Following A Fulfilling First Year of Agenda Accomplishments, PA House Returns to Session Next Week to Further Lawsuit Abuse Reform and Energy Efficiency Bills
The state House returns to session on Tuesday, Jan. 17. All of House session and most Committee meetings will be streamed live online at http://www.PAHouseGOP.com.
Elected with an agenda for Pennsylvania, much was accomplished in Year One
While 2011 was one of the most productive legislative years in recent memory, more significant was what was accomplished. PA House Republicans set an aggressive agenda to help put Pennsylvania back on course to being a more prosperous state.
Working in partnership with the Senate and governor, much of what has been dubbed the House Republican “Keystone Agenda” have “checkmarks” next to them. The spring will continue with a focus on jobs and fiscal responsibility. Improving the state’s jobs climate remains a “key” focus for House Republicans and getting the state’s fiscal house in order will help the effort by not raising taxes.
Topping the legislative agenda this session was Reforming Harrisburg to Restore the Public Trust.
The first series of bills considered by the House of Representatives dealt with protecting children and changing the culture in Harrisburg. Rebuilding the public’s trust in state government is one of the top priorities of the House GOP Caucus. The first measures taken up in the House were part of a package of bills aimed at reforming state government. Originally introduced in 2009 as the Pennsylvania Agenda for Trust in Harrisburg, or PATH, these measures will help define the right path government should take to restore the trust of Pennsylvania’s residents. PennWATCH is now law; it creates a searchable database for all state spending.
The rest of the 2011-12 House Republican agenda, unveiled last year – with results:
On time, no tax or borrowing budget to help rein in spending.
Passing a jobs package to make Pennsylvania once again, competitive:
o Lawsuit abuse reform: Fair Share Act
o Unemployment Compensation reform where recipients should at least have to look for a job and there is an offset for severance pay.
o Workers’ Compensation reform (for sole proprietors).
o Encouraging infrastructure upgrades with private dollars.
o Regulatory reform.
o Sprinkler mandate elimination and building code reform.
Welfare integrity to ensure only those truly eligible receive the help they need.
Education reform and rebalancing education funding/spending:
o By a vote of 190-7, the House voted to expand what may already be the nation’s largest school choice program, the successful Education Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program.
o Legislation allowed local districts wider spending discretion by eliminating funding for earmarked programs and made the largest investment of state dollars for Basic Education ever in PA.
o Mandate relief was enacted to help districts stave off crippling tax hikes as they coped with the loss of more than $1 billion in federal funding.
Gaming reform to restore the public’s trust and integrity to the state oversight of the new gaming industry.
Redistricting to ensure fair representation.
The last item on the House GOP Agenda is still a work in progress:
Privatization and right-sizing government.
o The governor formed the Advisory Council on Privatization and Innovation to focus on most efficient, cost-effective ways to deliver state services.
o A bill to allow private sector stores sell alcohol passed out of committee – a first in the General Assembly since Prohibition.
Lawsuit abuse reform and green state buildings on schedule for votes
Nursing homes in Pennsylvania provide care and services to more than 80,000 Pennsylvanians daily, yet valuable resources are expended dealing with frivolous litigation, and not the care of their patients. House Bill 1907 (Rep. Glen Grell, R-Cumberland County) will help reduce frivolous litigation and shift resources back to patient care where they should be spent; the bill simply conforms, within MCare, the provisions for physicians relating to punitive damages to long-term care providers.
Saving costs on energy and reducing the carbon footprint of state buildings is the goal of House Bill 193 (Rep. Kate Harper, R-Montgomery County), which requires state-owned or leased building conform with certain energy efficient and green standards.
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. To research a bill online, visit http://www.legis.state.pa.us and look up bills by number.
Tuesday, Jan. 17
On Tuesday, 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
• HB 1333 (Rep. George Dunbar, R-Westmoreland): Provides an exception from a penalty for failure to make estimated tax payments and adds a special tax provision for poverty within an existing exception.
• SB 9 (Sen. Joseph Scarnati, R-Cameron/Elk/Jefferson/McKean/Potter/Tioga/Clearfield/Warren): Requires a person applying for public benefits, who is 18 years of age or older, to provide proof of citizenship and execute an affidavit confirming their legal presence in the United States; requires agencies that supply public benefits to verify the legal presence of all noncitizen applicants through the Systematic Alien Verification of Entitlement program or a successor program designated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security; and provides that these provisions will not apply to those benefits where compliance would result in loss of federal funding or would be in conflict with federal law.
Votes on Third Consideration
• HB 1232 (Rep. Rick Geist, R-Blair): Amends the Vehicle Code, further providing for automated red light enforcement systems in first class cities, for applicability and uniformity of law and for disposition and use of liquid fuels and fuels tax.
• HB 1907 (Rep. Glen Grell, R-Cumberland): Limits the amount of punitive damages that may be awarded in medical professional liability cases against enumerated entities to no more than 200 percent of the compensatory damages awarded in the case.
