HARRISBURG – The PA House is set to vote on a proposal to privatize the state-run wine and liquor store system. House Bill 466 would close most of the 600 state stores and sell about 1,200 licenses for retail sales of wine and liquor. Grocery stores would be able to sell wine, but not hard liquor. Gov. Tom Wolf says he would veto the bill.
LANCASTER – The City of Lancaster has entered into an agreement with MAW Communications to build and maintain a municipal broadband network for the city. This agreement and network model is the first of its kind in Pennsylvania. The city’s network will be constructed in phases over the next eighteen months. Initial phases call for the deployment of secure WIFI access points that will make free WIFI Internet Access available in public spaces throughout the City, at speeds up to 300 Million bits per second. MAW will also deploy over one thousand strand miles of fiber optic facilities, making secure broadband services initially available to approximately two thirds of Lancaster residents, businesses, educational, and healthcare institutions. Future phases will deploy the network throughout the remaining one third of the city. The city is also working with the School District of Lancaster to determine how the city network can best serve the needs of the district’s households that currently lack internet access.
HARRISBURG (AP) – A judge has ruled that the city of Harrisburg cannot enforce three gun-control ordinances. Dauphin County Judge Andrew Dowling ruled in a lawsuit brought against the city under a new state law designed to give gun owners and gun rights groups a better chance at dismantling illegal municipal firearms ordinances. The ruling is a preliminary injunction against the enforcement of city ordinances prohibiting gun possession in parks, during a declared state of emergency, and by minors. He says the ordinances are illegal because they are stricter than state law. However, Dowling declined to block the enforcement of two other ordinances, prohibiting the discharge of guns and requiring gun owners to report lost or stolen guns. Dowling says they are permissible under Pennsylvania law.
HARRISBURG – In continuing efforts to enact property tax relief for Pennsylvania homeowners, the state House voted in favor of a homestead exclusion bill to protect principle places of residence from property taxes through an amendment to the state Constitution. House Bill 147 seeks to change the Constitution to give local taxing authorities the power to completely exclude homesteads from property taxes and allows the General Assembly to enact legislation that would provide 100% property tax relief. Currently, local taxing authorities can exclude taxation up to 50% of the median assessed value of homestead property within the taxing district. House Bill 147 states the exclusion level allows up to 100% of the assessed value of each homestead property within a local taxing jurisdiction. The bill must be passed twice by the General Assembly in consecutive legislative sessions and then be approved by Pennsylvania voters to be enacted.
HARRISBURG – Gov. Tom Wolf wants to cut Pennsylvania’s corporate income tax rate in half, but also try to broaden how it is applied. His plan involves halving the corporate net income tax to 4.99%, down from the current 9.99%, which would take the rate from the nation’s second highest to the fourth lowest. Wolf also wants to eliminate the Capital Stock and Franchise Tax and institute something called combined reporting in an effort to crack down on companies that shift profits earned in Pennsylvania to lower-tax jurisdictions. The proposal would require approval from lawmakers. The governor unveils his entire budget proposal next Tuesday.
HARRISBURG – The Senate State Government Committee held a public hearing at the state Capitol on Senate Bill 3 – medical cannabis legislation. The measure allows physicians in Pennsylvania to recommend medicinal cannabis to patients who would medically benefit from such a treatment. Lebanon County Sen. Mike Folmer, who chairs the committee and sponsored the legislation, said one key area of debate involves the number of diseases for which medical cannabis could be used. Montgomery County Sen. Daylin Leach, another of the bill’s sponsors, says there’s tension between wanting to get the perfect bill and taking time to get it right so that those needing medical cannabis can get it. Those providing testimony at the hearing included numerous physicians and experts in medical cannabis research and delivery systems. Senate Bill 3 would allow patients who have a recommendation from their doctor to purchase and use medical cannabis from centers licensed by a to-be-created State Board of Medical Cannabis Licensing. The entire process would be regulated by licensing: medical cannabis growers, processors and dispensers.
ANNAPOLIS, MD (AP) – Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan is meeting with education leaders to talk about his charter school bill. He also plans to discuss a bill to create tax credits for people who make voluntary contributions to private or parochial schools. It’s being held as the governor’s charter school measure is scheduled for a hearing this afternoon before lawmakers. The bill is designed to make it easier to operate charter schools in Maryland. Charter schools are publicly funded schools that have more freedom than conventional schools to establish their curriculum and set policies. They are often operated by nonprofit organizations or groups of parents.
HARRISBURG – Charter school reform, reducing the cost of college and support for technical career training are among the subjects of a four-bill package of legislation passed today by state Rep. Will Tallman of Adams & Cumberland counties and majority members of the House Education Committee. The bills may now be considered by the full House. Headlining the package of bills is House Bill 530, which would bring about major reforms to Pennsylvania’s 18-year-old Charter School Law. The legislation would create a Charter School Funding Advisory Commission to examine actual costs involved in educating a charter student, as well as compare the academic performance of a charter school’s students with that of their school district of residence. It also includes savings for taxpayers and school districts, in addition to increasing accountability for charter schools, leveling the playing field in education and allowing parents to comparison products. The committee also passed House Resolution 102 which would create a subcommittee on Technical Education and Career Readiness.
HARRISBURG – With thousands of Pennsylvanians estimated to be diagnosed with cancer this year, the PA House approved legislation to make oral anticancer drugs more affordable. Bill sponsor Rep. Matt Baker of Bradford & Tioga Counties said his bill will ensure more patients have equal access to these life-saving oral chemo-therapy medications without facing unreasonable costs or the inconvenience of travel to cancer treatment centers for intravenous anticancer drug therapy. Currently, IV anticancer medications are typically covered under a health plan’s medical benefit, often only requiring patients to pay a minimal fixed co-payment; however, oral anticancer medications are covered under a health plan’s pharmacy benefit, and require patients to pay a percentage of the total cost of the drug, generally between 25 to 30%. More than 20 health-related organizations support passage of House Bill 60, which now awaits consideration by the state Senate.
NORRISTOWN (AP) – A suburban Philadelphia township is the latest community to repeal gun ordinances in an effort to avoid being sued under a new Pennsylvania law. East Norriton supervisors voted to repeal laws allowing hunting in the township and regulating firearms in parks and other recreation areas. A state law passed last year gives the National Rifle Association and similar groups the ability to challenge illegal gun laws. Lancaster, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia are already being sued under the law.