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Senator Don White

Harrisburg Happenings
A Report on the Legislative Session of
October 24, 2016

Dear Friend,

I am pleased to send you my Session Wrap Up e-newsletter. This e-newsletter features legislative activities during the Session Week of October 24, 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


Committee Considers Cost and Affordability of Prescription Drugs

10/25/16 - Cost & Affordability of Prescription Drugs

The Senate Banking & Insurance Committee, which I chair, held a public hearing on Tuesday to consider the cost and affordability of prescription drugs, including Senate Bill 893, which I introduced, and Senate Bill 841, introduced by Senator Bob Mensch.

Click for audio from the hearing.

A Warm Welcome for the Senate’s Guest Pastor on Tuesday

I, along with Lieutenant Governor Mike Stack, were pleased to welcome Father William Lechnar who served as the Senate’s Guest Chaplain on Tuesday. Father Lechnar is the parish priest at The Good Shepherd Roman Catholic Church in Kent, where he has served for three years. Previously to his time with The Good Shepherd, he served the people of St. Thomas More University Parish at Indiana University of Pennsylvania for seven years. He also served for two years at the Mother of Sorrows Parish in Murrysville. Father Lechnar also serves as Chaplain for the Pennsylvania State Police.

Legislation Advanced to Combat Opioid Addiction Crisis

Four important measures addressing the state’s growing opioid addiction crisis received final Legislative approval this week and were sent to the Governor for enactment into law.

The heroin and opioid crisis was the focus of a recent public hearing by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania that I co-hosted on September 20 at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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. On average at least ten Pennsylvanians die every day from a drug overdose, with over 3,500 overdose deaths in Pennsylvania in 2015.

The bills we sent to the Governor are:

Senate Bill 1202, which requires licensed medication dispensers and prescribers to receive two hours of continuing education in pain management or in the prescribing practices of opioids.

Senate Bill 1367, which limits the amount of opioids that children may be prescribed, with reasonable exceptions for cases involving chronic pain, cancer treatment or for palliative care or hospice care. It also requires a health care professional to obtain written consent from a minor’s parent or legal guardian to prescribe a medical treatment containing opioids, and provide information on the risks of addiction and dangers of overdose associated with the medication.

Senate Bill 1368, which implements the Safe Opioid Prescribing Curriculum in all of Pennsylvania’s medical schools. The plan calls for a focus in four key areas including pain management; multimodal treatments for chronic pain that minimize the use of opioids, or when opioids are indicated, to prescribe them in a way that is safe and that follows guideline-based care; focusing on patients who have been identified as at-risk for developing problems with prescription opioids; and teaching medical students how to manage substance abuse disorders as a chronic disease.

House Bill 1699, which creates the Safe Emergency Prescribing Act and limits the quantity of opioids which may be prescribed to a patient seeking treatment in a hospital emergency department or urgent care center.

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.

In an effort to address the safe disposal of prescription medicines, the Legislature also sent the Governor House Bill 1737. This measure amends the Waste Tire Recycling Act/Small Business and Household Pollution Prevention Program Act, to include and provide for the destruction of household prescription drugs and pharmaceutical waste.

The measure could assist in reducing abuse of prescription drugs. Operators of some waste-to-energy plants in Pennsylvania run programs which offer free and safe disposal, which could curb contamination of surface and drinking waters caused by flushing drugs or placing them in a landfill.

Veterans, Emergency Responder Bills Sent to Governor

I am extremely pleased to report that six bills benefitting emergency responders and veterans received final legislative approval this week and were sent to the Governor’s desk for enactment into law.

House Bill 49 extends the death benefit that is currently available to other emergency responders to members of the Pennsylvania Civil Air Patrol.

House Bill 192 requires the State Civil Service Commission to advertise the veterans’ preference on all of the commission’s examination materials, announcements and advertisements, and on the commission’s website.

House Bill 1600 provides an exemption for the payment of a state business fee for a veteran-owned small business.

House Bill 1683 would authorize municipalities to enact income tax credits for active volunteer firefighters and EMS providers. The measure is intended to help municipalities recruit and retain these valuable volunteers.

House Bill 2058 would allow paramedics to conduct blood draws at police stations - rather than hospitals - from persons suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance.

House Bill 2148 amends the Enforcement Officers Disability Benefits Law to extend coverage to certain individuals employed as firefighters.

