progress Targets

S.B. 147, P.N. 132 (RHOADES) - This bill would amend the act of March 10, 1949 (P.L. 30, No. 14), known as the Public School Code of 1949.
This bill amends the Public School Code of 1949 to require the Department of Education provide technical assistance to schools that do not meet adequate yearly progress (AYP) targets and to establish a clearinghouse of information for these school districts.

S.B. 158: Land Transfer in Erie

S.B. 158, P.N. 704 (Earll) – This bill would transfer responsibility of almost six miles of State Route 4018 to the city of Erie and four miles of Bayfront Parkway (from Lincoln Ave east to Sixth Street) to the Commonwealth, pending the approval of Erie’s city council.
This bill calls for the city council’s approval to be reported to PennDOT within 14 days and for the Department of Transportation to publish notice of the approval to the Legislative Reference Bureau within 30 days.

H.B. 1281: Memorializing the Timberwolves Memorial Highway in Snyder County

H.B. 1281, P.N. 1585 (Harris) – This bill would designate a portion of State Route 104 as the Timberwolves Memorial Highway.
The portion of State Route 104 within Snyder County, between State Route 45 and the Snyder-Union County Line, would be designated as the Timberwolves Memorial Highway in honor of the 104th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army. The 104th participated in campaigns in Western Europe during World War II and sustained heavy casualties. The bill would also authorize the erection of signs that would display the designation.

H.R. 4: Calling for Examination of Funding Allocations Based on PA Population Shifts and Client Growth

H.R. 4, P.N. 443 (Petri) – This resolution cites the need for the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to examine how new shifts in population and client growth call for the reconsideration of the manner in which State aid is distributed.
This bill would charge the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee with the tasks of studying existing State aid formulas, analyzing population-based and client-based aid funding formulas, and determining how to best incorporate these findings into the development of updated State aid formulas.

H.B. 1522: Altering Municipalitiy Requirements for Construction Code Officials and Third Party Agencies

H.B. 1522, P.N. 1855 (Creighton) – This bill would amend the Pennsylvania Construction Code Act (November 10, 1999; P.L. 491, No 45)
Regarding permitted municipality administration and enforcement of the act, proposed changes would require all municipalities to enlist the services of an increased minimum of at least three construction code officials or third-party agencies. Municipalities that employ the use of departmental reviews and inspections need only enlist the services of two other third-party agencies.

H.B. 1468, S.B. 596: Land Transfer in Beaver County

H.B. 1468, P.N. 1786 (Ramaley)
S.B. 596, P.N. 616 (Lavalle)

– This would create an Act for a Conveyance in Abridge Borough. This bill would authorize, with the approval of the Governor and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, the Department of General Services to accept a 0.07 acre tract of land in the Borough of Ambridge, Beaver County donated to the Commonwealth by Harmonie Associates, Inc.

H.B. 1048: Amending Municipal Pension

H.B. 1048, P.N. 1204 (O’Neill) – This bill would amend the Municipal Police Pension Law (1955 P.L. 1804, No. 600)
Regarding pension funds and annuities for local and regional police departments, proposed is an amendment that would raise the monthly limit of existing pension plans for length of service increments after five years of completed service exceeding twenty-five years from $100 to $500. Lastly, provisions of the act which provide that pensions shall be computed at one half of the monthly average salary shall not apply to departments under a home-rule charter that provide pensions in an amount greater than half of the monthly average salary.

H.B. 469: Altering Absentee Ballot Eligibility

H.B. 469, P.N. 508 (E. Z. Taylor) – This would amend the Pennsylvania Election Code, Act 320 of 1927, P.L. 1333. This bill would provide that those who become, on or after the first Friday before an election or a primary, unable to appear at their polling place due to either physical disability or unforeseeable obligation are entitled to absentee ballots.
Such electors would be required to complete and file with the court of common pleas in the county in which they are eligible to vote the information pertinent to an Emergency Application. Upon confirmation of voter eligibility, the elector would be issued an absentee ballot which, upon completion, must be marked prior to 8:00 P.M. on the day of the election.

