United States: News From Second & State: September 27, 2019

Last Updated: October 7 2019
Article by Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC

Happy fall! The first week of autumn brought a busy legislature with it this week, as both the House of Representatives and Senate were in Harrisburg for three full days of session. With this being the only week both chambers were in session together this month, advocates flooded the capitol, hoping to make the best use of their time. Groups came out to support causes like dyslexia awareness, drug and alcohol addiction recovery, criminal justice reform and dental hygiene, just to name a few. Meanwhile, committees were busy and floor activity was heavy before legislators adjourned until mid-October.

On Monday, the House Commerce Committee reported out H.B. 1102 (Kail, R-Beaver). The bill, which is part of the House Republicans' "Energize PA" initiative, would provide for Keystone Energy Enhancement Zones – similar to Keystone Opportunity Zones – to encourage investment in the Commonwealth's natural gas, manufacturing and petrochemical industries.

The House Health Committee met to consider bills, including S.B. 314 (Baker, R-Luzerne), which would establish the Rural Health Redesign Center Authority and Fund to protect and promote access by residents of rural counties to high-quality health care and to encourage innovation in health care delivery; and H.B. 419 (Donatucci, D-Philadelphia), which would expand age eligibility for uninsured and underinsured women under the Pennsylvania Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Screening Program.

On the Senate side, the Senate Communications and Technology held a public hearing on high-speed broadband internet. Also, the Senate Aging and Youth Committee sent three bills to the floor for further consideration:

  • H.B. 775 (Diamond, R-Lebanon), which would require the PACE program to shore up its records with death records maintained by the Department of Health in efforts to bring greater efficiency to the program;
  • H.B. 956 (Murt, R-Montgomery), which would direct additional lottery funds to programs for seniors; and
  • S.B. 819 (Mensch, R-Montgomery), which would update and modernize the Older Adult Protective Services Act.

Moving to the floors, the House sent H.B. 1662 (DiGirolamo, R-Bucks) to the Senate for consideration. The bill would amend the Methadone Death and Incident Review Act to include deaths and incidents attributable to medication approved for the treatment of opioid use disorder. The Senate sent S.B. 723 (Laughlin, R-Erie), which would mandate that public schools allow students to apply personal finance credits toward graduation requirements, to the House.

Tuesday was another busy day and we saw more action on the Energize PA package, as the House Appropriations Committee sent H.B. 1106 (Puskaric, R-Allegheny) to the floor. The bill is designed to streamline project permitting at the Department of Environmental Protection.

The House Environmental Resources Committee held a public hearing on H.B. 1808 (Mackenzie, R-Lehigh), addressing advanced recycling technologies. Sticking with our theme, the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy reported out two bills: H.B. 374 (Everett, R-Lycoming), which would establish the Keystone Tree Fund, used to mitigate pollution by funding tree planting projects; and S.B. 790 (Scarnati, R-Jefferson), a bill to provide a legislative framework for regulation of the conventional oil and gas industry.

The Senate State Government committee also met, and reported out S.B. 470 (Phillips-Hill, R-York) and H.B. 305 (Snyder, D-Greene), both of which would require the state to inventory existing assets that could be used to bring high speed internet to underserved areas.

Finally, on the floor, the House finally passed H.B. 1055 (Klunk, R-York), establishing an independent office to review existing regulations, some of which are antiquated and no longer necessary. The office would have the authority to make recommendations for the modification or repeal of regulations.

On Wednesday, most of the activity was on the chamber floors. The House passed three bills:

  • H.B. 265 (Staats, R-Bucks), amending the Public School Code to update references to vocational technical education to career and technical education and to establish the PASMART online career resource center;
  • H.B. 1104 (Toohil, R-Luzerne), part of the Energize PA initiative which would provide for an Abandoned Manufacturing Sites Registry; and
  • H.B. 1410 (Stephens, R-Montgomery), which would provide remediation efforts for PFAS pollution.

The Senate also passed three bills:

  • S.B. 473 (Scavello, R-Monroe), increasing the minimum age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21;
  • S.B. 694 (Yaw, R-Lycoming), providing a process for natural gas drillers to drill well bores across multiple properties; and
  • H.B. 1170 (Mackenzie, R-Lehigh), which would require proper identification for construction workers in Pennsylvania.

H.B. 1170 now heads to the Governor's desk for his signature, while the other two bills go to the House for consideration.

The Week Ahead

There's no session next week, but the House Democratic Policy Committee will hold a hearing on Autism Awareness on Tuesday and one on Jobs and the Labor Market on Wednesday. The Senate Democratic Policy Committee will meet to discuss firefighting and EMS issues on Thursday. Lastly, the recently reconstituted Special Education Funding Commission will hold two meetings next week. The Commission will be in Moon Township on Tuesday and Edinboro on Wednesday.

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