PLANCON Reform Bill Receives Early Action

Last session, efforts to restore funding to the Commonwealth’s construction reimbursement program, known as PLANCON, were successful when the state budget continued funding for the program and eliminated a moratorium on new projects that had been in place since 2012.  However, a bill to simplify the lengthy multistep process required of school districts to get the funding failed to pass the Senate after making it through the House. Undaunted, Representative Seth Grove (R) (York County) has reintroduced the proposal as House Bill 210.  Grove describes the current process as “overly cumbersome for school districts and requires PA Department of Education (PDE) approval at 11 separate stages.  The process is full of antiquated requirements, exemplified perfectly by a rule still on the books which mandates the submission of plans and bid specifications on microfilm.”
The proposed overhaul of the process would replace PLANCON with a new acronym called ARCCon.  The highlights of the bill are as follows:

  • Creates a public database on PDE’s website, which will provide information about school construction and reconstruction projects, building purchase and charter lease reimbursements.
  • Establishes a simplified 5 stage process for school districts to use when applying for construction reimbursement. This will be known as the “Accountability and Reducing Costs in Construction Process”, or ARCCon.  Among other reforms, ARCCon will:
  • Require reimbursements to be made in the order of PDE approval, unless the secretary prioritizes a project of a financial recovery school district.
  • Provide reimbursement for a new building only if a cost-benefit analysis indicates the cost-to-construct does not exceed the cost-to-expand or renovate existing buildings or if the district can demonstrate that a new building is necessary.
  • Require automation of the ARCCon Process.
  • Eliminate the microfilm requirement.
  • Allows school districts which began a construction project during the moratorium on new applications to be eligible to apply for reimbursement for those projects now that the moratorium has ended.
  • Allows immediate lump sum reimbursement in amounts no greater than 75% of the total eligible reimbursement, with agreement from the school district.

That bill was voted out of the House Education committee on February 3.
House and Senate Convene to Open New Session; Speaker-elect Turzai Announces House Committee Chairs for the 2015-16 Session
On January 6, the newly elected and returning members of the PA state House and Senate took the oath of office and kicked off the 2015-16 session, one that will have the interesting dynamic of both chambers of the General Assembly overwhelmingly controlled by Republicans, a Democrat Governor, and a Supreme Court with three vacancies to fill. Not to mention an Attorney General who may be facing criminal charges, and several sitting legislators under indictments as well.
203 Representatives and 50 Senators were sworn in, including 28 new House members and 5 new Senators. As was reported last month, new leaders were elected on the Republican side in both the House and Senate, as Dave Reed will fill the House Majority Leader spot held by Rep. Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny County) last session. Turzai was elected Speaker on January 6. Sen. Jake Corman unseated Delaware County Sen. Dominic Pileggi as Senate Majority Leader. It is rumored that Pileggi will seek a county judgeship this year.
Newly elected House Speaker Rep. Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny County) announced the appointments of both Republican and Democratic committee chairmen for the 2015-16 Legislative Session, which began with the taking of the oath of office on January 6.
Committees of interest include:

  • Republican: Rep. Stan Saylor, 94th Legislative District, York County.
  • Democrat: Rep. James Roebuck, 188th Legislative District, Philadelphia County.

Environmental Resources and Energy:

  • Republican: Rep. John Maher, 40th Legislative District, Allegheny and Washington counties.
  • Democrat: Rep. Greg Vitali, 166th Legislative District, Delaware and Montgomery counties.

Labor and Industry:

  • Republican: Rep. Mauree Gingrich, 101st Legislative District, Lebanon County.
  • Democrat: Rep. Marc J. Gergely, 35th Legislative District, Allegheny County.

Local Government:

  • Republican: Rep. Kate Harper, 61st Legislative District, Montgomery County.
  • Democrat: Rep. Bob Freeman, 136th Legislative District, Northampton County.

Professional Licensure:

  • Republican: Rep. Julie Harhart, 183rd  Legislative District, Northampton County.
  • Democrat: Rep. Harry Readshaw, 36th Legislative District, Allegheny County.

