When the House of Representatives is in session, it's typically what happens inside the Capitol that garners all the news for the week. However, this week was much different, as an announcement that could reshape state government rocked the Pennsylvania political world on Thursday in Allegheny County.
Speaker of the House Rep. Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) announced he will not seek another term in office. Turzai was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2001. He was served as Leader of the Republican Caucus from 2011 to 2014 before being elected Speaker in 2015. At this time it's still an uncertainty whether he'll serve the remainder of his term or resign at some point before.
With only two session days this week, House members had a relatively light workload, with few voting meetings and floor votes taking place.
Tuesday, the House Insurance Committee held an informational meeting on H.B. 2200 (Gaydos, R-Allegheny) which would allow small business to join together to offer healthcare benefits to their employees through association health plans. The House Education Committee held a public hearing on H.B. 1897 (Sonney, R-Erie), which would require school districts to offer cyber education programs.
Also, the House Appropriations Committee reported out S.B. 790 (Scarnati, R-Jefferson) along a party-line vote, with the Democratic members voting in the negative. The bill would provide for regulations specific to conventional oil and gas wells. In the House Human Services Committee, two resolutions were reported out:
- R. 344 (Cruz, D-Philadelphia), which urges pharmaceutical companies, manufacturers and distributors of prescription opioid drugs to fully cooperate with the Office of Attorney General in reaching financial settlements and legal resolutions; and
- R. 642 (McNeill, D-Lehigh), which directs the Joint State Government Commission to conduct a study on the shortcomings of mental health services available to victims of sexual assault and how mental health services can be improved.
On the House floor, there were three floor votes of note, with each bill going to the Senate for consideration:
- B. 283 (Simmons, R-Lehigh), which would charge a fee for Right-to-Know Law requests where the information is used for a commercial purpose;
- B. 1737 (Davis, D-Allegheny), which would remove land banks from any environmental liability on properties purchased for redevelopment; and
- B. 1981 (Wentling, R-Mercer), which would consolidate provisions from the Administrative Code relating to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission into the History Code.
Wednesday, the House Local Government Committee reported out H.B. 1677 (Freeman, D-Northampton), which would provide financial assistance to eligible municipalities for the tax-exempt property located within the municipality.
The Performance-Based Budget Board held the first of two meetings to review the Independent Fiscal Office's performance-based budget plan for the following agencies:
On Thursday, the Board held their second meeting to review the following agencies and tax credits:
- Department of Community and Economic Development
- Department of Health
- Department of Human Services
- Keystone Innovation Zone Tax Credit
- Mobile Telecommunications Broadband Investment Tax Credit
- Organ and Bone Marrow Donation Tax Credit
- Research and Development Tax Credit
The Week Ahead
Just the Senate is in session next week, as they will hold their first session week of 2020.
On Monday, the Senate Republican Policy Committee will hold a public hearing on the implementation of election reforms.
Tuesday, the Senate Labor and Industry Committee will hold a public hearing on S.B. 580 (Laughlin, R-Erie), which would establish a statewide Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program. Under the program, working individuals would make a payroll contribution to support the program, enabling eligible workers to utilize funds when needed to: (1) care for themselves in an event of a serious health condition; (2) care for a close family member with a serious health condition; (3) care for a new child; or (4) care for a member of the military in qualifying exigent circumstances.
Wednesday, the Senate Democratic Policy Committee will hold a public hearing on corporate tax reform policy. In addition, the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee and Senate Transportation Committee will hold a joint public hearing on the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI). The TCI is "a regional collaboration of 12 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states and the District of Columbia that seeks to improve transportation, develop the clean energy economy and reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector."
Lastly, on Friday, the Independent Regulatory Review Commission will consider Regulation #12-106: Minimum Wage. The regulation would, by 2022, increase the earnings threshold for when the state's overtime requirements are applied to executive, administrative and professional salaried workers to $45,500 annually, or $875 per week, and then automatically adjust it every three years. The current threshold is $23,600 in annual earnings, or $455 per week. The Administration believes the changes, once fully implemented, would expand eligibility for overtime to 143,000 people and strengthen overtime protections for 251,000 more.
A full list of committee meetings can be found here:
In Other News
- Governor Wolf released two parts of his 2020-21 budget plan; the first to protect vulnerable populations, and the second to fuel innovation.
- Steve Santarisero (D-Bucks) was appointed Democratic Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.
- A legislative package was introduced to reform and update the Pennsylvania System of Higher Education (PASSHE).
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