Senator Mario Scavello E-Newsletter

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Week of January 27, 2020

In this Update:

  • Urging Action on the School Property Tax Crisis
  • Senate Approves Fair Access to Cancer Treatment Act, Improved Breast Cancer Screening Coverage
  • Human Trafficking Bill set for Enactment
  • Other Bills Receiving Final Approval
  • Senate Acts to Assist Fire, EMS Companies
  • Bill Increasing Penalties for Repeat DUI Drivers Approved by Senate
  • Other Bills Approved by the Senate and Sent to the House
  • Lieutenant Governor Selection Process Reform Advances
  • Committee Roundup
  • Next Week
  • Around the 40th District

Urging Action on the School Property Tax Crisis

1/28/20 – Calling for Property Tax Reform

This week I again made remarks on the Senate floor urging my Senate colleagues to act on the school property tax crisis.

The time for action was yesterday.

As you watch my remarks, please note the following:

Many have asked why gambling has not “eliminated school property taxes as was promised.” I never voted to allow gambling in PA and I never, ever said it would have any meaningful impact on school property taxes. That was a promise that was made by then-Governor Ed Rendell to try and soften the idea of legalized gambling in PA. Even if you took every dollar of gambling revenue in the state, you would not have enough to offset the $14 billion needed to fully eliminate school property taxes.

Some have claimed, “Just raise the sales tax to eliminate taxes for all!” This is a common assertion based on the idea that yes, the sales tax is a “fairer” tax – you only pay it when you make the choice to purchase a product. However, the sales tax raises much less revenue for each percent increase than the personal income tax, as a comparison. Even if you doubled the state sales tax, you would not have enough revenue to offset the $14 billion of school property taxes. Not to mention, the higher the sales tax gets, the less return the state would see as people choose to shop elsewhere, etc. In addition, Philadelphia has an 8% sales tax while Pittsburgh’s rate is 7%. Because you need broad support from around the state for any proposal to obtain the votes needed to pass a bill, legislators from these regions have historically opposed significant increases to the sales tax.

In order for any bill to pass and become law in Pennsylvania, you need 26 Senators, 102 Representatives and the Governor’s signature. I have fought for years to change this system and if I had the power to force change single-handedly, I would. No matter what arguments I make to other legislators, the citizens in those districts have the strongest voice. Unfortunately, many legislators have stated they simply do not hear from residents in their districts on this issue. That needs to change if we are going to see real change.

Senate Approves Fair Access to Cancer Treatment Act, Improved Breast Cancer Screening Coverage

1/29/20 – Breast Density Screening Insurance Coverage (SB 595)

I was extremely happy with Wednesday’s Senate passage of measures to help cancer patients access potentially lifesaving drugs and require insurers to cover supplemental screenings for women at high risk for breast cancer.

The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee, which I chair, approved both measures last fall, with my strong support.

Under House Bill 427, the Fair Access to Cancer Treatment Act, health insurance policies that cover treatments for stage four metastatic cancers will not be able to limit or exclude innovative drugs for those patients if the drugs have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for this use and are consistent with best practices.

Patients no longer will have to first demonstrate that they failed to respond to a different drug or drugs before they are provided coverage.

Metastatic patients experience an expansion of their cancer to new parts and organs in the body. For these patients, time is of the essence, and delays in treatment are matters of life and death. I am proud to be a part of moving this important legislation forward and offer help to all those survivors and their families.”

Senate Bill 595 would amend the state Insurance Company Law to extend mandated insurance coverage to ultrasound screening and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) if a mammogram demonstrates extremely dense breast tissue.

Both cancer and density appear white on a mammogram, so detecting tumors is much more difficult in denser breasts without further screening provided by an ultrasound or an MRI. Women who have extremely dense breast tissue are four to six times more likely to develop breast cancer. Currently, insurance companies do not cover these extra screening costs for women who are at an increased risk.

Additionally, insurance coverage will also be extended if a woman is believed to be at increased risk for breast cancer due to family history or prior personal history of breast cancer, positive genetic testing or other indications.

As Chair of the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee, I have had the pleasure of speaking with many breast cancer survivors, including many in my home district — and one, a good friend, Cindy Miller, who worked on my staff and is now Chair of the Lehigh Township Board of Supervisors — who emphasize the importance of early detection. Passage of this legislation is the right thing to do on behalf of breast cancer survivors and their families and all those individuals across Pennsylvania who are at a higher risk of having breast cancer.