State Government:

  • Republican: Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, 12th Legislative District, Butler County.
  • Democrat: Rep. Mark Cohen, 202nd Legislative District, Philadelphia County.


  • Republican: Rep. John Taylor, 177th Legislative District, Philadelphia County.
  • Democrat: Rep. William F. Keller, 184th Legislative District, Philadelphia.

Urban Affairs:

  • Republican: Rep. Scott Petri, 178th Legislative District, Bucks County.
  • Democrat: Rep. Thomas R. Caltagirone, 127th Legislative District, Berks County

Wolf Administration Names Cortes Secretary of Commonwealth, Smyler General Counsel; Many More Appointments to Follow
Pedro Cortes has been named Secretary of the Commonwealth, returning to the post he held for seven years under Gov. Ed Rendell. Wolf also named Denise Smyler, a Philadelphia lawyer, as his General Counsel. Cortes, a native of Puerto Rico who was the first Latino confirmed to the governor’s Cabinet in Pennsylvania when he served under Rendell, is the longest-serving Secretary of the Commonwealth, according to Wolf’s transition team. Smyler was an assistant Philadelphia District Attorney from 1987-1993, working for both former Republican Chief Justice Ron Castille when he was DA, and also long-time DA Lynne Abraham, a Democrat (and currently a Philadelphia mayoral candidate). Smyler was the first woman to serve as counsel to the Philadelphia Police Department and for 16 years has led a law firm that concentrates on municipal finance and civil defense.
These two appointments follow earlier announcements that two of Wolf’s primary opponents, Katie McGinty and John Hanger, were tapped for top administration positions, and campaign guru Mary Isenhour would serve as Wolf’s Legislative Secretary.
Complete list of Wolf Cabinet Selections
Here are all of the nominees for the various Department heads to serve under Gov. Tom Wolf. Those that require Senate confirmation are listed as “nomination”. The others serve at his pleasure. The confirmation process took an awkward turn this week, as the Senate moved forward nominations made by former Governor Tom Corbett, but “recalled” by Wolf, in retaliation for Wolf “firing” Erik Arneson, former spokesman for the Senate majority leader, who had recently been appointed to head the Office of Open Records. Arneson and the Senate Republican leadership has filed a lawsuit to reinstate Arneson, contending that Wolf did not have the authority under the Open Records law to remove him. The appointment is for a six year term. Further complicating the appointments is the fact that there are two State Supreme Court vacancies that Wolf may fill, with Senate consent, and on January 29, State Treasurer Rob McCord announced he was resigning, effective February 12, which also Wolf will need to get an appointment through the Senate. McCord named his chief deputy, Christopher Craig, who served for many years under disgraced former Senator Vince Fumo. It is unclear this soon whether he would be a candidate to fill the final two years of the McCord term. This is about to get very interesting!

  • Department of Community and Economic Development (nomination) – Dennis Davin
  • Department of Revenue (nomination) – Eileen McNulty
  • Department of State (nomination) – Pedro Cortes
  • Office of General Counsel (appointment) – Denise Smyler
  • Department of Corrections (nomination) – John Wetzel
  • Department of General Services (nomination) – Curt Topper
  • Department of Insurance (nomination) – Teresa Miller
  • Office of the Budget (appointment) – Randy Albright
  • Department of Agriculture (nomination) – Russell Redding
  • Department of Banking and Securities (nomination) – Robin Wiessmann
  • Department of Environmental Protection (nomination) – John H. Quigley
  • Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (nomination) – Cindy Dunn
  • Office of Administration (appointment) – Sharon Minnich
  • Department of Transportation (nomination) – Leslie Richards
  • PA State Police (nomination) – Colonel Marcus L. Brown
  • PA Emergency Management Agency (appointment) – Richard Finn
  • Office of Fire (appointment) – Timothy Solobay
  • Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, The Adjutant General (nomination) – Major General James R. Joseph
  • Department of Aging (nomination) – Teresa Osborne
  • Inspector General (appointment) – Grayling Williams
  • Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (nomination) – Gary Tennis
  • Department of Health (nomination) – Karen Murphy
  • Department of Human Services (nomination) – Ted Dallas
  • Physician General (appointment) – Dr. Rachel Levine
  • Department of Education (nomination) – Pedro Rivera
  • Department of Labor and Industry (nomination) – Kathy Manderino