H.B. 138: Altering the Definition of Comparative Negligence

H.B. 138, P.N. 139 (Turzai) – This bill would amend Title 42 (Judicial and Judicial Procedure) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes by repealing and then reinstating law regarding comparative negligence

H.B. 1650: One Day Tourist Fish License

H.B. 1650, P.N. 2489 (B.Smith) This bill provides for a one day tourist license, at the cost of $25, to be issued without regard to requirements for special permits, including trout and salmon permits.

H.B. 1528: Eliminating the Annual Taxidermy Licensing Fee

H.B. 1528, P.N. 1877 (Wilt) - This would amend Title 34 (Game).
This bill would eliminate the licensing and associated annual fee of taxidermy.

H.B. 1320: Illegalizing the Sale, Possession, or Release of the Snakehead Fish

H.B. 1320, P.N. 1568 (Reichley) - This would amend Title 30 (Fish).
This bill would restrict the sale, possession, importation, or release of snakehead fish. This bill would also establish the violation of this policy as a misdemeanor of the third degree.

H.B. 994: Barring Commonwealth from Decreasing Special Education Funding to any School District

H.B. 994, P.N. 1140 (STAIRS) This would require the Commonwealth to pay each school district for special education either the same amount as the previous year, or an amount equal to:
The district’s market value divided by either a.) the personal income aid ratio or b.) .5, whichever is the larger denominator; the product of which would be multiplied by the district’s expenditures on special education programs (including related costs such as salaries, maintenance services, books, and supplies related to special education, but not including administrative instructional support, pupil personnel, appraisal services, psychological testing, speech pathology and audio services, supervision speech pathology and audio services, social work services, computer assisted instruction services, instruction and curriculum development services, instruction staff development services, legal services, principal office services, medical services, nursing services, transportation services, and staff development) three years prior to the year in which expenditures are to be made.

H.B. 692: Increase of Compulsory School Age to 18 (Excluding Home-Schooled Students)

H.B. 692, P.N. 785 (E.Z. TAYLOR) This would amend the Public School Code, Act 14 of 1949, P.L. 30.
This would increase the compulsory school age until reaching age 18, an increase from current law setting this age at upon reaching age 17. The compulsory school age requirement would not apply to a student in a home education program who has completed graduation requirements as demonstrated to the School District Superintendent.

H.B. 256: Universal Diabetes Screening Test

H.B. 256, P.N. 279 (CRAHALLA) This would amend the Public School Code, Act 14 of 1949, P.L. 30.
This would add to the list of health services provided to every school child a screening test for diabetes.

H.B. 740: Municipal Retirement

H.B. 740, P.N. 831 (DALLY) This would amend the Pennsylvania Municipal Retirement Law, Act 15 of 1974, P.L. 34.
This would extend crediting and purchasing municipal retirement benefits, which under current law are limited to members of the military service during war, armed conflict, and National emergencies, for all military service.

H.B. 1446: Home-Based and Community-Based Services Accountability

H.B. 1446, P.N. 1744 (GINGRICH) This would create the Home-Based and Community-Based Services Accountability Act.
A home-based and community-based services manager would be required to privately meet a consumer at least once a month, without the presence of the provider or any other person, although a registered nurse would be permitted to be present.
A care manager would at least annually review and determine such a customer’s services and care plan.
The Area Agency on Aging would have overall responsibility for such a customer’s care management and would coordinate supportive customer services.
A provider would be required to obtain a criminal history record and a communicable disease screening of an employee. Both types of record would be required to be updated every five years.
No provider or employee would be allowed to be appointed a guardian of a consumer, act under a power of attorney for a consumer, be a beneficiary of a consumer’s insurance policy or annuity, or serve as executor a consumer’s estate.

