Following is a listing of executive, legislative and judiciary action for the week of Feb. 24. Members of the General Assembly are set to return to session March 10.
Gov. Tom Corbett signed into law SB 1024, legislation that amends the Crimes Code to create the new offense of aggravated arson—a first-degree felony—where a fire is set with the intent to cause bodily harm to any person, including firefighters and first responders. The new law, which was primarily sponsored by state Sen. John C. Rafferty Jr., R-Montgomery, also provides a sentencing enhancement when arson results in any bodily injury to a firefighter or other first responder, or serious bodily injury to a civilian.
Board of Finance and Revenue
Corbett nominated David Kraus and Scott Shearer to the Board of Finance and Revenue.
Kraus serves as chief counsel to the Department of Revenue, advising the secretary of Revenue and Corbett’s office on state tax matters. Previously, Kraus was employed by McNees Wallace & Nurick as state tax counsel, Reed Smith as a state tax partner and Dechert as a state tax partner and managing partner of the firm’s Harrisburg office. Kraus also served as counsel to the Board of Finance and Revenue.
Shearer is a partner at Keefer Wood Allen & Rahal specializing in Pennsylvania state tax. Previously, Shearer was a partner at Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott and Mette Evans & Woodside in Harrisburg. Additionally, Shearer was a deputy attorney general for the Pennsylvania Department of Justice in the tax litigation unit.
Commonwealth Court Judge Bonnie Brigance Leadbetter granted an application filed by attorneys representing Department of Community and Economic Development Secretary C. Alan Walker to vacate the receivership for the city of Harrisburg.
Corbett announced that he is rescinding the fiscal emergency declaration issued Oct. 24, 2011. Harrisburg is one of only a few cities in the nation to successfully emerge from state receivership.
In granting the application to vacate the receivership, Leadbetter authorized ongoing implementation of the Harrisburg Strong plan by a coordinator. In turn, Walker has appointed Frederick Reddig as the coordinator responsible for directing ongoing implementation of the plan. Reddig, who has been involved in the management of Harrisburg’s fiscal crisis since 2010, was set to begin his appointment as coordinator March 1. In doing so, he will continue working with city officials to implement the Harrisburg Strong plan.
Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley was set to exercise the governor’s powers last Thursday as Corbett underwent a medical procedure requiring general anathesia, The Associated Press reported.
Corbett was expected to turn over the reins of power briefly to undergo hernia surgery in a Pittsburgh hospital.
His office described the Thursday morning procedure as minor and said he was expected to be under general anesthesia for about an hour. Power would shift back to Corbett when his doctors evaluated him as ready to do so.
The laparoscopic procedure at Allegheny General Hospital’s outpatient surgery facility was to repair an abdominal hernia.
Corbett expected to recuperate for several days at his home in Shaler, Pa. His schedule was clear until Monday, when he planned to return to work.
The following bills were among those introduced in the state House of Representatives:
HB 2036, introduced by state Rep. Dan Moul, R-Adams, would require mass transit authorities to convert their bus fleets to using natural gas fuel. The proposal, known as the BUS Act, would require each mass transit authority to submit an annual plan to establish goals and objectives to reach a 100 percent conversion to natural gas of its bus fleet. The plan would call for converting 10 percent of a bus fleet annually; all of the fleet would be converted over a decade. The measure was referred to the transportation committee.
”With the abundance of natural gas discovered in our own backyard, there is no doubt there is a significant price differential between diesel and natural gas, which is anticipated for the foreseeable future,” Moul said in a statement to House colleagues. He also said the use of natural gas fuels can be expected to lead to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
HB 2041, introduced by state Rep. Robert F. Matzie, D-Beaver, would explicitly prohibit state employees from using non-secured Internet connections while conducting state business. The measure was referred to the consumer affairs committee.
”The purpose of this legislation is to protect sensitive data,” Matzie said in a statement to House colleagues. “Currently there is no law in Pennsylvania on this topic, creating a massive security loophole.”
HB 2045, introduced by state Rep. Jerry Stern, R-Blair, would encourage mixed-use redevelopment of blighted and abandoned properties by allowing developers and property owners to receive a tax abatement incentive once they apply and are approved to rebuild upon an abandoned or blighted property in a deteriorated area. The measure was referred to the urban affairs committee.
HB 2048, introduced by state Rep. Kevin Haggerty, D-Lackawanna, would prohibit the hiring of local government officials in district offices of members of the General Assembly. The measure was referred to the state government committee.
HB 2049, introduced by state Rep. Justin Simmons, R-Lehigh, would apply good Samaritan civil immunity to school bus drivers who administer epinephrine auto-injectors, or EpiPens, to students, provided that the school bus driver complies with employer and school district policy and completes necessary training. The measure was referred to the education committee.