Senator Hutchinson E-Newsletter

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Harrisburg Happenings

A report on legislative actions from the Session Week of October 15, 2018

Dear Friend,

I am pleased to send you my Session Wrap Up e-newsletter. This e-newsletter features events and legislative activities from the Session Week of October 15, 2018.

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Senate Recognizes Rocky Grove High School Orioles

On Monday, I had the honor of introducing the Rocky Grove High School Orioles state champion baseball team from Venango County, to the Senate.

The Orioles compiled a 10-3 regular season record on the way to winning the District 10 Championship.

They capped off their stellar season by claiming the Class AA with a thrilling five-to-four (5-4) victory over Camp Hill High School on June 14. This was a truly historic event as Rocky Grove became the first District 10 baseball team to capture the Class AA crown.

10/15/18 – Introduction of Rocky Grove HS Baseball Team

Senate Adopts Resolution Honoring Sons of the American Revolution

10/15/18 - Sons of the American Revolution Day in Pennsylvania

The Senate unanimously adopted my Resolution honoring the Sons of the American Revolution Day on Monday.

Conservation Committee Examines Renewable Energy Resources

10/15/18 – Turning Waste into Energy

The Joint Legislative Conservation Committee, which I chair, held and Environmental Issues Forum on Monday to examine ways to convert waste into renewable energy resources such as biogas and bioenergy.

The concept of turning organic waste from areas such as landfills into energy has been examined extensively and has been found to offer a host of economic and environmental benefits. This energy will serve a multitude of purposes such as providing electricity and heat to homes and businesses across communities and generating fuel for automobiles. Many companies are expanding their energy portfolios with this waste-to-energy technology in order to improve waste management, reduce pollution and improve air quality.

Work Requirement Measure Clears Legislature

A bill setting work requirements for able-bodied recipients of Medical Assistance (MA) benefits cleared the General Assembly on Wednesday and is headed to the Governor. Under House Bill 2138, able-bodied recipients must be employed, attend a job training program for 20 weeks or more, or complete 12 job training program-related activities in a month in order to continue receiving MA benefits. According to the state Department of Human Services, 51 percent of Pennsylvania’s able-bodied MA recipients do not work.

Comprehensive Public Welfare Reform Bill Sent to Governor

A measure addressing egregious abuses of Pennsylvania’s public welfare system received final legislative approval on Wednesday and was sent to the Governor.  Senate Bill 6 addresses the eligibility of high-level felony drug dealers and non-compliant sex offenders for public assistance. The bill places additional controls on the use of Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards. The EBT card provides public assistance recipients with electronic access to their public assistance cash and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamp) benefits. The measure bans the use of EBT cards at casinos and adult entertainment venues and requires lottery winnings of more than $600 to be counted as a resource for the purpose of calculating eligibility for public assistance.

Food Stamp Fraud Prevention Measure Receives Final Approval

Legislation aimed at preventing the fraudulent trafficking of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, commonly known as food stamps, was sent to the Governor this week. Senate Bill 1127 creates a new penalty for the fraudulent trafficking of SNAP benefits in an amount greater than $2,500. Under the bill, anyone convicted of SNAP trafficking could be found guilty of a second-degree felony and be required to pay restitution of up to three times the amount of the fraud they committed.

Last year, the Inspector General’s Office uncovered a scheme involving a Harrisburg restaurant trading drugs for food stamps and subsequently using them to buy thousands of dollars of supplies from a food wholesale club to be resold for profit. The scam involved the fraudulent use of nearly 60 different SNAP recipients’ benefits.

Legislation Targets Illegal Passing of School Buses

Legislation targeting motorists who illegally pass school buses is on its way to the Governor’s desk. Senate Bill 1098 permits the placement of cameras on school buses to capture motorists who pass when red signals are flashing. The bill also establishes a grant program, funded by a portion of fines collected from violations, to help defray the cost for school districts to install stop-arm cameras.

Bill Increases Penalties for Habitual DUI Offenders

Legislation increasing the penalties for habitual DUI offenders received final legislative approval this week. Senate Bill 961 creates a new felony DUI offense in Pennsylvania for individuals convicted of their third DUI with a BAC of .16 or higher and all persons convicted of their fourth DUI.

This bill increases the minimum jail term for a person who unintentionally causes the death of another person as a result of a second or subsequent DUI violation from three years to five years if the person has a prior DUI, and from three years to seven years if the offender has two or more prior DUIs.

Senate Bill 961 also increases the penalties for repeat offenders who are not properly licensed or under suspension.  The current penalty is a fine of $500 and imprisonment of 60 to 90 days.  The legislation increases this penalty on a second offense to a fine of $1,000 and imprisonment of at least 90 days.  A third or subsequent offense would result in a $2,500 fine and at least six months in jail.

