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Senator Don White

Harrisburg Happenings
A Report on the Legislative Session Week
June 27, 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 27, 2016.

If you find this e-newsletter useful, I invite you to visit my website www.senatordonwhite.com 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.

Sincerely,

Don White


Fiscal Year 2016-17 Budget Sent to Governor

The Legislature passed and sent to the Governor a balanced and on-time Fiscal Year 2016-17 General Fund Budget that boosts funding for education to the highest level in state history, restores funding for agricultural programs cut by the Governor, and allocates new funds to fight the state’s opioid epidemic.

Senate Bill 1073 supports the core functions of government and allocates $245 million in new funding for basic education, special education, and Pre-K Counts without the need for new or increased income or sales tax.

This is a realistic budget that recognizes the economic reality facing the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in light of projected modest economic growth over the coming year versus significant and painful obligations, such as escalating public pension premiums, federally mandated increases for human service programs and increasing corrections expenses.

Addressing the public pension issue remains a top priority for the Senate Republican Caucus, as public pensions continue to be among the largest cost drivers for both the state and local school districts. Payments to PSERS for school employee pensions accounted for $345 million in new spending to a total of over $2 billion in FY16-17. State employee pensions required an additional $140 million in General Fund spending for a total of $770 million.

This budget maintains Pennsylvania’s core programs and services and provides significant additional money for early, basic and secondary education, all without increasing income taxes, the state sales tax or imposing a job-killing Marcellus Shale extraction tax.

Obviously, every member of the state legislature would like to increase state support for one program or another, but we cannot spend money we do not have. Certainly, no one wants a repeat of last year’s disastrous impasse. This FY 2016-17 budget reflects the divided nature of Pennsylvania’s state government, but it does show that we can work together for the people of our great state. As with most years of late, we had the choice of budgeting within our fiscal means or substantially raising taxes. I believe we’ve taken the better of those two options.

The budget restores funding for key agricultural programs eliminated by the Governor and provides $2 million in new funding to combat avian flu. Overall, the Department of Agriculture budget is increased by $63.79 million to a total of $1403. 75 million for Fiscal Year 2016-17.

SB 1073 also includes $15 million to address the state’s opioid epidemic and $11 million in additional funding for veterans’ homes.

The state’s 2016-17 Fiscal Year started on Friday, July 1.

Senate Approves Bill Addressing Cancer Drug Cost Disparity

When the Senate approved legislation on Thursday that will improve accessibility of oral chemotherapy treatments I urged my colleagues to continue that effort by supporting legislative action to address health care affordability.

Currently, intravenous chemotherapy medications are usually covered under a health plan’s medical benefit, often only requiring a minimal fixed co-payment. Oral chemotherapy medications are often covered under a health plan’s pharmacy benefit and require patients to pay a percentage of the total cost of the drug, generally between 25 to 30 percent. House Bill 60, which addresses the cost disparity between intravenous and oral chemotherapy treatments, is now before the Governor for his signature and enactment into law.

While House Bill 60 is a positive development in fighting cancer, the debate surrounding this issue also exposes one of the main cost drivers in the overall cost of healthcare – prescription drug costs. Indeed, if prescription costs for oral chemotherapy were not so astronomical, we likely would not have passed this legislation.

Speaking on the floor of the Senate, I urged colleagues to also support Senate Bill 893, which would provide openness and transparency to the pricing and cost of prescription drugs. I hope those who advocated for passage of House Bill 60 join me with the same level of passion and commitment to take meaningful steps in addressing the underlying issue, the cost of prescription drug pricing.

Audio and video of my comments from the Floor of the Senate on House Bill 60.

Legislation Extending Fire & EMS Grant Program Sent to Governor

A bill reauthorizing a popular Fire/EMS grant program for four years received final legislative approval and was sent to the Governor for his signature and enactment into law.

Under House Bill 1877, the Fire and Emergency Medical Services grant program is reauthorized to continue for an additional four years until June 30, 2020. The program receives $30 million in total funding with $25 million from the State Gaming Fund and $5 million from the Property Tax Relief Fund.

The bill would for the first time allow “career emergency medical services” to apply for grants under certain conditions. Furthermore, fire companies would be required to respond to at least ten calls a year, participate in the state fire reporting system, and offer incentives to companies to have members receive their Fire Fighter 1 Certification.

Currently, all fire companies, volunteer ambulance services and volunteer rescue squads are eligible for grant funding. The grants may be used for construction or renovation of a unit’s station, the purchase or repair of equipment, training or debt reduction. The maximum grant amount is $15,000 for fire companies and $10,000 for volunteer ambulance services.

A number of other bills received final legislative approval and were sent to the Governor for enactment into law.

House Bill 59 requires that all individuals born between 1945 and 1965 be offered a hepatitis C screening or diagnostic test when treated at hospitals, health care facilities or physicians’ offices.

House Bill 64 requires licensed psychologists, social workers, marriage and family therapists and professional counselors to complete at least one hour of continuing education in suicide prevention.

House Bill 898 designates Philadelphia Prison System prisoner transport units and emergency response vehicles operated by the PA Turnpike as emergency vehicles, permitting them to utilize flashing lights and sirens.

Senate Bill 917 allows for the sharing of county agency, juvenile probation, drug and alcohol, mental health and education records in certain cases involving juveniles.

