In this Edition:
Legislature Sends Budget Bills to Governor
This week the General Assembly finalized and sent to the Governor all of the various bills associated with the 2016-17 Fiscal Year budget to complement the spending plan previously approved by the Legislature.
The 2016-17 Fiscal Year budget package recognizes the economic reality facing the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. We are looking at modest economic growth over the coming year offset by significant and painful obligations, such as escalating public pension premiums, federally mandated increases for human service programs and increasing corrections expenses. With those cost-drivers excluded, the budget increased by 1.8 percent.
The budget maintains Pennsylvania’s core programs and services and provides significant additional money for early, basic and secondary education, all without increasing income taxes, the state sales tax or imposing a job-killing Marcellus Shale extraction tax.
Mensch Bill to Adjust Retailer Presumptive Minimum Price of Cigarettes Becomes Law
Legislation I sponsored to adjust the retailer presumptive minimum price of cigarettes formula became law with enactment this week of the 2016-17 Fiscal Code.
I introduced the measure as Senate Bill 691, which was approved by the Senate before being amended into the Fiscal Code and being signed into law.
The retailer presumptive minimum price of cigarettes formula was established more than 60 years ago. The legislation adjusts the rate from 6 percent to 7 percent for retailers who have had no price adjustment in the history of the law.
The legislation benefits thousands of retail licensees that will see their cash flow enhanced. The Department of Revenue will also have a clearer paper trail in the event of an audit and sales tax collections. In addition, it will further assist in collection of the Philadelphia school tax.
SB 691 was supported by the Pennsylvania Food Merchants and the Pennsylvania Distributors Association.
Mensch Bill to Continue State Military College Legislative Appointment Program Becomes Law
Legislation I sponsored to remove the sunset date of June 30, 2016 from the “State Military College Legislative Appointment Initiative” has been signed into law.
The initiative was originally enacted in order to allow members of the General Assembly to appoint an eligible student within their legislative district for initial enrollment at Valley Forge Military Academy & College annually. SB 1194, now Act 81 of 2016, will allow members to continue the appointment process.
Valley Forge Military Academy & College (VFMA&C) has a long tradition of providing character-based education within an academic and military environment to young men and women who have gone on to become military leaders, industry executives, government officials, professional athletes, Rhoades Scholars, and White House Fellows. Valley Forge Military College (VFMC) is a two-year, transfer program from which almost all students go on to attend four-year colleges and universities.
Legislation to Establish Restricted Fund for ATV Activities Set for Enactment
Legislation that would ensure that funds received through the registration, certification and enforcement of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) in Pennsylvania are used specifically to support ATV activities received final approval and was sent to the Governor for his signature and enactment into law.
Senate Bill 648 requires that monies generated through ATV-related operations are placed in a restricted account to be used for a variety of purposes including the construction and maintenance of ATV trails and acquisition of equipment, supplies and interests in land.
Currently, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) does not separate expenditures related to ATV and snowmobile operations. As a result, these funds are being disproportionately allocated between user groups. While ATV operations contribute $1.4 million of the $1.6 million in the current fund, 80 percent of the total funding is allocated to expansion of snowmobile trails.
Additional Bills Sent to the Governor
House Bill 325 clarifies and updates the Auctioneer Licensing and Trader Assistant Registration Act and eliminates the Auction House license.
Senate Bill 533 establishes a uniform procedure for the disposition of contraband left in the possession of probation and parole agencies.
Senate Bill 514 amends the Generic Equivalent Drug Law to provide for the substitution of an interchangeable biological product for a brand name biologic.
House Bill 806 amends the Clean and Green law to prohibit the application of use values that result in assessments higher than fair market value.
House Bill 871 allows for the de-titling of vehicles which are recycled by a scrap metal processor.
House Bill 967 establishes an agricultural pilot program for industrial hemp research.
Senate Bill 1227 transfers the responsibilities of the Public Employee Retirement Commission with regard to pension legislation to the Independent Fiscal Office and the Office of the Auditor General.
Senate Bill 1221 reforms the Pittsburgh Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority.
Senate Bill 1267 enhances the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s Municipal Signal Partnership Program known as Green Light-Go.
Recently Enacted Legislation
Act 73 of 2016 addresses the cost disparity between intravenous and oral chemotherapy treatments.
Act 74 of 2016 requires licensed psychologists, social workers, marriage and family therapists and professional counselors to complete at least one hour of continuing education in suicide prevention.
Act 75 of 2016 designates Philadelphia Prison System prisoner transport units and emergency response vehicles operated by the PA Turnpike as emergency vehicles, permitting them to utilize flashing lights and sirens.
Act 76 of 2016 amends the Human Services Code to phase out the county share, extend the nursing facility budget adjustment factor, extend certain assessments, extend the Medical Assistance (MA) day-one incentive payment, extend child welfare provider submissions, suspend MA coverage for incarcerated individuals, eliminate the requirement of solely dedicated assisted living licensure staff, and move the eHealth Partnership Authority to the Department of Human Services.
Act 77 of 2016 removes the requirement in state law that the Turnpike Commission must install and maintain emergency telephones every two miles on both sides of the Turnpike.
Act 78 of 2016 allows for the sharing of county agency, juvenile probation, drug and alcohol, mental health and education records in certain cases involving juveniles.
Act 79 of 2016 implements changes from a June 2010 report issued by the Joint State Government Commission entitled, “The Probate, Estates and Fiduciaries Code: Proposed Amendments to Title 20 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes.”
Act 80 of 2016 corrects a regulatory issue relating to gasoline in Pennsylvania.
Senate Passes Measure Expanding Nurse Practitioners’ Authority
The Senate this week approved legislation I’m co-sponsoring that would amend the state’s Professional Nursing Law to provide for the licensure of certified nurse practitioners by the State Board of Nursing.
Currently, nurse practitioners must be affiliated with, and pay a fee to, a physician. Under Senate Bill 717 nurse practitioners would still be required to practice for 3 years and 3,600 hours under a collaborative agreement with two physicians. After completing the transition-to-practice period, nurse practitioners could have full practice authority without the affiliation requirement.
Additional Bills Sent to the House of Representatives
House Bill 568 amends the Pennsylvania Construction Code Act providing for the review of updated sections of codes. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.
Senate Bill 1229 addresses the process used by the Department of Corrections prior to the closure of a state prison and corrects technical issues related to the distribution of Pennsylvania Breeding Funds.
Appropriations Committee Round-Up
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the following bills this week:
House Bill 1605 is the 2016-17 Fiscal Code.
House Bill 1606 is the 2016-17 School Code.
The Senate returns to voting session on September 26.
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