Anti-hazing Bill Sent to Governor

Senate Bill 1090, a measure that emphasizes prevention, enforcement and transparency in order to end hazing, received final legislative approval and was sent to the Governor for enactment into law.  The bill increases penalties for those involved in hazing; requires schools to have policies and reporting procedures in place to stop hazing; and ensures that parents and students are provided with information related to the issue. It establishes parameters on hazing for organizations such as fraternities and sororities, while creating safe harbor provisions so students know they can call for help for someone in distress without fear of prosecution.

Legislation to Relocate Domestic Violence Victims Receives Final Approval 

A bill that would allow domestic violence victims who live in public housing to be relocated is on its way to the Governor. Senate Bill 919 allows a county housing authority to relocate a domestic violence victim to another unit under the authority’s control or in another county housing authority, or refer the victim to local advocacy organizations for housing assistance.

Alternatives to Keystone Exam Graduation Requirements Set for Enactment 

Legislation providing alternatives to Keystone Exams to fulfill high school graduation requirements received final legislative approval this week. Senate Bill 1095 provides several options to students to meet graduation requirements. The Keystone Exam graduation requirement has been delayed until the 2020-21 school year. The alternate graduation options in Senate Bill 1095 would take effect when the Keystone Exam delay expires.

Bill Ensuring EMS Reimbursements for Service Sent to Governor

Legislation requiring insurance companies and Medicaid to reimburse emergency medical services agencies for services provided when care is rendered, but transport to a hospital does not take place, was sent to the Governor’s desk. House Bill 1013 ensures that EMS agencies are properly reimbursed for their services when called out to provide care. Currently, insurance companies and Medicaid are only required to reimburse EMS organizations for services when they include transportation to a hospital.

Bill Extends Restitution to Government, Businesses

Legislation allowing governments, non-profit organizations and businesses to collect restitution when they are victims of a crime is headed to the Governor’s desk. Senate Bill 897 closes a current loophole in state law that defines a “victim” specifically as an individual who has suffered physical or mental injury, death or the loss of earnings.  As a result of that limited definition, a recent Supreme Court ruling found that governmental entities and businesses are not eligible for reimbursement when they are victimized and suffer losses.  The bill expands the scope of restitution to include government agencies, non-profits, corporations and similar organizations.

Bill Setting Guidelines for Prison Closures Sent to the Governor

 Legislation establishing a standardized process for the closure of state prisons and state police barracks was sent to the Governor’s desk.  Senate Bill 748 was introduced in response to recent prison closures that were undertaken with little or no public input. The bill requires a minimum of seven months’ notice before a closure.  State and local stakeholders must be notified at least three months prior to a planned closure announcement. The agency seeking the closure must hold a public hearing and provide a written report to the Governor and leaders in the General Assembly. If all criteria are met, the facility may close four months after the announcement.

Legislation Allows Security to be Discussed in Executive Session

Local school districts and governments would be permitted to discuss school security matters in executive session under legislation that is headed to the Governor’s desk. Senate Bill 1078 balances common sense concerns about protecting sensitive discussions and documents involving school security with the public’s “right to know.” More than half of the states currently have measures in place which allow for security and safety matters to be discussed in non-public executive session.

Committee Roundup

Aging & Youth

The Senate Aging & Youth Committee approved two bills on Monday.

House Bill 270 increases the PACENET income eligibility limits from $23,500 to $27,500 for individuals and from $31,500 to $35,500 for married couples.

House Bill 1588 requires the Department of Aging to establish a process to cross reference individuals enrolled in the PACE and PACENET program, at least once per month, against the Department of Health death records information.


The Senate Appropriations Committee approved 12 bills on Monday.

House Bill 163 removes language relating to federally mandated driver’s license suspensions for drug/controlled substance convictions, as well as state-imposed suspensions for six other crimes.

House Bill 544 addresses the issue of recreational use and liability to protect landowners in the event of injuries to recreational users.

House Bill 599 creates the Results First Project and provides for data collection and analysis by the Independent Fiscal Office.

House Bill 927 provides for a municipal exemption from leaf waste collection requirements.

House Bill 1013 requires managed care plans and Medicaid to pay all reasonably necessary costs associated with the provision of emergency services even if the covered individual does not require transport or refuses to be transported.

Senate Bill 1069 provides for the voluntary dissolution of municipal corporations (cities, boroughs, towns, & townships) in Allegheny County and the substitution of unincorporated districts as a new form of government to be administered by the county.

House Bill 1284 enacts the Pennsylvania Business One-Stop Shop Act to provide online, one-stop services to assist businesses.

House Bill 1840 re-establishes a provision in the Workers’ Compensation Act authorizing Impairment Rating Evaluations for claimants, addresses the Supreme Court’s Protz ruling (Protz vs Derry Area School District), and increases the burial benefit in the Workers’ Compensation Act from $3,000 to $7,000.

House Bill 1884 creates the Patient Test Result Information Act.

House Bill 1936 makes editorial and technical changes to the Snowmobile and All-Terrain Vehicle Law.