H.B. 1370: Cognitive Impairment Support Services Certification

H.B. 1370, P.N. 1658 (WOJNAROSKI) This would create the Cognitive Impairment Support Services Certification Act.
The Aging Department would certify a qualified person with a cognitive impairment services certificate. To become a qualified, a person would complete a court on caring for a person with cognitive impairment within an adult daily living center in addition to required training and staff orientation.
The Aging Department and the Public Welfare Department would create rules and regulations to providing a facility with a cognitive impairment support services certificate. The procedures such rules and regulations would cover would include admission, discharge, and transfer of clients with cognitive impairment, availability of wandering space, provision of therapeutic activities, physical design, safety requirements, electronic monitoring, staffing, and notification procedures when a resident with cognitive impairment wanders away from the facility. In order for a facility to receive a cognitive impairment support services certificate, the facility administrators would have to be so certified. An administrator would be required to demonstrate proficiency in diagnosing dementia and related disorder, communication techniques, knowledge of behavioral symptoms of dementia, conflict avoidance and conflict resolution techniques, dementia care, and knowledge of resources for people with dementia and their families.
Before a certified facility discharges or transfer a client with cognitive impairment, the facility would be required to provide a responsible family member or legal representative with at least 30 days notice of such intent. Such discharge or transfer would require the approval of said family member or legal representative as well as a physician.

H.B. 259:Licensing and Regulation of Adult Living Residences

H.B. 259, P.N. 282 (WATSON). This would create an act concerning the licensing and regulation of adult living residences.
The Intra-Governmental Council on Long Term Care would make recommendations on rules and regulations concerning assisted living residences.
The Public Welfare Department would be the lead agency in licensing and regulating adult living residences. The Department would have the right to inspect, with full access, an assisted living residence. Residences found to be facing health and safety risks would be relocated by the Department in conjunction with appropriate local authorities.
Fees for a license or license renewal of a provider would range from $50 to $500 according to the number of beds. A provisional six month license would be available for a licensee with certain violations that can be corrected during that time.
An administrator of such a facility would be required to complete a minimum of 120 hours of approved instruction, pass a test, and undergo 36 hours of continuing education every two years.

Monday, July 25, 2005

HB 1646 The ACRE Proposal relating to Municipal Ordinances and Farming Operations

This three-part bill addresses itself to the impact of local government ordinances on farming, and, on the other hand, creates protections for rural neighbors from odors from large farms and from water pollution from large farms’ manure storage activities.

The first part of the bill, as amended in committee on June 22, 2006, creates an expedited review process by the Attorney General for farmers who believe that a local ordinance affecting farming exceeds the authority granted to municipalities under state law. The bill provides that the Attorney General may, but is not required to, bring suit against any such ordinance upon a finding that it is “unauthorized”. A related provision authorizes Commonwealth Court to appoint Masters to hear such complaints if a farmer either disagrees with the AG’s finding, or prefers to have the court render a decision. In that route, the Master’s opinion becomes the court’s upon acceptance by the Presiding Judge. The Presiding Judge my elect to have the whole court hear the complaint in lieu of accepting the Master’s opinion.

This Attorney General/Commonwealth Court language replaces the entire section devoted to the ACRE review board and the related, subordinate Office of Ordinance Review. However, the Committee chose to retain the scope of ordinances subject to review as any matter affecting agriculture which may exceed municipal authority. No existing municipal authority, such as zoning, is abridged or eliminated by the bill.

The second part of the bill requires all new or expanded Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO’s) to develop an Odor Management Plan under the supervision of the local Conservation District and specially-trained odor management specialists. Such plans can include factors like design of the animal facility and manure storage and handling areas, siting (such as with regard to prevailing winds and topography), fans/dryers, planting of vegetative buffers to absorb odors, feeding practices, etc. The principal administrative tool for measuring compliance with this part of the measure is the concept of “Best Management Practices”, as periodically identified and defined by the State Conservation Commission.

The third part of the bill, which carries the odor management plan section within in it, is the existing, freestanding Nutrient Management Act, or “Act 6”, in effect for the last ten years. Act 6 requires all CAFO’s to develop plans for storage and spreading of manure that protects groundwater and nearby surface waters.

