A Report on the Legislative Session Week
February 2, 2015
I am pleased to send you my Session Wrap Up e-newsletter. This
e-newsletter features events and legislative activities during the Session Week
of February 2, 2015.
If you find this e-newsletter useful, I invite you to visit my website
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Committee Approves Bill Regulating Healthcare Exchange
The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee, which I chair, approved
legislation on Tuesday that would provide essential protection of consumers’
rights and personal information under the federal health care act.
Senate Bill 293, also known as the Navigator Accessibility and Regulation
Act, would require Healthcare Exchange Navigators be certified by the Department
of Insurance and pass a criminal background check. The federal Affordable Care
Act (ObamaCare) relies on individuals, generally called “navigators,” to educate
and enroll millions of uninsured Americans in either Medicaid or a private
insurance plan. Although in many respects these navigators act like insurance
agents, they have almost no qualifications or restrictions placed upon them.
It is critical we enact basic and essential regulatory safeguards in
Pennsylvania to offset the lack of detailed regulations and requirements for
navigators under the Affordable Care Act. I believe it is absolutely essential
for the Commonwealth to enact the regulations detailed in Senate Bill 293 to
protect our consumers.
here to hear my comments on Senate Bill 293.
The Banking and Insurance Committee also approved
Senate Bill 397, a measure introduced by Senator Richard Alloway that
would privatize and regulate the Bail Bondsman industry in Pennsylvania.
Both bills now go to the full Senate for consideration.
Committee Holds Hearing on Purely Public Charities Bill
The Senate Finance Committee held a public hearing on Wednesday to gather
testimony on a measure that would clarify the process for determining the
tax-exempt status of public charities.
Senate Bill 4 is now before the full Senate for consideration.
Auditor General Eugene A. DePasquale reviewed the status of the tax exemption
program in Pennsylvania. Nicholas Cafardi of the Duquesne University School of
Law and Katherine Pearson of the Penn State Dickinson School of Law discussed
legal issues related to the bill and David Thompson from the National Council of
Nonprofits discussed charitable tax exemptions in other states.
Senate Bill 4 specifies that the General Assembly has the exclusive right to
set the parameters for an organization to qualify as a purely public charity.
Under current law, organizations that meet the criteria of a purely public
charity are exempt from paying property taxes.
This proposal is necessary due to a 2012 Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling
which returned to a vague standard, previously used from 1985-1997, that
charitable organizations must meet in order to qualify as a purely public
charity. The controversial ruling created a great deal of confusion among
charities and led many municipalities to examine whether they could begin
levying real estate taxes on charitable organizations who had previously been
Since the bill would amend the state Constitution, it must pass in two
consecutive legislative sessions before being decided by the voters via
referendum. The proposal was already approved once by the General Assembly
during the 2013-14 session.
to watch the public hearing.
Residency Requirement Bill Reported from Committee
The Senate State Government Committee approved legislation on Wednesday that
would ensure that illegal immigrants residing in Pennsylvania do not receive
public benefits like Medicaid, welfare and unemployment compensation.
Senate Bill 9 would require anyone requesting public benefits in the
Commonwealth to provide identification proving they are a legal resident. They
would also be required to sign an affidavit stating they are a U.S. citizen or
an immigrant lawfully present in the United States.
The Federation for Immigration Reform (FAIR) estimates the current local
annual costs of illegal immigration amount to about $36 billion nationwide. In
Pennsylvania, which has more than 100,000 illegal immigrants, the current
estimated cost is $285 million. That cost is expected to grow to $812 million
by the year 2020.
Earlier this month, Pennsylvania agreed to pay the federal government $48.8
million to settle claims that it paid non-emergency Medicaid, family assistance
and food stamp benefits to immigrants who did not qualify for them.
The Committee also approved
Senate Bill 82,which would require county boards of elections to post
election returns on election night on an Internet site, and
Senate Bill 316, which would provide more accountability in the awarding of
state (sole-source/no-bid and emergency) contracts.
The bills now go to the full Senate for consideration.
Senate Approves Age Exemption for Jury Duty
The Senate approved a measure on Wednesday that would provide an age
exemption from jury duty.
Senate Bill 210 would exempt those persons 75 years of age or older who wish
to be excused from jury duty. At least 26 states exempt elderly persons from
serving on juries. Generally, states have set the age qualifying for the
exemption at 65, 70 or 75. For example, in West Virginia the age is 65, in
Maryland the age is 70, and in New Jersey the age is 75.
On Tuesday, the Senate approved
Senate Bill 301, a measure that consolidates various statutes into the
Administrative Procedure Code.
Both bills now go to the House of Representatives for consideration.