Legislative Updates


The Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association continues to protect our members' interests at the Capitol and promote bills expanding access to records and government meetings. We provide weekly legislative updates with highlights of the latest news impacting our members and the public.

June 28

Budget Update
Governor Tom Wolf signed the $32.7 billion General Appropriations (GA) bill, as well as three budget-related code bills – a Fiscal Code, a Public School Code and a Human Services Code last week.

Education Transparency & Executive Sessions
House Bill 1448, the Higher Education Accountability and TransPArency Act, was also signed into law. This Act requires the PA Department of Education to establish a comparative tool on higher education institutions. It was amended to include language from the Sunshine Act related to executive sessions. The Sunshine Act still applies and the provisions allow for enforcement and challenges for misapplication of the law. 

Reporting unsafe school activities
Governor Wolf signed SB 1142, sponsored by Senator Pat Browne, last week, which establishes the Safe2Say Program providing for anonymous reporting concerning unsafe activities in schools. PNA is supportive of the annual report containing aggregated data and the Right to Know Law, which makes it public. The bill was also amended to include a School Safety and Security Committee within the PA Commission on Crime and Delinquency. Chief school administrators of school entities are required to appoint a school administrator as the school safety and security coordinator. This coordinator shall prepare a report to be presented to the school entity’s board of directors at an executive session of the board of directors.

Clean Slate Legislation
Governor Wolf signed HB 1419, Clean Slate Legislation, sponsored by Rep. Sheryl Delozier (R-Cumberland) today. This bill provides those with nonviolent criminal records a mechanism to have their record sealed from public view. Current law requires that the offender ask for a court order by petition, and the petition is reviewed by a judge. 

June 21

Budget Update 
The Senate and House are in legislative session this week and return to session next week. The House advanced the $32.7 billion General Appropriations (GA) bill by a 188-10 vote, as well as the many associated preferred and non-preferred appropriations bills this week. The Senate is expected to vote on the GA bill tomorrow. There are still three budget-related code bills – a Fiscal Code, a Public School Code and a Human Services Code – to be completed as part of the budget. 

County Code Legislation 
The House Local Government Committee voted out SB 1005, this week, which updates and consolidates the County Code and the Second Class County Code by a vote of 26-1. PNA had several concerns related to the change in public access to Coroners records and public notice provisions of the bill. The Committee Chairs introduced an amendment to the bill, which PNA supports, to address our concerns. 

Public notices relating to local government audits 
The House Local Government Committee voted out three public notice bills this week relating to local government audits. PNA worked extensively on the language contained in Senate Bills 771772 and 773 sponsored by Senator Tom McGarrigle, and supports the bills. Representative Kate Harper has companion bills in the House. 

Records regarding volunteer emergency service organizations 
The House Local Appropriations Committee voted a four-bill package this week. Senate Bills 801802803 and 804, sponsored by Senator Scott Hutchinson, permit municipal governments to purchase used equipment, vehicles, and other personal property from volunteer emergency service organizations without competitive bidding. This results in less access to the underlying deal details. Under these bills, the public would have no way to access details regarding the property because volunteer organizations are not expressly subject to the Right to Know Law. PNA is recommending an amendment. Representative Kate Harper has companion bills in the House. 

Public notices for municipal personal property 
The House Local Government Committee voted a three-bill package this week, SB 947, 948 and 949, which increases the dollar threshold that triggers advertisement when selling municipal personal property from $1,000 to $2,000. PNA is fine with these bills. 

Notice for closures of state correctional institutions 
The House State Government Committee held a hearing Senate Bill 748, sponsored by Sen. David Argall (R-Schuylkill) which enacts the Public Safety Facilities Act, establishing a clear process for consideration of proposed closures of state correctional institutions as well as other structures that house state law enforcement. The bill requires public notice, at least one public hearing and a written report.

Reporting unsafe school activities 
SB 1142, sponsored by Senator Pat Browne, passed the House Education Committee this week, which establishes the Safe2Say Program providing for anonymous reporting concerning unsafe activities in schools. PNA is supportive of the annual report containing aggregated data and the Right to Know Law, which makes it public.  

