Senate Weekly Session Wrap
Important Harrisburg Happenings:
Senate Approves Bill Banning Texting While Driving
The Senate approved legislation, as part of the legislative activities of the session week of July 6, that would make it illegal for motorists to text while driving and a comprehensive gaming reform bill, according to Senator Pat Browne (R-16).
Senate Bill 143 would make texting while driving a secondary offense if a motorist has been cited for another violation and would carry a fine of $100. Pennsylvania would join 10 other states that have prohibited texting while driving for all classes of drivers. Eight more states prohibit texting by novice drivers or certain specialized driving classifications.
Approximately 158 billion mobile text messages were sent in the U.S. last year, according to a New York Times report. An estimated 20 percent of drivers are sending or receiving text messages while behind the wheel, according to a Nationwide Insurance study. According to another poll, that number skyrockets to 66 percent when drivers age 18 to 24 are involved. The practice, especially popular among young people, has resulted in deadly accidents.
"Texting is a dangerous distraction, especially when it involves an inexperienced driver," Senator Browne said. "Drivers should be concentrating on the road, not trying to use a keyboard. If a message is that important, the driver can pull over and send it without being a hazard to themselves and others on the highway."
The Senate also approved Senate Bill 711, legislation that would make numerous changes to the law regulating casinos in Pennsylvania. It would reestablish the prohibition on political campaign contributions by individuals and entities subject to the Gaming Act, bar outside employment by members of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) and extend the ban on felons receiving gaming licenses.
Major provisions in Senate Bill 711 include:
The Senate concurred on House amendments to Senate Bill 33, which restricts the ability of counties and municipalities to alter an election district between June 1, 2009 and November 30, 2012, or through resolution of all judicial appeals to the 2012 Congressional Redistricting Plan, whichever is later. The bill now goes to the Governor for his signature and enactment into law.
The Senate approved two House bills during the session week of July 6:
House Bill 92 caps the fee for the transaction costs associated with the Pennsylvania Automated Licensing Service (PALS) at $1.
House Bill 262 requires the Bureau of State Forestry in the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to set regulatory standards regarding minimum qualifications for burn managers, the content of burn plans, a certification and revocation process for burn managers, requirements for the review and approval of burn plans and a training program for prescribed burn managers.
Both bills return to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.
Three Senate Bills received final approval and were sent to the House for consideration:
Senate Bill 851, co-sponsored by Senator Browne, amends the Volunteer Fire Company and Volunteer Ambulance Service Grant Act to exempt the following organizations from the Right-to Know Law: a volunteer ambulance service; a volunteer fire company; a volunteer rescue company; a volunteer water rescue company; a volunteer organization that provides hazardous materials response services; and, a volunteer organization that provides emergency medical services.
Senate Bill 949, co-sponsored by Senator Browne, would prevent further cases of corruption in county juvenile courts and restore public confidence by establishing an Interbranch Commission on Juvenile Justice. The legislation was drafted in response to a case of corruption in Luzerne County, which resulted in hundreds of juveniles being improperly sentenced and inappropriately placed in detention.
Senate Bill 973 makes changes to the Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act to provide that proof of insurance may include information indicating that the applicant is self-insured. It also allows the Bureau of Consumer Protection to determine the sufficiency of self-insurance and the manner in which it is maintained.
Senate Committee Report:
Appropriations Committee Approves Three Bills
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved three bills: