AG ONE Newsletter May 28, 2018

SENATE COMMITTEE MOVES TWO AG BILLS

On May 22, the Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee reported two bills.  Senate Bill 1171 (Brooks-R-Mercer/Warren/Erie/Crawford) replaces the Nutrient Management Advisory Board with a new Farm Animal Advisory Board.  Its purpose is to give animal farm operators greater input into environmental regulations. The Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee also moved Senate Bill 819 (Aument-R-Lancaster).  This bill and companion Senate Bill 820 provide limited immunity from legal action for farmers engaged in agri-tourism.  SB 820 may be considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee in early June.

HOUSE VOTES FOR 102 INCH TRAILER WIDTH

On May 24, the PA House voted 171-4 for legislation changing the standard width of truck trailers from eight feet (96 inches) to 8.5 feet (102 inches).  The rationale for Senate Bill 880 (Langerholc-R-Cambria/Bedford/Clearfield) is that the PA standard was set in 1976 and that the newer manufacturing U.S. standard is 102 inches.  PennDOT and municipalities will still have the authority to limit truck trailer sizes on specific roadways where a wider width poses a hazard.

STATUS CHECK ON BROADBAND LEGISLATION

  • House Resolution 431 to audit a Dept. of Education Broadband Fund– Adopted
  • House Resolution 429 to establish a legislative task force to focus on Broadband access — Reported out of House State Government Committee
  • House Bill 1642 to require a state inventory of structures that could be used to expand Broadband — House calendar
  • House Resolution 430 to determine if non-rural phone companies are complying with existing law regarding providing access and House Bill 2320 to increase the state minimum for Broadband access– House Consumer Affairs Committee
  • House Bill 2293 to prevent “raiding” of dedicated Broadband access monies for other purposes — House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee
  • Senate Bill 740 to preserve land line telephone service to rural PA– Senate Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure Committee

DCNR CONVENES FOREST PLAN HEARINGS

The PA Department of Conservation & Natural Resources (DCNR) is convening hearings on the State Forest Resource Management Plan.  The first two are May 31 at Lock Haven University in Lock Haven and June 13 at the Elk Forest District office in Emporium, PA.  Information:  http://www.dcnr.pa.govPaForester@pa.gov

VOCATIONAL BILLS SEE LEGISLATIVE ACTION

A vocational education bill, House Bill 2205 (Roebuck-D-Phila.), passed the House 191-0 on May 23.  It allows establishment of employer advisory committees at the Intermediate Unit level to ensure that industry standards are incorporated in instructional programming.  This was a recommendation of the House Select Subcommittee on Technical Education and Career Readiness.

Senate Bill 1104 (Aument-R-Lancaster) passed the Senate 48-1 on May 24.  It loosens the 78-hour credit requirements for Career and Technical Education (CTE) teachers since they have industry experience.  It is now before the House Education Committee.

A package of Career and Technical Education bills was referred to the Senate Education Committee May 18:   House Bill 2155 reforms CTE teacher requirements by emphasizing work experience.  House Bill 2156 provides tax credits to businesses investing in CTE.  House Bill 2157 attempts to speed up classifications of instructional programs including agriculture.

COMING UP…

  • June 5The House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee is holding a public hearing on Senate Bill 792 (Alloway-R-Franklin).  The bill addresses fertilizer labeling requirements.
  • June 6:  Joint Legislative Budget & Finance Committee releases a report on the feasibility of establishing a water user fee in PA and also an interim report of the Northern PA Regional College which the General Assembly established to provide a community college option for the Northern Tier.
  • June 11:  House State Government is holding a hearing on the Delaware River Basin Commission regulation to ban fracking in parts of northeast PA.  In addition to being a forum on the good or ills associated with Marcellus Shale natural gas development, there may be discussion as to whether the Commission has the regulatory authority to overrule state law Act 13 which regulates fracking in all of PA.  Of particular interest to some in the Agriculture Community is whether the Commission will at some time decide to restrict DEP-permitted biosolid application despite PA law protecting normal agriculture activities.
  • June 11:  PSCFO Board and Council meeting in room 309 at PDA
  • June 14:  House Game & Fisheries Committee hearing on chronic wasting disease.

 CORRECTION:  The post-primary issue of AG ONE did not include parts of Berks County as being in the 9th congressional district contest pitting dairy farmer and former PA Secretary of Agriculture Dennis Wolff against former State Treasurer Dan Meuser. The district includes all or parts of Lebanon, Schuylkill, Northumberland, Montour, Columbia, Luzerne, and Carbon Counties AND Berks County.

AG ONE Newsletter May 21, 2018

DENNIS WOLFF WINS NOMINATION FOR U.S. REP.

