What’s Happening in the House – Week of April 11

Courtesy Pennsylvania House Republican Caucus

Lawsuit Abuse Reform to Save Taxpayer Dollars, Self and Public Protection, and Mandate Relief for Municipalities on Tap at PA House

The state House returns to session on Monday, April 11. Most events listed below will be streamed on http://pahousegop.com/. To look up legislation by bill number, visit http://www.legis.state.pa.us.

Lawsuit Abuse, the Fair Share Act

Commonsense lawsuit abuse reform tops the House agenda next week as House Bill 1 is set for its third and final vote in the House.  Each year, according to the acting attorney general, the Commonwealth is sued; currently, more than 1,300 tort cases are pending against the state. The majority of these cases involve the Pennsylvania Department (PennDOT) where an uninsured, or under-insured, driver caused death or bodily injury. The plaintiffs are just looking for someone to pay, regardless of fault.

Current Pennsylvania law allows a defendant, who may be only 1 percent responsible for the injuries to a plaintiff to be held liable for 100 percent of the damages if others are unable to pay. For instance, a plaintiff can include a tour bus operator which brought a customer to a mall, and while at the mall, the customer slipped and fell on a wet floor. The customer, becoming the plaintiff, sues the janitor, the mall, the stores within sight of the accident, and the bus company for bringing the plaintiff to the mall in the first place.

Is that fair? The Pennsylvania House will vote to decide just that on Monday when it votes HB 1.

The Fair Share Act passed the General Assembly twice, first in 2002 when Gov. Mark Schweiker signed the legislation, only to have the Supreme Court overturn the law on technical grounds. The second time the Fair Share Act passed the General Assembly in 2006, Gov. Ed Rendell broke his promise to sign the legislation and instead vetoed it.

Castle Doctrine: It is Simple, Protecting Victims Instead of Criminals

Tuesday, April 12, the House will vote whether to send House Bill 40, the Castle Doctrine, to the Senate for consideration. The Castle Doctrine legislation would allow citizens to defend themselves and their families while in their homes, vehicles and any place they have a lawful right to be. It will be taken up by the House this coming week.  The legislation gives the benefit of the doubt to the victim of a crime, rather than the criminal as current law allows. The bill also strengthens the penalties related to the trafficking of stolen guns.

Raising Bid Limits for Local Government Mandate Relief

On Monday, April 11, the House will debate amendments to a 13-bill package to increase non-bid contract maximums, saving municipalities from the costs of advertising and bidding low-costing contracts and services.

As various state programs will experience budget cuts this year due to the economy, helping municipalities save money is one of the priorities House members are working together to accomplish.

Third consideration is scheduled for Tuesday, April 12.

The Weekly Schedule

Bill numbers will be used to identify the legislation being considered either in committee or on the House floor.  The bills, sponsors and summaries are posted below.

Monday, April 11

Committee Meetings/Hearings

• JOINT LEGISLATIVE CONSERVATION, 10 a.m., Room G-50, Irvis Office Building

o Public hearing on the status of PA’s Waste Tire Recycling Act of 1996.

• HEALTH, Call of Chair, Room 205, Ryan Office Building

o HB 574 (Rep. Matt Baker, R-Bradford/Tioga): Includes “abortion facility” in the definition of health care facilities and sets the licensing requirements for abortion facilities.

o HB 1297 (Rep. Garth Everett, R, Lycoming County):  Requires random testing for welfare recipients (TANF, SNAP and GA) with previous felony drug convictions within five years of assistance.  20% of these individuals would be tested every six months.  Individuals would be tested before benefits could be approved.

o HB 1301 (Rep. Donna Oberlander, R-Clarion/Armstrong): Requires the Department of Public Welfare to promulgate regulations for the Medical Assistance Transportation Program to establish eligibility requirements and verification procedures, and establishes further recording requirements for transportation services and mileage reimbursement.

o HB 1312 (Rep. Todd Stephens, R-Montgomery): Transitions certain Special Allowances grants to “Job Transition Loans” for personal transportation needs, books and supplies for work or education, fees for training and union dues; payments are issued to the provider of the goods or services, not the loan recipient, and will require a receipt; repayment of the interest-free loans will occur through deductions from the applicant’s monthly cash assistance benefit.

