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Senator Dan Laughlin

Harrisburg Happenings

A report on the Legislative Session from the week of October 16, 2017
By Senator Dan Laughlin
49th Senatorial District

Dear Friend,

I am pleased to send you my Session Wrap Up e-newsletter. This e-newsletter features events and legislative activities during the Session Week of October 16, 2017.

If you find this e-newsletter useful, I invite you to visit my website www.senatorlaughlin.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,

Dan Laughlin


Senate Approves My Consumer Protection Measure

10/17/17 - Third Party Municipal Contract (SB 663)

On Tuesday, the Senate approved a measure I introduced that will better protect consumers from unreasonably excessive building inspection fees and unnecessary construction costs.

Under the Pennsylvania Uniform Construction Code (UCC), municipalities can handle inspections with their own employees, enter into a joint agreement with other municipalities, or hire a third-party agency to administer their inspection program. This system, Senator Laughlin said, gives companies a virtual monopoly that allows them to charge excessive fees or demand unneeded work that ultimately end up being passed on to consumers.

Senate Bill 663 amends the UCC act to eliminate the monopoly by requiring municipalities to contract with at least three third-party agencies to handle building inspections. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

This bill addresses the problems that have arisen when municipalities have contracted with a single company to handle its building code inspections. I have a fairly good understanding of the construction industry and I know there can be serious and costly issues when contractors are forced by a monopolized market to deal with the way a single company interprets the UCC. That goes beyond the intent of the law and gives those inspectors too much control over how builders do their job. Senate Bill 663 breaks the monopoly. It will increase competition and ensure that residents receive the opportunity to have inspections completed in a reasonably priced and competitive manner.

Audio of my comments on the Senate Floor on the bill.

Welfare Reform Bill Sent to Governor

Legislation targeting fraud, waste and abuse in Pennsylvania’s public welfare system was signed in the Senate and House this week and sent to the Governor.

House Bill 59, a comprehensive Human Services Code bill, includes reforms that are projected to save hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ dollars. The measure also addresses Pennsylvania’s opioid crisis by requiring the Department of Human Services to submit a federal waiver so federal dollars can be used for opioid addiction treatment after 15 days of inpatient treatment, which is currently prohibited. It also extends provider submissions for child welfare placement costs, preserving nearly $31 million in federal Title IV-E placement maintenance funds.

Four additional measures received final legislative approval this week and were sent to the Governor.

House Bill 16 amends the Local Tax Collection Law to prohibit tax payments to an account in an individual’s name and requires the creation of a separate account to be used solely for tax purposes.

House Bill 176 exempts roadside agricultural stands from the Uniform Construction Code.

House Bill 1287 is a land conveyance bill.

House Bill 1288 adds optometrists to the list of medical providers who may certify an application for a disability placard or registration plate.

Senate Approves Legislation to Combat Opioid Addiction

The Senate approved legislation on Wednesday addressing the state’s growing opioid addiction crisis.

Senate Bill 472 limits the prescription for a controlled substance containing an opioid to seven days unless there is a medical emergency that puts the patient’s health or safety at risk. The bill also requires prescribers to discuss the risks of addiction and dangers of overdoses associated with the medication with the patient or family.

The bill is the latest of a number of measures approved by the Senate in recent years that focus on heroin and opioid addiction. Senate Bill 472 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Seven additional bills were approved by the Senate this week and sent to the House.

Senate Bill 53 would permanently allow for distance education inclusion in the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency State Grant Program.

Senate Bill 499 would allow the Board of Prison Inspectors in Eighth Class counties to meet less frequently.

Senate Bill 552 redirects funds from the Veterans Trust Fund that came from the Pennsylvania Monuments License Registration Plate to the new Pennsylvania Veterans' Monuments and Memorial Trust Fund and would require those funds be used for the operation and maintenance of monuments designated by Department of Military & Veterans Affairs in consultation with the State Veterans’ Commission.

Senate Bill 728 exempts Schedule V epilepsy drugs currently included in the state’s prescription drug monitoring program requirements.