Dairy farmer and former PA Secretary of Agriculture Dennis Wolff won a contested Democratic primary in Pennsylvania’s 9th congressional district.  He will square off against former State Treasurer Republican Dan Meuser.  The district includes all or parts of Lebanon, Schuylkill, Northumberland, Montour, Columbia, Luzerne, and Carbon Counties.  This is an open seat held by Rep. Lou Barletta who won the Republican nomination to face off against incumbent U.S. Senator Bob Casey.  Casey holds a seat on the Senate Agriculture Committee.

OWLETT WINS HOUSE SPECIAL ELECTION

Farmer turned manufacturer Republican Clint Owlett won the special election to succeed Rep. Matt Baker (R-Potter/Tioga/Bradford) who resigned his seat in the PA House to take a position in the Trump Administration.  Owlett has a dairy farming background, helped run the family farmers’ market and is now in the construction business.  The seat stays Republican.

WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER TWO SPECIAL ELECTIONS?

  • Democrats were able to take the seat held by Republican Rep. Scott Petri (R-Bucks) who left his House seat to head the Philadelphia Parking Authority.  Winner of the special election was Helen Tai, a township supervisor who owns a business consulting firm.  She is a Penn State Master Gardener.
  • The third special election was a break-through moment for Washington County Republicans when GOP candidate Tim O’Neal won 54.7% of the vote in this historically Democratic district.  He succeeds former Democratic Rep. Brandon Neuman who won a judicial election. Neal is a construction firm executive who also has energy industry experience.

WHICH CANDIDATES HAVE AGRICULTURAL BACKGROUNDS?

In addition to those cited above, there were several candidates in contested primaries with agricultural backgrounds.

  • Republican candidate for Governor Scott Wagner grew up on a farm.
  • Current Rep. Judy Ward (R-Blair) faces organic farmer and farmers’ cooperative manager Emily Best for an open Blair/Fulton County Senate seat.  (John Eichelberger’s seat.)
  • Incumbent Mark Gillen (R-Berks)’s opponent, Democrat Douglas Metcalfe, grew up on a farm and is now a nonprofit manager and school board member.
  • PA’s Perry County has two farmers running against each other.  Incumbent Republican and House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee member and Majority Chair of the House Urban Affairs Committee Mark Keller is opposed by Democrat Karen Anderson.
  • Republican Jonathan Hershey (Juniata/Mifflin/Franklin) grew up with farming and his family’s farm equipment operation.  He worked for U.S. Rep. Charles Dent on Ag issues.
  • Republican Barb Gleim (Cumberland) earned an MBA from Delaware Valley University in Food & Agribusiness.  She also farms and raises cattle.  (Rep. Steve Bloom’s seat)

HOW DID MEMBERS OF THE SENATE AGRICULTURE & RURAL AFFAIRS COMMITTEE DO?

Unlike the House where all members run for election every two years, the Senate has elections for one-half of its members every two years.  Neither Majority Chair Elder Vogel (R-Beaver) or Minority Chair Judy Schwank (D-Berks) are up for election.  Seeking re-election this fall and running unopposed in their respective primaries are:

  • Republican member Michelle Brooks (R-Erie/Crawford/Mercer/Warren) who is opposed by Democrat nurse Sue Ann Mulvey.
  • Republican member Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster) who faces Democrat electrician William Troutman, Jr. in the fall.
  • Democratic member John Blake (D-Luzerne/Lackawanna) against Republican Frank Scavo, an aftermarket auto parts distributor general manager.

HOW DID MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE AGRICULTURE & RURAL AFFAIRS COMMITTEE DO?

All House members are elected every two years.  Majority Chair Martin Causer (R-Cameron/McKean/Potter) was unopposed in the primary and has no opposition in November.  Minority Chair Eddie Day Pashinski (D-Luzerne) was unopposed in his Democratic primary but has an opponent for the fall, Republican grocery product selector Gregory Wolovich.

  • Member Steve Bloom (R-Cumberland) did not run for re-election to his House seat due to his campaign for Congress.
  • Member Kevin Haggerty (D-Lackawanna) did not run for re-election.  Contenders for that district are Democratic Capitol Hill staffer (for Senator Blake) Kyle Mullins vs. Republican industrial salesperson Earnest Lemoncello.
  • Member Emilio Vazquez (D-Phila.) fell in the Democratic primary to grocery store owner Danilo Burgos.
  • Several committee members were unopposed in the primary or won their primary and do not have fall opponents:  Representatives Mike Tobash (R-Schuylkill), Sid Kavulich (D-Lackawanna), David Zimmerman (R-Lancaster), Morgan Cephus (D-Phila.), Karen Boback (R-Luzerne/Lackawanna/Wyoming), Russ Diamond (R-Lebanon), Jordan Harris (D-Phila.), Christopher Rabb (D-Phila.), and Austin Davis (D-Allegheny).