Emergency Code Update 
The Senate Veterans Affairs and Management Committee passed SB 1019, sponsored by Senator Randy Vulakovich, which updates Pennsylvania’s Emergency Management Code this week. PNA is recommending amendatory language regarding the media and public records. 

Public Health Emergencies
The Senate passed SB 1001, sponsored by Senate Minority Leader, Jay Costa, unanimously this week. The bill was amended to include a PNA recommendation, which made aggregated data public information. 

Sunshine Act Legislation
The House Rules Committee passed HB 1531 (R-Christiana) last week, requiring agencies to provide agendas in advance of meetings, so the public can attend and participate in issues that matter to them. PNA has advocated for and supports this legislation. It is our understanding that additional amendments are being drafted to the bill. 

Public School Executive Sessions  
The House passed House Bill 2327, sponsored by Rep. Fee, last week. The bill amends the Public School Code exempting public school entity discussions of security and emergency preparedness from open meetings requirements. PNA is recommending an amendment.  

Opioid Prescribing Advisory Council 
SB 655, sponsored by Senator Gene Yaw, which requires the Secretary of Health to promulgate regulations regarding opioid prescription guidelines and creates an opioid prescribing advisory council passed the Senate unanimously on third consideration last week. The bill included a PNA amendment, which added that the council is expressly covered by the Sunshine Act and Right To Know Law.

Lean State Government Act 
HB 2209, sponsored by Representative Frank Ryan, which establishes The Lean State Government Act to require performance audits of all state agencies conducted by experienced performance auditors contracted by the Auditor General, passed the House State Government Committee last week. The bill was amended to include PNA language making it clear that the reports and audits are expressly public under the bill.

 

June 14

PhyllisYaffeThe Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry hosted the General Consul of Canada, Phyllis Yaffe, this week to discuss Canada-U.S. relations, the Canada-Pennsylvania economic partnership and the status of the negotiations on NAFTA. The General Consul discussed the devastating impact of the proposed newsprint tariffs and stated that we need to find a solution. 

At right, Phyllis Yaffe, General Counsul of Canada, left, and Gene Barr, President of the PA Chamber of Business and Industry.

The Senate and House were in legislative session this week and return to session next week. 

Sunshine Act Legislation
The House Rules Committee passed HB 1531 (R-Christiana) this week, requiring agencies to provide agendas in advance of meetings, so the public can attend and participate in issues that matter to them. PNA has advocated for and supports this legislation. 

Public School Executive Sessions  
The House passed House Bill 2327, sponsored by Rep. Fee, this week. The bill amends the Public School Code exempting public school entity discussions of security and emergency preparedness from open meetings requirements. PNA is recommending an amendment.  

County Code Legislation 
The House Local Government Committee is holding a voting meeting on SB 1005, next week, which updates and consolidates the County Code and the Second Class County Code. PNA has several concerns related to the change in public access to Coroners records and public notice provisions of the bill. The Committee Chairs will introduce an amendment to the bill, which PNA supports, to address our concerns. 

Public notices relating to local government audits 
The House Local Government Committee is scheduled to vote on three public notice bills next week relating to local government audits. PNA worked extensively on the language contained in Senate Bills 771, 772 and 773 sponsored by Senator Tom McGarrigle, and supports the bills. Representative Kate Harper has companion bills in the House. 

Records regarding volunteer emergency service organizations 
The House Local Government Committee voted a four-bill package this week. Senate Bills 801802803 and 804, sponsored by Senator Scott Hutchinson, permit municipal governments to purchase used equipment, vehicles, and other personal property from volunteer emergency service organizations without competitive bidding. This results in less access to the underlying deal details. Under these bills, the public would have no way to access details regarding the property because volunteer organizations are not expressly subject to the Right to Know Law. PNA is recommending an amendment. Representative Kate Harper has companion bills in the House. 

Public notices for municipal personal property 
The House Local Government Committee will be voting a three-bill package next week, SB 947, 948 and 949, which increases the dollar threshold that triggers advertisement when selling municipal personal property from $1,000 to $2,000. PNA is fine with these bills. 

