Legislative update: Review recently introduced legislation
To keep you informed, I am highlighting recently introduced bills this term that I will be following closely. I broke them down into categories so you can find your specific interests and provided short descriptions that the bill’s sponsor has claimed. If you click on the link for the bill number, you can find out more information about the bill. If you would like to advocate for the bill, follow the link, then click on the link for what committee the bill has been assigned to. This will bring up information about the Chairs and other members of that committee who you can contact and advocate for or against the bill.
Business and Employment
HB347 would establish the Covid-19 Nonprofit Assistance Grant Program to allocate $100,000,000 from the COVID-19 restricted receipts to the Department of Community and Economic Development for grants to 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations statewide.
HB363 would prohibit a landlord from requiring a nonrefundable fee either as a security or pet deposit to provide renters protection from losing their money when no damage has occurred to the property because the deposit or fee was nonrefundable.
HB346 would require employers with 15 employees or more to disclose the pay range on job postings for each position offered or the minimum compensation for the position when a pay range does not exist. This bill would promote equal pay, ensure equitable salaries for workers, ensure the job meets the salary needs of the applicant up front, before applying for the position saving time and money for both the job applicant and the employer conducting interviews.
HB356 would amend the Whistleblower Law to extend the amount of time employees have to file a complaint against an employer from 180 days to two years. Additionally, the legislation would grant individuals submitting a complaint a right to trial by jury as well as the recovery of punitive damages. This legislation would provide victims of discrimination, sexual harassment and workplace harassment with additional time and opportunity to have their complaints appropriately heard while at the same time establishing greater trust within our government.
HB368 and HB369 would establish needed supports and protections and create a child care grant program for frontline health care workers to provide for those who stepped up to provide for all of us in this time of COVID.
HB378 would prohibit any employer from inquiring about a criminal history until a conditional offer of employment has been made to the applicant. Employers who are required by state or federal law to inquire about criminal histories would still be allowed to do so at the appropriate and required time. The legislation would give people with criminal records a fair chance at employment which could turn their life around.
Education and Health
HB362 would direct the State Board of Education to conduct a comprehensive study of charter school entities, specifically on what we’ve learned from the best practices of our high performing, successful charter schools and the shortcomings of our unsuccessful, failing charter schools. The study would help to bring us back to the original intent of the charter school law to “encourage the use of different and innovative teaching methods” and to improve student learning that could be replicated by other public schools.” Essentially, charter school entities were intended to be innovative labs of learning where teachers and administrators, not bound by the same federal and state academic mandates as regular public schools, could significantly improve student learning.
HB373 would realign and annually adjust the reimbursement rates for school health services, giving schools the flexibility to apply these funds toward the health services where they are most needed as well as utilize the number of students in poverty as an equity component to lessen the nurse-to-student ratio disparities. It has been nearly 30 years since Pennsylvania’s per-student reimbursement rate for school health services was updated. Inflation from that time has grown 89.3%, which has caused the state’s average reimbursement share to drop from 44% of costs in 1991 to about 18% of costs today.
HB407 would provide grants to support school-linked mental health services. These grants could be used to identify and diagnose mental health conditions among students, fund transportation for children receiving school-linked mental health services when school is out of session and cover costs associated with delivering telemedicine to school children. By expanding access to mental health treatment for children, we would leverage an institution they are already using -- schools.
HB350 would mandate insurance coverage for all costs related to COVID-19 testing, therapies, and preventions, without patient cost-sharing. This would enable Pennsylvanians to seek care for COVID-19 without contributing out-of-pocket payments.
HB402 would allow living organ donors to deduct up to $10,000 for expenses associated with the donation from their personal income tax to address obstacles to the living donor process by providing financial support to donors.
HB366 would establish early voting in Pennsylvania and allow for two weeks of ballot pre-canvassing. The bill would lessen the burden on county election workers and allow them to pre-canvass ballots well ahead of election day, to make voting more accessible and to announce election results as efficiently as possible.
HB370 would create the Low-Income Water and Wastewater Assistance Program and Low-Income Water and Wastewater Assistance Fund. This legislation would provide assistance to households with income levels at or below the federal poverty line to allow them to get back on their feet.
HB374 would create the Pennsylvania Water Hardship Fund through donation on water bills. The bill would ensure struggling families can maintain access to clean water for their daily household needs.
HB383 would charge the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) with oversight of a vital new program that would make grants available to municipal police departments. The grant program would encourage consolidation and provide funding for: consolidation (25% of funding); achieving accreditation standards of the International Association of Chiefs of Police or similar accrediting authority; training and certification of municipal police officers; community outreach programs; and enhanced mental health services for municipal police officers.
HB372 would require registration of foreclosed properties with the local municipality. Once registered, foreclosing entities would be held responsible for properly maintaining foreclosed properties under their care. The registration would help to recognize that proper upkeep of deserted properties is essential in keeping Pennsylvania neighborhoods clean and safe for its residents. Additionally, keeping these properties habitable and marketable may stabilize property values.
HB382 would make expungement of criminal and driving records automatic with a pardon to simplify the method pardon recipients have to get their records expunged by the court and PennDOT, as the current system requires duplicative steps to achieve expungement.
Veterans and Emergency Services
HB386 would create a new Instant Lottery Game to benefit our commonwealth’s aging veterans. This bill would help our elderly veterans in their times of need as they were there for us in many of our country’s times of need.
HB397 would authorize school districts to enact a tax credit against the property tax liability of active volunteers of a fire or EMS company. In 2016, districts were authorized to allow up to a 20% credit and this bill would increase it to 100%. The bill would promote recruitment and retention of volunteers in our emergency services community which has long been suffering.
HB388 would require public higher education institutions to adopt a policy to award academic credit for military training, if it is recommended by a national higher education association, noted on the student’s military transcript or documented in writing by any of the armed forces of the United States.