The sole related existing law is Act 6 of 1993, The Nutrient Management Act.


Municipalities in Pennsylvania may only do what state law authorizes them to do, either explicitly, or implicitly. This bill does not remove their ability to zone properly so that incompatible land uses are separated. However, it does effectively pre-empt municipalities from setting standards for farming that are greater than those judged appropriate by state law. In this respect, this bill is similar to the decision recently to enact a statewide building code in lieu of multiple municipalities developing each their own. To the extent that such ordinances do exist across the state, this bill gives farmers an expedited avenue of review by a competent legal authority that, it is believed, will require less in time and legal expense than the sole current avenue of filing a complaint in the Court of Common Pleas.

Many Members have received complaints from Township Supervisors that the original ordinance review process of the bill was biased toward agriculture, and against local governments. In that version, ordinance complaints would first be heard by an Office of Ordinance Review (staffed by an Executive Director appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture as chair of the State Conservation Commission), then, upon appeal, by a five-member ACRE Review board composed of the Secretary’s of Community and Economic Development, Environmental Protection, and Agriculture, the Dean or a faculty member from the PSU College of Agriculture, and a fifth gubernatorial appointee (confirmed by the Senate). The Committee’s discard of this process may assuage the concerns of township supervisors.

The odor management plan section of the bill is nationally unprecedented, as is the use of “best management practices” as a regulatory tool in this context. The basic premise is that the standards developed by the Conservation Commission will require every practice and technology available that is not inconsistent with the financial viability of the farm.

The Nutrient Management Act has been in force for about ten years, and no major manure spills, accidents, etc. have occurred during that time, as compared with other states that have experienced major pollution events. This does not mean that there have been no incidents, however, and there have been a number of leakages, spills, etc which have drawn fines from DEP for the operators. The administration is concurrently introducing additional regulations that broaden the number and size of farms covered by these tools. Some environmentalists have argued that increased financial support is necessary for conservation districts to adequately oversee Act 6.

HB 1646 does not address some issues raised by the environmental community such as whether ammonia pollution from large farms needs regulated, the impact of antibiotic use in animal agriculture on water quality and the food chain, and the use of municipal sludge on farms; and it does not address animal welfare concerns raised by animal rights advocates. The Administration reports that it did not believe that a bill could be successfully negotiated that would include these matters and retain the support of the farm community for the concessions on odor management. A significant portion of Pennsylvania’s economy depends upon agriculture.

EFFECTIVE DATE: Effective immediately; portions requiring regulatory publication take effect upon adoption of regulations.

SB 724, P.N 868 Amending Title 75 (Vehicles) to impliment the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999

PROPOSAL/EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Would amend Title 75 (Vehicles) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, implementing the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999.

EXISTING LAW: Chapter 16 of the Vehicle Code currently regulates the licensing and duties of commercial drivers. Currently, only violations occurring while driving a commercial vehicle would be counted against a driver’s record and ability to maintain a valid CDL license. Also, the Vehicle Code requires PENNDOT to maintain records of convictions reported to it for official use. If a violation occurred in a non-commercial motor vehicle, PENNDOT maintains a record only if the conviction results in a sanction or possible subsequent action to be reflected on any driver’s record.

Major Disqualifications:
The following violations which occur in a commercial motor vehicle constitute major disqualifiers:
o Conviction of driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance
o Accidents involving death or personal injury
o Accidents involving damages to attended vehicle or property
o Accidents involving damages to unattended vehicle or property
o Driving a CMV without a valid CDL
o Committing a misdemeanor or felony offense in which a court determines a CMV was essentially involved in the commission of the offense
o Driving a CMV while operating privilege is suspended, revoked, cancelled or recalled o while subject to an out-of-service order
o Refusal to submit to chemical testing while operating a CMV
Chemical testing refusals carry a one-year disqualification with no escalation for repeat refusals
Some ARDs are not included and maintained by the department (although some statutory language was contained to allow PENNDOT to maintain ARDs in Act 24 of 2003)

