PA House Democratic Legislative Review - April 12, 2013

Pennsylvania House Democratic Caucus Legislative Review

Friday, April 12, 2013

Kane, Santarsiero call for vote on bipartisan bill to require universal background checks in Pa.

State Rep. Steve Santarsiero, D-Bucks, speaks during a news conference in the Capitol Media Center April 10, 2013, on the introduction of House Bill 1010, which calls for background checks on all gun purchases in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane joined state Rep. Steve Santarsiero, D-Bucks, in his call for a vote on his universal background check legislation for firearms purchases (H.B. 1010) at a Capitol news conference Wednesday.

“Right now in Pennsylvania, criminals may lawfully purchase an assault rifle even though it is illegal for that same criminal to purchase a handgun,” Santarsiero said. “I and the people standing here with me today are among the 95 percent of Pennsylvanians who believe that is something that needs to be fixed.”

Santarsiero explained that a loophole in Pennsylvania’s background check laws allows private, non-licensed sellers to sell long-barrel guns, including assault rifles, without conducting a background check on the buyer. Santarsiero’s legislation would close this loophole by requiring all sales and transfers (except familial transfers) to undergo a universal background check, including sales by non-licensed sellers.

Santarsiero & Kane Urge Firearm Background Checks

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Neilson introduces bill to increase minimum wage

State Rep. Ed Neilson
Rep. Ed Neilson, D-Phila., introduced legislation this week to increase the state minimum wage.

"The minimum wage was implemented to ensure a living wage for working families and individuals. However, many of these families who depend on full-time minimum wage incomes are still living below the poverty line,” Neilson said. "One of my legislative goals has always been to have a minimum wage that enables workers to keep their family out of poverty and provide the most basic necessities of food, clothing and shelter."

House Bill 1186 would amend the Minimum Wage Act of 1968 to increase Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to $7.35 per hour, an amount 10 cents more than the federally established rate. The legislation would also automatically increase the state minimum wage in the future whenever the federal minimum wage is increased. The automatic increase would keep the state’s minimum wage 10 cents higher than the federal rate.

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Bizzarro bill would ease delays in obtaining driver licenses

State Rep. Ryan A. Bizzarro
State Rep. Ryan A. Bizzarro, D-Erie, has introduced legislation that would enable private companies to administer the road-test portion of driver license examinations.

"State government has to work for its citizens, and partnering with a private testing service will give residents the ability to obtain their driver licenses faster and more efficiently," Bizzarro said. "My House Bill 1159 would ease the delays that many Pennsylvanians often encounter when trying to schedule a road test."

Bizzarro said his bill would give prospective drivers the option of paying to take the road test sooner or waiting for a free appointment at a state Department of Transportation driver license center.

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Sturla plan would ease transportation funding shortfall

State Rep. Mike Sturla
State Rep. Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster, unveiled legislation this week that would correct an inequity between municipalities that operate local police departments and those which rely on the state police for coverage, while redirecting additional funds to transportation projects statewide.

Sturla said currently hundreds of millions of dollars are transferred annually from the state’s Motor License Fund to the Pennsylvania State Police, which under the Pennsylvania Constitution can only be used for construction, reconstruction, maintenance, repair and safety on public highways and bridges. For fiscal year 2013-14, Gov. Tom Corbett proposed a transfer of over $619 million.

However, Sturla noted that the state police use a portion of those funds to offer primary police coverage and services to Commonwealth municipalities without their own locally funded police departments, which equates to 21 percent of the state population.

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Freeman bill would provide greater transparency on campaign contributions to General Assembly candidates

State Rep. Robert L. Freeman
State Rep. Bob Freeman, D-Northampton, has introduced legislation that would require Pennsylvania House and Senate candidates to file campaign expense reports at more frequent intervals in order to create a more transparent record-keeping process during an election year.

The legislation (H.B. 1175) would require candidates for the Pennsylvania General Assembly to file campaign expense reports on or before the sixth Tuesday before the election, in addition to the second Friday before the election. They are currently required to file on the second Friday before the election. However, only candidates for statewide office are required to file by the sixth Tuesday before the election.

"The change would provide earlier disclosure and greater transparency on who is contributing to candidates for the General Assembly," Freeman said. "This is information voters should have access to earlier in a campaign than they currently do."

House Gaming Oversight Committee unanimously supports resolution to study how Philadelphia uses gaming revenue

State Rep. Rosita C. Youngblood
With unanimous bipartisan support, the House Gaming Oversight Committee advanced a proposal offered by Democratic Chairwoman Rosita C. Youngblood, D-Phila., which would require the Commonwealth to study the allocation of gaming revenue provided to Philadelphia from licensed casino gaming.

