Finance - September 19, 2014

Legislative Roundup

House prepping to take on Philadelphia cigarette tax

This past week the House reported out a bill out of the Rules committee that allows for a special two dollar-per-pack cigarette tax in the city of Philadelphia. The money from the tax will be used to help fill the city’s $81 million current city schools budget deficit. The bill, HB 1177 was moved out of committee unanimously and could see a vote next week. The House has removed a few economic development provisions inserted by the Senate and the bill has been amended several times between both chambers since being introduction in April of 2013; the bill will have to go back before the Senate once more after a House vote. Governor Tom Corbett has said he will sign the bill if it passes.

Department of Public Welfare headed for a name change

The Pennsylvania House and Senate have passed legislation that will change the name of the Department of Public Welfare to the Department of Human Services. Representative Thomas Murt, R-Montgomery, sponsored the bill; saying “there is a stigma to being on welfare” and that “human services” better describes the mission of the department. The name change would take effect 60 days after being signed into law and in the interest of keeping costs to a minimum the department will continue to use existing stationery and other materials that bear the old name until those supplies are gone. The bill also created a hotline to report fraud anonymously.

Bill to combat Pennsylvania drug overdoses advances

The House passed legislation to combat Pennsylvania’s growing drug overdose problem this past week. The bill, SB 1164, sponsored by Senator Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware, allows for more wide-ranging use of the drug naloxone, which can immediately reverse the effects of a heroin overdose, and “limited immunity” for persons who seek help for someone in the middle of an overdose. The bill passed by a vote of 194-0; the bill will be sent back to the Senate for final concurrence and would then be sent to the Governor’s desk for signing.  Counties across the state have reported a dramatic increase in the number of heroin deaths since 2010. While supporters of the bill acknowledge that fighting drug addiction and overdose is a “multi-layered problem,” the provisions of the legislation offer useful tools that are much needed to continue to help combat the issue.