Serious Traffic Offenses:
Only violations occurring in a commercial motor vehicle count toward a potential disqualification action
Those leading to a suspension in Pennsylvania now count as violations against a person’s CDL. They would be as follows:
o Excessive speeding as defined by the United States Secretary of Transportation
o Exceeding the speed limit by 15 miles per hour or more in a work zone
o Reckless driving
o Any offense of state or local law resulting in a fatality

Railroad Crossings:
Currently, fines are given to those failing to obey railroad crossings, but no disqualification level penalties can be imposed under the Vehicle Code. PENNDOT is currently disqualifying CDL drivers based on the enactment of the federal rule implementing MCSIA

Out-of-Service Orders:
Alcohol related out-of-service orders carry a $1,000 fine and non alcohol related orders carry a fine of $500

ANALYSIS: The federal MCSIA requires all states to enact standard laws, which tie violations by licensed commercial drivers in their personal vehicles to their commercial driving record. In order for Pennsylvania to comply several changes are needed to the Vehicle Code to allow for the tracking of the off duty violations.

For the CDL driver all violations whether in a personal vehicle or a commercial vehicle would be assessed for major disqualifiers and serious traffic offenses. Currently, Pennsylvania uses the federal authority for disqualifying a CDL for railroad-highway grad crossing offenses; however in order to be in compliance Pennsylvania must incorporate these changes in Title 75. When applying for a CDL drivers will need to provide information on all states where they were previously licensed and PENNDOT will need to obtain the driver record over the prior ten years from previous states and reflect all history on the PA record. Currently it is necessary to notify other states of any violation committed by the other state’s CDL drivers. It is now necessary for the Department to transmit all violations within 30 days of conviction by 9/30/05 and within 10 days by 9/30/08 for all CDL holders. The federal definition of conviction is expanded and requires states to record all violations on a driving record (except parking).

Amends section 102 and chapters 15, 16, 41 and 63 of Title 75 (Vehicles) to implement the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999 (MCSIA).

The bill amends various sections as they relate to commercial drivers in order to strengthen the CDL disqualification program, required by the federal government. The changes would include additional offenses leading to disqualification; impose longer suspension terms, and higher fines. The bill also provides language needed for PENNDOT to meet the federal requirement that states maintain a complete driving record for commercial drivers and such records be maintained for the lifetime (defined by the federal government as 55 years) of the driver.

The major provisions of the bill are as follows:

Expands the definition of the term “conviction” to include any admission of guilt, payment of a fine, acceptance of Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) or other preadjudication disposition of an offense, or any determination of a violation by an administrative tribunal.
Prohibits the expungement of ARD’s from commercial driver’s record.
All administrative per se actions in other states must now count as a license suspension for a commercial driver.
Prohibits the “masking” of offenses—i.e. all convictions must show on the driver’s record regardless if they used to impose a suspension, sanction or maintained for subsequent offenses;
All chemical test refusals both in state and out of state are considered “major offenses” and subject to the lifetime disqualification penalties;
Increases the number of violations that will count against a CDL holder’s license, and also counts those violations resulting in a suspension or revocation occurring in private vehicles.
Expands the list of “serious traffic offenses” to include more improper passing, speeding and lane restriction penalties. The following violations which occur in a commercial motor vehicle are considered serious traffic offenses (those with an asterisk would apply to non commercial vehicles too):
o Improper passing on the right
o Improper passing on the left
o Improper passing on a hill
o Improper passing at a railroad crossing or intersection
o Improper passing at a bridge or tunnel
o Driving roadways lined for traffic
o Following too closely
o Failure to yield in construction and maintenance areas
o Exceeding the speed limit by 15 miles per hour or more* (also would include suspensions for speeding in a work zone while driving a non commercial vehicle)
o Exceeding special speed limit for trucks on downgrades
o Reckless driving*
o Any offense of state law or local ordinance resulting in a fatality while operating a motor vehicle*
Expands the vehicles required to stop at railroad grade crossings and then provides for a suspension of operating privileges for violations;
Increases the fines for out-of-service violations from a range of $500 to a $1,000 to a $1,100 to $2,750 scale. Also, requires that drug and alcohol related violations have a minimum fine of $2,750;
Requires PENNDOT to obtain a 10 year driving record and then crosscheck all CDL applicants and renewals with several national databases to ensure all possible violations are obtained and known;
Adds school vehicles to the provisions of MCSIA.