The resolution (H.R. 86), which was backed by Philadelphia Reps. Angel Cruz, Maria Donatucci, Stephen Kinsey and Ed Neilson, would ask the state to study whether or not money provided to the city by casino gambling can help offset the massive tax increases facing hundreds of thousands of city residents with the advent of the city's new property tax reassessment plan, known as Actual Value Initiative, or AVI.

Currently, Philadelphia is the only county that uses money from the Property Tax Relief Fund to reduce the city's wage tax, Youngblood said. When casino gaming was first legalized in Pennsylvania, financial analysts believed that wage taxes were more of a burden to residents than property taxes, since property assessments were below market value. But with AVI in full swing, Youngblood believes a study is necessary to see how gaming money should be appropriated in Philadelphia.

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Children and Youth Committee approves mandated child abuse recognition training

State Rep. Louise Williams Bishop
State Rep. Louise Williams Bishop, D-Phila, said the House Children and Youth Committee unanimously approved legislation that would help professional licensees and operators and employees of regulated child care facilities to recognize and report child abuse.

“If we require these individuals to report abuse, we must give them the tools needed to adequately recognize the signs of abuse and the proper way to report such occurrences,” said Bishop, Democratic chairwoman of the committee.

House Bill 431 would require professional licensees who are mandated reporters of child abuse to undergo child abuse recognition and reporting training as a condition of licensing and certification.  As recommended by the Task Force on Child Protection, training would be a prerequisite for the issue of a license and recertification. The bill would require two hours of training every two years, in sequence with license renewals.

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House OKs expansion of veteran tuition assistance

State Rep. Mark Painter
The state House of Representatives has passed legislation amended by state Rep. Mark Painter to extend in-state college tuition assistance to all veterans, their spouses and dependents who are eligible for any part of the federal GI Bill.

The amendment offered by Painter was unanimously adopted by the House Monday to clarify that the extension references the GI Bill and the five other federal laws that apply to educational benefits to 100 percent disabled veterans and dependents of deceased veterans. His amendment also ensures that all veterans, not just post 9-11 veterans and their families are eligible.

"For those who have given so much for our country, I believe we should do everything we can to ensure that they receive a quality education. We should make every effort to remove obstacles that affect veterans’ ability to graduate and find employment," said Painter, D-Montgomery.

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Dean urges House to re-establish Select Committee on Property Tax

State Rep. Madeleine Dean
State Rep. Madeleine Dean introduced bipartisan legislation Monday that would re-establish the House Select Committee for Property Tax in 2013.

House Resolution 225, which is sponsored by 40 members of the House, would urge that the committee be reformed to investigate, review and make recommendations regarding the long-standing and multifaceted problems involving local tax revenue for school districts and local governments across Pennsylvania.

The resolution was referred the House Finance Committee on Tuesday.

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House passes Frankel 'Iran-Free Procurement' legislation

State Rep. Dan B. Frankel
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny, welcomed this week’s House passage of his "Iran-Free Procurement" legislation.

Frankel's legislation would bar any company that invests more than $20 million in Iran's energy sector from entering into a state procurement contract worth more than $1 million through the Pennsylvania Department of General Services. His legislation was included as an amendment to H.B. 201, which passed the House today.

"This legislation presents a clear choice: Either companies can do business with the terror-sponsoring state of Iran or they can do business with the commonwealth of Pennsylvania – but they can't do both," Frankel said. "With this language as law, Pennsylvania would join the leading edge of states that have decided to stop doing business with companies who invest in Iran."

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Goodman, Heffley work to protect property owners from hunting violations committed on their land

State Rep. Neal P. Goodman
State Reps. Neal P. Goodman and Doyle Heffley have introduced legislation (H.B. 1125) that would ensure property owners are not held responsible for hunting violations committed by those granted permission to hunt on their land.

Goodman, D-Schuylkill, and Heffley, R-Carbon, agreed to work together on the legislation after meeting with farmers from their legislative districts. The legislation has long been a top priority of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau.

"Across the commonwealth, property owners graciously grant access to their land to hunters, giving more hunters more access to game," Goodman said. "They should not be held responsible for Game and Wildlife Code violations simply because someone who was granted access to their property failed to follow the rules."

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Matzie seeks to rein in hidden fees from government contractors

State Rep. Robert F. Matzie
GOP lawmakers this week rejected an amendment offered by state Rep. Rob Matzie, D-Beaver/Allegheny, that would have reined in fees associated with state contracts, most notably the no-bid contract awarded to NICUSA Inc. by Gov. Tom Corbett to run the state's websites.

NICUSA Inc. last week requested payment from the state in the amount of $1.7 million.

Matzie attempted to amend his proposal into H.B. 201, which dealt with individuals who can be involved in reviewing government procurement contracts. The amendment would have prohibited any state contractor from imposing an Internet convenience fee without specific authorization from the General Assembly.

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