Pa. House moves legislation on Illegal dumping and retirement savings
Here’s a rundown of some of the bills the lower chamber sent to the state Senate this week
The Pennsylvania Capitol on Monday, March 6, 2023.
In the week before the Memorial Day break, and as the Pennsylvania General Assembly enters the final 30 days before the constitutional deadline to pass a state budget, the state House had a busy week.
The historic bipartisan passage of Democratic gun safety legislation and a stand-alone version of the Senate bill to provide legal relief for child sexual abuse survivors made headlines. But the House advanced a number of other important legislative priorities.
Here’s a look at some of the other bills House sent to the Senate this week:
State retirement plan
Former state Treasurer Joe Torsella’s Retirement Security Task Force issued a report in 2019 that warned the needs of Pennsylvanians who aren’t adequately prepared for retirement could add an average of $1 billion in additional costs to the state budget in coming years.
Legislation introduced by Reps. Kyle Mullins, D-Lackawanna, and Pat Gallagher, D-Philadelphia, would create a state-administered program that would allow workers whose employers don’t provide a retirement plan to easily contribute to individual retirement accounts.
The voluntary Keystone Saves Program would assist employers in establishing payroll deductions for employees into a fund administered by the state Treasury. The bill also establishes an administrative fund and an advisory board.
House lawmakers approved House Bill 577 in a 106-95 vote with support from five Republicans on Wednesday – over the opposition of GOP lawmakers who said they objected to the burdens it would impose on small businesses.
Tougher penalties for dumping
In response to a recent increase in dumping rubbish and junk on the streets of Philadelphia, Rep. Donna Bullock, D-Philadelphia, introduced legislation to sharply increase the penalties for littering.
The legislation, passed with a 122-79 vote on Wednesday, would set the penalties for third-degree misdemeanor for scattering rubbish at a maximum fine of $2,000 and 90 days in jail for a first offense, and a fine up to $5,000 and imprisonment for subsequent offenses.
A second-degree misdemeanor conviction would carry fines up to $10,000 for the first offense and $20,000 for subsequent offenses, plus potential jail time.
House Minority Leader Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, spoke in opposition to the bill, questioning its worth to the city when other crimes including shoplifting and prostitution are not prosecuted under Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner’s progressive policies.
The hefty fines are intended to target construction and disposal companies that dump debris in poorer neighborhoods who treat dumping fines as part of the cost of doing business, Bullock said.
Military family schooling
The House unanimously passed two bills that would eliminate obstacles to taking full advantage of public education for military families.
Rep. Frank Burns, D-Cambria, is the prime sponsor of legislation that would guarantee in-state tuition for students whose parents are assigned to military duty in another state after the student is accepted to a state college or university.
Rep. Brian Munroe, D-Bucks, said military families transferring to assignments in Pennsylvania are not permitted to register or enroll in school districts until they are physically in the state. Munroe introduced legislation to allow military parents to register their children for public schools at the same time as any other resident of a Pennsylvania school district.
Hunting and fishing
Military service members and disabled veterans would have more opportunities to hunt and fish in Pennsylvania waters under a bill passed unanimously by the House.
A separate bill that also passed unanimously on Tuesday would waive fishing license requirements for people participating in therapeutic recreation programs.
Rep. Chris Pielli, D-Chester, is the prime sponsor of a bill that would allow members of the military who have an active duty military or disabled veterans’ hunting or fishing licenses or permit issued by another state to fish in Pennsylvania lakes, streams and rivers.
Pielli said the legislation would attract more hunters and anglers to Pennsylvania, providing an economic boost, and would allow veterans suffering post-traumatic stress disorder to take advantage of therapeutic fishing programs.
Legislation introduced by Rep. Ed Neilson, D–Philadelphia, would make similar therapeutic fishing programs more accessible to the general population.
Streamlining family law
Families going through the trauma of divorce and child custody disputes would have the option of pursuing resolutions privately and outside of a courtroom under a House bill passed unanimously on Monday.
Sponsored by Reps. Melissa Shusterman, D-Chester, and Tina Davis, D-Bucks, the legislation simplifies the family law process to allow spouses and parents to engage in arbitration for processes such as the distribution of marital assets and determining spousal or child support.
Shusterman and Davis said the legislation would save families time, money and stress while reducing the burden on county court systems and saving taxpayer money.
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