EFFECTIVE DATE: An immediate effective date is contained in the bill to allow PENNDOT to publish in the Pennsylvania Bulletin when they are prepared to implement the required administrative changes. The remainder of the bill takes effect in 90 days after the publication of this notice.

Friday, June 03, 2005

HB 1419: Payment for Private Residential Rehabilitative Special Education

H.B. 1419, P.N. 1707 (PETRONE) This would amend the Public School Code, Act 14 of 1949, P.L. 30.
The school district where a special education student resides would pay for 19.3% of the total special education program net costs when attending a private residential rehabilitative institution. This would make permanent the existing temporary requirement that such cost be paid.

HB 1085: State Scholarships for Home School Students

H.B. 1085, P.N. 1243 (FLEAGLE) This would amend the Higher Education Scholarship Law, Act 541 of 1965, P.L. 1546.
A home schooled student, who has been certified as having completed the requirements for high school graduation, would be eligible for a Higher Education
State Scholarship.

HB 1427: Tax Collectors

H.B. 1427, P.N. 1737 (DENLINGER) This would amend the Local Tax Enabling Act 511 of 1965, P.L. 1257.
This would require a written contact to exist between a political subdivision and a person allowed to collect earned income tax. All tax collection records would be the property of the political subdivision. A tax collector who fails to make a required report could be subject to equitable relief and a civil penalty.

HB 562: Tobacco Settlement Investment Board Membership

H.B. 562, P.N. 635 (DeWEESE) This would amend the Tobacco Settlement Act 77 of 2001, P.L. 755.
This would change the membership of the Tobacco Settlement Investment Board to include the State Treasurer or the Treasurer’s designee and one member appointed by the State Treasurer. It would decrease the number of members selected by the President Pro Tempore and the Speaker from two each to one each.

HB 472: Tax Credit for Donating a Used Computer

H.B. 472, P.N. 511 (REICHLEY) This would amend the Tax Reform Code, Act 2 of 1971, P.L. 6.
This would provide a tax credit for the fair market value of a used computer that is donated to a charitable organization, nonprofit education institution, volunteer fire fighter’s organization, or to a religious organization.

HB 344: Fire Prevention and Safety Equipment Sales Tax Exemption

H.B. 344, P.N. 365 (DeLUCA) This would amend the Tax Reform Code, Act 2 of 1971, P.L. 6.
This would exempt the sale of a smoke detector, a fire extinguisher, or other fire prevention and fire safety equipment from the sale and use tax.

HB 120: Sales Tax Revenues for School Districts / Sales Tax Reduction

H.B. 120, P.N. 916 (ROHRER) This would amend the Tax Reform Code, Act 2 of 1971, P.L. 6.
This would reduce the sales tax from 6% to 5%. Revenues from the sales tax would be allocated for school district operating funds.

HB 119: Public School Debt and Funds

H.B. 119, P.N. 915 (TEWCIC) This would amend the Public School Code, Act 14 of 1949, P.L. 30.
A school district would be able, after voter approval of a resolution approving such, to levy a personal income general revenue school district tax.
A School Financing Authority would be created. This Authority would manage and administer all public school debt.
An Education Operating Fund would be created. This fund would make quarterly disbursements of funds to school districts.

HB 118: Commonwealth Assumption of School District Debt

H.B. 118, P.N. 914 (DENLINGER) This would amend Title 53 (Municipalities Generally).
This would prohibit a school district from incurring electoral debt, non-electoral debt, or lease rental debt after July 1, 2006. All such debt existing prior to then would be identified and reported to the Revenue Department. The Commonwealth would assume all such debt as of January 1, 2007.

