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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 June 13, 2016.

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Bill Protecting Conventional Oil/Gas Production in PA Goes to Governor

The Senate approved and sent to the Governor on Wednesday my legislation that will promote the conventional oil and natural gas industry and remove it from onerous and inappropriate regulations drafted by the Department of Environment Protection (DEP) for Marcellus Shale operations.

Senate Bill 279, which I initially introduced to establish the Penn Grade Crude Development Advisory Council, was amended in the House of Representatives on June 8 to include language removing conventional oil and gas drillers from the DEP’s proposed changes to state (Chapter 78) regulations on drilling operations in the Commonwealth.

Unfortunately, some in the rule-making process were unable or unwilling to recognize the vast differences between the conventional and unconventional drilling industries. Instead, they embarked on a course to write new regulations for the 150 year-old conventional industry that are simply not workable and would truly be a death knell for the industry.

Fortunately, the General Assembly and the Governor were able to reach an agreement on the issue, which resulted in this amended bill. I appreciate the efforts that made this legislation a reality and thereby offer a much brighter future for the conventional oil and gas industry and the thousands of Pennsylvanians whose jobs and livelihoods are dependent on those operations.

The General Assembly previously made it perfectly clear in Act 126 of 2014 that when the Department of Environmental Protection makes new rules for Marcellus Shale gas extraction operations, there must be separate regulations developed in a separate regulatory process for the conventional drilling industry.

Senate Bill 279 reinforces that provision by stating that DEP must declare the newly enacted regulations for conventional operations void. DEP may now decide to embark upon another regulatory process intended for conventional drilling operations.

Oil and gas production is a part of the Commonwealth’s heritage and remains a key component of the economy of northwestern Pennsylvania. The Penn Grade Crude Development Advisory Council created under this bill will work to promote the conventional gas and oil industry and serve as a technical advisory board to address issues affecting conventional production. The panel would work with the DEP to ensure that the differences between small and large operations are taken into account as future regulations or laws are developed and implemented.

Also on Wednesday, the Senate concurred on House amendments to Senate Bill 1195 and sent that bill to the Governor as well. That bill addresses Pennsylvania’s compliance with the federal Clean Power Plan. Specifically, that bill provides procedures for the General Assembly’s consideration of the implementation strategy developed by the Department of Environmental Protection for the federal Clean Power Plan before its submission to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Audio of my comments on Senate Bill 279

Cost-saving Legislation for Schools Sent to Governor

Legislation that will allow school districts to save thousands of dollars in annual mailing costs received final legislative approval Tuesday and is headed to the Governor for his signature.

Senate Bill 1077 eliminates the mandate that school districts annually inform parents by physical mailing when the district uses audio and video recording to identify and address discipline issues on school buses.

The mailer mandate was included as part of Act 9 of 2014, which gave school districts the ability to use audio recordings on school buses. Instead of the physical mailing, which can easily cost thousands of dollars each year, schools must post notice of the policy in the student handbook as well as on the school’s website.

Three additional bills received final legislative approval this week and were sent to the Governor.

Senate Bill 772 updates the state Professional Psychologists Practice Act for the first time since 1986.

Senate Bill 837 expands title protection to marriage and family therapists, ensuring that only licensed and properly trained professionals can market their services to clients.

Senate Bill 983 allows parents and/or guardians of disabled adult children, who are in their care, to receive disability license plates.

Senate Approves Measure to Increase Education for Opioid Prescribing

The Senate approved legislation on Wednesday that would require continuing medical education training as a way to stem the tide of opioid and prescription drug abuse in the state.

Senate Bill 1202 requires state licensing boards to call for two hours of continuing education in “pain management” and two hours in “opioid prescribing practices” for individuals applying for an initial license or renewal of an existing license or certification to prescribe medications in the Commonwealth.

The increased use of heroin, which often has roots in the abuse of prescription painkillers like Vicodin and OxyContin, has catapulted Pennsylvania to seventh in the nation for drug-related overdose deaths in recent federal statistics. According to a National Survey of Primary Care Physicians, nine out of 10 doctors reported prescription drug abuse as a moderate to large problem in their communities, and 85 percent believed that prescription drugs are overused in clinical practice.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration. Also sent to the House this week were:

Senate Bill 163, which addresses the needs of children of incarcerated parents and services available to them.

Senate Bill 1113, which provides broader representation of crime victims on the Victims’ Services Advisory Committee within the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.

House Bill 1325 gives second class townships the authority to implement storm water management ordinances and to assess a fee to fund the planning, management, implementation, construction and maintenance of storm water facilities. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

House Bill 1766, which allows future life insurance policy reserves to be based on Principle-Based Reserving, a methodology that is more advanced and better reflects the risks of new innovative insurance policies. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

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