House Bill 1958 authorizes the use of highly automated work zone vehicles by PENNDOT and the Turnpike Commission and allows for the platooning of motor carrier vehicles.

House Bill 2075 authorizes rate recovery by a water public utility for costs incurred to replace customer-owned lead water service lines.

The Appropriations Committee approved 17 bills on Tuesday.

House Bill 270 increases the PACENET income eligibility limits from $23,500 to $27,500 for individuals and from $31,500 to $35,500 for married couples.

House Bill 324 provides protections for retirement plan benefits due to pension de-risking.

House Bill 645 amends Article XIX-A (Neighborhood Assistance Tax Credit) of the Tax Reform Code of 1971 further providing for tax credit and grant of tax credit and providing for reporting.

House Bill 1228 permits students to self-apply a topical sunscreen during school or at school activities without a physician’s note or prescription.

House Bill 1233 establishes a new standard for assisted outpatient treatment for seriously mentally ill individuals.

House Bill 1469 provides for the use of third party agencies and for a system to handle Uniform Construction Code administrator complaints.

House Bill 1497 makes several changes to the state Liquor Code.

House Bill 1511 amends the Tax Reform Code providing for definitions and imposition of a hotel occupancy tax and establishing a restricted revenue account to be known as the Tourism Promotion Fund.

House Bill 1822 establishes a new chapter in Title 24 (Education) concerning suicide prevention in institutions of higher education.

House Bill 1886 updates Orphans’ Court report procedures.

House Bill 1951 provides a new offense for selling dextromethorphan to minors.

House Bill 2052 amends the Public School Code by adding a new section concerning military parent student support.

House Bill 2131 requires PENNDOT to plant native species of vegetation along highways where feasible.

House Bill 2157 amends the Public School Code concerning the Commission for Agricultural Education Excellence, the utilization of credits, and the classification of program codes.

House Bill 2557 extends Harrisburg’s expanded taxing capabilities after its exit from Act 47.

House Bill 2638 provides for a remediation program to address contamination at Willow Grove Naval Air Station. 

The Appropriations Committee approved House Bill 2154 on Wednesday. The bill establishes the Conventional Oil and Gas Wells Act.


The Senate Education Committee approved House Bill 1822 on Monday. The bill establishes a new chapter in Title 24 (Education) concerning suicide prevention in institutions of higher education.

Health & Human Services

The Senate Health & Human Services Committee approved Senate Bill 1270 on Tuesday. The bill requires blood testing of young children for lead poisoning. The committee approved House Bill 1742 on Wednesday. The bill requires child care facilities to publicly display their current Keystone STARS rating.


The Senate Judiciary Committee approved five bills on Monday.

House Bill 1951 provides a new offense for selling dextromethorphan to minors.

House Bill 2307 amends the Post-Conviction Relief Act and post-conviction DNA testing statute.

House Bill 2308 amends the Post-Conviction Relief Act and post-conviction DNA testing statute.

House Bill 2476 allows Commonwealth employees to carry or store a lawfully owned firearm and ammunition in a vehicle at a state correctional institution.

House Bill 2526 addresses female mutilation.

Law & Justice

The Senate Law & Justice Committee approved House Bill 1497 on Monday. The bill makes several changes to the state Liquor Code.

Labor & Industry

The Senate Labor & Industry Committee approved House Bill 2071 on Monday. The bill creates the Workplace Violence Prevention Act to give employers the right to implement workplace violence policies and prevention measures and provides for civil action.

Local Government

The Senate Local Government Committee approved House Bill 2557 on Monday. The bill extends Harrisburg’s expanded taxing capabilities after its exit from Act 47. 

Rules & Executive Nominations

The Senate Rules & Executive Nominations Committee approved eight bills on Monday

Senate Bill 748 establishes notice guidelines regarding the proposed closure of state prisons.

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

Senate Bill 1005 makes numerous changes to the County Code.

Senate Bill 1090 increases penalties for hazing and requires schools to have policies and reporting procedures in place to stop hazing.

Senate Bill 1095 provides alternatives to Keystone Exams.

Senate Bill 1172 amends the Price Gouging Act. 

House Bill 1659 amends the Human Services Code regarding work requirement waivers in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

House Bill 2138 adds work requirements for eligible enrollees in Medical Assistance.

The Rules & Executive Nomination Committee approved five bills on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 353 is a land conveyance bill.

Senate Bill 554 immunizes child victims of human trafficking from criminal prosecution.

Senate Bill 897 expands the scope of restitution for victims to include government agencies, non-profits, corporations and other similar organizations. 

Senate Bill 915 extends the deadline for filing a post-conviction relief action.

Senate Bill 916 updates the DNA testing law.


The Senate Transportation Committee approved two bills on Monday.

House Bill 2425 renames a bridge in Lancaster County.

House Bill 2638 provides for a remediation program to address contamination at Willow Grove Naval Air Station. 

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