Legislative Update July 20, 2021
I would like to take the summer break from session dates to highlight additional legislation I have chosen to follow closely. I have categorized these for your direction of interest.
HB692 would establish a grant program to improve, enhance and expand access to clean diapers for infants, children and incontinent adults through outreach programs, volunteer training and fundraising assistance.
HB547 would consolidate several existing programs under a new Department of Accessibility and Inclusion and create a secretary position to serve on the governor’s cabinet. The sponsor believes too many Pennsylvanians with disabilities remain underserved, underemployed, on waiting lists, or otherwise struggling to obtain greater independence or to maximize their skills effectively.
HB729 seeks to address harms associated with conversion therapy by prohibiting a mental health professional from engaging in this archaic treatment with an individual under the age of 18.
HB749 would require all children under the age of six to be tested for elevated lead levels in the blood. Specifically, the bill would require all children to receive a screening at 12 months of age and 24 months of age, with children determined by the Department of Health as high risk receiving annual screenings until they are six years of age. The bill would further require health insurers to provide coverage for the testing and services related to lead-screening for expectant mothers and children under the age of six.
HB813 would provide grants for lead abatement with primary consideration given to municipalities that demonstrate a financial need and prioritize assistance to low-income households and those in which children under the age of six reside.
HB833 would require the study for the potential savings of importing less expensive prescription drugs from Canada and design a potential prescription drug importation program for our state when the study demonstrates savings for consumers.
HB841 would explicitly state in state law that mental health patients have the right to be free from abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
HB702 would count individuals incarcerated in correctional facilities at their last known residence before incarceration for the purpose of drawing legislative district lines.
HB709 would require applicants for state contracts to submit a disclosure statement listing all campaign contributions made by the applicant or intermediary to any elected official, candidate for state or local office, or political committee. This is intended to stop “pay to play”.
HB808 extend the date by which citizens must return absentee ballots. My bill will allow absentee ballots to be received up to six days after the election so long as they are postmarked by Election Day.
HB852 would require a nonprofit organization that has the expectation of making contributions or expenditures of $25,000 or more in a calendar year to a political committee or campaign to file a statement of organization with the Department of State. The nonprofit organization would also be required to file a report of the source of the 10 largest cumulative payments of $10,000 or more the nonprofit organization received in the current calendar year from a single person.
HB851 would require all candidates running for school board to submit a report of state and federal criminal history record information, a certificate from the Department of Health clarifying whether the candidate is a perpetrator in a child abuse investigation, and a full set of fingerprints. If a candidate does not obtain these clearances, they will be ineligible to run for school board.
Business and Employers
HB671 would require charities seeking a Sales and Use Tax exemption to expend at least 60 percent of their functional expenses on the charity’s program services.
HB701 would prohibit employers from including non-compete clauses in the employment contracts of low-wage workers.
HB708 would expand sales tax exclusion for up to seven days per year to allow libraries to sell used books for supplemental income without paying sales tax throughout the year, granting an extra way that our struggling libraries could help support themselves.
HB713 would re-establish the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative. This program, which operated from 2004 to 2010, would once again provide grants and low-interest loans for the construction, rehabilitation, or expansion of grocery stores, farmers markets, and other healthy food retail establishments in low- to moderate-income areas in need and other underserved communities. The bill’s sponsor believes restarting this program would allow us to help people who suffer from hunger and malnourishment, while also improving the quality of fresh produce and promoting local agricultural products throughout the Commonwealth.
HB778 would ensure employers and career and technical education centers will have ability to work together to ensure training programs will provide the skilled workers needed.
HB791 would reimburse jurors for parking costs and to provide them with fair compensation for lost wages.
HB818 would create a grant program to fund organizations and artists whose work benefits historically marginalized communities.
HB825 would prohibit employers from using an applicant’s credit report for making employment decisions. This prohibition will exist in most cases though exceptions will exist, such as if an individual is applying for an executive position at a financial institution, an individual holds employment that requires a clearance, or the information is required by law.
HB821 would prohibit discriminatory gender-based pay, placing new penalties on employers using such discriminatory wage practices. It further creates the Equal Pay Commission to investigate and study factors causing pay disparity. We need to correct this economic injustice by allowing employees the ability to inquire about wages and requiring employers disclose information about wages.
HB704 would direct the Environmental Quality Board (EQB) to establish statewide maximum contaminant levels for carcinogens and other harmful pollutants found in drinking water systems, so long as the levels do not exceed those promulgated by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
HB748 would require more frequent testing to identify elevated lead concentrations in our public water systems.
HB783 would prohibit food establishments from using styrofoam temporary packaging for prepared foods. It would not prohibit the use of polystyrene for retail food products such as meat trays or egg cartons because it is not intended to eliminate functionally necessary packaging materials, but those that are used simply for convenience. This prohibition is intended to reduce the amount of this harmful material, while encouraging the use of alternatives, such as paper or fiber containers that are more naturally biodegradable.
