General Assembly Finishes Session Votes with Flurry of Bills
The House and Senate returned to session for the final pre-election voting session days this past month. The Corbett Administration, struggling to close the gap in the polls, was not able to accomplish some of its most wanted legislation, such as liquor privatization and converting public pensions to private 401Ks, but numerous other bills did reach the Governor’s desk, some of interest to the design industry (outlined below), while many others fell short of passage in both chambers. The legislature will return for one day of session on November 12, but at this writing it appears no votes on bills will be taken. There have been rumors of potential veto overrides on two budget-related bills that Corbett “bluelined” in July, but most insiders believe that the only purpose for that day will be caucus leadership votes, and perhaps some farewell speeches by departing legislators. The session ends officially at midnight on November 30, but over the past few sessions the House and Senate have refrained from voting on bills after the election, in what is known as “lame duck” or more technically, “sine die” session. Any bills not reaching the Governor’s desk before November 30 die, and will have to start over by reintroduction in 2015.
Wolf Wins Governor Race, Will Face Increased Republican Majorities in House and Senate
As nearly every poll taken the past year indicated, Gov. Tom Corbett did indeed become the first sitting Governor to lose re-election since the state Constitution was changed to allow for second terms in 1968. York businessman Tom Wolf, who served a stint as former Gov. Ed Rendell’s Revenue Secretary, held onto his lead which he built during a relatively easy 5-way Democratic primary over some better-known candidates, and defeated Corbett by a roughly 55-45% margin. Wolf will be sworn in on January 20, 2015. He will likely have a tougher time pushing his agenda through the General Assembly, which will be increasingly Republican after this election. The Senate Republicans defeated incumbent Democrat Tim Solobay (D-Washington), captured the open 32nd district seat being vacated by Fayette County Democrat Sen. Rich Kasunic, and held on to the open 26th district seat in Delaware County, in one of the most hotly contested races in the state. In addition, Republican Rep. Mario Scavello won the newly created 40th district Senate seat based in Monroe County.  In the end, the Republicans will swear in 30 Senators on January 6, to 20 for the Democrats. To make matters worse for the Senate Dems, Philadelphia Sen. Mike Stack won election as Lt. Governor, and will take office with Wolf. Stack has stated that he may try to serve both positions, at least for a while, as other Senators have done when they filled a vacant Lt. Governor chair in the recent past. Stack will have the responsibility of calling the special election to replace himself, though the vacancy won’t occur until he resigns. Gov.-elect Wolf has indicated that he does not support the idea of Stack trying to hold down both jobs, but time will tell.
In the House, things got even more challenging than they already were for Wolf, as House Republicans reportedly will increase their majority from 111 to 119, picking up eight seats previously held by Democrats. Incumbent State Representatives Jesse White (D-Washington), Mark Painter (D-Montgomery), and Rick Mirabito (D-Lycoming) lost their races to Republican challengers, and  Republicans also picked up four open seats long held by Democrats, including retiring State Representative Phyllis Mundy and Deb Kula. Other than Democrats who defeated incumbent Democrats in the primary, the only open House seats kept by the Democrats were Allentown’s Peter Schweyer in the new District 22, and Philadelphia’s Mike Driscoll, who won retiring State Representative Mike McGeehan’s 173rd district seat.
Legislative Activity
The following bills of interest to PSPE have been introduced and acted upon in the past month.
HB 201  RE: Procurement Restrictions (by Rep. George Dunbar, et al)
Amends Title 62 (Procurement) regarding the evaluation of competitive sealed proposals by providing no individual who has been employed by an offeror within the last two years may participate in the evaluation of proposals. The legislation also provides for Iran-Free Procurement by disallowing the procurement from any company having a relationship with the country of Iran. The amendment regarding Iran shall take effect July 1, 2015, or immediately, whichever is later; and the remainder of the act shall take effect immediately.
Reported as amended from Senate Appropriations Committee, 10/6/2014
Read Second time, 10/7/2014
Read third time and passed Senate, 10/8/2014 (50-0)
Received as amended in House and rereferred to House Rules Committee, 10/8/2014
Re-reported on concurrence as committed from House Rules Committee, and House concurred in Senate amendments, 10/15/2014 (197-0)
Signed in the House and Senate, 10/15/2014
Approved by the Governor 10/21/2014 (Act No. 149 of 2014)
HB 2478  RE: Capital Budget Project Itemization Act of 2014-2015 (by Rep. Bill Adolph, et al)
provides for the capital budget for fiscal year 2014-2015; itemizing public improvement projects, furniture and equipment projects, transportation assistance projects, redevelopment assistance capital projects, flood control projects, Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund projects, Environmental Stewardship Fund projects, State forestry bridge projects, Motor License Fund projects and Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission projects, to be constructed, acquired or assisted by the Department of General Services, the Department of Community and Economic Development, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Department of Environmental Protection or the Department of Transportation, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, together with their estimated financial costs; authorizing the incurring of debt without the approval of the electors for the purpose of financing the projects to be constructed, acquired or assisted by the Department of General Services, the Department of Community and Economic Development, the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Transportation or the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission; authorizing the use of current revenue for the purpose of financing the projects to be constructed, acquired or assisted by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources or the Department of Transportation stating the estimated useful life of the projects; and providing for an exemption and for limitation on certain capital projects.
