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Senator Mario Scavello

Dear Friend,

The 2015-16 Legislative Session kicked off this week with the announcement of Senate committee assignments and the inauguration of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor on Tuesday.

Committees have begun vetting bills and sending them to the full Senate for votes, which should begin happening next week. Below is a recap of this week’s action in the Capitol.

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

Sincerely,

Mario Scavello


In This Issue

Governor and Lieutenant Governor Sworn In, Committees Formed
Scavello to Chair Game and Fisheries Committee, Serve on Appropriations, Others
Bill Would Expand Ignition Interlock Requirement
Purely Public Charities Bill Sent to Senate
Committee Approves Age Exemption for Jury Duty
Committee Approves Oil and Gas Lease Consumer Protection Bills
Next Week


Governor and Lieutenant Governor Sworn In, Committees Formed

Lieutenant Governor Mike Stack took his oath of office in the Senate Chamber. As part of his duties, Lieutenant Governor Stack serves as the presiding officer of the Senate when it is in session. 

Gov. Tom Wolf’s inaugural ceremony was held in the plaza area around the state Capitol’s East Wing. 

With all of the ceremonial functions completed, the Senate started considering legislation as four committees held meetings this week. The formation of all of the Senate’s standing committees was finalized on Monday with Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati’s announcement of committee assignments.

Scavello to Chair Game and Fisheries Committee, Serve on Appropriations, Others

On Monday, I was appointed by Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati Chairman of the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee and Vice Chairman of the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee for 2015-16.

In addition, I was appointed to the influential Senate Appropriations Committee, as well as the Senate Labor and Industry Committee and the Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee. Finally, I’ll be serving on the Senate Majority Policy Committee, which explores policy proposals for Senate Republicans.

The Game and Fisheries Committee has the critical task of helping to manage Pennsylvania’s wildlife resources and ensuring that the average citizen can access outdoor recreation. I look forward to chairing this important committee.

I’m also excited to serve on the Senate Appropriations Committee. Pennsylvania faces some serious economic challenges in the year ahead, and this panel will play a crucial role in enacting responsible fiscal policy.

Bill Would Expand Ignition Interlock Requirement

The Senate Transportation Committee approved a measure on Wednesday aimed at reducing drunk driving offenses in Pennsylvania. Senate Bill 290 would make the ignition interlock program mandatory for first-time DUI offenders with high blood alcohol levels. Currently, the ignition interlock requirement only applies to second offenses.

Senate Bill 290 would allow some individuals to operate a vehicle while under suspension and license restriction provided that they have an approved interlock device and meet other requirements.

The committee also approved two bills Senate Bill 286 and Senate Bill 287, which I am co-sponsoring, that are part of a bi-state legislative package intended to bring greater transparency and accountability to the Delaware River Port Authority.

The bills are now before the full Senate for consideration.

Purely Public Charities Bill Sent to Senate

The Senate Finance Committee approved a measure on Thursday that would clarify the process for determining the tax-exempt status of public charities. Senate Bill 4 is now before the full Senate for consideration.

The bill specifies that the General Assembly has the exclusive right to set the parameters for an organization to qualify as a purely public charity. Under current law, organizations that meet the criteria of a purely public charity are exempt from paying property taxes.

However, a 2012 Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling created a vague new standard that charitable organizations must meet in order to qualify as a purely public charity. The controversial ruling created a great deal of confusion among charities and led many municipalities to examine whether they could begin levying real estate taxes on charitable organizations who had previously been deemed exempt.

Since the bill would amend the state Constitution, it must pass in two consecutive legislative sessions before being decided by the voters via referendum. The proposal was already approved once by the General Assembly during the 2013-14 session.

Committee Approves Age Exemption for Jury Duty

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a measure on Thursday that would provide an age exemption from jury duty.

Senate Bill 210 would exempt those persons 75 years of age or older who wish to be excused from jury duty. At least 26 states exempt elderly persons from serving on juries. Generally, states have set the age qualifying for the exemption at 65, 70 or 75. For example, in West Virginia the age is 65, in Maryland the age is 70, and in New Jersey the age is 75.

Other bills approved by the committee and sent on to the full Senate for consideration include:

Senate Bill 161 would provide immunity from civil liability for hospitals that donate for humanitarian aid medical equipment and supplies which are in good condition.

Senate Bill 166 would allow courts to grant expungement if the crime is a misdemeanor of the third or second degree and the individual has not been arrested or prosecuted for seven to ten years following the completion of the sentence or judicial supervision.

Senate Bill 180 updates and revises state law relating to organ and tissue donations. 

Senate Bill 283 continues the process to amend the state Constitution to eliminate the Philadelphia Traffic Court.

Senate Bill 301 consolidates various statutes into the Administrative Procedure Code.

Committee Approves Oil and Gas Lease Consumer Protection Bills

The Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee approved two bills on Wednesday aimed at expanding the rights of landowners who currently hold leases with natural gas companies.

Senate Bill 147 would expand the Oil and Gas Lease Act by allowing royalty interest owners the opportunity to inspect records of natural gas companies to verify proper payments. The bill also requires all royalty payments to be made within 60 days of production unless otherwise stated in the contract. Any delinquent payments would be paid with interest.

Senate Bill 148 would prohibit a gas company from retaliating against any royalty interest owner by terminating their lease agreement or ceasing development on leased property because the owner questions the accuracy of royalty payments. Companies violating the provisions of this bill would face civil penalties of up to $1,000 per day.

The committee also approved Senate Bill 279, legislation establishing the Penn Grade Crude Development Advisory Council, which would study existing regulations and assist the Department of Environmental Protection in making changes that better address the differences between conventional and unconventional oil and gas production.

All three bills are now before the full Senate for consideration.

Next Week

The Senate returns to voting session on Monday at 1 p.m. You can watch session live at PASenateGOP.com.


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Offices

Senate Box 203040
Harrisburg, PA 17120-3040
Phone: (717) 787-6123
Fax: (717) 772-3695

Monroe County Office

DePue Plaza
2989 Route 611, Suite 103
Tannersville, PA 18372
Phone (570) 620-4326 
FAX (570) 620-4379
Monday - Friday
9 a.m.- 4:30 p.m.

Northampton County Office

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