HB 117: Property Tax Rebates

H.B. 117, P.N. 912 (SCAVELLO) This would amend the Senior Citizens Rebate and Assistance Act 3 of 1971, P.L. 104.
This would disallow a claim for a property tax rebate in 2006 and afterwards where a school real property tax is prohibited by law.
The funds expended by the Revenue Department for paying real property tax rebates would be annually adjusted by increasing the maximum limit on household income eligible to receive rebates.

HB 116: Realty Transfer Tax

H.B. 116, P.N. 912 (WILT) This would amend the Local Tax Enabling Act 511 of 1965, P.L. 1257.
A second, third, and fourth class school district would collect the realty transfer tax revenues through June 30,2007, after which such revenues would be collected by the Revenue Department and deposited into the Education Operating Fund. Such a district would be able to issue a realty transfer tax at a rate equal to or less than the rate that is in effect on July 1, 2005.

HB 27: Historic Homesite Tax Credits and Tax Exemptions

H.B. 27, P.N. 30 (TANGRETTI) This would amend the Tax Reform Code, Act 2 of 1971, P.L. 6.
This would create a tax exclusion of tangible personal property or services used in the rehabilitation or restoration of a designated historic homesite. A tax credit for 20% of such total costs would be created. The sale or transfer of a historic homesite would be exempt from the realty transfer tax.

HB 1579: Rights of a Resource Parent

H.B. 1579, P.N. 1980 (HICKERNELL) This would create the Resources Family Care Act.
A temporary foster or kinship parent would have a right, from a children and youth social agency, to receive treatment with respect and personal dignity, notification of scheduled meeting regarding case planning and decision making regarding the cared for child, to receive support services consistent with an approved permanency plan, to receive compete and timely responses when contacted, to receive information regarding the child’s medical history and behavior, to be able to consult in developing a permanency plan, to receive assistance for dealing with separation when the child leaves, to receive information on relevant policies and procedures including how to contract and to receive services, receive confidentiality regarding abuse allegations, and present statements regarding agency decisions and practices. Each resource parent would be provided a list of these responsibilities.

HB 1559: Inspection of Child Day-Care Facilities

H.B. 1559, P.N. 1934 (GODSHALL) This would create the Unannounced Inspection of Child Day-Care Facilities Act.
The Public Welfare Department would be able to enter and inspect a child day-care center and need not provide prior notice. At least one unannounced inspection per year would be conducted of each child day-care facility. At least one unannounced inspection every four years would be conducted of each child day-day home.
The Department would make an unannounced inspection of a facility within 24 hours of receiving a complaint that a child faces a serious risk to health or safety at that facility.

HB 1461: Energy Efficiency Standards for Products

H.B. 1461, P.N. 1779 (McILHINNEY) This would cerate the Energy Efficiency Standards Act.
This would require that commercial clothes washers, refrigerators, freezers, illuminated exit signs, large packaged air conditioning equipment, low voltage dry-type distribution transformers, torchiere lighting fixtures, and traffic signal fixtures sold within Pennsylvania meet established energy efficiency standards, The Attorney General would investigate and prosecute violations of this law. A warning would be issued for a first violation and a fine of $250 or less per violation would be issued for each offense,

HB 893: Notice to Property Owner or Manager of Water Cut-off

H.B. 893, P.N. 1016 (SEMMEL) This would amend the Act authorizing local governments to shut off the supply of water, Act 98 of 1949, P.L. 482.
When a local government provides written notice to a tenant that water supply to the tenant will be shut off, such notice would also be provided to the property owner or to the property manager.

HB 577: State Notification to Local Taxing Districts of Intent to Purchase Property

H.B. 577, P.N. 650 (LESCOVITZ) This would amend the Administrative Code, Act 175 of 1929, P.L. 177.
A state entity seeking to purchase or acquire property would be required to provide written notice, sent by certified mail, to the country, municipality, and school district where the property is located, of its intent to purchase the property.