With the de facto end of this session of the General Assembly, there has been a flurry of legislative activity on a number of bills with an impact on PA Agriculture.
• House Bill 1550 (Milne-R-Chester) establishes the PA Business Development Authority as an attempt to consolidate several state loan programs into one entity. The PA Industrial Development Program as part of this consolidation specifies that loans made to an industrial project may not “cause the removal of an industrial enterprise, manufacturing enterprise, research & development enterprise, AGRICULTURE PRODUCER or AGRICULTURAL PROCESSOR from one area of this Commonwealth to another area of this Commonwealth.” Status: Presented to the Governor October 15.
• House Bill 1996 (Lawrence-R-Chester) seeks to clarify the amount and percentage of the total paid to dairy farmers that comes from “over order premiums”, the Milk Marketing Board fee that is supposed to be returned to the farmer to help offset production costs. Status: Passed House 153-42 on October 14 and referred to the Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee October 15.
• Senate Bill 76 (Argall-R-Schuylkill), the property tax reform bill to eliminate school property taxes and replace them with an increase in Personal Income Tax and elimination of numerous exemptions of the sales tax, was tabled by the Senate October 16, ending its legislative journey for this legislative session.
• Senate Bill 491 (Folmer-R-Lebanon) states that if an individual’s declaration of estimated tax shows 2/3 of total income for the year comes from farming, the estimated tax may be paid at any time of the year on or before January 15 of the succeeding year. Although originally non-controversial, the bill died when the House Finance Committee September 22 amended SB 491 to allow for taxation options in lieu of the traditional school district property tax.
HARRISBURG – On October 6, the House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee will convene a Harrisburg informational meeting on Genetically Modified Organism (GMO’s) labeling. List of witnesses was not available at press time although the committee memo cites “nationally recognized scientists” as witnesses. Details: Mary Geiger 717-783-1522.
The Pennsylvania Senate is considering Senate Bill 1188 (Vogel-R-Beaver) to reorganize the way PA horse racing is regulated. The bill would abolish the State Racing Commission and the State Harness Racing Commission and place those functions under the PA Gaming Control Board. Status: SB 1188 was re-referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee after being reported out of the Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee.
After spending a month with appropriations hearings, the General Assembly is back in session. Matters to note:
- On March 10 the House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee amended Senate Bill 1181 (Vogel-R-Beaver) to transfer $4.2 million from the Race Horse Development Fund to the State Racing Fund to provide resources to the PA Racing Commission to perform its regulatory responsibilities.
- House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee Chair John Maher (R-Washington/Allegheny) distributed sponsorship memos to House members regarding a resolution to congratulate Cooperative Extension Service on its 100th anniversary and a second resolution recognizing April 1 as Farm Bureau Day. Status: No resolution numbers yet
- A House Professional Licensure Committee hearing on licensing of professional soil scientists (House Bill 997 sponsored by Rep. Scott Petri-R-Bucks) has been set for May 7.
- On February 4, the Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee reported out Senate Bill 1149 (Brubaker-R-Lancaster) relating to the application of fertilizer on turf areas (lawns, athletic fields and golf courses). Two other bills reported out by the committee February 4 were: SB 1188 (Vogel-R-Beaver) amending the Race Horse Industry Reform Act and SB 1107 (Alloway-R-Franklin) stating that if a kennel license is revoked, no new kennel licenses will be issued to a person who is a member of the same family nor to any person residing at the address of the current (revoked) licensee.
- House Bill 1440 (Boback-R-Luzerne) is still on hold in the Senate. It would exempt high tunnel buildings from the Uniform Construction Code.