Week of April 26, 2021
In This Edition:
Regan Convenes First Law & Justice Committee Meeting
On Tuesday, as the Chairman of the Senate Law & Justice Committee this legislative session, I convened our first voting meeting to consider four bills.
House Bill 425, sponsored by Representative Dowling, allows a holder of a liquor license to sell their stock of liquor and wine to another license holder when they close their business. Current law only allows licensees to sell their stock to the buyer of their license. This bill was amended to also provide COVID-related extensions for restaurants and bars – specifically to temporarily extend licensed premises for outdoor dining, remove restrictions on off-premise catering permits, waive fees and allow licensees an additional year of safekeeping.
House Bill 427, sponsored by former Representative Pyle, increases the current licensee discount from 10% to 15%. The increased discount does not apply to grocery or convenience stores and will revert to the original 10% discount three years after the end of the current disaster emergency proclamation.
Two bills that I am the prime sponsor of received support by the committee.
Senate Bill 503 amends the Enforcement Officer Disability Benefits Law, known as the Heart and Lung Act, to expand the list of covered law enforcement officers, including members of the Fort Indiantown Gap Police, commissioned police officers of the Department of Corrections’ Bureau of Investigations and Intelligence, investigative staff with the Office of Inspector General, DCNR rangers, campus police at participating state-owned, -aided, or -related colleges and universities, and county corrections and probation officers. Similar legislation was unanimously approved by the Senate last session.
Senate Bill 566 amends the Liquor Control Board’s current license auction process to establish a yearly excess auction for licenses that did not receive bids during the regular auction process. All available licenses in an excess auction would be up for bid by any entity in any county of Pennsylvania. However, no more than one license would be awarded within a county per year, and existing processes for transferring a license would need to be followed. The bill also allows for full payment to be made within six months of a winning bid, rather than the current two weeks.
All four of these bills passed unanimously out of the Law & Justice Committee and now go to the full Senate for consideration.
Law & Justice Committee Holds Hearing on Ready-to-Drink Beverages
Today the Senate Law & Justice Committee held a joint hearing with the House Liquor Committee on the subject of Ready-to-Drink Beverages (RTDs). These are canned or bottled manufactured spirit-based mixed drinks
The Committee heard from a wide range of testifiers to learn about the industry, focusing on the current manufacturing, distribution and sales of RTDs, the current landscape of this type of product, and how it could be expanded in Pennsylvania.
Click here to watch video of the hearing and to read the submitted testimony from participants.
Regan Votes to Preserve Access to Ventilator Care
On Wednesday, the Senate approved Senate Bill 108, which I am a co-sponsor of, that would preserve access to ventilator care in Pennsylvania.
Caring for patients who require ventilator and tracheostomy services is difficult and expensive. That is why only a limited number of nursing facilities offer this service throughout the Commonwealth, including Fox Subacute in Mechanicsburg.
As Medicaid payments for this care have declined significantly over the past ten years, more and more providers have stated their intent to limit or entirely cease providing ventilator care in the future, which would be detrimental to patients and their families.
Therefore, this legislation provides funding to protect needed services and the bill now moves to the House for further consideration.
I spoke in support of SB 108 during session on Wednesday, and you can watch video of my remarks here.
Senate Acts to Put the Brakes on PennDOT’s Bridge Tolling Plan
The Senate approved legislation that I am co-sponsoring to reform the Public-Private Transportation Partnership (P3) statute and to void the PennDOT Pathways Major Bridge P3 Initiative.
On November 12, 2020, the P3 Board, under PennDOT’s jurisdiction, supported an ambiguous proposal to impose user fees or tolls on major bridges throughout the interstate system, including the I-83 South Bridge connecting Cumberland and Dauphin Counties in Harrisburg. This was the first time in the P3 Board’s history to consider a proposal with user fees.
The reform legislation will:
Bill Permitting Essential Family Caregiver Nursing Home Visits During Emergencies Passed by Senate
The Senate approved legislation to allow a family member or other designated person to visit and care for a long-term care facility resident during a disaster emergency involving a communicable disease.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many residents of such facilities have been denied the ability to see and receive care from their loved ones, causing traumatic distress.
The legislation allows long-term care facilities to designate Essential Family Caregivers for regular visits. A participating facility must follow necessary health precautions outlined by federal and state governments.
Legislation Approved to Establish New Funding Stream for Pediatric Cancer Research
More than $100 million in private donations over the next 10 years could be raised to support childhood cancer research under a bill passed by the Senate that I am co-sponsoring.
The legislation establishes a tax credit program for qualifying donations to a Pennsylvania pediatric cancer research hospital. The program would be capped at $10 million per year over the next 10 years.
More children die from cancer than any other disease and currently, only 4 percent of National Cancer Institute research dollars are spent on pediatric cancer. Since 1975, pediatric cancer incidence rates have increased every year.
Senate Endorses Program to Train Next Generation of PA Firefighters
The Senate approved the creation of a pilot program to train high school students interested in firefighting and help alleviate the pressing need for volunteer firefighters in Pennsylvania.
According to the bipartisan SR 6 report on the serious problems facing volunteer fire companies, Pennsylvania is experiencing a severe shortage of volunteer firefighters. The current number of volunteers is down to less than 15 percent of the number in the 1970s.
The legislation creates a pilot program for Pennsylvania community colleges and universities to give interested high school students training in firefighting. The goal is to demonstrate that students receiving training will show an interest in becoming the next generation of firefighters. The bill requires a follow-up study to measure the program’s success.
Among the many committee meetings and hearings held this session week, below are a few highlights on issues that are important to the 31st District.
Community, Economic & Recreational Development
The Senate Community, Economic & Recreational Development Committee, which I serve on, approved Senate Bill 243 on Wednesday. The bill allows volunteer fire departments, veterans organizations and other non-profits to conduct online small games of chance fundraisers during the COVID-19 disaster emergency declaration. Video
Communications and Technology
The Senate Communications & Technology Committee held a public hearing on Wednesday on the expansion of 5G and small cell wireless infrastructure. Video
Health and Human Services
The Health & Human Services Committee held a public hearing on Monday on the use of Lyme Disease funding by the Department of Health and Department of Environmental Protection. Video
Today, April 30th, is the deadline to submit comments regarding your voting experience in the November election for consideration by the Special Committee on Election Integrity and Reform, which I am a member of.
This coming Monday, May 3rd, is the deadline to register to vote for the May 18th primary. And remember, Independent voters can vote on the four ballot questions. Be sure to read up on what your yes vote on those questions means here.
The Senate will reconvene on Monday, May 10th.
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