I am pleased to send you my Session Wrap Up e-newsletter. This e-newsletter features events and legislative activities from the session week of April 20, 2015.
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Conservation Committee Hears of Chesapeake Bay Clean Up Efforts
Economist Spencer Phillips briefed members of the Joint Legislative Conservation Committee, which I chair, on Monday on the first-ever analysis of the benefits of cleaning up the rivers and streams of the Chesapeake Bay. Released by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the report found the economic benefits will total $130 billion annually – over $6 billion in Pennsylvania - when the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint is fully implemented. Phillips was the lead author of the report. The full report is available at http://www.cbf.org/document.doc?id=2258.
Senate Passes Copayment Protection Measure
Consumers would be protected against paying multiple copayments for physical therapy, chiropractic and occupational therapy services under a bill unanimously approved by the Senate on Tuesday.
Senate Bill 487 prevents health insurance policies from charging a consumer more than one copayment amount per visit. The bill would also prohibit policies from depleting more than one visit for services provided on a given date.
The bill allows the Pennsylvania Department of Insurance to develop regulations relating to multiple copayments. Violators would be subjected to penalties prescribed in the Unfair Insurance Practices Act.
Other bills passed by the Senate and sent to the House of Representatives this week include:
Senate Bill 385 reforms and modernize the Transit Revitalization Investment District Act.
Senate Bill 427 requires cash-for-gold dealers to retain each item of precious metal for ten business days, instead of five, after purchasing it. This extension of time will enable burglary victims to discover and report the theft and will enable police to investigate the theft.
Senate Bill 494 repeals a requirement that the General Assembly be furnished with a printed copy of an annual report required under the Flood Insurance Education and Information Act of 1996. The report and other flood-related insurance data are available online at the Department of Insurance website.
Senate Bill 562 provides additional legislative oversight of the regulatory review process.
Committee Approves Taxpayer Protection Measures
The Senate Finance Committee approved legislation on Tuesday that would restrain the growth of government spending by setting state spending limits in the Pennsylvania Constitution. Senate Bill 70 would limit state spending growth based on inflation and population growth.
The bill would require an amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution, so lawmakers would have to approve the bill in two consecutive legislative sessions before giving voters the final say via referendum. Since the spending controls would be included in the state Constitution, lawmakers would be prevented from breaching or repealing spending limits with a simple majority vote in the future.
The panel also approved Senate Bill 7, legislation that would enact spending controls and ensure any excess funds collected by the state would be used to pay down pension obligations, boost budgetary reserves and reduce the Personal Income Tax rate.
The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that 30 states operate under a tax or expenditure limitation. Pennsylvania is in the minority of states having no spending controls in place.
The Committee also approved Senate Bill 401, a measure that would convert all members of the Pennsylvania Legislature from a defined benefit pension plan to a defined contribution plan. The bill would make the conversion mandatory for current and future state Senators and Representatives.
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