AG ONE Newsletter May 8, 2018

BROADBAND CAUCUS ESTABLISHED IN HOUSE

Rural Broadband access champions Representatives Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York) and Pam Snyder (D-Greene/Fayette/Washington) have formed a caucus to urge adoption of Broadband legislation.  They have already introduced a package of bills addressing lack of access in rural areas:  House Resolution 431 calling for an audit of a special Broadband fund administered by the PA Department of Education; House Resolution 429 establishing a legislative task force on delivery of high-speed Broadband services; House Resolution 430 which directs the State Government Commission and the Legislative Budget & Finance Committee to see if non-rural telephone companies are meeting their legal obligations in providing access to Internet services to rural residents; and House Bill 1642 which directs that there be an inventory of state-owned structures that could also be used to expand access.

In addition, on May 3, House Bill 2320 sponsored by Rep. Snyder was referred to the House Consumer Affairs Committee.  HB 2320 would increase the state requirement for band width ten-fold to match the Federal standard as set forth in the Connect America initiative.

HOUSE PASSES CAREER & TECHNICAL EDUCATION PACKAGE

On April 30, a bipartisan group of nine bills was approved by the House to boost Career and Technical Education (CTE):  House Bill 2155 reforms CTE teacher requirements by emphasizing work experience.  House Bill 2156 provides tax credits to businesses investing in CTE.  House Bill 2157 attempts to speed up classifications of instructional programs including agriculture.

Of note is House Bill 2203 sponsored by Rep. Pat Harkin (D-Erie) to have the PA Departments of Agriculture, Education, and Labor & Industry work jointly to develop an online career resource center.

REGULATORY REFORM LEGISLATION TAKES CENTER STAGE IN HOUSE

The House voted for bills to provide greater legislative control over PA’s regulatory system.

  • House Bill 1960 (Ellis-R-Butler) requires that each agency appoint a regulatory compliance officer, enabling the regulated community to better understand regulations and provide them with an informal way to resolve noncompliance issues before penalties.
  • House Bill 1792 (Benninghoff-R-Centre) gives the General Assembly the power to void existing regulation providing both House and Senate pass it and the Governor signs it.  Once a regulation is voided, an agency may not re-issue the same regulation unless specifically authorized by a new law.  A legislative committee may report a concurrent resolution to initiate repeal of an existing regulation after a public hearing is held.
  • House Bill 1237 (Keefer-R-York) mandates that a proposed regulation with an impact of one million dollars or more per year on business have a concurrence vote by the General Assembly, thus giving legislators veto power over economically significant regulations.
  • House Bill 209 (Phillips-Hill-R-York) establishes an independent Office of the Repealer.  That position’s duty is to review existing regulations and recommend repeal if they are obsolete or “if it finds the existing regulation(s) to be contrary to the public interest.”
  • House Bill 1959 (Rothman-R-Cumberland) requires all agencies that issue permits to increase transparency through the permitting process.

COMMITTEE VOTES TO ADDRESS HUNTER TRESPASS PROBLEM

On May 1st, the House Game & Fisheries Committee voted for House Bill 1603 (B. Miller-Lancaster) to make hunting while trespassing on private property a primary offense.  This changes current law which says that trespassing can only be charged if there is another violation of the Game Code.  Penalty is losing one’s hunting license for up to one year.

OTHER LEGISLATIVE DEVELOPMENTS

  • A bill to amend the Vehicle Code to increase the standard truck trailer width from 96 to 102 inches (House Bill 1699 sponsored by Rep. Jim Marshall-R-Beaver) is now in the Senate Transportation Committee after passage by the PA House.
  • House Bill 2034, (Marshall) is now in the Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee after 195-0 House passage.  It provides for agricultural liming materials labeling.
  • On May 1st, the House approved House Bill 1800 (Nelson-R-Westmoreland) for pharmacists to provide and insurers to pay for partial prescriptions in order to synchronize fill or refill dates.  This would reduce the numbers of people (rural elderly for example) who do not take their medications due to difficulties in getting to a pharmacy.

 

UPCOMING

  • May 20:  The PA Milk Marketing Board will hold a hearing on if and how the Milk Marketing Law should be changed.  Details: ra-pmmb@pa.gov
  • June 5:  The House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee will convene a hearing on Senate Bill 792 (Alloway-R-Franklin).  This legislation is a major re-write of rules regarding fertilizer.  It includes registration, labeling, and inspections as well as citing penalties for misbranding, adulteration, or actual weight being “shorter” than listed weight.  Following is a link to the actual language as there are also technical listings.  NOTE:  When reading, start on page 68.  http://www.legis.state.pa.us/CFDOCS/Legis/PN/Public/btCheck.cfm?txtType=PDF&sessYr=2017&sessInd=0&billBody=S&billTyp=B&billNbr=0792&pn=1547