Bills Addressing Government Reform, Accountability Approved

As part of the ongoing effort to increase government accountability at the state, county and local levels, the Legislature approved government reform measures bills providing for an independent review of state operations as well as the appointment of special investigators in cases of wrongdoing in the state Attorney General’s Office.

Senate Bill 562 amends the Regulatory Review Act to provide for more legislative oversight of and involvement with the Independent Regulatory Review Commission during the regulatory review process.

Senate Bill 898 amends the Second Class County Code providing for revenue neutrality of taxes following countywide reassessments.

Senate Bill 899 amends the Consolidated County Assessment Law providing for revenue neutrality of taxes following countywide reassessments.

House Bill 1087 provides veto power to the Governor of Pennsylvania over the actions of Pennsylvania’s Commissioners on the Delaware River Port Authority Board.

House Bill 1118 authorizes the appointment a Special Investigative Counsel to investigate the Attorney General, an Assistant Attorney General, senior aide, or campaign chair who may have committed an offense classified higher than a misdemeanor of the second degree, or an offense higher than a summary involving a breach of public trust.

House Bill 1618 establishes the Office of State Inspector General as an independent office to conduct investigations and performance reviews of State agencies to provide increased accountability and oversight to deter and identify waste, fraud, abuse and illegal acts.

The inspector general would serve a six-year term, be prohibited from seeking political office during and shortly after that period, and do the important work of eradicating waste, fraud and abuse without political interference.

House Bill 1998addresses membership on the Philadelphia Parking Authority Board.

House Bill 2107 prohibits the Department of General Services from contracting with companies that are engaged in a boycott of a person or entity based in the Commonwealth.

Bill Provides More Convenience for Alcohol Sales

After substantial debate and numerous revisions, the Legislature gave final approval Wednesday to a bill that makes a number of changes to the state Liquor Law to provide additional convenience for consumers.

Changes under House Bill 1196 include:

  • Allowing beer distributors to sell beer in any amount/configuration, as well as growlers, for off-premise consumption.
  • Allowing the direct shipment of up to 192 ounces of beer per month from manufacturers to consumers.
  • Permitting Sunday sales hours beginning at 9 a.m. and removing the food requirement for those establishments.
  • Allowing mixed drinks to be consumed at stadiums in the same areas as beer.
  • Removing the two-bottle minimum for special liquor orders.

House Bill 1196 now goes to the Governor for enactment into law.

Bill Authorizing Transportation Network Companies Goes to the Governor

Transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft could operate safely in every county in Pennsylvania under a bill sent to the Governor by the Senate on Monday.

Senate Bill 984 would establish a regulatory framework for the operation of transportation network companies throughout Pennsylvania. These companies are currently permitted to operate in most Pennsylvania counties and municipalities under a two-year temporary authority granted by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.

The bill would ensure transportation network companies and drivers meet key requirements, such as maintaining proper insurance coverage, meeting vehicle safety requirements and reporting accidents. In addition, the bill would implement a zero tolerance policy on the use of drugs or alcohol for a driver using the digital network and prevents individuals convicted of certain crimes, including burglary, robbery and sexual offenses, from offering rideshare services.

Several additional transportation-related bills also received final approval this week.

House Bill 1703 updates Pennsylvania’s all-terrain vehicle (ATV) size restrictions for young operators.

House Bill 2025 increases the penalty for texting while driving accidents that result in a severe injury or death, provides for a 60-day registration card for an “in–transit” vehicle or a vehicle acquired in Pennsylvania for transportation to another state, and allows the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to impose fines on inspection stations and/or inspection mechanics for noncompliance in certain cases.

House Bill 2290 amends the Board of Wardens for the Port of Philadelphia Act (Act 156 of 1803) to increase the license/renewal fee that pilots pay to the Navigation Commission from $250 to $400.

House Bill 2291 amends a supplementary act to the Board of Wardens for the Port of Philadelphia Act (Act 210 of 1889) to increase rates of pilotage and computation and pilotage fees.

Economic Development, Business, Community Improvement Bills Approved

The Legislature gave final approval to a number of bills intended to spur economic development, assist businesses and employees, and help local communities. The bills are now headed to the Governor’s desk.

House Bill 245 amends the Local Tax Enabling Act to clarify certain provisions related to the consolidated collection of local income taxes and delinquent taxes.

House Bill 319 makes a number of changes to the Unemployment Compensation Law.

Senate Bill 356 amends the Local Tax Enabling Act to further provide for filings and quarterly payments of the local earned income tax by persons who make their living from farming.

