Following is a listing of regulatory and legislative action for the week of October 1. Members of the General Assembly are scheduled to return to session on October 15.
Legislation that would exempt transfers of assets in family-owned businesses from the state’s inheritance tax has been introduced in the state House of Representatives.
State Representative Stephen Bloom, R-Cumberland, the measure’s sponsor, said the bill is a follow-up to a recent law that exempted transfers of family-owned farms from the tax, also called the death tax.
“Getting rid of this tax is also something recommended by the governor’s manufacturing council,” Bloom said. “I took that recommendation for manufacturers and extended it to all businesses.”
Bloom said the Department of Revenue is calculating the loss in revenue the general fund faces from the elimination of the tax.
“Clearly, the higher that number, the harder it will be politically to get it passed,” he said.
Pennsylvania’s inheritance tax rate is 4.5 percent for transfers to direct descendants (lineal heirs), 12 percent for transfers to siblings and 15 percent for transfers to other heirs (except charitable organizations, exempt institutions and governmental entities, which are exempt from tax). Property owned jointly between husband and wife is exempt from inheritance tax.
The legislation, HB 2639, has 50 co-sponsors, and has been referred to the House Finance Committee.
ADMINISTRATIVE LAW SYSTEM
The House Judiciary Committee approved a resolution that orders a complete review of the administrative law system in Pennsylvania. The measure directs a bipartisan legislative commission, the Joint State Government Commission, to conduct the study.
“The study will look at the administrative law systems with an eye toward redundancies,” said Tom Dymek, staff attorney for the House Republican Caucus. “Legislation making changes will likely follow the study.”
The commission will also determine if administrative law judges should be members of the Pennsylvania Bar Association.
The resolution is before the House. It requires the study findings be presented to the General Assembly no later than one year following House approval.
Legislation, SB 86, that expands the Motor Vehicle Chop Shop Act to include “trailers” and “semitrailers” cleared the House Transportation Committee and is now before the full House.
The sponsor of the bill, state Senator Stewart Greenleaf, R-Montgomery, said law enforcement agencies have found that the current law is vague when attempting to charge someone with the crimes of profiting from stolen vehicle activity.
“SB 86 clarifies the offense of dealing in proceeds of unlawful activity to specifically include stolen or illicitly obtained property,” Greenleaf said.
He also said that current law fails to establish any limits on time for inspections of suspected “chop shops”.
“The proposal would establish that inspections may occur during a shop’s normal business hours or any other time in which work is being done,” he said.
In 1994, the General Assembly created the Auto Theft Prevention Authority via Act 171. The authority receives funding through assessments on insurance carriers based on premiums written in Pennsylvania. The authority then provides grants to law enforcement for the purpose of combating and prosecuting auto theft. No tax dollars are used for the authority’s operations. Since the inception of the authority, law enforcement grantees have recovered $384.2 million worth of vehicles and $19.2 million worth of parts through 2009. In addition, annual auto-theft rates have declined by more than 60 percent since the authority’s inception.
DRIVER’S LICENSE SUSPENSIONS
Legislation that would allow Pennsylvania’s courts to suspend the driver’s license of any defendant failing to pay full restitution to victims of driving-related offenses is now before Governor Tom Corbett after clearing the Senate.
“Driving-related infractions often result in large sums of money ordered by the court to be paid as part of restitution,” said state Representative Keith Gillespie, R-York, the sponsor of the bill. “This bill becoming law means providing the courts with another tool for making whole victims of these crimes.”
Current law requires a minimum 50 percent of payments made by a defendant to be applied to restitution.