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Welcome to "Mike's Memo," an update on what's happening in the 48th Legislative District, the State Capitol, and the progress of my legislative priorities. If you haven't done so already, please take a few moments to visit my website at www.senatorfolmer.com to learn more about issues that may affect you and your family.

Week of July 18, 2016

Reminder: Londonderry Township, Dauphin County, Town Hall Meeting
6:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 21: Londonderry Township, Dauphin County

Township Building Board Room, 783 South Geyers Church Road, Middletown, PA 17057
Hope to see you there! And, thanks to everyone who attended my Steelton and Springettsbury Town Hall Meetings! I enjoyed our discussions and the opportunity to meet with constituents.

Bills Pass Senate, Go to House for Further Consideration
Senate Bill 717 – (41-9) modernizes the Professional Nursing Law to allow licensing of Advanced Practice Registered Nurses-Certified Nurse Practitioners (APRN-CNPs);
Senate Bill 1229 – (41-7) Fiscal Year 2016-17 Administrative Code, including changes to the distribution of PA Breeding Funds;
House Bill 568 – (45-3) updates the PA Construction Code Act.

Bills Pass Senate, Go to Governor for Further Action
All bills passed unanimously unless otherwise noted.
Senate Bill 514 – allows biosimilar substitutions under the Generic Equivalent Drug Law;
Senate Bill 533 – implements a uniform procedure for the disposition of contraband by probation and parole agencies;
Senate Bill 1227 – transfers pension calculation responsibilities of PERC to the IFO and Auditor General;
House Bill 325 – clarifies and updates the Auctioneer Licensing and Trader Assistant Registration Act, and eliminates the Auction House License;
House Bill 806 – amends Clean and Green to prohibit assessments higher than fair market value;
House Bill 1198 – Act 84 – (28-22) Fiscal Year 2016-17 Tax Code (I was not able to support higher taxes without more concerted efforts to address costs and cost drivers);
House Bill 1605 – (45-5) Fiscal Year 2016-17 Fiscal Code;
House Bill 1606 – (47-3) Fiscal Year 2016-17 School Code.

Bills Signed into Law by Governor
Senate Bill 917 – Act 78 – streamlines the sharing of information among county and court agencies involved in child welfare and delinquency cases;
Senate Bill 1104 – Act 79 – amends Title 20 (Decedents, Estates and Fiduciaries);
Senate Bill 1123 – Act 80 – exemption for summer gas blends;
Senate Bill 1154 – Act 69 – updates to the Civil Service Act;
Senate Bill 1194 – Act 81 – removes the sunset date from the State Military College Legislative Appointment Initiative;
Senate Bill 1270 – Act 72 – brings PA into compliance with updated Federal real estate appraiser standards;
House Bill 60 – Act 73 – coverage for oral chemotherapy;
House Bill 64 – Act 74 – requires those licensed under the State Boards of Psychology and Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors have continuing education in assessing, treating and managing suicide;
House Bill 898 – Act 75 – designates Philadelphia Prison System prisoner transports as emergency vehicles;
House Bill 1062 – Act 76 – repeals requirement county nursing homes pay 10 percent of the non-federal cost of services for Medicaid residents;
House Bill 1335 – Act 77 – eliminates PA Turnpike call boxes.

Column: Reforms Through the Courts
One of the first reforms I introduced to advance my “Promise to Pennsylvania” was my “Voters’ Choice Act” to eliminate unfair hurdles to ballot access for minor party and independent candidates. No state made it more difficult for minor party and independent candidates to run for public office than Pennsylvania as they were required to collect as many as 34 times the number of signatures as the major party candidates.

To appear on the November ballot for any office in a given district, minor party and independent candidates had been required to submit a minimum number of valid signatures equal to two percent of the largest vote cast for an elected candidate in the previous statewide election. Meanwhile, major party candidates automatically qualified for the November ballot with no signature threshold – they collected signatures only to appear in the Primary Election (minor party or independent candidates do not participate in Primary Elections).

During the 2014 gubernatorial election, Republican and Democratic candidates for Governor were required to collect 2,000 voter signatures to appear on the Primary Election ballot (1,000 signatures for Lieutenant Governor). Meanwhile, minor party and independent candidates were required to submit 16,639 signatures. .

For signature disputes, minor parties were required to pay the costs of defending against challenges to their petitions – including having to pay the challengers’ litigation fees. In two instances, these costs exceeded $80,000 for challenged minor party petitions.

I was disappointed not being able to advance the proposed changes of my Voters’ Choice Act, which would have simply required an independent candidate to collect the same amount of signatures as the major party candidates in order to appear on the November ballot. It would have also defined what constitutes a “minor political party.”

However, a recent court decision ruled two sections of the Election Code, working in combination with one another, were unconstitutional barriers for independent and minor party candidates. One section of the law dealt with the signature requirements and the other section dealt with who pays for petition signature challenges. This court decision led to attempts by the Legislature to address these issues by August 1 as required by the court.

While I would have preferred to advance my Voters’ Choice Act (SB 495 was reported from the Senate State Government Committee, which I chair), the timeline simply didn’t work under the mandates of the Constitution (i.e., Article III, Section 4: every bill shall be considered on three different days in each chamber).

In a bipartisan effort, the House, Senate, and the Governor’s Office worked to fashion a solution. The Senate quickly amended another bill with compromise language and sent it back to the House. However, time ran out for the Legislature as the court acted first.

