Following is a listing of legislative and judicial action for the week of Aug. 25. Members of the General Assembly are scheduled to return to session Sept. 15.
State Sen. John Rafferty, R-Chester, introduced SB 1381, which would raise the grading of vehicular homicide while DUI for certain repeat offenders from an F-2 to an F-1.
The bill would also increase the mandatory sentence from the current three years to five years, where the defendant has been previously convicted of DUI or a felony major traffic offense such as vehicular homicide or vehicular assault, and from the current three years to seven years when the defendant has three or more of these serious convictions.
In a sponsorship memo, Rafferty cited a case that he says demonstrates the inadequacy of existing law. In April 2012, Robert Landis of Chester County, who had seven previous convictions for DUI, was operating his pickup truck at a blood alcohol level of .28 when he turned in front of 24-year-old Liam Crowley’s motorcycle, killing him. Even though Landis had seven prior convictions for DUI, he faced the same three-year mandatory and grading he would have faced had this been his first DUI.
State Sen. Richard Alloway, R-Adams, introduced SB 1449, which would amend Title 75 (Vehicles) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes to protect an individual’s right to keep and bear arms by ensuring that no business entity, owner or legal possessor of property or public or private employer may establish, maintain or enforce a policy or rule that prohibits or has the effect of prohibiting a person with a valid Pennsylvania license to carry firearms from transporting or storing a firearm in a vehicle when the vehicle is in a location where it is otherwise permitted to be and the firearm remains inside the person’s attended privately owned vehicle or the firearm is locked out of sight within the trunk, glove box or other enclosed compartment or container within or on the person’s privately owned vehicle.
The legislation is modeled after Florida’s parking-lot legislation and is substantially similar to the laws in Georgia, Alaska, Kentucky, Mississippi, Kansas and Minnesota, as well as pending legislation in Alabama, Louisiana, Montana, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia.
State Sen. Larry Farnese, D-Philadelphia, introduced SB 1463, which would require liquor licensees in the city of Philadelphia to have made all payments of the city’s liquor-by-the-drink tax, including any interest and penalties, in order to be approved for a license renewal or transfer.
Currently, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board verifies that a licensee is cleared for tax purposes by the Departments of Revenue and Labor and Industry for license renewals or transfers.
Between 1995 and 2012, more than $34 million in taxes, penalties and interest have been foregone by the Philadelphia School District in liquor-by-the-drink tax, one of the several nonproperty-tax funding sources levied by the city. By requiring a tax clearance for the 10 percent liquor-by-the-drink tax, licensees would be statutorily compelled to get their tax delinquencies taken care of in order to remain in business while infusing much-needed tax revenues into the school district.
State Sen. Wayne Fontana, D-Allegheny, introduced SB 1464, which would change the filing schedule for the sales and use tax for certain businesses.
Under Act 26 of 2011, the sales and use tax schedule established a system of estimated payments partially based on returns for the same month of the previous year. These new filing requirements began with the return due June 20, 2011. These changes were made partially to give the state a large influx of money to fill a deficit for that year’s budget.
SB 1464 would reinstate the former semimonthly filing schedule for businesses whose actual tax liability exceeds $25,000 and which have been licensed by the Department of Revenue for at least four continuous years. Furthermore, the business would have to demonstrate that its annual tax liability has varied by at least 30 percent in at least three of the previous four years.
Judicial Conduct Board
The Judicial Conduct Board announced that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has appointed attorney James C. Schwartzman to a four-year term on the 12-member board. Schwartzman is a shareholder in the Philadelphia office of Stevens & Lee, where he chairs the ethics and professional responsibility group. He previously ran his own firm and was a named partner in Schwartzman & Hepps.