Notice for closures of state correctional institutions 
The House State Government Committee is holding a hearing Senate Bill 748, sponsored by Sen. David Argall (R-Schuylkill) which enacts the Public Safety Facilities Act, establishing a clear process for consideration of proposed closures of state correctional institutions as well as other structures that house state law enforcement. The bill requires public notice, at least one public hearing and a written report.

Reporting unsafe school activities 
SB 1142, sponsored by Senator Pat Browne, passed the Senate this week, which establishes the Safe2Say Program providing for anonymous reporting concerning unsafe activities in schools. The confidentiality provisions of this bill go beyond general confidentiality and remove the information from the Right To Know Law generally. PNA is recommending an amendment. 

Opioid Prescribing Advisory Council 
SB 655, sponsored by Senator Gene Yaw, which requires the Secretary of Health to promulgate regulations regarding opioid prescription guidelines and creates an opioid prescribing advisory council passed the Senate unanimously on third consideration this week. The bill included a PNA amendment, which added that the council is expressly covered by the Sunshine Act and Right To Know Law.

Lean State Government Act 
HB 2209, sponsored by Representative Frank Ryan, which establishes The Lean State Government Act to require performance audits of all state agencies conducted by experienced performance auditors contracted by the Auditor General, passed the House State Government Committee this week. The bill was amended to include PNA language making it clear that the reports and audits are expressly public under the bill.

Emergency Code Update 
SB 1019, sponsored by Senator Randy Vulakovich, updates Pennsylvania’s Emergency Management Code. PNA is recommending amendatory language regarding the media and public records. 
 

June 7

The Senate and House were in legislative session this week and return to session next week. 
Lieutenant Governor, Mike Stack, announced there will not be a special election to replace 
Senator Scott Wagner (R-York) who resigned his State Senate seat effective Monday, June 4. Wagner won the GOP primary to challenge Governor Tom Wolf for the state’s top spot. 

Three new House members were sworn in this week including State Representatives Tim O’Neal (R-Washington), Helen Tai (D-Bucks), and Clint Owlett (R-Tioga). O’Neal won the Special Election in the 48th District, a seat vacated by State Representative, now Washington County Judge, Brandon Neuman. State Representative Tai takes over the 178th District vacated by State Representative, now Executive Director of the Philadelphia Parking Authority, Scott Petri. Clint Owlett (R-Tioga, Potter, Bradford) won the the 68th District vacated by State Representative Matt Baker, who retired earlier this year for a Presidential appointment. 

Sunshine Act Legislation
The House State Government Committee passed HB 1531 (R-Christiana) by a vote of 23-2, requiring agencies to provide agendas in advance of meetings, so the public can attend and participate in issues that matter to them. PNA has advocated for and supports this legislation. See the Beaver County Times article. 

Public School Executive Sessions  
The House Education Committee voted on House Bill 2327, sponsored by Rep. Fee, this week. The bill amends the Public School Code exempting public school entity discussions of security and emergency preparedness from open meetings requirements. PNA is recommending an amendment.  

County Code Legislation 
The House Local Government Committee held an informational meeting on SB 1005, this week, which updates and consolidates the County Code and the Second Class County Code. PNA has several concerns related to the change in public access to Coroners records and public notice provisions of the bill. The Committee Chairs will introduce an amendment to the bill, which PNA supports to address our concerns. 

Public notices relating to local government audits 
The Senate voted on three public notice bills this week relating to local government audits. PNA worked extensively on the language contained in Senate Bills 771, 772 and 773 sponsored by Senator Tom McGarrigle, and supports the bills. The bills now move to the House. Representative Kate Harper has companion bills in the House. 

Records regarding volunteer emergency service organizations 
The Senate voted a four-bill package this week. Senate Bills 801, 802, 803 and 804, sponsored by Senator Scott Hutchinson, permit municipal governments to purchase used equipment, vehicles, and other personal property from volunteer emergency service organizations without competitive bidding. This results in less access to the underlying deal details. Under these bills, the public would have no way to access details regarding the property because volunteer organizations are not expressly subject to the Right to Know Law. PNA is recommending an amendment. Representative Kate Harper has companion bills in the House. The House Local Government Committee has a meeting scheduled on these bills next Wednesday. 

