Following is a listing of executive and legislative action for the week of April 28. Members of the General Assembly were set to return to session May 5.
• The state House of Representatives Consumer Affairs Committee approved HB 2104, which would limit electric rate increases for customers with variable rates to no more than 30 percent per billing cycle, and would require switching requests to be completed within five business days.
One of the sponsors of the bill, state Rep. Bob Godshall, R-Montgomery, said the changes would serve to protect consumers from future dramatic and unexpected rate increases associated with variable-rate supplier contracts.
The bill also would require all electric supplier contracts to contain certain language that clearly explains the contract terms, and electric suppliers would have to provide customers with a copy of their contract.
• The House Education Committee approved HB 2124, which would streamline the process for school districts looking to embark on a major construction project.
The sponsor of the measure, state Rep. Seth Grove, R-York, said, “Currently, when a school district embarks on a major building rehabilitation or construction project, they reach out to the state for reimbursement and begin a process called PlanCon. The process is a regulatory nightmare of 14 steps, including nearly 200 pages of forms in the first step alone, and one step requiring documents to be submitted by microfilm. It is antiquated, inefficient and, worst of all, the state can no longer meet its financial obligations.”
The state’s PlanCon system is currently halted in a moratorium as the Pennsylvania Department of Education has no way to reimburse the projects already in the system, according to Grove.
• HB 1537, which was approved by the House Judiciary Committee, would make it illegal to possess a vehicle with false compartments when there is intent to use those compartments for illegal activity.
The sponsor of the bill, state Rep. Kate Harper, R-Montgomery, said, “When vehicles with false compartments are being used or are intended to be used to transport guns, drugs or even people into or through our state, it should be a crime and police should be able to seize the vehicle.”
The bill would also make it a crime for a person to modify or build false compartments inside a vehicle with the intent to use those compartments for illegal activities.
• HB 1907, which was approved by the full House, would require patients to receive both verbal and written notice that they have not been formally admitted to the hospital once they have been moved from the emergency room into a hospital bed for 24 hours.
The sponsor of the bill, state Rep. Tina Pickett, R-Bradford, said the bill would allow patients to be more informed about whether their hospital stays are covered by insurance.
“Locally, my office was contacted by a gentleman whose wife’s hospital stay was not covered by Medicare because she was admitted under a code of observation,” Pickett said. “He was forced to pay $2,500 out of pocket to have her moved and the couple also has to pay for two days of her hospital stay because the hospital could not change her diagnosis code until her discharge.”
• HB 2212 would authorize the state Department of Public Welfare to issue guidelines and adopt rules and regulations regarding minors’ consent to outpatient treatment and the special conditions making consent unnecessary.
The sponsor of the bill, state Rep. Pam Snyder, D-Fayette, said, “Changes made 10 years ago to the Minor Consent to Medical, Dental and Health Services Act created confusion among providers, minors and parents regarding the rights of each party under the law.”
• State Rep. Garth Everett, R-Lycoming, introduced HB 2224, which would amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to change the way appellate court judges are selected in Pennsylvania. The legislation would require that all appellate court judges and justices be elected by judicial district. Everett said holding district elections is a better option than merit selection.
• HB 2217, introduced by state Rep. Jim Christiana, R-Beaver, would repeal the amusement tax that is levied on privately owned public golf courses located throughout the state.
The Local Tax Enabling Act currently allows municipalities to levy up to a 10 percent tax on 40 percent of the greens fees a course collects. Depending on their location, these privately owned public golf courses can be charged a local amusement tax. In contrast, municipality-owned courses are not subject to the amusement tax.
• SB 1359, introduced by state Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Allegheny, would impose a severance tax on natural gas taken from the Marcellus Shale, and amend other parts of the state’s Oil and Gas Act. The bill would also repeal the statewide zoning provisions imposed by Act 13 of 2012.