HB696 aims to help support community-based violence reduction initiatives by creating the Violence Intervention Program (VIP), a competitive grant program, awarded from a fund of $30 million for three years, administered by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency for municipalities that have been disproportionately impacted by violence.
HB775 would add animal fighting to the state’s racketeering provisions, which already include insurance fraud, bribery, kidnapping, theft, and bookmaking. This change will allow the state to better address the pattern of illegal activities surrounding animal fighting by providing added tools to prosecutors who target these offenses, both on the county and state level, including longer penalties and higher fines.
HB705 would guarantee admission into the PASSHE system with junior standing to community college students who complete an approved Associate Degree for Transfer program.
HB712 would establish a program, the Governor’s School of Urban Teaching, that will enable future generations of educators to engage in an intensive summer program designed to demonstrate the rewards and hardships of teaching in an urban environment.
HB707 would require all public schools in Pennsylvania to mark Veterans Day as a school holiday to continue to show our respect for these brave Americans.
HB790 would make sure school districts complete a radon test in every school building at least once every five years. Furthermore, it would require that any newly constructed school buildings be tested within nineteen months of the date of occupancy, and any remodeled school buildings to be tested within nineteen months of completion of the remodeling.
HB787 would require school districts in the Commonwealth to establish policies for the procurement and use of green cleaning products.
HB805 would establish a new shared services grant program for public school entities, including school districts and intermediate units. It would award grant money for shared services such as regionalization, consolidation, shared capacity, boundary change, and personnel sharing. This approach has been highlighted by the Joint State Government Commission as a way to encourage sharing resources and reducing costs, allowing local governments to benefit from economies of scale. While the Municipal Assistance Program (MAP) offered by the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) helps counties and municipalities with shared services, no equivalent program currently exists for education. The sponsor believes by creating one, we would empower school districts to work together by providing state support to locally driven cooperation initiatives, making sure more money is spent on providing services and less on administration.
HB816 would include chronic absenteeism, homelessness, and students living in foster care, definitive proxies of trauma that school districts are already mandated to measure, in the school funding formula
HB835 would enable school districts to exclude up to 100% of a homeowner’s school property tax bill. The state would offset this by increasing the state Personal Income Tax (PIT) by 1.9% to cover the amount needed to offset owner-occupied residential school property taxes.
HB834 would require a school entity or nonpublic school, to have an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) present at all interscholastic athletic events, including practices.
HR72 would require a study to find an age-appropriate measuring tool that school districts can use to measure, track, and combat trauma with the necessary support services for those who have experienced adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).
HB847 would require public schools to provide instruction on conflict resolution to all students. This instruction will include topics such as skills of conflict resolution, respect for different cultures, races, and beliefs, effectively managing emotions, and how to resolve differences peacefully. This instruction shall be age appropriate and be incorporated into an appropriate area of study.
HB716 would establish a four-year continuing professional education (CPE) pilot program for CPAs who volunteer their time to assist volunteer fire companies with their financial records. This bill is aimed at providing savings to volunteer companies as well. The sponsor points out, Pennsylvania is composed of 97% volunteer firefighter organizations and has about 12% of the entire nation’s firefighters, with their services saving taxpayers approximately $8 to $10 billion every year.
HB625 would allow for an optional, discreet designation to be placed on a person’s driver’s license or state issued identification card which would identify them as a person with a disability and therefore hopefully facilitate a more positive and informed interaction. The identifier would not specify the type of disability, but it would provide key insight to the emergency responder as to how to assist and communicate with the individual.
HB804 would waive the vehicle registration fee for volunteer first responders who drive their own vehicles when responding to emergencies.
HB814 would amend Title 35 chapter on Grants to Fire Companies and Volunteer Services to redefine “firehouses” so that municipalities with multiple firehouses under one company have equitable advantage to fund their needs.
HB849 would designate a privately-owned vehicle of a school resource officer and police officer as an emergency vehicle. This would permit the school officer to utilize emergency lights when responding to an emergency within a school they are responsible for protecting.
HB626 would address how the public could access police videos and provide rules regarding the ability of the public to record law enforcement activity while on the job.
Home and Family
HB767 would prioritize mortgage modification. This measure will allow finalized mortgage modification in advance of the payment of municipal liens assessed on a property.
HB768 would waive the fees to obtain a driver’s license for youth identified as homeless by a state agency and permit these children to use a shelter or school address as a temporary address, however, the child must be enrolled in an education program to receive the waived fee.
HB788 would establish the Paid Family Leave Act in our Commonwealth. Any leave under this act would be counted against the FMLA leave for which an employee is entitled to by federal law, for many of the same circumstances as FMLA, with a significant difference: The leave will be paid leave, not unpaid leave as provided for under FMLA.
HB826 would lower the fee of state identification cards for low-income, homeless, and disabled individuals.
HB830 would waive the fees associated with replacing critical state documents, including driver’s licenses, vehicle registrations, and birth certificates, for those who find themselves without those documents because of the abuse. The sponsor believes this legislation would help victims of domestic violence who are attempting to escape their abusive situation.