House Bill 1062 amends the Human Services Code to phase out the county share, extend the nursing facility budget adjustment factor, extend certain assessments, extend the Medical Assistance (MA) day-one incentive payment, extend child welfare provider submissions, suspend MA coverage for incarcerated individuals, eliminate the requirement of solely dedicated assisted living licensure staff, and move the eHealth Partnership Authority to the Department of Human Services.

Senate Bill 1104 implements changes from a June 2010 report issued by the Joint State Government Commission entitled, “The Probate, Estates and Fiduciaries Code: Proposed Amendments to Title 20 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes.”

Senate Bill 1123 corrects a regulatory issue relating to gasoline in Pennsylvania.

House Bill 1167 adds a new section to the Crime Victims Act concerning a state income tax intercept. It requires the Department of Revenue to deduct court-ordered obligations owed by a taxpayer from any tax refund due the taxpayer, notify the taxpayer that the deduction has been made, and pay any amount remaining to the taxpayer.

Senate Bill 1194 removes the sunset date of June 30, 2016 from the “State Military College Legislative Appointment Initiative.” Act 29 of 2012 allows members of the General Assembly to appoint annually an eligible student from their legislative districts.

House Bill 1335 removes the requirement in state law that the Turnpike Commission must install and maintain emergency telephones every two miles on both sides of the Turnpike.

House Bill 1871 amends the state Constitution to permit Philadelphia to impose varying tax rates on real estate based on use.

Senate Approves Bill to Ease Substitute Teacher Shortage

The Senate passed legislation on Thursday that would address the growing problem of the shortage of substitute teachers available for school districts.

Some school districts have been reporting vacancy ‘fill’ rates of only 70 percent on any given day, and some areas have opted to outsource their substitutes or have been left with no choice but to request frequent emergency permits for day-to-day substitutes, which interrupts the learning process and cuts into precious instructional time.

Senate Bill 1312 allows college students who have completed 60 credit hours and who are enrolled in a teacher preparation program at a four-year college in Pennsylvania to substitute for a limited number of days in any school district in the Commonwealth.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

The Senate also approved and sent to the House of Representatives a number of other bills for consideration.

Senate Bill 141 amends the Real Estate Seller Disclosure Law to require disclosure of a property's flood history.

Senate Bill 289 authorizes, but does not require, a municipality or municipal authority to use public funds for the improvement, extension, repair or rehabilitation of private lateral sewer lines connected to sewage disposal systems.

Senate Bill 613 gives each of Pennsylvania’s counties the opportunity to participate in the Human Services Development Block Grant by removing the statutory limit.

Senate Bill 666 amends the Uniform Planned Community Act to provide more transparency for homeowner’s associations.

Senate Bill 691 increases a retailer’s presumptive minimum cost of administering the cigarette tax.

Senate Bill 703 enacts the Plumbing Contractor Licensure Act by establishing the State Board of Plumbing Contractors within the Department of Labor and Industry.

House Bill 871 allows for the de-titling of vehicles which are recycled by a scrap metal processor. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

House Bill 967 establishes an agricultural pilot program for industrial hemp research. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

Senate Bill 1018 makes several changes to the CPA Law.

Senate Bill 1221 reforms the Pittsburgh Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority.

Senate Bill 1226 would streamline and improve the Pennsylvania Veterans Trust Fund and ensure that it continues to provide assistance to those who have served in uniform.

Senate Bill 1265 gives employers the option to pay an employees' wages in the form of a debit card.

Senate Bill 1267 enhances the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s Municipal Signal Partnership Program known as Green Light-Go.

Senate Bill 1282 clarifies the manner in which a county Recorders of Deeds Office may charge fees for the recording of amendments to declarations of condominiums, cooperatives and planned communities.

Senate Bill 1311 brings Pennsylvania into compliance with federal requirements under the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act by addressing parents who have committed child sexual abuse and the treatment of children victimized by human trafficking.

House Bill 1947 addresses criminal and civil actions regarding childhood sexual assault.

Senate Confirms State Adjutant General

The Senate confirmed Brigadier General Anthony Carrelli as Adjutant General of the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs on Wednesday. In this cabinet-level position with the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, headquartered at Fort Indiantown Gap, Brig. Gen. Carrelli is responsible for command, control and supervision of National Guard units – Army and Air – allocated to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, six state-owned veterans’ homes and programs for Pennsylvania’s approximately 916,000 veterans.

Prior to the vote by the full Senate, the nomination was considered and approved by the Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee. Audio and Video from the committee meeting.

Appellate, County Court Judges Confirmed by Senate

Pennsylvania’s appellate court benches added six new judges Monday when the state Senate confirmed nominations for those judicial vacancies. The confirmations included: Sallie Mundy for Supreme Court; Carl A. Solano, Lillian Harris Ransom and Hugh Geoffrey Moulton, Jr. for Superior Court; and Joseph Cosgrove and Julia Hearthway for Commonwealth Court.

The Senate also confirmed several County Court of Common Pleas Judges on Wednesday: David L. Spurgeon (Allegheny); Jill Gehman Koestel (Berks); Jeffrey G. Trauger (Bucks); Lori K. Serratelli (Dauphin); Julia K. Munley (Lackawanna); Daniel K. McCarthy (Lehigh); Joseph P. Walsh (Montgomery); Lucretia C. Clemons, Vincent W. Furlong, Roger F. Gordon, Vincent N. Melchiorre, Daniel R. Sulman and Stella M. Tsai (Philadelphia); Damon J. Faldowski (Washington); and Christy H. Fawcett and Kathleen J. Prendergast (York).

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