• HUMAN SERVICES, Call of Chair, Room B-31, Main Capitol Building

o HR 177 (Rep. Sue Helm, R-Dauphin): Requests the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to analyze the burden of human services mandates on county governments and to provide a report on means to reduce those burdens.

o HB 58 (Rep. Mario Scavello, R-Monroe): Provides the legal conditions necessary for a court to require a person who suffers from a mental illness to receive assisted outpatient treatment.

o HB 392 (Rep. Rob Kauffman, R-Cumberland/Franklin): Requires the Department of Public Welfare to require photographic identification on all welfare benefits cards and would require county assistance boards to obtain photographic identification before providing assistance to any individual.

Session

On Monday, the House will convene at 1 p.m. for legislative business. The members will vote the uncontested calendar and Rule 35 resolutions.

Votes on Second Consideration

Municipal Mandate Relief (bid limits package)

• HB 278-282, 284 (Rep. Mark Keller, R-Perry/Franklin): Amends the Second Class Township Code, the First Class Township Code, the Third Class City Code, the Borough Code, County Code, and the contracts of incorporated towns to increase non-bid contract maximums and create a system of indexing and adjusting of figures for inflation.

• HB 286 (M. Keller): Amends the Political Subdivision Joint Purchases Law to increase to $25,000 the amount of purchases that may be made subject to certain conditions.

• HB 287 (M. Keller): Amends the Housing Authorities Law to establish the awarding of contracts, competition bond, and additional bond for protection of materialmen and others.

• HB 288 (M. Keller): Amends the Public Auditorium Authorities Law to increase the dollar amount of supplies and materials that may be purchased without advertising.

• HB 289 (M. Keller): Amends current law to allow local municipalities to protect themselves against flood through the construction of certain works and improvements.

• HB 290 (M. Keller): Amends the Second Class County Code to set Consumer Price Index adjustments in relation to contracts and purchases.

• HB 291 (M. Keller): Amends the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes in relation to competitive bidding of government contracts.

• HB 294 (M. Keller): Amends the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes in relation to competitive bidding of contracts to municipal authorities.

Welfare Integrity Package

• HB 960 (Rep. Mauree Gingrich, R-Lebanon): Income Eligibility Verification System (IEVS):  Implements an electronic cross-reference system within DPW to provide a 19-point check on applicants’ eligibility to ensure only those eligible for benefits receive them.

• HB 1251 (Rep. Tarah Toohil, R-Luzerne): Strengthens penalties for welfare fraud to bring the current Welfare Code penalties in line with existing penalties in the Crimes Code.

• HB 1254 (Rep. Mike Reese, R-Fayette/Westmoreland): Prohibits the use of EBT cards to purchase tobacco.

HB 1261 (Rep. Tom Quigley, R-Montgomery):  Welfare benefit oversight with respect to county assistance office applications.  Ensures that eligible welfare applicants are afforded assistance based on levels authorized in their county of permanent legal residence, regardless of where benefit applications are made in the Commonwealth.  This prevents individuals from applying for benefits in a county other than their legal residence as a means to secure greater benefits.

• HB 712 (Rep. Todd Rock, R-Franklin): Road designation: Sgt. Edward W. Shaffer Memorial Highway.

Votes on Third Consideration

• HB 1 (Rep. Curt Schroder, R-Chester): Reforms Pennsylvania’s liability law to create proportional liability, requiring parties in a lawsuit to only be responsible for their share of damages or injury.

• HB 140 (Rep. Gene DiGirolamo, R-Bucks): Creates a freestanding act titled the Methadone Death and Incident Review Act.  The Department of Health also shall conduct a death review for all deaths where methadone was either a primary or secondary cause of death.

• HB 389 (Rep. Kathy Watson, R-Bucks): Bridge designation: George W. Niblock Bridge.

• HB 390 (Watson): Road designation: George A. Penglase Memorial Parkway.

• HB 399 (Rep. Michele Brooks, R-Crawford/Lawrence/Mercer): Bridge designation: Staff Sergeant David M. Veverka Veterans Memorial Bridge.

• HB 438 (Rep. Julie Harhart, R-Lehigh/Northampton): Road designation: Battle of the Bulge Veterans Memorial Highway.

