Last week the Pennsylvania General Assembly adjourned after taking action on some issues that may be of interest to you. In a victory for public safety, the Senate sent HB 898, a bill that stiffens penalties for straw gun purchases, to Governor Corbett’s desk. The law mandates a five-year minimum sentence for any person convicted of making more than one illegal firearm transfer or sale. Last year, I introduced SB 1028, a measure similar to HB 898, which was universally supported by the public safety and law enforcement communities.
My hit and run legislation (SB 889) moved a step closer to becoming law. The measure, which would increase penalties for people who leave the scene of an accident, moved out of the Senate Transportation Committee with a commitment from leadership to continue work on the bill during the next legislative cycle.
And I voted against Act 13, legislation that would have undermined local zoning authority in favor of the oil and natural gas industry. After the local zoning issue was deemed unconstitutional in Commonwealth Court, the law was appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court by the Commonwealth. The Senate Democratic Caucus and I filed a brief in support of local zoning preemption and we are waiting for the higher court’s ruling.
Some other highlights include:
- “Cash for Parks” (HB 2224), a bill that would have allowed local officials to sell off certain municipal land thanks to weaker oversight, was not enacted because the session ended without full Senate’s consideration;
- HB 1682, legislation that would authorize municipalities in PA to create public land bank authorities, is awaiting the Governor's signature. It allows counties, cities and boroughs with a population of 10,000 or greater to deal with blighted properties through land banks to more efficiently purchase and develop tax-foreclosed and abandoned properties.
- House Bill 815, now Act 198, eases current penalties for 12 to 17 year olds who are convicted of sending or viewing sexually explicit images. Instead of facing potential jail time on child pornography charges, offenders would be allowed to enter into an educational program, and if they pass, have their records wiped clean; and
- The House could not pass a bill (SB 1115) that would have changed the State’s charter school law, despite having been supported by Governor Corbett. The bill included stronger ethics, fiscal and governance measures, but it also removed local school board control, created unequal benefits for charter and public school teachers, and set special performance standards for charters.
We are not scheduled to take any further legislative action this session. And remember, election time is just around the corner so don’t forget to vote and keep in mind that the courts say you don’t need an ID to cast your ballot. As always, thank you for your support and please don’t hesitate to contact me or my staff if we can be of any assistance.
Sen. Larry Farnese