House Bill 790 establishes the Controlled Plant and Noxious Weed Act to provide for the regulation of noxious weeds and controlled plants and repeals the Noxious Weed Control Law. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

Senate Bill 887 is a highway renaming bill.

Senate Bill 888 would improve access to disabled parking spaces by prohibiting the obstruction of access aisles and strengthening enforcement measures.

Committee Roundup

Appropriations

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved four bills on Monday.

Senate Bill 53 would permanently allow for distance education inclusion in the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency State Grant Program.

House Bill 165 creates the Pennsylvania Achievement Medal and the Pennsylvania Veterans Service Award and adds those two new decorations to the list of existing medals, badges, and awards that are authorized and presented by the Governor in the name of the Commonwealth.

Senate Bill 676 addresses ongoing funding deficiencies in the Workers’ Compensation Uninsured Employers Guarantee Fund.

House Bill 790 establishes the Controlled Plant and Noxious Weed Act to provide for the regulation of noxious weeds and controlled plants and repeals the Noxious Weed Control Law.

Consumer Affairs & Professional Licensure

The Senate Consumer Affairs & Professional Licensure Committee approved three bills on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 384 removes the current exemption for Philadelphia from the Assessors Certification Act of 1992.

Senate Bill 892 amends the Chiropractic Practice Act to provide clarity on the topic of clinical training.

House Bill 1019 establishes procedures for the sale and purchase of a cemetery and reasonable access guidelines.

Environmental Resources & Energy

The Senate Environmental Resources & Energy Committee approved two measures on Tuesday.

Senate Resolution 168 directs the Joint State Government Commission to establish an advisory committee to analyze the potential impact of removing Cambria County from the emissions testing program.

Senate Bill 799 would improve water quality and help Pennsylvania meet federal pollution reduction mandates in the Chesapeake Bay watershed at a reduced cost to taxpayers.

Finance

The Senate Finance Committee approved House Bill 984 on Tuesday. The bill extends the income tax donation check-off box for the Military Family Relief Program until January 1, 2023.

Health & Human Services

The Senate Health & Human Services Committee approved three bills on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 179 creates a statewide voluntary reporting system to identify available psychiatric beds.

Senate Bill 439 requires carbon monoxide detectors in child care facilities if the facility uses a fossil fuel-burning heater or appliance or has an attached garage.

Senate Bill 674 implements automatic scheduling changes for controlled substances.

State Government

The Senate State Government Committee approved five bills on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 99 sets regulations for containers or bins placed in outdoor locations by organizations to collect donated clothing or other items for charitable purposes.

Senate Bill 563 requires the Department of State to develop a secure online system for military and overseas voters to electronically return absentee ballots.

Senate Bill 817 extends a lease.

Senate Bill 900 transfers a property title.

Senate Bill 921 conveys a property.

Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness

The Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee approved three measures on Tuesday.

Senate Resolution 5 establishes a Women’s Veterans’ Health Care task force to address the needs of Pennsylvania’s growing female veteran population.

Senate Bill 798 allows the appointment of a one-star or two-star military officer to the Military Enhancement Commission.

House Bill 1231 establishes a veterans’ registry, within the Department of Veterans Affairs, to provide veterans with information regarding state benefits, programs, and services.

Urban Affairs & Housing

The Senate Urban Affairs & Housing Committee approved two bills on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 851 amends the Real Estate Tax Sale Law to clarify ownership of properties that are in the delinquent tax sale process.

Senate Bill 919 allows a tenant of a housing authority unit, who is a victim of domestic or sexual violence, to be relocated to another unit.

Banking & Insurance

The Senate Banking & Insurance Committee approved three bills on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 877 amends the Insurance Department Act to allow producers and insurers to spend as much as $100 in marketing insurance to a client or prospective client.

Senate Bill 878 amends the Insurance Company Law to allow producers and insurers to spend as much as $100 in marketing insurance to a client or prospective client.

House Bill 1388 changes the expiration date of CHIP from December 31, 2017 to December 31, 2019 and prohibits the use of funds for sex change procedures.


For more information on issues of importance to Pennsylvania, please visit my website at www.facebook.com/senatorlaughlin/) and Twitter (twitter.com/senatorlaughlin).

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