• HB 520 (Rep. Adam Harris, R-Juniata/Mifflin/Snyder): Amends the State Lottery Law to provide for a PA Lottery winnings intercept for state delinquent taxes.

• HB 589 (Rep. Frank Farry, R-Bucks): Road designation: Detective Christopher Jones Memorial Highway.

• HB 705 (Rep. RoseMarie Swanger, R-Lebanon): Amends the County Code to allow for abolishment of the position of jury commissioner via a resolution and majority vote of the governing body of the county.

• HB 707 (Swanger):  Amends the Second Class County Code to allow for abolishment of the position of jury commissioner via a resolution and majority vote of the governing body of the county.

• HB 728 (Rep. Stephen Barrar, R-Chester/Delaware): Amends the Combustible and Flammable Liquids Act (Act 15 of 1998) to incorporate a National Fire Protection Association standard which allows fuel dispensing systems to have multiple emergency control devices and electrical disconnects to be used to shut down all pumps at an attended self-service gasoline station during an emergency in the pumping area.

• HB 915 (Rep. Bill Adolph, R-Delaware): Amending the General Appropriations Act to provide for the appropriation of federal funds and reducing the state appropriation to the Department of Education for basic education. (This is being moved at the request of the Governor’s Office.)

• HB 986 (Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre/Mifflin): Amends the State Lottery Law to provide that no less than 27 percent of the total revenue accruing from the sale of lottery tickets is to be dedicated to property tax relief.  Provides that the Department of Revenue must submit an annual report.

Tuesday, April 12

Committee Meetings/Hearings

• LABOR AND INDUSTRY, 9 a.m., Room G-50, Irvis Office Building

o HB 146 (Rep. Bill Kortz, D-Allegheny): Prohibits drivers from using cell phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), laptop computers and other interactive wireless communication devices while in a work zone, unless using a hands-free device, and establishes a penalty of a $100 fine if convicted.

o HB 440 (Rep. Mark Mustio, R-Allegheny): Allows insurers to provide workers’ compensation coverage to sole proprietors, partners of a partnership, or officers of a limited liability company.

o HB 1055 (Mustio): Provides for the registration and regulation of professional employer organizations and sets forth the powers and duties of the Department of Labor and Industry.

• INSURANCE, 9:30 a.m., Room 39, East Wing

o Informational meeting with PA Insurance Department and Insurance Federation of Pennsylvania on medical professional liability insurance coverage to health care providers in PA.

• AGING AND OLDER ADULT SERVICES, 9:30 a.m., B-31, Main Capitol Building

o HB 463 (Brooks): Allows individuals enrolled in PACE and PACENET as of Dec. 31, 2010, to remain eligible for the programs if the maximum income limit is exceeded due solely to Social Security cost-of-living adjustments.

o LIFE (Living Independently for Elders) Program

• ENVIRONMENTAL RESOURCES AND ENERGY, 10 a.m., Room 60, East Wing

o SB 265 (Sen. Mary Jo White, R-Butler/Clarion/Erie/Forest/Venango/Warren): Prohibits gas wells from being located within 2,000 feet of the nearest well cluster when drilling through workable coal seams, unless the permit applicant and the owner of the workable coal seam consent in writing to provide adequate spacing between gas well clusters and requires the Department of Environmental Protection to commission an independent pillar support study.

• GAMING OVERSIGHT, 10 a.m., Room G-50, Irvis Office Building

o SB 71 (Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, R-Bucks/Montgomery): Expands the current greyhound racing prohibition to include simulcasting, grades the offense as a misdemeanor of the first degree and provides for a civil penalty of up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

• JUDICIARY, 10 a.m., Room 205, Ryan Office Building

o HB 396 (Rep. Bernie O’Neill, R-Bucks): Increases the grading of the offense of a drug delivery resulting in death from third-degree murder to a first-degree felony, requires the prosecutor to prove that the defendant acted “intentionally” rather than with malice, and replaces the mandatory minimum penalty with a maximum penalty of not more than 40 years.

o HB 804 (Rep. Kurt Masser, R-Columbia/Montour/Northumberland): Provides an exemption from jury duty for those persons who have previously served for a full term on a statewide investigating grand jury, including any extensions thereof, who opt not to serve.

o HB 1121 (Rep. Doug Reichley, R-Berks/Lehigh): Directs the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing to provide guidelines on sentence enhancements for crimes that were committed at the direction or, or for the purpose of benefiting, a criminal street gang.

o HB 1192 (Rep. Rick Saccone, R-Allegheny/Washington): Expands the current “Good Samaritan” law to provide exemption from civil liability to individuals who do not meet the current criteria of certified first aid training so long as they provide assistance in a reasonably prudent manner, the assistance is provided without fee or compensation, and they relinquish care of the victim when a certified individual become available to take responsibility.