House Bill 427 was amended in the Senate and will be returned to the House for concurrence. Senate Bill 595 will be sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Human Trafficking Bill set for Enactment

The Senate gave final approval on Monday to a measure setting significant penalties for the solicitation or advertisement of the sexual services of victims of human trafficking. Senate Bill 60 now goes to the Governor’s desk. The bill, commonly called the “Buyer Beware Act,” builds on recent efforts by the General Assembly to curb human trafficking.

The measure imposes a first-degree felony charge on those who recruit, harbor, entice, transport, or advertise human trafficking victims for sexual servitude. The bill also significantly increases monetary penalties on those who patronize a victim of human trafficking.

Other Bills Receiving Final Approval

Senate Bill 690 increases the public bidding threshold requirement from $1,500 to $6,000 for Incorporated Towns.

Senate Bill 691 increases the public bidding threshold requirement from $1,500 to $6,000 for Second Class Townships.

Senate Bill 692 increases the public bidding threshold from $1,500 to $6,000 for Boroughs and Third Class Cities.

Senate Bill 906 institutes a moratorium on the closing of the Polk and White Haven State Centers.

Senate Acts to Assist Fire, EMS Companies

The Senate approved two bills on Tuesday that would help fire and EMS companies deal with funding challenges and retention of members. Pennsylvania has nearly 2,450 fire companies – including about 2,350 volunteer departments, more than any other state.

Senate Bill 908 would create a voter referendum to expand the Volunteer Fire Company, Ambulance Service and Rescue Squad Assistance Program to include paid fire and EMS companies. The bill would also increase the maximum loan amounts allowed by the program, expand the allowable list of uses of Fire Relief Funding and review the current funding formula. It would also move the administration of the Fire Relief Program from the Auditor General to the State Fire Commissioner.

Senate Bill 910 would extend the life of the Fire Company and Emergency Medical Service Grant Program to June 2024. The program, which was created in 2003, is currently set to expire in June of this year. The bill would also expand the use of the program to include recruitment and retention programs, as well as volunteer fire length of service awards.

Bill Increasing Penalties for Repeat DUI Drivers Approved by Senate

The Senate approved legislation on Tuesday that substantially increases the legal penalties imposed on repeat DUI offenders.

Senate Bill 773 — known as Deana’s Law in memory of Deana Eckman, a Delaware County woman who was killed by a drunk driver who had five previous DUI convictions — would increase jail time for those convicted of three or more DUIs and doubles the required period for anti-DUI interlock devices on any vehicle operated by a person with three or more DUI convictions. Offenders arrested for a third or subsequent DUI would also be required to wear continuous alcohol monitoring devices.

Senate Bill 773 is now before the House of Representatives for consideration.

Other Bills Approved by the Senate and Sent to the House

Senate Bill 30 creates a state housing tax credit.

Senate Bill 491 provides for the appointment of two Certified Pennsylvania Evaluators by the Governor to serve on the State Board of Certified Real Estate Appraisers.

Senate Bill 779 moves Pennsylvania’s Presidential primary election day to the third Tuesday of March.

Lieutenant Governor Selection Process Reform Advances

Legislation amending the Pennsylvania State Constitution to change how the lieutenant governor is selected received final approval this week. Senate Bill 133 would let gubernatorial candidates select their running mates after the primary election – a process that mirrors how presidential candidates currently select their vice presidential running mates. Currently, voters select their party’s lieutenant governor candidate.

Since constitutional amendments must be approved during two consecutive sessions of the General Assembly, the exact language of Senate Bill 133 must be ratified again by both chambers during the 2021-22 Legislative Session before it can go on the ballot as a referendum for voter approval.

Committee Roundup

Bills approved in committees.

Appropriations

Senate Bill 30 creates a state housing tax credit.

Senate Bill 309 creates First-time Homebuyers Savings Accounts.

Senate Bill 462 repeals outdated School Code provisions.

Senate Bill 494 authorizes political subdivisions and authorities to enter into contracts for services when two consecutive advertisements fail to induce bids.

Senate Bill 640 authorizes the Commonwealth to join the interstate Physical Therapist Compact.

Senate Bill 798 removes a loophole relating to dangerous dogs from the Dog Law.

