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Senator Scott Hutchinson

Dear Friend,

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 May 16, 2016.

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Committee Receives Update on Chronic Wasting Disease

Chronic wasting disease (CWD), a fatal neurological disease that has been detected in Pennsylvania’s whitetail deer population, was the topic of the recent Environmental Issues Forum hosted by the Joint Legislative Air and Water Pollution Control and Conservation Committee, which I chair.

Discovered in the late 1960s, CWD has rapidly spread throughout the nation and poses a significant risk to the health of our state animal. Representatives from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Department of Agriculture and the Pennsylvania Game Commission discussed initiatives aimed at controlling this deadly disease during the forum. Video from the forum.

Teacher Furlough Reform Signed in Senate, House

Legislation designed to keep the best teachers in Pennsylvania’s classrooms and boost student achievement by ending the practice of seniority-based layoffs was signed in the Senate and House of Representatives on Tuesday and sent to the Governor.

House Bill 805, known as the Protecting Excellent Teachers Act, would strengthen the teaching profession and boost student success by ensuring that school districts use teacher performance to guide furlough and reinstatement decisions. Performance ratings would be based on the comprehensive statewide educator evaluation system adopted in 2012, under which observed educators are assigned a rating of distinguished, proficient, needs improvement or failing. House Bill 805 prohibits school districts from using a teacher’s pay and benefits as determining factors for any layoff decision.

Currently, teacher layoffs are conducted in order of inverse seniority. The last teacher hired is the first person fired. Pennsylvania is one of only a few states that require seniority to be the sole factor in determining layoffs.

Senate and House leaders held a press conference on Tuesday to urge the Governor to sign the measure. (video)

Ignition Interlock Legislation Sent to Governor

Legislation that would require most drivers convicted for a first time drunk driving violation to use ignition interlocks for at least a year received final legislative approval this week and was sent to the Governor.

Senate Bill 290 would require convicted drunk drivers with illegal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .10 or greater to use ignition interlocks for at least 12 months for first-time offenders. Under current law, the requirement applies only to second and subsequent offenses.

According to statistics compiled by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, nearly 2 million drunk-driving attempts have been stopped with ignition interlock devices, including more than 78,000 instances in Pennsylvania between 2003 and 2015.

Other bills sent to the Governor this week include:

House Bill 944, which addresses the management of neighborhood improvement districts in the City of Philadelphia.

Senate Bill 1108, which defines in state statute a new subtype of federally certified motorcycle -- a three-wheeled vehicle with two forward wheels -- as an “autocycle” and creates a special designation under the existing motorcycle definition in state law.

House Bill 1310, which provides privacy and protects the safety of individuals who call 911 to report crimes.

House Bill 1436, which provides for the computation of income tax expense for ratemaking purposes.

House Bill 1574, which expands Pennsylvania’s Anti-hazing Law to include hazing done as a condition for initiation or admission into any organization.

Senate Approves Civil Service Modernization Measure

The Senate approved Senate Bill 1154, a measure that would streamline and modernize Pennsylvania’s Civil Service Act on Tuesday.

With 70 percent of the Commonwealth’s workforce classified as civil service employees, Senate Bill 1154 will ensure that vacancies are filled with qualified people in a timely manner. The bill would allow applicants to be notified of an open job or test by methods other than the US Mail, such as by email. It would also expand the “Rule of Three” by giving the Commission the option to provide agencies with a list of more than three applicants.

Senate Bill 1154 would allow for “vacancy-based hiring,” which will permit the Civil Service Commission to post actual job vacancies, rather than a general list of job classifications.

Currently a prospective employee applies for job classifications -- not an actual open position -- and is placed on a list. Agencies must review applicant lists to determine availability and interest when a job becomes available. This provides for an unnecessary delay that wastes an applicant’s time and the agency’s time, which can be eliminated by posting specific jobs and allowing prospective employees to apply for them.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Other bills approved by the Senate and sent to the House this week include:

House Bill 150, which creates a “Share the Road” registration plate for a passenger car or truck with a registered gross weight of not more than 14,000 pounds or a motor home. Proceeds from the sale of these plates shall be used exclusively to maintain PENNDOT’s central office position of Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator and to fund highway pedalcycle signage. The bill returns to the House of Representatives for concurrence on Senate amendments.

House Bill 608, which adds the term “precursor substances” to the list of chemicals that are illegal to possess if the possessor’s intent is to illegally manufacture a controlled substance. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

Senate Bill 837 provides title protection to Marriage and Family Therapists licensed by the State Board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors to ensure that only those with a professional license be permitted to fashion themselves as a marriage and family therapist in Pennsylvania.

Senate Bill 1031, which allows for the appointment of independent counsel to investigate alleged wrongdoing by an Attorney General, employees of the Office of Attorney General, or chairman or treasurer of a political campaign of the Attorney General.

Senate Bill 1038, which adds a judicial position to juvenile detention boards in third class counties.

Senate Bill 1194, which removes the sunset date of June 30, 2016 from the “State Military College Legislative Appointment Initiative”. Act 29 of 2012 allows members of the General Assembly to appoint annually an eligible student from their legislative districts.

House Bill 1196, which provides special liquor code provisions for the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia this summer. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

House Bill 1552, which provides for student-weighted basic education funding and for supplemental payment of basic education funding for the 2014-15 school year.

Committee Holds Hearing on Sunday Hunting

The Senate Game & Fisheries Committee held a public hearing on Wednesday to gather testimony on a proposal to permit hunting on Sundays.

The first panel to testify included representatives from the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, the Keystone Trails Association, the Pennsylvania Equine Association, the Pennsylvania State Grange, and the Humane Society.

The second panel included representatives from the National Rifle Association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the Pennsylvania Game Commission, the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, and the United Sportsmen of Pennsylvania.

Click for video from the hearing.

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