Legislation

Below are brief summaries of some of the bills and resolutions I have introduced in the 2015-2016 General Assembly. Click the bill number highlighted in the summary to read legislation or  to find out more information about it. A complete, interactive list of legislation I have prime sponsored is available by clicking here.

2015-2016

Industrial Hemp

SB 50 – This is a free-standing Act that would allow the cultivation and processing of industrial hemp in Pennsylvania as part of a research program at a college or university, in accordance with federal law, under the regulation of a five- member Industrial Hemp Licensing Board that would be established within the Department of Agriculture.

Hemp was widely grown in the Commonwealth until the last century and has more than 50,000 identified commercial applications. The United States is the world’s largest importer of hemp, and global production now is dominated by China, France and Canada. Industrial hemp is not psychoactive, with a level of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana, of less than 0.03 percent. THC levels in marijuana range from six percent to more than 20 percent.

Co-sponsors: Folmer, Teplitz, Farnese, Leach, Yudichak, Wozniak and McIlhinney.

Filed on February 11, 2015. Consolidated into HB 967 and enacted as Act 92 of 2016

Property Tax Reform

SB 76 – This is the Property Tax Independence Act. It would eliminate local  school property taxes and shift the tax burden for public education  on  a dollar – for-dollar basis from the local property tax to the state sales, hotel  and income taxes. The state Sales and Use (sales) and Hotel Occupancy tax rates would both be raised to seven percent from six percent, while the personal income tax rate would increase to 4.34 percent from 3.07 percent. The sales tax would also be extended to include items and services not currently covered. School districts would be prohibited from increasing local earned or personal income taxes except with voter approval.

Co-prime sponsors: Argall, Folmer, Yudichak, Scavello, Wagner, Boscola, Dinniman
Co-sponsors: Mensch, Stefano, Brewster, Wozniak, Bartolotta, Baker, Alloway, Rafferty, Aument, Smucker, Browne, Eichelberer and White.

Referred June 18 2015

Career and Technical Education

SB 114 − This would provide grants of up to $500,000 each to 30 school districts, career and technology centers, higher education institutions, employers and labor organizations for public-private training partnerships for high-demand, high-growth occupations, allowing students to earn college credit and industry credentials through work-based learning. It also would provide $5 million in equipment grants for career and technical education and $8 million to fund college and career counselling in middle schools and high schools.

Co-sponsors: Teplitz, Brewster, Blake, Fontana, Scavello, Wozniak, Tartaglione and Costa.

Referred on May 8, 2015

Clean & Green Amendment

SB 201 − Amends Clean & Green program to permit a property owner in Clean and Green to lease part of it to a third-party rural enterprise (as defined for purposes of Farmland Preservation) without invoking Clean and Green tax exemption rollback. Prior session SB 1288

Co-sponsors: Vogel, Teplitz, Smith Yudichak, Boscola, Costa, Vulakovich and Rafferty.

Referred on January 13, 2015

Safe Campuses Act

SB 202 − This provides for a state Safe Campuses Act, empowering Pennsylvania authorities to enforce on all post- secondary schools, colleges and universities located in Pennsylvania requirements identical to the federal Clery Act to have formal awareness, prevention and response policies and programs for students, staff and officials with regard to sexual assault and intimate partner violence, to annually report the number of reported sexual assaults and intimate partner violence incidents on campus as well asschool security policies and procedures. Reports would be public and would be required to be posted on the school’s official website.

Co-sponsors: Greenleaf, Brewster, Teplitz, Stack, Fontana,  Hughes, Blake, Smith, Yudichak, Boscola, Williams, Tartaglione, Costa, Vulakovich, Farnese, Browne, and Leach

Approved in Senate Judiciary and Appropriations committees; Pending final Senate vote.

TANF Earned-income Disregard

SB 203 − Amends the Public Welfare Code to disregard 75 percent of household gross earned income in determining eligibility for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) benefits. The present disregard of 50 percent acts as a disincentive for participants to seek and obtain employment because their net earnings after increases in costs (clothing, transportation, meals, daycare, etc.) of employment often are offset by the loss in TANF and SNAP (food stamp) benefits. Nationally, about 85 percent of TANF households are headed by women, who account for about two-thirds of minimum-wage workers. The value of the current top award amount in Pennsylvania has been cut in half since it was set in 1990, and now is less than a third of the federal poverty limit.The earned-income disregard is the share of a worker’s employment income that is excluded from the benefit eligibility calculations. This is part of the Pennsylvania Agenda Agenda for Women’s Health proposal supported by women and family advocates. Prior session SB1447.

