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.
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In This Issue
Governor and Lieutenant Governor Sworn In,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Senate Bill 161 would provide immunity from civil liability for hospitals
that donate for humanitarian aid medical equipment and supplies which are in
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
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
Committee Approves Oil and Gas Lease Consumer
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.
The Senate returns to voting session on Monday at 1 p.m. You can watch
session live at
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