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Following is a listing of legislative and executive action for the week of Feb. 17. Members of the General Assembly are set to return to session March 10.

Interest rate reduction

Gov. Tom Corbett announced that he has directed the Department of Community and Economic Development to reduce the interest rates of three business loan programs to encourage small business and manufacturing growth and new job creation.

“Small businesses and manufacturers continue to be the driver of Pennsylvania’s economic engine,” Corbett said in a statement. “Access to affordable capital spurs new growth and is critical to ensuring Pennsylvania’s economy is built to advance. By reducing interest rates and the cost of borrowing, we are encouraging new growth through providing critical access to capital and freeing up operating cash to support new job creation.”

Beginning Feb. 1, the DCED is reducing interest rates for the machinery and equipment loan fund, pollution prevention assistance program, export financing program and “Small Business First” program to 1.75 percent for applications received prior to July 1. The DCED also is planning to waive fees charged to borrowers.

At its Feb. 5 board meeting, the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority (PIDA) also reduced its interest rates from 4 percent to 2.25 percent for applications received through July 1. PIDA also waived its fees charged to borrowers.

The Corbett administration said the decision was part of its “JOBS1st PA” initiative.

Senate bills introduced

The following legislative proposals have been introduced in the state Senate:

Sen. John Yudichak, D-Luzerne, introduced SB 1254, legislation aimed at mandating the use of lead-free products only in residential plumbing.

Sen. Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland, introduced SB 1256, legislation that would create the Heritage Areas Program Act, which would create a formal process for the distribution of funding of state heritage parks by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

School Background Checks

Legislation has been introduced in the state House of Representatives that would require public and private schools in Pennsylvania and their independent contractors to conduct a thorough employment history review prior to offering employment to any applicant for a position involving direct contact with children.

State Rep. David Maloney, R-Berks, introduced the bill, which would provide for immunity from criminal and civil liability for employers, school entities, school administrators and independent contractors that disclose the requested background information, unless the information or records provided were knowingly false.

House Bills Introduced

Legislative proposals also introduced in the state House last week include:

State Rep. Mark Painter, D-Montgomery, introduced HB 1892, legislation that would establish the Pennsylvania Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which would make it unlawful for a covered entity to refuse reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions unless those accommodations would prove an undue hardship on the entity’s operations.

State Rep. Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, proposed HB 2024, which would amend the Crimes Code so that the offenses for cruelty to police animals would become “aggravated” when a person willfully or maliciously tortures, mutilates, injures, disables, poisons or kills a police animal while the animal is in the performance of their duty. The offense would be graded as a felony of the first degree.

Table Games Revenue Down

Revenue from table games played at the 12 Pennsylvania casinos was $58.7 million in January, according to figures released by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.

The amount represents a 1.12 percent decrease compared with last January.