Co-sponsors: Brewster, Kithcen, Fontana, Hughes, Yudichak, Williams, Costa and Farnese.

Referred on January 13, 2015

Child Protection Law Amendment

SB 204 − Amends the Child ProtectiveServices Law to allow the state Auditor General access to child abuse records in order to facilitate external oversight of child protective services. Federal auditors already have similar access to these records. Prior session SB 338.

Co-sponsors: Brewster, Teplitz, Fontana, Blake, Smith, Yudichak, Boscola, Williams, Tartaglione, Costa, Hughes and Farnese.

Referred on January 13, 2015. Consolidated into HB1276 and enacted as Act 15 of 2015

Early Voting Constitutional Amendment

SB 205 − This would amend Article VII, Section 14 of the state Constitution to generally allow The Legislature to provide means of voting other than appearing in in person at an assigned precinct on Election Day. It would re-confirm the general legislative authority over the means and processes of voting, allowing the consideration and establishment of early voting, no-excuse absentee voting, online voting and other procedures, such as are commonly employed in a majority of other states, by legislation. Prior session SB 708.

Co-sponsors: Brewster, Teplitz, Stack, Baker, Fontana, Blake, Smith, Wiley, Boscola, Costa, Hughes, Farnese, Leach and Rafferty.

Referred on January 13, 2015

No-excuse Absentee Voting

SB 206 − This would amend the state Election Code to provide “no-excuse” absentee voting, allowing all voters the right to vote by absentee ballot without the need to meet specific justification and procedural requirements, such as work responsibilities, religious obligations and illness, that now exist. The absentee voting process would be basically unchanged except for the removal of the required conditions. Voters in more than 30 states now exercise this right.SB 709.

Co-sponsors: Brewster, Teplitz, Stack, Baker, Fontana, Blake, Smith, Wiley, Boscola, Costa, Farnese, Vance, Leach and Rafferty.

Referred on January 13, 2015

Addiction Treatment Study

SR 267   – This provides for the establishment of an advisory committee of experts and lay members to the Joint State Government Commission and for a study by the Commission of how to best provide for effective access to and addiction treatment services in Pennsylvania.

Co-sponsors: Sabatina, Teplitz, Vulakovich, Greenleaf, Farnese,  Costa, Fontna, Brewster, Reschenthaler, Stefano, Dinniman, Bartolotta, Rafferty,Yudichak, Baker, Yaw, Leach, Brooks, White, Eichelberger,McGarrigle, Wiley, Aument, Gordner, Mensch, Haywood and Wagner 

Approved by Senate. Final report due by October 2017.

Truancy Reform

SB 359 − This would amend the Public School Code to remove the authority to jail a parent for fines that are due to a child’s truancy, and to require school districts to develop with family and education staff mutually agreed individualized truancy elimination plans that follow best practices and put them in place before referring truancy cases to juvenile authorities or magisterial district court. Prior Session SB 455.

Co-sponsors: Greenleaf (co-prime) Kitchen, Brewster, Aument, Vance, Costa, Hughes, Rafferty, Baker and Fontana

Referred on January 30, 2015. Passed unanimously in the Senate, May 2016; Amended into HB 1907 and passed by Senate and House, awaiting governor’s signature.

Pension Study Commission

SB 564 − This would establish a blue-ribbon commission to examine and recommend changes to the public pension structure. The commission would be subject to the state Open Meeting, Open Records and Ethics laws, and would file a report within six months of its establishment.

Co-sponsors: Fontana, Brewster, Wozniak, Vance, Costa, Yudichak, Wiley and Blake.

Referred on March 11, 2015

Media Access to Polls

SB 674 − This would amend the Pennsylvania Election Code to make Pennsylvania elections more transparent, allowing reasonable, expanded media access to polling places.

Expanded transparency would reinforce the integrity of elections and increase voter interest and participation. This bill would permit properly identified media to enter a polling place to witness and record events so long as it does not disrupt the voting process or identify individual voters without their permission. Votes would remain secret. This was developed with the Pennsylvania News Media Association. Prior session SB 1178.

Co-sponsors: Brewster, Teplitz, Tartaglione, Costa and Ward.

Referred on March 26, 2015

Reducing the Legislature

SB 675 − This would amend Article II of the state Constitution to reduce the General Assembly by more than a third, to 40 Senators and 121 Representatives. Prior session SB 336.

