Following is a listing of executive and legislative action for the week of Oct. 9. At press time, the Pennsylvania Senate was in recess subject to the call of the president pro tempore. The state House of Representatives was scheduled to return to session on Oct. 16.

Commonwealth Secretary

Pennsylvania’s chief election official resigned on Oct. 11, the Wolf administration said, offering no explanation for the move that surprised top state officials, The Associated Press reported.

A Wolf administration statement said Secretary of State Pedro Cortes submitted his resignation but gave no other information in a brief statement. An administration spokesman said he had no additional details about Cortes’ departure.

Cortes, who served under Gov. Tom Wolf since June 2015, will hand over his title to the current Executive Deputy Secretary Robert Torres for the time being, according to a report on the Capitolwire website. Cortes, who also served as secretary of the state under Gov. Edward G. Rendell from 2003-10, was Pennsylvania’s first Senate-confirmed Latino cabinet officer, and the longest-serving person to have held the post.

Experimental Treatments

On Oct. 11, Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation that gives terminally ill patients the right to try experimental treatments, such as investigational drugs, biological products and medical devices, not yet fully approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“I have supported and will continue to support legislation that gives patients power in their health care decisions,” Wolf said according to a statement. “At no time is that more important than when faced with a terminal illness. Having the chance to try all options can offer hope and better quality of life for many.”

HB 45 was introduced by state Rep. Bob Godshall, R-Montgomery, and was passed unanimously by both the state House of Representatives and Pennsylvania Senate. Sen. Chuck McIlhinney, R-Bucks, sponsored the bill in the Senate.

Eligible patients are those with a terminal illness attested to by their treating physician, unable to participate in a clinical trial, who have a recommendation from their physician to try the investigational product, and have given full informed consent. The law also gives health care providers immunity when recommending the use of an investigational product and protects them from professional licensure sanctions. Thirty-seven other states have laws similar to Pennsylvania’s.

Shale Tax

On Oct. 11, Gov. Tom Wolf stood with lawmakers and local officials in Erie to urge the General Assembly to come back to Harrisburg to complete the budget process by passing a severance tax and funding the state-related universities.

“I’m here to make clear that I am managing the budget, but the General Assembly still has work to do: fund our major state universities and pass a commonsense tax on shale,” Wolf said in a statement. “The fairest and simplest solution to the current budget challenge is a severance tax on natural gas production.”

“The governor has a vision for Pennsylvania and that vision includes a reasonable shale tax,” said state Rep. Flo Fabrizio, D-Erie. “This is supported by the Democratic Caucus, because we know it will go a long way to eliminate the structural deficit.”

Job Creation

A new legislative initiative designed to spur manufacturing and job creation should be a priority for Senate consideration, according to Sens. Vincent J. Hughes, D-Philadelphia, John T. Yudichak, D-Luzerne, and James R. Brewster, D-Allegheny, the prime sponsors of the plan.

“The new legislative proposals are designed to refocus efforts toward both building up and bolstering the existing manufacturing base and creating new jobs,” said Hughes, who serves as Democratic chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

SB 923, which was introduced by Yudichak, would create a “chief manufacturing officer” within the governor’s office to provide advice on economic policy. The measure also establishes a “manufacturing competitiveness board” to help develop manufacturing strategy.

SB 924, Brewster’s proposal, would direct up to $5 million to a grant program for vocational technical schools, vocational programs and equipment purchases.

SB 925, a measure introduced by Hughes, is aimed at maximizing the manufacturing tax credit. The bill would increase the credit cap to $12.5 million from its current $4 million, expand the credit to include job training costs, and allow small manufactures to apply jointly for the credit. A $2.5 million piece of the tax credit would be reserved for businesses located in distressed communities in addition to disadvantaged, minority, women and veterans-owned businesses. •