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.
- May 20: The PA Milk Marketing Board will hold a hearing on if and how the Milk Marketing Law should be changed. Details: firstname.lastname@example.org
- 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