Co-sponsors: Brewster, Smith, Yudichak, Boscola, Costa, Vulakovich, Vogel Rafferty and Browne.

Referred on March 26, 2015

Special Occasion Permits

SB 677 − This would amend the Liquor Code to allow non-profits promoting neighborhood architectural preservation to obtain special occasion liquor sales permits for fundraising events. Currently, these permits are available to organizations only in boroughs and second-class townships. Prior SB 1228.

Co-sponsors: Fontana, Blake, Smith, Costa, Vulakovich and Hughes

Referred on March 26, 2015. Consolidated into HB 1690 and enacted as Act 39 of 2016

First Industries Program

SB 756 − This extends the First Industries Program that provides funding guarantees that allow banks to extend loans for agricultural projects that otherwise might not be made.

Co-sponsors: VOGEL, Argall, Costa, Rafferty, Fontana, Brewster, Blake, Gordner, Stefano, Bartolotta, Hutchinson, Brooks and Yudichak

Passed by the General Assembly and sent to the governor on December 7, 2015. Enacted as Act 81 of 2015

Highway Work Zones

SB 840 – Amends the Motor Vehicle Code to authorize PennDOT and the Turnpike Commission to establish a pilot program using automated cameras to enforce speed restrictions in active construction zones on interstate highways, including the Turnpike system. Violators would be subject to a $100 administrative fine that would not count for driver-record, insurance or other purposes.

Co-sponsors: Argall (co-prime), Teplitz, Wozniak, Fontana, Scavello, Costa, Yudichak, Blake and Leach

Referred on June 8, 2015. Reported favorably by Senate Transportation and Appropriations committees; Pending final Senate vote.

Soil Scientist Licensing

SB 845 − This bill would amend Pennsylvania law to require that soil scientists be licensed to provide services to the public in the state.

Co-sponsors: VOGEL, Greenleaf, Farnese, Fontana, Costa, Mensch and Yaw.

Referred May 14, 2015.

Recycling Fee

SB 1041 − This bill would amend the state Muncipal Waste Planning, Recycling and Waste Reduction Act (Act 101) to authorize municipalities to levy a fee to operate a recycling program mandated by the act.

Co-sponsors: BROWNE, Fontana, Rafferty, Yudichak, Williams, Costa, Tomlinson, Sabatina, Alloway, Hughes, Haywood and Wagner.

Referred October 20, 2015

Judicial Discipline Reform

SB 1083 − This bill would amend Article V Section 18 of the Pennsylvania Constitution to prohibit Supreme Court intervention in judicial misconduct proceedings, transfer the court’s authority to appoint members of the Judicial Conduct Board and Court of Judicial

Discipline to the governor and legislature, reduce the number of seats on the conduct board and disciplinary court reserved for judges and add additional seats for public members, increase their fiscal independence from the Supreme Court and require the immediate suspension of a judge upon the formal filing of disciplinary charges or felony charges against the judge.

Co-sponsors: Williams, Yudichak, Blake, Tartaglione, Fontana, Aument, Baker, Haywood, Farnese, Boscola, Wiley and Teplitz.

Referred December 17, 2015

POW-MIA Flag

SB 1157 – This would require that when the national and state flags are flown on property owned or under the control of the state, the POW-MIA flac is to be flown alongside them if it can reasonably be done.

Co-sponsors; Teplitz, Sabatina, Brewster, Rafferty, Greenleaf, Vulakovich, Costa, Mensch, Wiley, Fontana, Dinniman, Yudichak, Tartaglione, Browne and Ward

Approved in State Government Committee; Pending further Senate action.

Early Intervention Services for Post-Partum Depression

SB 1269 – This would extend early intervention services provided through the Department of Human Services to at-risk children between birth and age five to include children of mothers with Post-partum Depression. It is estimated that as many as 21,000 mothers each year suffer from PPD, which can lead to developmental delays and increased danger of neglect or abuse.

Co-prime sponsor: Bartolotta

Co-sponsors: Teplitz, Costa, Fontana, Vulakovich, Greenleaf, Sabatina, Brewster, Rafferty, Blake, Yudichak, Mensch, Boscola, Vogel, Aument, Browne, Hughes and Haywood.

Referred May 18, 2016. Reported favorably by the Senate Committee on Public Health and Welfare  on Sept. 28. Awaiting further Senate action.

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