Amended on House floor, read third time, and passed House, 10/6/2014 (178-19)
Received in the Senate and referred to Senate Appropriations 10/10/2014
HB 34  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.
Removed from the table, 10/7/2014
Rereferred to Senate Appropriations Committee, 10/8/2014
HB 1565  RE: Riparian Buffers (by Rep. Marcia Hahn, et al)
Amends the Clean Streams Law further providing for potential pollution by adding that the use or installation of riparian buffers and riparian forest buffers may be used as a preferred choice or option among best management practices, design standards and alternatives. Projects in special protection watersheds that propose greater than one acre of earth disturbance within 100 feet of a surface water shall offset any reduction in the total square footage of the buffer zone that would have been utilized as a best management practice, with a replacement buffer elsewhere in the same drainage basin as close as feasible to the area of disturbance at a ratio of one-to-one. Any project incorporating such an alternative shall also include other best management practices. Replacement planting costs shall be calculated using department guidance as specified in BMP 6.7.1: Riparian Buffer Restoration of the Pennsylvania Stormwater Best Management Practice Manual.
Reported as committed from House Appropriations Committee, read third time, and passed House, 9/22/2014 (119-79)
Received in the Senate and referred to Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, 9/30/2014
Reported as amended from Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, and read first time, 10/6/2014
Read second time, 10/8/2014
Read third time and passed Senate, 10/14/2014 (27-22)
Received as amended in House, rereferred to House Rules Committee, Re-reported on concurrence as committed from House Rules Committee, and House concurred in Senate amendments, 10/15/2014 (118-79)
Signed in the House and Senate, 10/15/2014
Approved by the Governor, 10/22/2014 (Act No. 162 of 2014)
HB 1672   RE: State Agency Green Technology Implementation Act (by Rep. Ron Miller, et al)
Provides for the testing of new, environmentally beneficial and energy efficient technologies within various state agencies. The secretary of the Department of General Services is authorized to direct a state agency, with the approval of the governor, to test certain technology, products or processes that promote energy conservation or efficiency on a trial basis. The testing agency shall maintain records, proprietary information is exempt from the Right to Know Law, and the testing period shall be 30-60 days. Acquisition of any technology, product or process for purposes of the test program shall not be deemed to be a purchase under the provisions of the Procurement Law. After the test period, purchases would be subject to the procurement law. Provides for the promotion of demand-side management and for penalties for displaying Commonwealth endorsement when no such proper endorsement exists.
Amended on Senate floor, 10/6/2014
Read third time and passed Senate, 10/8/2014 (50-0)
Received as amended in House and rereferred House Rules Committee, Re-reported on concurrence as committed from House Rules Committee, and House concurred in Senate amendments 10/8/2014 (176-16)
Signed in the House, 10/8/2014
Signed in the Senate, and in the Hands of the Governor, 10/14/2014
SB 1061  RE: High-Performance State Building Standards Act (by Sen. John Rafferty, et al)
Requires the design, construction and renovation of certain state-owned or state-leased buildings to comply with specified energy and environmental building standards; and providing for the powers and duties of the Department of General Services. The bill outlines minimum criteria which the high-performance building standards shall meet and all major facility projects are required to be designed to earn energy star certification to achieve an environmental protection agency energy star rating of 75 or above. The estimated cost recovery period shall not exceed ten years. The Department of General Services shall annually report to the legislature and develop and implement a process to monitor and evaluate the energy and environmental benefits associated with each major facility project designed, constructed or renovated under the act.
Reported as amended from Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, and read first time, 10/6/2014
Rereferred to Senate Appropriations Committee, 10/7/2014
HB 473   RE: Formal Notice by Subcontractor (by Rep. Tom Killion, et al)
Amends the Mechanics’ Lien Law further providing for formal notice by subcontractor to the prothonotary of the Court of Common Pleas of the relevant jurisdiction as condition precedent to beginning construction. Notice must be given within 15 days of commencement of the construction. Form of the notice is provided for and a model notice given. A petition for a claim from a lien for a construction project must be filed within four months after completion of the work. Requires the Department of General Services to establish and maintain the database. Further, it provides that a searchable project means a commercial construction project costing a minimum of $1,500,000, makes Notices of Commencement filing by owners a mandatory requirement.