Wednesday, Jan. 18
• GAMING OVERSIGHT, 9:30 a.m., Room G-50, Irvis Office Building
o Public hearing on:
HB 2002 (Rep. Gary Day, R-Berks/Lehigh): Requires the auditor general to audit the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board every two years and to report the findings of the audit to the General Assembly.
HB 939 (Rep. Randy Vulakovich, R-Allegheny): Provides funding to the Office of the Auditor General from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) in order to cover the expenses for auditing the PGCB and related gaming activities.
• FINANCE, 10 a.m., Room 39, East Wing
o HB 885 (Rep. Jeff Pyle, R-Armstrong/Indiana): Establishes a $50 per deer tax credit for deer processors who donate their services to hunters that are providing the venison to a registered public charity, with a limit of no more than $2,500 in tax credit in a given tax year.
o HB 1972 (Rep. Justin Simmons, R-Lehigh/Northampton): Codifies an existing research and development tax credit of 10 percent of the excess of qualified expenses and up to 20 percent if the taxpayer is a small business; the total amount of credits approved by the Department of Revenue in any fiscal year is limited to no more than $55 million, $11 million of which must be allocated exclusively to small businesses.
o HB 2087 (Rep. Sandra Major, R-Susquehanna/Wayne/Wyoming): Transfers 5 percent of the rent and royalties received by the Oil and Gas Lease Fund to the Small Stream Improvement Program administered by the Department of Environmental Protection.
• LOCAL GOVERNMENT, 10 a.m., Room 60, East Wing
o HB 18 (Rep. Jim Marshall, R-Beaver): Allows boroughs to purchase used equipment from another governmental unit without advertising and bidding.
o HB 19 (Rep. Jim Marshall): Allows first-class townships to purchase used equipment from another governmental unit without advertising and bidding.
o HB 21 (Rep. Jim Marshall): Allows second-class townships to purchase used equipment from another governmental unit without advertising and bidding.
o HB 1857 (Rep. Justin Simmons): Allows home rule charter municipalities to incur debt when approved by the electors.
o SB 894 (Sen. Robert Robbins, R-Crawford/Mercer/Butler/Lawrence): Allows second-class townships to pay, in whole or in part, the cost of providing supplemental Medicare insurance coverage to supervisors, their dependents and township employees who are over 65 years of age.
• TRANSPORTATION, 10 a.m., Room 205, Ryan Office Building
o HB 254 (Rep. Seth Grove, R-York): Prohibits a motorcycle learner’s permit from being renewed after one year and restricts re-application for the learner’s permit to no more than three times in a 10-year period.
o HB 1970 (Rep. Randy Vulakovich): Exempts any portable traffic control signal or device upon a trailer not exceeding 3,000 pounds gross vehicle weight from registration and allows such vehicles to be operated in tandem so long as the combined length of the trailers does not exceed 300 inches.
o HB 2097 (Rep. Donna Oberlander, R-Clarion/Armstrong): Bridge designation: the Sergeant Joey Garrison Memorial Bridge.
• COMMERCE, 10:30 a.m., Room B-31, Main Capitol Building
o SB 1237 (Sen. Dominic Pileggi, R-Chester/Delaware): Amends the Keystone Opportunity Zone, Keystone Opportunity Expansion Zone, and Keystone Opportunity Improvement Zone Act to provide for extensions of unoccupied parcels and to provide for the designation of up to 15 additional Keystone Opportunity Expansion Zones.
On Wednesday the House will meet at 11 a.m. for legislative business.
Votes on Second Consideration
• HB 193 (Rep. Kate Harper, R-Montgomery): Requires the design, construction, and renovation of state-owned or state-leased buildings to comply with specified energy and high-performance building standards.
• HB 1156 (Rep. Joseph Markosek, D-Allegheny/Westmoreland): Defines “phishing,” establishes the offense of phishing as a third-degree felony, and establishes the distribution or sale of indentifying information obtained via phishing as a second-degree felony.
• HB 1159 (Rep. Glen Grell): Comprehensive revision of the Uniform Arbitration Act.
• HB 1682 (Rep. John Taylor, R-Philadelphia): Enables municipalities to use land banks to facilitate the return of vacant, abandoned and tax-delinquent properties to productive use.
• HB 1847 (Rep. Ken Smith, D-Lackawanna): Bridge designation: the Andrew and Durando Pompey Memorial Bridge.
• SB 726 (Sen. Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon/Berks/Chester/Dauphin/Lancaster): Eliminates the office of elected assessor in first class townships.
Votes on Third Consideration
• HB 1333 (Rep. George Dunbar)
Thursday, Jan. 19
• PROFESSIONAL LICENSURE, 9:30 a.m., Room 60, East Wing
o Public hearing on HB 1717 (Rep. Mark Mustio, R-Allegheny): Requires the State Board of Medicine to approve an accredited naturopathic medical education program with enumerated minimum requirements and establishes the licensing of naturopathic physicians.