Senate Bill 908 creates a voter referendum to expand the Volunteer Fire Company, Ambulance Service and Rescue Squad Assistance Program to include paid fire and EMS companies. The bill would also increase the maximum loan amounts allowed by the program.

Senate Bill 910 reauthorizes the Fire & EMS Grant Program until June 30, 2024.

House Bill 1578 amends Title 68 (Real and Personal Property) to make technical changes and clarifications.

House Bill 64 authorizes state professional and occupational licensing boards to allow carryover of excess continuing education credits.

Senate Bill 417 requires successful write-in candidates receive at least the same number of write-in votes as would be required if they had filed nomination petitions.

Senate Bill 679 directs the Environmental Quality Board to develop regulations that authorize counties to adopt a program for stream cleaning and maintenance and the removal of obstructions and flood-related hazards from local waterways.

Senate Bill 773 increases penalties for those who have multiple DUI convictions.

House Bill 775 requires the Department of Aging to review the PACE and PACENET programs to remove deceased enrollees.

Senate Bill 779 moves Pennsylvania’s Presidential primary election day to the third Tuesday of March.

Senate Bill 997 clarifies military service credit for retirement purposes for Pennsylvania State Police members.

House Bill 1001 establishes standards for the licensure and regulation of (human) milk banks.

House Bill 1100 establishes the Energy and Fertilizer Manufacturing Tax Credit program.

Environmental Resources & Energy

Joint public hearing with the Senate Transportation Committee on the environmental and economic impacts of Pennsylvania’s participation in the 12-state Transportation Climate Initiative. Video & Written Testimony

Finance

Senate Bill 997 clarifies military service credit for retirement purposes for Pennsylvania State Police members.

Judiciary

Senate Bill 968 consolidates the Department of Corrections with the Board of Probation and Parole and transfers the supervision of offenders and certain administrative functions from the board to the department and preserving parole decision–making responsibilities within the board.

Senate Bill 969 amends the Crime Victims Act to make technical changes related to the consolidation of the Department of Corrections and the Board of Probation and Parole.

Senate Bill 976 adds Veterans Courts to the list of problem-solving courts that may be established by a court of common pleas and by the Municipal Court of Philadelphia.

Labor & Industry

Public hearing on Senate Bill 580, establishing the Pennsylvania Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program. Video & Written Testimony

Law & Justice

Public hearing on the PA Liquor Control Board 2018-19 Annual Report. Video

Majority Policy

Public hearing to discuss implementation of election modernization initiatives passed in 2019. Agenda & Video

Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness

Senate Bill 932 expands the allowable uses for volunteer firefighter relief associations regarding state funding and would allow organizations with paid and volunteer firefighters to use that funding.

Senate Bill 987 restructures and enhances the Office of State Fire Commissioner. The measure would require Senate Confirmation of the Fire Commissioner, designates the Office of Fire Commissioner as the lead agency for fire services in the Commonwealth, and establishes a State Fire Advisory Board.

Senate Bill 996 exempts individuals driving Emergency Medical Service (EMS) vehicles, such as ambulances, from the requirement to hold EMS certification.

Next Week

The Senate returns to voting session on Monday at 1 p.m., and on Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. the governor gives his budget address to a joint session of the legislature. You can watch session and the address live at SenatorScavello.com.

Around the 40th District

Thank you Middle Smithfield Township (MST) for taking the time to recognize the volunteers in our community. Congratulations to George Vagelakos, Louis Santiago, and Dennis/Ronnie O’Leary for being named finalists for 2019 Person of the Year. In the end, George won the MST Person of The Year Award, and was recognized for his work with Meals on Wheels and the RSVP Building Committee which helps seniors stay in their homes. It is always a pleasure to recognize the great people we have in our community that give so much of their time and talents to help others!

Last week it was my privilege to help induct Geoffrey Roche into the Pleasant Valley School District Hall of Fame. Geoffrey grew up in the Poconos and attended Pleasant Valley. He currently serves on the President’s Cabinet at Harrisburg University where he manages and executes strategic initiatives to support the health science academic programs. Previously Geoffrey worked for what was then Pocono Medical Center for 9 years. Congratulations Geoffrey!

On Monday in Harrisburg I welcomed a group of homeschool students and their parents from the district to the Capitol. The group received a tour of the Capitol and were able to watch the Senate in session. I always enjoy meeting and speaking to students from the district!

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