Re-reported on concurrence as committed from House Rules Committee, and House concurred in Senate amendments, 10/6/2014 (196-0)
Signed in the House and Senate, 10/6/2014
Approved by the Governor, 10/14/2014 (Act No. 142 of 2014)
HB 1096 RE: Architects CE (by Rep. Curt Sonney, et al)
Amends the Architects Licensure Law adding language requiring each licensee to provide certification of successful completion of a minimum of 24 hours of continuing education as a condition for renewal of the biennial license. A minimum of 12 hours of the continuing education must be in the area of health, safety and welfare credits of the general public. Requires the State Architects Licensure Board to establish, adopt, promulgate and enforce rules and regulations setting forth a continuing education requirement to be satisfied by all individuals holding a certificate to engage in the practice of architecture as a condition of renewal of the certificate. Also provides for reciprocity and for waivers of all or part of the continuing education requirement for a licensee who provides evidence satisfactory to the board that the licensee was unable to complete the requirement due to illness, emergency, hardship or active military service. The bill allows for continuing education completed in another state to satisfy the continuing education requirement in Pennsylvania if the license holder primarily practices in a state other than Pennsylvania.
Reported as amended from Senate Consumer Protection & Prof. Licensure Committee, and read first time, 10/6/2014
Laid on the table, 10/16/2014
HB 1447  RE: Electronic Seals, Industrial Exemption (by Rep. Marc Gergely, et al)
Amends the Engineer, Land Surveyor and Geologist Registration Law further providing for a definition of “engineer”. Eliminates certain exemptions from licensure and registration. Adds language allowing each licensee to register his seal electronically so that a digital signature can be used to seal electronic plans and documents. Further provides the signature will be offered with the seal using asymmetrical cryptography. Any person performing activities prior to the effective date of the legislation that did not require licensure shall continue to practice those same duties without obtaining licensure under the Act.
Public hearing held in House Professional Licensure Committee, 10/8/2014
SB 76  RE: Property Tax Independence Act (by Sen. Dave Argall, et al)
provides for tax levies and information related to taxes; authorizes the imposition of a personal income tax or an earned income tax by a school district at a rate determined by the district, subject to voter approval; provides an exception for low income persons; imposes a statewide education tax of 0.94 percent to be deposited in the Education Stabilization Fund; implements the Sales and Use Tax for the Stabilization of Education Funding, at a rate of seven percent, which shall be a replacement for the existing sales and use tax and shall be deposited in the Education Stabilization Fund; every person maintaining a place of business in Pennsylvania, selling or leasing services or tangible personal property, the sale or use of which is subject to tax shall be licensed; imposes a seven percent hotel occupancy tax, to be deposited into the Education Stabilization Fund; the amount of additional revenues that are generated by taxes received under this chapter that are necessary to replace the revenue earmarked for transportation under 74 Pa.C.S. 1506 (relating to fund), not to exceed 4.4 percent of such additional revenues, shall be deposited in the Public Transportation Reserve Fund, which is established; provides for increase to the personal income tax, for certain licenses, for hotel occupancy tax, for procedure and administration of the tax, for expiration of authority to issue certain debt and for reporting by local government units of debt outstanding; establishes the Education Stabilization Fund; provides for disbursements from this fund and for certain rebates and assistance to senior citizens; and repeals certain provisions of The Local Tax Enabling Act, sales and use tax provisions of the Tax Reform Code and provisions relating to senior citizens property tax and rent rebate assistance in the Taxpayer Relief Act. The authority of any school district to levy, assess and collect any real property tax shall expire at midnight December 31, 2013; the authority of a city of the first class (Philadelphia) to impose or continue to provide for the imposition or continuation of any tax, including, but not limited to, the real property tax, for the use of a school district of the first class shall also expire. For fiscal year 2014-2015, the department shall make disbursements from the Education Stabilization Fund to each school district based on the base revenue of the district and the cost of living. Section 1505 (b) (2) and (7) and Chapters 3 and 4 shall take effect January 1, 2015 and the remainder of the act shall take effect immediately.
Laid on the table, 10/16/2014
Upcoming meetings of Interest
The House and Senate are finished voting days for the 2013-14 session. November 12 is, at this writing a NON-voting session day, scheduled for post-election reorganization in both Chambers. The Senate will elect a President Pro Tempore to serve until the legislature reconvenes in the new session on January 6, 2015. That non-voting status is subject to change if the House and Senate agree to hold votes that day.
November     12
November     12
The 2015-16 session schedule has not been published yet.
Copies of all bills of interest can be accessed via the Internet here.