Legislative Activity
The following bills of interest to PSPE have been introduced and acted upon in the past month.
HB 85  RE: Government Contracting Programs (by Rep. Jake Wheatley, et al)
Amends Title 62 (Procurement) further providing for definitions; providing for authority to waive employee limit, for alternative certification, for contractor performance and general conditions, for mentor- protege program and for small business reserve program; establishing a surety bond guarantee program; and further providing for contractors’ and subcontractors’ payment obligations. This bill provides definitions for Commonwealth agency, judicial agency, independent agency, legislative agency, local agency, service-disabled veteran, state-affiliated entity, state-related institution, and veteran and expands on the definition of disadvantaged business. This bill allows a Commonwealth agency to waive the small business employee limit requirement, when it is determined to be in the best interest of the Commonwealth, in order to promote and create economic opportunities for disadvantaged business and mandates the agency to inform prospective bidders of the decision to waive the limit. The department must also include in its annual report to the General Assembly information on its use of the waiver. The bill allows the department to accept the certification of any eligible disadvantaged business certified under the Pennsylvania Unified Certification Program and will be used by a government agency as adequate certification for the purpose of bidding on or participating in any public bid that involves the use of Commonwealth funds but will not accept any certification from an owner who is not a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States. The bill mandates that each government agency receiving Commonwealth funds may establish a disadvantaged business utilization program and the agencies that fail to do so will implement the program established by the department. This bill provides regulations for contractor performance, and the establishment of a mentor-protege program, a small business reserve program, and a surety bond guarantee program. The amendment of 62 Pa.C.S. 3933 (c) shall take effect immediately; the addition of 62 Pa.C.S. Ch21-A shall take effect upon publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin; and the remainder of the act shall take effect in 60 days.
Introduced and referred to House State Government Committee, 1/21/2015
HB 125  RE: Specifications for Contracts (by Rep. Sheryl Delozier, et al)
Amends Title 62 (Procurement), in contracts for public works, providing for specifications for contracts. By adding that no specification for a contract awarded under this chapter shall be written in such a manner as to contain proprietary, exclusionary or discriminatory requirements other than those based upon performance unless such requirements are necessary to test or demonstrate a specific feature or to provide for necessary interchangeability of parts or equipment. For each part or piece of equipment, the specifications shall include a listing of at least two brand names or trade names of comparable quality or utility and a statement that equivalent parts or equipment will be given equal consideration.
Introduced and referred to House State Government Committee, 1/21/2015
HB 210   RE: Public School Construction (by Rep. Seth Grove, et al)
Amends the Public School Code, in grounds and buildings, further providing for approval by Department of Education of plans of buildings and exceptions; providing for accountability and reducing costs in construction process; further providing for limitation on new applications for Department of Education approval of school building projects; and, in reimbursements by Commonwealth and between school districts, further providing for definitions, for approved reimbursable rental for leases hereafter approved and approved reimbursable sinking fund charges on indebtedness, for payments on account of leases hereafter approved and on account of sinking fund charges on indebtedness for school buildings hereafter constructed and for payments on account of building costs; and providing for lump sum reimbursement for construction or reconstruction.
Introduced and referred to House Education Committee, 1/23/2015
Reported as committed from House Education Committee, read first time, and laid on the table, 2/3/2015
SB 99  RE: Campaign Contribution Limits on Contractors (by Sen. Larry Farnese, et al)
Amends Title 62 (Procurement) providing for limitations on political contributions by contractors. Any contractor bidding for certain contracts shall be required to submit information on political contributions made to any elected official holding a state office, the contractor’s political action committee or political action committees which make contributions to campaigns for state-elected offices. The contractor shall also provide a notarized written declaration that any lobbyist the contractor has hired to represent the contractor’s interest is properly registered. Contractors shall not be awarded a contract if any political contributions made and reported exceed $2,400 per election to a candidate or $5,000 per election to a business entity or political action committee supporting a candidate. These limits are subject to increase based on inflation.