Public notices for municipal personal property 
The Senate voted a three-bill package this week, SB 947, 948 and 949, which increases the dollar threshold that triggers advertisement when selling municipal personal property from $1,000 to $2,000. PNA is fine with these bills. 

Reporting unsafe school activities 
SB 1142, sponsored by Senator Pat Browne, passed the Senate this week, which establishes the Safe2Say Program providing for anonymous reporting concerning unsafe activities in schools. The confidentiality provisions of this bill go beyond general confidentiality and remove the information from the Right To Know Law generally. PNA is recommending an amendment. 

Urge Senator Casey to co-sponsor PRINT Act
United States Senator Pat Toomey joined a group of bi-partisan lawmakers cosponsoring the PRINT ACT, which protects our industry from extremely damaging newsprint tariffs. Newspapers in the Commonwealth cannot absorb the additional financial burden this proposed tariff is sure to create. Read the press release. However, Senator Bob Casey currently opposes the legislation. PNA is sending a follow-up letter to Senator Casey urging his support.  

May 31

The Senate and House return to legislative session next week. Senator Scott Wagner (R-York) announced he will resign his State Senate seat effective Monday, June 4. Earlier this month, Wagner won the GOP primary to challenge Governor Tom Wolf for the state’s top spot.

Sunshine Act Legislation
The House State Government Committee has scheduled a vote Tuesday on HB 1531 (R-Christiana), requiring agencies to provide agendas in advance of meetings, so the public can attend and participate in issues that matter to them. PNA has advocated for and supports this legislation.

Senator Toomey Cosponors PRINT Act
United States Senator Pat Toomey joined a group of bi-partisan lawmakers cosponsoring the PRINT ACT, which protects our industry from extremely damaging newsprint tariffs. Newspapers in the Commonwealth cannot absorb the additional financial burden this proposed tariff is sure to create. Read the press release and The Courier-Express (Dubois) article.

County Code Legislation
The House Local Government Committee has scheduled a meeting next week on SB 1005, which updates and consolidates the County Code and the Second Class County Code. PNA has several concerns related to the change in public access to Coroners records and public notice provisions of the bill. The Committee Chairs will introduce an amendment to the bill, which PNA worked on with stakeholders, to address our concerns.

Public notices relating to local government audits
The Senate may be voting on three public notice bills next week relating to local government audits. PNA worked extensively on the language contained in Senate Bills 771, 772 and 773 sponsored by Senator Tom McGarrigle, and supports the bills. Representative Kate Harper has companion bills in the House.

Records regarding volunteer emergency service organizations
The Senate may be voting a four-bill package next week. Senate Bills 801, 802, 803 and 804, sponsored by Senator Scott Hutchinson, permit municipal governments to purchase used equipment, vehicles, and other personal property from volunteer emergency service organizations without competitive bidding. This results in less access to the underlying deal details. Under these bills, the public would have no way to access details regarding the property because volunteer organizations are not expressly subject to the Right to Know Law. PNA is recommending an amendment. Representative Kate Harper has companion bills in the House.

Public notices for municipal personal property
The Senate may be voting a three-bill package next week, SB 947, 948 and 949, which increases the dollar threshold that triggers advertisement when selling municipal personal property from $1,000 to $2,000. PNA is fine with these bills.

Reporting unsafe school activities
SB 1142, sponsored by Senator Pat Browne, may be voted next week, which establishes the Safe2Say Program providing for anonymous reporting concerning unsafe activities in schools. The confidentiality provisions of this bill go beyond general confidentiality and remove the information from the Right To Know Law generally. PNA is recommending an amendment.

May 24

The Senate and House were in legislative session this week and return to session June 4. Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati spoke at this week’s Press Club luncheon. 

