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Senator Don White

Harrisburg Happenings
A Report on the Legislative Session Week
June 13, 2016

Dear Friend,

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 June 13, 2016.

If you find this e-newsletter useful, I invite you to visit my website for more information about your state government. If you do not wish to receive these e-newsletters, please click the "unsubscribe" button at the bottom of the page. If you would like to contact my office, please go to my web page and click the "contact" button. Please do not "reply" directly to this e-mail.


Don White

Bills to Protect Energy-Related Jobs Sent to the Governor

Two bills addressing state and federal energy regulations -- including legislation I introduced to protect family-sustaining Pennsylvania jobs placed at risk by the federal Clean Power Plan -- received final legislative approval Wednesday and were sent to the Governor, who is expected to sign them into law.

The Senate concurred Wednesday (38-11) on amendments by the House of Representatives to Senate Bill 1195, my bill addressing Pennsylvania’s compliance with the federal Clean Power Plan, and (37-12) on amendments to Senate Bill 279, which removes conventional oil and gas drillers from the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) proposed changes to state (Chapter 78) regulations on drilling operations in the Commonwealth.

Specifically, my bill provides procedures for the General Assembly’s consideration of the implementation strategy developed by the Department of Environmental Protection for the federal Clean Power Plan before its submission to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

This has been a long and tough road, but Senate Bill 1195 is now headed to the Governor’s desk to become law in Pennsylvania. I am pleased that the Governor and the Legislature were able to find common ground on this measure to safeguard Pennsylvania’s energy-producing industries and the thousands of workers they employ and protect them from overreaching regulations that could come with Pennsylvania’s compliance with the federal Clean Power Plan.

My bill received broad-based support in the Commonwealth, including that of several organized labor groups: the AFL-CIO, the Pennsylvania State Building and Construction Trades Council; the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 66 (IUOE); the Boilermakers Local 13; the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW); and the United Mine Workers of America. (UMWA).

For decades, our region has been known as ‘Power Alley’ as we are home to three very large coal-fired powers plants, a coal refuse plant and a natural gas plant. The economic vitality of the region depends on these power-generating facilities and the fuel they consume. The global downturn in the energy economy is well known and my District has taken more than its fair share of body blows during this difficult time.

I am pleased that my bill and Senate Bill 279, introduced by my colleague Senator Scott Hutchinson (R-21), were sent by the Senate to the Governor on the same day.

It is definitely appropriate that these bills are moving in tandem. They both address concerns that good jobs and vital industries could be lost due to overzealous regulations. Senate Bill 279 requires the DEP to recognize that conventional oil and gas well operations have been a key part of our communities for 150 years and that they should not be treated in the same manner as the Marcellus Shale industries.

The General Assembly made it perfectly clear in Act 126 of 2014 that any new rules for Marcellus Shale gas extraction operations imposed by the DEP must be developed separate from the conventional drilling industry.

Senate Bill 279 reinforces that provision by stating that DEP must declare its newly enacted regulations for conventional operations void. DEP may now decide to embark upon another regulatory process, one solely intended for conventional drilling operations.

Audio and video of my comments on Senate Bill 1195.

Property Tax Elimination Constitutional Amendment Advances

The Senate approved a measure on Monday that would amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to permit complete property tax relief for principal places of residence.

House Bill 147, which was approved by the House of Representatives last year, would allow for the complete elimination of residential school property taxes through the homestead exclusion.

Since constitutional amendments must be approved in two consecutive sessions, the exact language of the measure must be approved by the General Assembly during the 2017-18 Legislative Session before it can be put up for a statewide referendum vote.

The Governor’s signature is not required for constitutional amendments.

In a related matter, the Senate also approved Senate Bill 1109 on Monday. The bill provides for a constitutional amendment to extend the property tax exemption program for disabled veterans to the surviving spouse of soldiers killed in action. That bill was sent to the House for consideration.

Cost-saving Legislation for Schools Sent to Governor

Legislation that will allow school districts to save thousands of dollars in annual mailing costs received final legislative approval Tuesday and is headed to the Governor for his signature.

Senate Bill 1077 eliminates the mandate that school districts annually inform parents by physical mailing when the district uses audio and video recording to identify and address discipline issues on school buses.

The mailer mandate was included as part of Act 9 of 2014, which gave school districts the ability to use audio recordings on school buses. Instead of the physical mailing, which can easily cost thousands of dollars each year, schools must post notice of the policy in the student handbook as well as on the school’s website.

Three additional bills received final legislative approval this week and were sent to the Governor.

Senate Bill 772 updates the state Professional Psychologists Practice Act for the first time since 1986.

Senate Bill 837 expands title protection to marriage and family therapists, ensuring that only licensed and properly trained professionals can market their services to clients.

Senate Bill 983 allows parents and/or guardians of disabled adult children, who are in their care, to receive disability license plates.

Senate Approves Measure to Increase Education for Opioid Prescribing

The Senate approved legislation on Wednesday that would require continuing medical education training as a way to stem the tide of opioid and prescription drug abuse in the state.

Senate Bill 1202 requires state licensing boards to call for two hours of continuing education in “pain management” and two hours in “opioid prescribing practices” for individuals applying for an initial license or renewal of an existing license or certification to prescribe medications in the Commonwealth.

The increased use of heroin, which often has roots in the abuse of prescription painkillers like Vicodin and OxyContin, has catapulted Pennsylvania to seventh in the nation for drug-related overdose deaths in recent federal statistics. According to a National Survey of Primary Care Physicians, nine out of 10 doctors reported prescription drug abuse as a moderate to large problem in their communities, and 85 percent believed that prescription drugs are overused in clinical practice.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration. Also sent to the House this week were:

Senate Bill 163, which addresses the needs of children of incarcerated parents and services available to them.

Senate Bill 1113, which provides broader representation of crime victims on the Victims’ Services Advisory Committee within the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.

House Bill 1325 gives second class townships the authority to implement storm water management ordinances and to assess a fee to fund the planning, management, implementation, construction and maintenance of storm water facilities. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

House Bill 1766, which allows future life insurance policy reserves to be based on Principle-Based Reserving, a methodology that is more advanced and better reflects the risks of new innovative insurance policies. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

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