Introduced and referred to Senate State Government Committee, 1/23/2015
SB 156  RE: Small Business Contracting (by Sen. Rob Teplitz, et al)
Amends Title 62 (Procurement) further providing for the definition of “small business;” establishing a statewide bonding program; providing guidelines for a Mentor-protege program; establishing a small business reserve for the purpose of increasing economic opportunities for small and disadvantaged businesses; requiring each agency to set aside ten percent of its moneys available for procurement into a small business reserve for award to qualified small and disadvantaged businesses.
Introduced and referred to Senate State Government Committee, 1/26/2015
SB 316  RE: Public Access to Procurement Records (by Sen. Mike Folmer, et al)
Amends Title 62 (Procurement), in general provisions, providing for public access to procurement records; and, in source selection and contract formation, further providing for sole source procurement and for emergency procurement. Records concerning a procurement shall be made public, consistent with the Right-to-Know Law. The bill stipulates that procurement documents shall be posted on the purchasing agency’s website. For certain procurements over $250,000)(10), the determination shall be signed by the head of the purchasing agency. Two quotes shall be solicited for emergency procurement; no written contract may be required.
Introduced and referred to Senate State Government Committee, 1/23/2015
HB 258   RE: School Construction Materials Sales Tax Exclusion (by Rep. Matt Baker, et al)
Amends the Tax Reform Code to exclude from the sales and use tax the sale at retail to, or use by, a contractor under a construction contract with a school district, intermediate unit, area vocational-technical school or charter school in Pennsylvania of tangible personal property or services for the project under the construction contract.
Introduced and referred to House Finance Committee, 2/2/2015
SB 282   RE: Waterfront Development Tax Credit (by By Sen. Randy Vulakovich, et al)
Amends the Tax Reform Code adding an article establishing a waterfront development tax credit. An eligible applicant is a business firm or individual who has contributed to a waterfront development organization and is subject to a tax imposed by Article III, IV, VI, VII, VIII, IX or XV or Article XVI of The Insurance Company Law. The Waterfront Development Tax Credit Program is established to encourage private investment in waterfront property which creates public access to the water, increases property values, restores ecology, and catalyzes further financial investment and job creation. The bill outlines qualifications for waterfront development organizations, eligible projects, and the procedure for applying for the tax credit, which shall not exceed 75 percent of the total amount contributed by the eligible applicant during the taxable year. The Department of Revenue shall grant a tax credit of up to 90 percent of the total amount contributed if the eligible applicant provides a written commitment to provide the waterfront development organization with the same amount of contribution for two consecutive tax years. Recapture of the tax credit is provided for.
Introduced and referred to Senate Finance Committee, 1/16/2015
SB 381   RE: Water and Sewer Systems Assistance (by Sen. John Yudichak, et al)
Amends the Water and Sewer Systems Assistance Act further providing for legislative findings; authorizing the incurring of indebtedness, with the approval of the electors, of $600,000,000 for grants and loans for the cost of the labor, materials, necessary operational machinery and equipment, lands, property, rights and easements, plans and specifications, surveys, estimates of costs and revenues, prefeasibility studies, engineering and legal services and the other expenses necessary or incident to the acquisition, construction, improvement, expansion, extension, repair or rehabilitation of all or part of a project; outlining maximum grant amounts; providing for the powers and duties of the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority to implement the requirements of the act and for authorization and expiration; and making editorial changes. Notwithstanding The Fiscal Code, the additional amount of $600,000,000 is authorized if approved by the electorate and the authorization to issue bonds and notes, not including refunding bonds and notes for the purpose of this chapter shall expire after ten years.
Introduced and referred to Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, 2/3/2015
SR 6   RE: PENNVest (by Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, et al)
A Resolution directing the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to review the Commonwealth’s program of providing funding for drinking water, wastewater and storm water projects authorized under the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority Act.
Introduced and referred to Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, 1/15/2015
HB 81   RE: Adoption of National Groundwater Association Standards (By Rep. Kate Harper, et al)