Legal

Right to Know Law Informational Meeting
The House Local Government Committee held an informational hearing this week on HR 50, requiring a study in the costs associated with implementing the Right to Know Law. View the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee report and presentation.

Public notice requirements for emergencies
This week, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed House Bill 99, sponsored by Rep. David Zimmerman, out of Committee. The bill expands a borough's ability to bypass current bidding and public notice requirements "for emergencies." PNA is working with the Senate on an amendment.

Public notices relating to local government audits
The Senate Appropriations Committee voted three bills this week regarding public notices relating to local government audits. PNA worked extensively on the language contained in Senate Bills 771772and 773 sponsored by Senator Tom McGarrigle, and supports the bills. Representative Kate Harper has companion bills in the House.

Records regarding volunteer emergency service organizations
The Senate Appropriations Committee voted a four-bill package this week, Senate Bills 801802803and 804, sponsored by Senator Scott Hutchinson, which permit municipal governments to purchase used equipment, vehicles, and other personal property from volunteer emergency service organizations without competitive bidding. This results in less access to the underlying deal details. Under these bills, the public would have no way to access details regarding the property because volunteer organizations are not expressly subject to the Right to Know Law. PNA is recommending an amendment. Representative Kate Harper has companion bills in the House.

Public notices for municipal personal property
The Senate Appropriations Committee voted a three-bill package this week, SB 947948 and 949, which increases the dollar threshold that triggers advertisement when selling municipal personal property from $1,000 to $2,000. PNA is fine with these bills.

County Code Legislation
The Senate Appropriations Committee passed SB 1005, this week which updates and consolidates the County Code and the Second Class County Code. PNA has several concerns related to the change in public access to Coroners records and public notice provisions of the bill. We plan to have an amendment introduced in the House.

Reporting unsafe school activities
SB 1142, sponsored by Senator Pat Browne, passed the Senate Appropriations Committee this week, which establishes the Safe2Say Program providing for anonymous reporting concerning unsafe activities in schools. The confidentiality provisions of this bill go beyond general confidentiality and remove the information from the Right To Know Law generally. PNA is recommending an amendment.

 

May 17

The Senate and House return to session next week.

Primary election results
Senator Scott Wagner (York) won the Republican nomination for Governor with 44.3 percent of the vote. He will face incumbent, Tom Wolf, in the general election. United States Representative Lou Barletta secured the Republican nomination with 63 percent of the vote. He will challenge incumbent U.S. Senator, Robert Casey Jr. For complete election results, visit the Department of State website.

Right to Know Law informational meeting
The House Local Government Committee is holding an informational hearing on May 23 on HR 50, requiring a study in the costs associated with implementing the Right to Know Law. View the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee report and presentation.

Public information regarding proposed prison closures
The House State Government Committee is holding a hearing next Wednesday on Senate Bill 748, sponsored by Sen. David Argall (R-Schuylkill) which enacts the Public Safety Facilities Act, establishing a clear process for consideration of proposed closures of state correctional institutions as well as other structures that house state law enforcement. The bill requires public notice, at least one public hearing and a written report.

Public notices relating to local government audits
The Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to vote three bills next week regarding public notices relating to local government audits. PNA worked extensively on the language contained in Senate Bills 771772 and 773 sponsored by Senator Tom McGarrigle, and supports the bills. Representative Kate Harper has companion bills in the House.

 

May 10

The Primary Election is on Tuesday. The Senate and House return to session the week of May 21.

The House Local Government Committee is holding an informational hearing on May 23 on HR 50, requiring a study in the costs associated with implementing the Right to Know Law. View the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee report and presentation.

 

May 3

The House of Representatives was in legislative session this week.

The House passed House Bill 1843, sponsored by Rep. Seth Grove, on final consideration this week. This bill creates a Financial Watch Program under the Treasury Office. The bill was amended to include a PNA proposal, which allows Treasury to make information available for public download as an image (pdf) or spreadsheet format. PNA supports this bill.

The Legislative Budget and Finance Committee recently voted to release a comprehensive report on the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. The Senate and House Education Committees held a public hearing this week to review the report.

 
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