Senate Bill 385 reforms and modernizes the Transit Revitalization Investment District Act.

Senate Bill 486 would give counties the option to levy an additional fee on deeds and mortgages recorded in the Recorder of Deeds office. The new revenue would be used exclusively for demolition funding within that specific county.

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.

House Bill 850 amends the Money Transmission Licensing Law of 1965 to modernize the law and update certain licensing provisions.

Senate Bill 881 amends the definition of “public utility” in state statute to provide an exception for a resort offering water or sewer services to private homes who take service at a point within the property boundaries of the resort.

Senate Bill 1018 makes several changes to the CPA Law.

Senate Bill 1235 extends the sunset provision of the Underground Utility Protection Law from December 31, 2016 to December 31, 2017.

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

House Bill 1398 amends Title 15 (Corporations and Unincorporated Associations) and Title 54 (Names) to modernize the laws on limited liability partnerships, general partnerships, limited partnerships and limited liability companies.

House Bill 1437 reduces from 18 to 12 months the period that the purchaser of a building or structure with substantial violations of municipal codes has to bring it into compliance or demolish it.

House Bill 1653 provides for the recognition of diverse and disadvantaged businesses by the Department of General Services.

House Bill 2303 repeals the Race Horse Industry Reform article in the Administrative Code, inserts it in the Agriculture Code, and provides for Breeding Fund awards.

House Bill 2370 amends the Tax Reform Code of 1971 by further providing for the applicability of realty transfer tax exclusion provisions enacted as part of Act 84 of 2016.

Legislature Approves Firearms, Public Safety Measures

Several bills addressing firearms or crime issues were approved by the General Assembly this week and sent to the Governor for enactment.

House Bill 263 removes the restriction on air, chemical or gas cylinder powered firearms for hunting. This bill does not automatically allow the use of such weapons for any particular species, but rather gives the Pennsylvania Game Commission regulatory authority to permit the use of such weapons. The bill was amended in the Senate with the language of Senate Bill 737 which permits the limited use of semi-automatic sporting rifles for hunting coyotes and woodchucks.

Senate Bill 1062 increases penalties for home invasion burglaries.

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 1496 amends the Crimes Code to increase penalties for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

House Bill 1538 addresses the release of law enforcement officer information in cases involving the discharge of a firearm or use of force.

House Bill 2084 would require the Department of Corrections to issue pepper spray on a routine basis to any officer or employee of the Department who may be called upon to respond to an emergency situation.

Education Bills Sent to the Governor

Among the measures receiving final legislative approval this week were several bills addressing education-related issues.

House Bill 1864 amends the Cosmetology Law to clarify that cosmetology schools are permitted to charge the public a reasonable fee for student practice.

House Bill 1907 makes extensive revisions to the Public School Code concerning compulsory attendance and truancy, including changes to definitions, procedures, and penalties. It also creates a new section concerning the establishment of attendance policies at charter, regional charter, and cyber charter schools.

House Bill 2078 amends the Public School Code concerning the issuing of permanent college certificates, continuing professional education, and the professional educator discipline fee.

House Bill 2338 provides for student protection during the transition of a postsecondary education institution to a new accreditor if the United States Department of Education discontinues its recognition of the institution’s national accrediting agency.

Six Health, Insurance Bills sent to the Governor

Six bills addressing health or insurance were sent to the Governor this week.

House Bill 162 would provide an adult adoptee with access to a noncertified copy of his or her original birth record information from the Department of Health without the consent of the birth parents and allows for redaction of birth parent names from a birth record.

House Bill 516 establishes the Naturopathic Doctors Practice Act and requires the licensure of naturopathic doctors with the State Board of Medicine.

House Bill 946 provides a framework for pharmacy benefit managers and other entities -- such as managed care organizations, third-party payers, or governmental health programs -- to conduct audits within a pharmacy.

House Bill 1403 addresses unclaimed life insurance benefits. The bill would require an insurer to compare its insureds' in-force life insurance policies, contracts and retained asset accounts against the Social Security Administration's Death Master File or any other database or service that is at least as comprehensive for determining whether an individual has died.

House Bill 1785 requires assisted living residences and personal care homes to post information regarding the flu vaccine.

House Bill 2241 provides for limitations for retroactive denial of reimbursements. The bill restricts the amount of time an insurer has to retroactively deny reimbursement to a health care provider to 24 months and requires retroactive denial of reimbursements to be based upon coding guidelines and policies in effect at the time the service subject to the denial was rendered.

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