Amends Title 27 (Environmental Resources) providing for the adoption of National Groundwater Association standards. Provides for water well construction standards; decommissioning of abandoned wells; water well completion reports; and inspections. Also provides for the powers and duties of the Environmental Quality Board and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) under this new chapter and for penalties for violations of this new chapter. Certain sections shall take effect after the adoption of regulations and the remainder shall take effect in 30 days.
Introduced and referred to House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, 1/21/2015
HB 83   RE: High-Performance, State Buildings Standards Act (by Rep. Kate Harper, et al)
Provides for the creation of high-performance building standards. All building projects or a renovation that is larger than 20,000 gross square feet and at least 90 percent total square feet of a building in facilities owned by a Commonwealth agency shall meet or exceed the prescribed level of achievement under the high-performance building standard outlined in the legislation. The Department of General Services shall promulgate rules and regulations for compliance and shall report annually to the legislature. The bill also provides for cost recovery and application to Commonwealth owned and leased buildings.
Introduced and referred to House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, 1/21/2015
HB 93  RE: Municipal Board of Appeals (by Rep. Kate Harper, et al)
Amends the Pennsylvania Construction Code amending the definition of “board of appeals” to be the body created by a municipality or more than one municipality to hear appeals from decisions of the code administrator as provided for by the department through regulation. The bill provides for the department to establish regulations instead of utilizing the BOCA National Building Code.
Introduced and referred to House Local Government Committee 1/21/2015
HB 151  RE: Pipeline Storm Water Runoff (by Rep. Curtis Thomas, et al)
Amends the Gas and Hazardous Liquids Pipelines Act further providing for definitions; and providing for recreational use and for storm water runoff.
Introduced and referred to House Consumer Affairs Committee 2/4/2015
HB 445   RE: Underground Utility Line Protection Law (by Rep. Matt Baker, et al)
Amends the Underground Utility Line Protection Law removing the jurisdiction of the Department of Labor and Industry and transferring it to the Public Utility Commission; further providing for definitions; requiring submission of reports of alleged violations; requiring facility owners to maintain records of abandoned lines, to participate in the One Call System’s Member Mapping Solutions, and to notify a facility owner that an excavator has identified an unmarked or incorrectly marked facility and of the owner’s responsibilities; further providing for the One Call System, other parties, designers, excavators and project owners and for penalties; adding that an excavator, designer or operator who proposes to commence excavation or demolition work and requests information from the One Call System shall pay to the One Call System an annual fee; requiring designers to request line and facility information; requiring excavators to renotify the One Call System of an unmarked or incorrectly marked facility in certain instances and to make a locate request to the One Call System prior to excavation or demolition work and to pay the applicable fee; establishing a Damage Prevention Committee in the commission to review and take action on alleged violations; establishing the Underground Utility Line Protection Fund to receive penalties and assessments; and extending the expiration of the act through 2021.
Introduced and referred to House Consumer Affairs Committee, 2/11/2015
SB 330   RE: Neighborhood Blight Reclamation and Revitalization (By Sen. Kim Ward, et al)
Amends Title 53 (Municipalities Generally), in neighborhood blight reclamation and revitalization, providing for failure to comply with a code requirement. The bill outlines what constitutes noncompliance and grades a second offense as a second-degree misdemeanor and three or more as a first-degree misdemeanor. Provides for penalties.
Introduced and referred to Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee 1/26/2015
SB 209   RE: Joint and Several Liability Exception (by Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, et al)
Amends Title 42 (Judiciary) adding an exception to joint and several liability in civil actions and proceedings where a person under 18 years of age has a beneficial interest.
Introduced and referred to Senate Judiciary Committee 1/15/2015
HB 254   RE: Mandate Waiver Program (by Rep. Dan Truitt, et al)
Amends the Public School Code, in preliminary provisions, providing for mandate waiver program by adding that a board of school directors may adopt a resolution to apply to the Department of Education for a waiver of any provision of the code, the regulations of the State Board of Education, or the standards of the Secretary of Education if the waiver will enable the school district to improve its instructional program or operate in a more effective, efficient or economical manner. A board of school directors may contact the intermediate unit (IU) of which it is a member to propose that the intermediate unit apply for a waiver on behalf of all of the intermediate unit’s member school districts. The bill outlines the duties of the department in developing the waiver application process and approving applications and provides for adoption of waiver by school districts or IUs. After five years, a waiver applicant shall submit an evaluation to the department and when the evaluation indicates an improvement in student performance, instructional program or school operations, the waiver shall be renewed. The bill provides for provisions which cannot be waived.