Session

On Tuesday, the House will meet at 11 a.m. for legislative business.

Votes on Third Consideration

• HB 40 (Rep. Scott Perry, R-Cumberland/York): Castle Doctrine, changing the benefit of the doubt to the victim of a crime rather than the criminal.

• HB 278 (M. Keller)

• HB 279 (M. Keller)

• HB 280 (M. Keller)

• HB 281 (M. Keller)

• HB 282 (M. Keller)

• HB 284 (M. Keller)

• HB 286 (M. Keller)

• HB 287 (M. Keller)

• HB 288 (M. Keller)

• HB 289 (M. Keller)

• HB 290 (M. Keller)

• HB 291 (M. Keller)

• HB 294 (M. Keller)

• HB 712 (Rock)

• HB 960 (Gingrich)

• HB 1251 (Toohil)

• HB 1254 (Reese)

• HB 1261 (Quigley)

Wednesday, April 13

Committee Meetings/Hearings

• LOCAL GOVERNMENT COMMISSION, 8:45 a.m., Room 14, East Wing

o Monthly business meeting.

• EDUCATION, 9 a.m., Room G-50, Irvis Office Building

o HB 1306 (Rep. Will Tallman, R-York/Adams): Repeals Sections 2502.48 and 2502.49 of the Public School Code, a mandate that requires school districts to spend 100 percent of their funding increase above the index on specific areas designated within the mandate.

o HB 1307 (Rep. Duane Milne, R-Chester): Requires all intermediate units to post their annual financial report on the state Department of Education’s website, specifies reporting requirements, and charges the Department of Education with developing the format to be used by the intermediate units.

• FINANCE, 9:30 a.m., Room B-31, Main Capitol Building

o Informational meeting with government stakeholders to discuss issues related to the committee.

• GAME AND FISHERIES, 9:30 a.m., Room 302, Irvis Office Building

o HB 524 (Reichley): Removes county treasurers as issuers of antlerless deer licenses and replaces them with the Pennsylvania Game Commission and authorized license-issuing agents.

o HB 1057 (Rep. Dave Reed, R-Indiana): Reduces the safety zone distance for trapping within any waterway, watercourse, marsh, pond, or dam from 150 yards to 50 yards for properly licensed furtakers and maintains the 150-yard safety zone for trapping near a school, daycare, or playground.

• INSURANCE, 9:30 a.m., Room 39, East Wing

o Informational meeting with PA health care providers including the Hospital & Health System of PA, PA Medical Society, and the PA Orthopedic Society on their respective markets.

• STATE GOVERNMENT, 9:30 a.m., Room 60, East Wing

o Informational meeting on HB 1021 (Rep. Tim Krieger, R-Westmoreland): Requires agencies to solicit specified professional services through a request for proposal process; requires the disclosure of the method of compensation; limits contingent fee compensation to no more than 20 percent of the settlement or $25 million, whichever is less; and requires contracts for legal services to specify that Commonwealth attorneys retain control over the course and conduct of any legal action.

• URBAN AFFAIRS, 9:30 a.m., Room 205, Ryan Office Building

o HB 84 (Rep. Curtis Thomas, D-Philadelphia): Removes the exemption for counties of the first class (Philadelphia) from the Assessors Certification Act of 1992 and requires assessors currently employed by a county of the first class to become certified within three years from the effective date.

o HB 1022 (Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Allegheny): Reduces the timeframe for the acquisition of title to real property by adverse possession from no less than 21 years to no less than 10 years so long as the property is no more than one-half acre in size, contains a single-family home, and meets all other underlying requirements for adverse possession under current Pennsylvania law; provides requirements for uniform notice; provides a six-year limitation for persons seeking mesne profits; and provides guidelines for reimbursement on improvements and maintenance for the defendant in the ejection action.

o HB 1182 (Rep. Kate Harper, R-Montgomery): Requires manufactured home community owners to provide full disclosure of rental and associated fees and costs to all tenants by removing the current exemption for leases that are less than 60 days.