The result was a court-imposed order establishing election rules until the General Assembly enacts a permanent measure to modify the process. Independent and third-party candidates will now be required to have the following number of signed petitions by August 1st:
President/US Senator: 5,000 signatures
Governor: 5,000 (including at least 250 from at least 10 counties)
Lieutenant Governor, Treasurer, Auditor General, Attorney General, Supreme Court Justice, Superior Court Judge, Commonwealth Court Judge, and any other statewide office: 2,500 (including at least 250 from at least five counties)

All other non-statewide offices will be required to submit nominating petitions at least equal to two-percent of the largest entire vote cast for any officer elected at the last preceding election in that district.

The judge’s order also prohibits assessing costs to challenge nominating petitions.

While not my Voters’ Choice Act, I’m glad the issue of ballot access has been addressed.

PA PUC “Smart Hearings” for 717 Area Code Relief Plan Scheduled
The PA Public Utility Commission will hold two “Smart Hearings” on August 9 (1:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.) to gather public comment on plans to address the predicted exhaustion of telephone numbers in the 717 area code service area. The hearings will be live on the PUC website and will enable residents throughout the 717 area code region (16 counties in Central PA) to see and hear testimony. Testimony can be submitted by telephone by contacting the PUC’s Office of Administrative Law Judge at (717) 787-1399 no later than August 2. In-person testimony requires no prior action, simply show up and sign in.

In March 2016, the Commission voted to seek comments on a petition filed by Neustar Inc., the North American Numbering Plan Administrator. Neustar, acting on behalf of the Pennsylvania telecommunications industry, is requesting approval of its plan to alleviate numbering exhausted for the 717 Numbering Plan Area. The area is currently predicted to exhaust its supply of telephone numbers in 2018.

The industry’s recommended solution is to “overlay” a new area code throughout the existing 717 area code, which would require all customers to dial 10 digits for every call. An alternative would be to geographically “split” the current 717 area code, which would require approximately half of the region’s residents and businesses to receive a new area code.

The Commission is seeking comments on the alternatives that have been submitted, and also is open to suggestions regarding any other potential alternatives for providing relief to the 717 area code. Additionally, the Commission also is seeking comments on the implementation schedule for any proposed area code relief plan.

Lebanon County PennDOT Maintenance Work Schedule for the Week of July 18
Mon. 7/18 and Tues. 7/19: SR 4006, Heilmandale Rd., N. Lebanon Twp. – cracksealing – flagging/restrictions
Mon. 7/18 through Fri. 7/22: SR 1010, Union Rd., Bethel Twp. – brush cutting – flagging/restrictions
Mon. 7/18 through Fri. 7/22: SR 3009, Gingrich Rd., S. Londonderry Twp. – bridge work – flagging/restrictions
Mon. 7/18 through Fri. 7/22: SR 3005, Mt. Wilson Rd., S. Londonderry Twp. – safety project – road closed
Weds. 7/20 and Thurs. 7/21: SR 4004, Hill Church Rd., N. Lebanon Twp. – cracksealing – flagging/restrictions
Fri. 7/22: SR 4005, Thompson Ave., N. Lebanon Twp. – cracksealing – flagging/restrictions
The schedule is subject to change due to weather conditions, emergencies, or other unforeseen interruptions. Road concerns can be called into 1-800-FIX-ROAD (if calling after hours, please leave a name and phone number).

Dauphin and York County Town Hall Meetings
I’m excited to have town hall meetings scheduled throughout Dauphin and York Counties in July and August. Below is the schedule of confirmed meetings and locations. All meetings begin at 6:30 p.m.
Thursday, July 21: Londonderry Township, Dauphin County
– Township Building Board Room, 783 South Geyers Church Road, Middletown, PA 17057
Monday, July 25: Newberry Township, York County – Newberry Township Fire Department, 2145 York Haven Road, Etters, PA 17319
Thursday, August 4: Middletown Borough, Dauphin County – MSCO Building, 60 West Emaus Street, Middletown, PA 17057
Tuesday, August 9: Swatara Township, Dauphin County – Township Building, 599 Eisenhower Boulevard, Harrisburg, PA 17111
Thursday, August 11: Mount Wolf, York County – Northeastern Middle School Auditorium, 4855 Board Road, Mount Wolf, PA 17347
Monday, August 15: Highspire Borough, Dauphin County – Borough Building, 640 Eshelman Street, Highspire, PA 17034
Monday, August 29: Lower Swatara Township, Dauphin County – Lower Swatara Fire Hall, 1350 Fulling Mill Road, Middletown, PA 17057
Suggestions for locations in the 48th Senatorial District to host a town hall meeting can be sent to fbinner@pasen.gov. Please note, I use no taxpayer dollars to hold these meetings!

Medical Marijuana Program’s Safe Harbor Letter Application Available Online
The PA Department of Health’s applications for the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Program’s Safe Harbor Letter are now available online for parents, legal guardians, caregivers, and spouses to administer medical marijuana in PA to minors in their care with physician-documented medical conditions. Applicants must have the following secured before beginning the submission process: picture ID; completed background check, and; completed Safe Harbor Letter Physician Form from the minor’s PA-licensed doctor. Legal guardians will need to provide guardianship papers, spouses will need to submit a marriage certificate, and caregivers must include proof of caregiver status. The application process will be done completely online. Individuals without computer access should call 1-877-PA-HEALTH for assistance. Approved Safe Harbor Letters should always be carried whenever medical marijuana is being transported and administered outside the home. Questions about the Medical Marijuana Program can be e-mailed to RA-DHMedMarijuana@pa.gov.


Contact Information
Please feel free to contact me at any time on state-related issues that are of concern to you. I may be reached through my website or my Lebanon or Harrisburg offices.

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