Following is a listing of legislative action for the week of May 26. Members of the General Assembly were set to return to session June 2.
•State Rep. Karen Boback, R-Columbia, introduced HB 2263, which would require all dental insurers to assign benefits directly to providers, at the patient’s request, regardless of the provider’s participation with the insurer.
Assignment of dental benefits legislation would eliminate financial and administrative burdens for both patients and dentists, Boback wrote in a sponsorship memo. Some patients currently cannot choose their dentist based on preference because some insurance companies do not directly pay the nonparticipating provider and they might not be able to pay for services in advance.
• State Reps. Doyle Heffley, R-Carbon, and Jaret Gibbons, D-Lawrence, introduced a measure that would create a waste coal energy and reclamation tax credit.
Under HB 2265, the tax credit would go toward companies involved in the conversion of waste coal. During this process, coal refuse stockpiles (also known as “culm banks”) are used to create energy. This process has created thousands of jobs at waste coal power plants across the state, according to a joint statement released by the two lawmakers.
• State Rep. Seth Grove, R-York, introduced HB 2279, which would expand the title protection of marriage and family therapists under Act 39 of 1987.
In a sponsorship memo, Grove wrote that without expanding the title protection to include various derivatives of the title “marriage and family therapists,” the general public is left vulnerable to the solicitation and delivery of this important mental health service by unlicensed, uneducated and unqualified individuals. Further protecting the title of marriage and family therapy is necessary to protect consumers against fraud but also to maintain the professionalism of these highly skilled and highly qualified mental health care providers, Grove said.
Pennsylvania labor organizations have begun to make endorsements in the wake of the gubernatorial primary in which Gov. Tom Corbett was renominated by Republicans and York businessman and former state Department of Revenue Secretary Tom Wolf secured the Democratic nomination.
The 15,000-member Laborers District Council of Western Pennsylvania last week threw its weight behind Corbett, The Associated Press reported. The group opposed Corbett in the 2010 campaign but cited the passage of $2.3 billion in new transportation funding as its reason for switching to back him for re-election
Philip Ameris, president and business manager of the Western Pennsylvania Laborers, said he came to respect the Republican governor’s integrity during their mutual involvement in negotiations leading up to the bill’s passage in November. Corbett is “someone you can trust and I think he’s moving Pennsylvania in the right direction. … He’s very pragmatic and he keeps his word,” he told the AP in a telephone interview.
Also last week, the Pennsylvania State Education Association, which represents 150,000 active teachers and support staff, voted to endorse Wolf.
“Tom Corbett has been a terrible governor for education,” PSEA President Mike Crossey said, citing Corbett’s nearly $1 billion cut in education spending in 2011 as the catalyst for thousands of job cuts at public schools.
Corbett, Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Chancellor Frank T. Brogan and state Rep. Marguerite Quinn, R-Bucks, last week visited Delaware Valley College in Doylestown to advocate for the “Ready to Succeed” Scholarship program.
This merit-based program would provide financial assistance to middle-income students attending any post-secondary education institution in Pennsylvania, according to a statement from the governor’s press office.
“All too often, students from middle-income families do not qualify for state financial aid,” Corbett said. “The ‘Ready to Succeed’ Scholarship will help to reduce the amount of debt students incur while pursuing a post-secondary education.”
Included in Corbett’s proposed 2014-15 state budget, the “Ready to Succeed” Scholarship would be open to students whose families have a gross income of up to $110,000, annually adjusted for inflation.
HB 1213, authored by Quinn, would create the “Ready to Succeed” Scholarship within the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency.
Scholarships of up to $2,000 annually would be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, and would be available to students entering their sophomore, junior or senior year in college. Eligible students would need to have and maintain a grade point average of 3.25.