Below is a recap of this week’s legislative activity in the Senate. It covers votes by the full Senate and committee actions, plus a look ahead.
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In this Edition:
The Senate approved and sent to the governor on Tuesday legislation I co-sponsored to protect consumers’ rights and personal information with regard to navigators and certified application counselors created by the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.”
Senate Bill 293 would require Healthcare Exchange Navigators be certified by the Department of Insurance and pass a criminal background check. The Senate concurred on House amendments to the measure and sent it on to Governor Wolf.
The federal Affordable Care Act relies on individuals, generally called “navigators,” to educate and enroll millions of uninsured Americans in Medicaid or a private insurance plan. Although in many respects these navigators act like insurance agents, they have almost no qualifications or restrictions placed upon them by the federal statute.
Also sent to the governor for enactment was House Bill 341, legislation that requires that property disclosure statements provide notification of any sinkholes, the location and condition of defined stormwater facilities, and whether the purchaser is responsible for the ongoing maintenance of the stormwater facilities.
The Senate approved legislation on Tuesday to give counties a new option to finance the demolition of blighted and abandoned properties.
Senate Bill 486 would give counties the option to levy up to an additional $15 fee on deeds and mortgages recorded in the Recorder of Deeds office. The new revenue would be used exclusively for demolition funding within that specific county.
SB 486 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.
House Bill 188 amends the Agricultural Area Security Law to provide for wind power generation systems on preserved farmland. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.
Senate Bill 329 continues the Ready to Succeed Scholarship Program, a new scholarship program administered by the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency.
Senate Bill 396 reauthorizes the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council for a term of four years. The council, otherwise known as PHC4, expired on June 30, 2014 and is currently performing operations under an executive order from the Governor. PHC4 is an independent state agency that strives to give consumers, purchasers and providers quality comparative data for the purpose of making informed health care decisions. It has been in existence since 1986.
Senate Bill 513 allows the vehicular transportation of leachate discharged from a municipal or private landfill's collection and handling system.
Senate Bill 538 strengthens licensee suspension reporting requirements for the Department of State’s Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs’ 29 licensing boards. I am a co-sponsor of this bill.
The Senate approved three cabinet nominations this week:
John Wetzel as Secretary of Corrections
The Senate voted 26-22 to not confirm the nomination of Marcus Brown to serve as State Police Commissioner. Previously confirmed by the Senate:
Major General James Joseph - Adjutant General
Legislation I sponsored to remove certain recurring projects from the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LBFC) was approved by the House State Government Committee on Tuesday.
Among the tasks of the LBFC, which I chair, is to make recommendations aimed
at eliminating unnecessary expenditures. One way to do that is to eliminate
unneeded or outdated studies and reports, and
Senate Bill 622 would do that, allowing personnel to work on new, relevant
On Tuesday, the Senate Transportation Committee and the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee held a joint public hearing on the safe transportation of crude oil and other energy products by rail.
The committee heard from representatives of the Public Utility Commission, the Governor’s Office, railroads, energy producers and emergency responders.
You can watch the hearing and read testimony here.
The Senate Finance Committee held a public hearing Wednesday to review proposals to increase the sales tax and personal income tax and reduce property taxes.
The hearing focused on the Wolf Administration’s plan as well as legislation passed by the House of Representatives, House Bill 504. These measures raise sales and income taxes while reducing school property taxes. I support an approach that eliminates – not reduces – school property taxes.
You can watch the hearing and read testimony here.
The Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) are waiving $10 fees for child abuse clearances and criminal background checks for volunteers working with children.
For professionals working with children, the fee will be reduced to $8. These changes will take effect July 25, 2015.
Under child protection legislation enacted last year, volunteers are required to obtain background checks, including the Child Abuse History Clearance, issued by the DHS, and the Criminal History Record Check, issued by the PSP.
More information about clearances required under the Child Protective Services Law can be found atwww.keepkidssafe.pa.gov. Individuals seeking clearances can go directly to www.compass.state.pa.us/cwis to create an individual account and apply for their child abuse clearance electronically.
The Senate returns to voting session on Monday.
On Wednesday at 9 a.m., the Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee will hold a public hearing on Senate Bill 700, which would provide for various changes in the state gaming law such as allowing Internet gaming. On Thursday at 9:30 a.m., the Senate Finance Committee will hold a public hearing on municipal pension legislation.
Twitter and Facebook: I post regular updates on legislative action, committee developments, useful state-related information, happenings in the 24th Senatorial District and more on Twitter @SenatorMensch and on my Facebook page.
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