CONTROLLED PLANT/NOXIOUS WEED BILL CLEARS HOUSE
House Bill 790 sponsored by House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee Minority Chair Eddie Day Pashinski (D-Luzerne) passed the House 194-0 on May 22. It seeks to update the list of noxious weeds and provide a mechanism to review and assess risks of potential additions to the list. HB 790 also incorporates weeds listed under the Federal Noxious Weed List. There is a Senate counterpart, Senate Bill 567 sponsored by Senators David Argall (R-Schuylkill) and Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Minority Chair Judy Schwank (D-Berks).
OTHER LEGISLATIVE BILLS OF INTEREST
Two bills of possible interest were referred to the House Environmental Resources & Energy Committee May 25. Rep. Doyle Heffley (R-Carbon) introduced House Bill 1459 to exempt hatcheries built more than 20 years ago in the most rural portion of the state from the regulatory Authority of the Clean Streams Law. Authored by Rep. Mike Sturla (D-Lancaster), House Bill 20 would impose a water usage surcharge on commercial entities. It was also referred to the House Environmental Resources & Energy Committee May 25. NOTE: Agricultural water use is exempted from this bill.
McDONNELL CONFIRMED AS DEP SECRETARY
Patrick McDonnell finally was confirmed by the PA Senate May 22 as Secretary of the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) after serving in an acting capacity for a year. Before being nominated by Governor Tom Wolf, McDonnell served as DEP Director of Policy and ran the state’s Energy Office, coordinating renewable energy and energy efficiency issues.
MORE CABINET NEWS
Last week, Governor Wolf designated Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller as the new Secretary of the proposed consolidated Department of Health & Human Services. If approved by the General Assembly, the consolidation will merge the existing Departments of Health, Human Services, Drug & Alcohol Programs and Aging. Also last week, Health Department Secretary Dr. Karen Murphy announced that she was leaving her post in June.
REAL ID LAW SIGNED INTO LAW
On May 26, Governor Tom Wolf signed Senate Bill 133, sponsored by Senator Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland), into law as Act 3 of 2017. This law allows PA citizens to continue to use a PA Driver’s License as identification. If Pennsylvania had not acted to bring the Commonwealth into compliance with REAL ID, the result would have Pennsylvanians not being able to access assistance from Federal offices including Social Security, Farm Service offices, military facilities, etc. as well as having a barrier to commercial air travel without a passport or federal ID.
REGULATORY NOTE: The PA Milk Marketing Board will hold a June 7 hearing for Milk Marketing Area 1. Details: email@example.com
SENATE MOVES UNIFORM CONSTRUCTION CODE BILL
On May 24, Senate Bill 269 (Baker-R-Luzerne, Pike/Susquehanna/Wayne/Wyoming) passed the Senate by a 40-10 vote. The legislation seeks to streamline the process whereby the Uniform Construction Code Review and Advisory Council (RAC) reviews international building code changes and decides whether PA should adopt them. SB 269 says that where there are no negative comments or requests for modification, the international code change could be adopted through RAC consensus versus a 2/3 vote now in statute. If contested, there would still need to be a 2/3 vote by RAC to ratify the change for PA. Nine Democrats joined with GOP Senator Michele Brooks (R-Mercer/Warren/Crawford/Erie) to vote against SB 269.
DEP PERMIT LEGISLATION
Bills have been introduced to address criticisms on the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) permit process. Senate Bill 487 (Vogel-R-Beaver) directs DEP to establish a secure online tracking system so that permit applicants can check their status. Existing permit holders would receive a 60-day reminder of their permit’s expiration. In addition, permit holders would be grandfathered against new legislative or regulatory changes that would have otherwise affected the permit approval. There is a House counterpart, House Bill 587 (Zimmerman-R-Lancaster). House Bill 1353 (Bloom-R-Cumberland) directs DEP to notify applicants about specific application problems (missing information, deficient compliance with laws or regulations, etc.) and spell out what corrections need to be made. Specific sections of law or regulations needing compliance must be identified in the DEP communication. Introduced by House Republican Policy Committee Chair Rep. Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre), House Bill 1090 holds DEP accountable to certain timeframes and establishes procedures for initial review, approval/rejection of permit applications. Another Benninghoff bill is House Bill 1091 which creates a process where applicants that do not receive a final permit decision by the review deadline may appeal DEP’s failure to act to the Environmental Hearing Board.
GRANT DEADLINE NEARS
- June 30 is the deadline for grant use from the Center for Dairy Excellence and the Center for Beef Excellence. These $1,000 grants reimburse farmers for professional services designed to help them prepare Nutrient Management, Manure Management, Agriculture Erosion and Sediment Plans. Details: Ann Nogan, Center for Beef Excellence 717-705-1689, firstname.lastname@example.org; Melissa Anderson, Center for Dairy Excellence 717-346-0849, email@example.com