• LIQUOR CONTROL, 10 a.m., Room G-50, Irvis Office Building

o HB 242 (Rep. Garth Everett, R-Lycoming): Creates a “Limited Distillery” license for distilleries that produce less than 40,000 gallons per year, allows current distillery licensees the ability to sell their product directly to the general public as well as to other licensees, and the ability to provide tasting samples that do not exceed one fluid ounce.

o HB 148 (Rep. John Payne, R-Dauphin): Amends the Liquor Code to allow the holder of a hotel or restaurant liquor license to sell up to three bottles of wine for consumption off the license premises so long as the bottles remain sealed; create an off-premises catering permit; allow the holder of a hotel, restaurant, or eating place license to discount alcoholic beverages for up to 14 hours per week; allow the Humane Society, Main Street Program organizations, and Elm Street Program organizations to obtain special occasion permits; and require the Liquor Control Board to continue to renew a liquor license that has been in existence in the same location for more than 50 years regardless of its location within a dry municipality.

Session

On Wednesday, the House will meet at 11 a.m. for legislative business.

Votes on Second Consideration

• HB 197 (Gingrich): Amends Title 53 (Municipalities) to further provide for review of agreements by the Local Government Commission.  Provides for the review of intergovernmental cooperation agreements between a local government and the Commonwealth, any other state, government of another state or the federal government.

• HB 292 (M. Keller): Will raise the competitive bidding threshold for parking authority contracts.

• HB 293 (M. Keller): Amends the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes relating to competitive bidding of metropolitan transportation authority contracts

• HB 371 (Rep. Chris Ross, R-Chester): Amends the Third Class City Code to allow the sale of city personal property through electronic auctions.

• HB 392 (Kauffman): Requires the Department of Public Welfare to require photographic identification on all welfare benefits cards and would require county assistance boards to obtain photographic identification before providing assistance to any individual.

• HB 639 (Rep. John Taylor, R-Philadelphia): Removes a date that prevents the City of Philadelphia from increasing its affordable housing program fee.

• HB 715 (Rep. Dave Hickernell, R-Lancaster/Dauphin):  Amends “The Local Tax Collection Law” to provide for the collection of municipal taxes by a county treasurer in third through eighth class counties.

• HB 898 (Rep. Marcy Toepel, R-Montgomery): Deems a person to have been convicted of a prior offense for the sale or transfer of firearms whether or not they have been sentenced on the previous conviction.

• HB 1022 (Wheatley): Reduces the timeframe for the acquisition of title to real property by adverse possession from no less than 21 years to no less than 10 years so long as the property is no more than one half acre in size, contains a single-family home, and meets all other underlying requirements for adverse possession under current Pennsylvania law; provides requirements for uniform notice; provides a six-year limitation for persons seeking mesne profits; and provides guidelines for reimbursement on improvements and maintenance for the defendant in the ejection action.

• HB 1297 (Everett):  Requires random testing for welfare recipients (TANF, SNAP and GA) with previous felony drug convictions within five years of assistance.  Twenty percent of these individuals would be tested every six months.  Individuals would be tested before benefits could be approved.

• HB 1301 (Oberlander): Requires the Department of Public Welfare to promulgate regulations for the Medical Assistance Transportation Program to establish eligibility requirements and verification procedures, and establishes further recording requirements for transportation services and mileage reimbursement.

• HB 1312 (Stephens): Transitions certain Special Allowances grants to “Job Transition Loans” for personal transportation needs, books and supplies for work or education, fees for training and union dues; payments are issued to the provider of the goods or services, not the loan recipient, and will require a receipt; repayment of the interest-free loans will occur through deductions from the applicant’s monthly cash assistance benefit.

Thursday, April 14

Committee Meetings/Hearings

• FINANCE, 9:30 a.m., Room B-31, Main Capitol Building

o Informational meeting with private stakeholders to discuss issues related to the committee.

• EDUCATION, 10 a.m., Room 205, Ryan Office Building

o Informational meeting on state-related student testing.


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