Introduced and referred to House Education Committee 2/2/2015
HB 157  RE: Military Waivers (by Rep. Doyle Heffley, et al)
Amends Title 51 (Military Affairs), in professional and occupational licenses, providing that military service and other related factors may be taken into consideration to determine whether a licensing or certification requirement has been met by or can otherwise be waived by reason of that military service, education, training or experience. A veteran shall only be required to meet a licensing or certification requirement which has not been met by or waived.
Introduced and referred to House Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee, 1/22/2015
Reported as committed from House Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee, read first time, laid on the table, and removed from the table, 1/28/2015
Amended on the House floor, read second time, and Rereferred to House Appropriations Committee, 2/2/2015
Reported as committed from House Appropriations Committee, 2/3/2015
HB 209  RE: Drug Violation Reporting (by Rep. Harry Readshaw, et al)
Amends “An act empowering the General Counsel or his designee to issue subpoenas for certain licensing board activities; providing for hearing examiners in the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs; providing additional powers to the Commissioner of Professional and Occupational Affairs; and further providing for civil penalties and license suspension,” requiring license holders under professions licensed by boards under the Bureau of Professional and Occupational affairs to provide notice within 30 days if the individual has convicted, found guilty or pleaded nolo contendere, or received probation without verdict or received accelerated rehabilitative disposition as to any felony or misdemeanor or any drug violation. Expunged criminal matters do not have to be reported.
Introduced and referred to House Professional Licensure Committee, 1/23/2015
SB 63  RE: Expungement of Disciplinary Records (by Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, et al)
Amends “An act empowering the General Counsel or his designee to issue subpoenas for certain licensing board activities; providing for hearing examiners in the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs; and further providing for civil penalties and license suspension,” to provide a definition for “expunge” or “expungement” and to provide the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs the power to expunge a record based upon certain enumerated conditions. The Commissioner of Professional and Occupational Affairs has the authority and duty to adopt a schedule of civil penalties for operating violations.
Introduced and referred to Senate Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure Committee, 1/14/2015
SB 81   RE: Pennsylvania Board of Home Inspectors (by Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, et al)
Amends Title 68 (Real and Personal Property) repealing Chapter 75 relating to home inspections; adding Chapter 75a providing for home inspections; establishing the Pennsylvania Board of Home Inspectors within the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs in the Department of State to oversee the licensure and regulation of home inspectors; providing for licensure of home inspectors and for disciplinary proceedings by the Pennsylvania Board of Home Inspectors; providing for contents of home inspection reports; requiring home inspectors to maintain professional liability insurance; and making an appropriation of $85,000 from the Professional Licensure Augmentation Account to the Department of State for the payment of associated costs. The board shall promulgate regulations within 18 months.
Introduced and referred to Senate Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure Committee, 1/14/2015
Upcoming Meetings of Interest
MONDAY – 2/23/15
House Consumer Affairs Committee
11:00 a.m., Room 60, East Wing
Informational meeting to hear from water and wastewater industries

  • February          2, 3, 4, 17, 18, 23, 24, 25
  • March              2, 3, 4
  • April                13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22
  • May                 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13
  • June                 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 10, 15, 16, 17, 18, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, 30


  • February          2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27
  • March              2, 3, 4, 30, 31
  • April                1, 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22
  • May                 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13
  • June                 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 10, 15, 16, 17, 18, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30

Copies of all bills of interest can be accessed here.