So many issues, so little time. It’s a common refrain at the State Capitol in Harrisburg (or in Washington, DC for that matter). Pennsylvania’s elected leaders have completed their hearings on the Commonwealth’s 2018-19 budget and now need to finalize state spending. But there are numerous other issues they have also vowed to consider in this two year session of the General Assembly, and even though it’s only April and the session doesn’t end until November, there’s a growing sense that time is short. Of course the little matter of a primary election in May and a general election in November are significant factors which leave much less time for actual legislating. Members of the General Assembly are not only focused on their own election campaigns, but they are also paying close attention to the upcoming gubernatorial election. Incumbent Tom Wolf is unopposed for the Democratic nomination, but the Republican nomination is a three way race. State Senator Scott Wagner, the endorsed party candidate, and businessman Paul Mango both have large campaign war chests and have engaged in a heated back-and-forth negative television advertising spat, while underfunded attorney Laura Ellsworth makes the case she is an alternative to the type of campaign the other two candidates are waging. The primary election is May 15.
State Legislative Priorities
Nurse Practitioner Full Practice Authority Legislation
Status – AARP supported legislation (Senate Bill 25) passed by the State Senate in March 2017 – that bill and a House companion bill (House Bill 100) are pending in the State House Professional Licensure Committee.
Update – The Nurse Practitioners Association will hold a Day of Action at the State Capitol on April 17 in an attempt to jump-start action on this legislation. Lobbyists for the Nurse Practitioners have indicated that the Speaker of the House has asked the PA Medical Society, who opposes the legislation, to offer an alternative to the bill, telling them that inaction on this issue in this session is unacceptable.
AARP Action – AARP is hosting a toll-free number to call State Representatives in support of the Nurse Practitioner full practice authority legislation (1-844-250-5540).
Status – AARP supports legislation improving insurance coverage of telemedicine services that has been introduced in the State House (HB 1648) and Senate (SB 780).
Update – SB 780 is on the Senate calendar for first consideration. The legislation is scheduled to be considered by the Senate the week of April 23, with the likely outcome a referral to the Senate Appropriations Committee, with a quick referral back to the full Senate for a vote sometime in May.
Status – State Treasurer Joe Torsella continues to utilize the information compiled from his Task Force hearings to work with legislators to craft retirement security legislation. Sarah Mysiewicz-Gill from SASI served on the task force and continues to be available to the Treasurer’s office for consultation through an informal work group now discussing the issue.
Update – Behind the scenes discussions continue.
Status – No action on any State proposal to assist the nuclear industry in Pennsylvania has occurred as of yet. Supporters of the nuclear industry are engaged in a last ditch effort to prevent the closure of nuclear plants in Beaver and Dauphin Counties which could occur in 2019.
A hearing on First Energy’s proposal to the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission to impose an additional charge on customers who do not switch to an alternate electricity supplier and continue to use default electric service from First Energy was held in Erie on March 13. Representatives of the electric utilities industry are working with legislators to propose amendments to various bills pending in the House of Representatives to make this type of charge available to all default service electric utilities in Pennsylvania.
Update – Legislative action on the default service charge is not expected to be successful. The PUC will rule on the First Energy proposal later this spring.
AARP Action – AARP Pennsylvania testified at the March 13 hearing on the First Energy proposal and our volunteer’s testimony was highlighted in the coverage of the hearing by the Erie Times. AARP PA is monitoring the possibility of action on this issue in the General Assembly and is prepared to respond if necessary.
Other State Advocacy Activity of Interest
The Health Committee in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives held a hearing on legislation to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients on April 10. The legislation is similar to a bill passed by the General Assembly in 2017 which was vetoed by Governor Wolf. AARP submitted a letter opposing the legislation to the Committee which was based on the recently-revised AARP policy on Medicaid work requirements. Despite the opposition of AARP and other consumer organizations the legislation was approved by the Committee.
AARP PA has begun a series of meetings with key legislators to discuss our budget priorities regarding efforts to help older Pennsylvanians remain at home and in their communities. AARP PA is joined in these meetings by partner organizations, including the Alzheimer’s Association, the Association of Area Agencies on Aging, and the Pennsylvania Home Care Association, among others. A focus of this year’s message is the need to fund Adult Protective Services at a higher level to account for a sharp increase in reported cases of elder abuse. These efforts focus on the use of state lottery revenues, which by law in Pennsylvania are dedicated to programs benefitting older Pennsylvanians. We are urging lawmakers to utilize lottery revenues to increase funding for Adult Protective Services and other programs designed to help older Pennsylvania remain at home and in their communities instead of shifting funding to the General Fund to help pay for nursing home care.
Conor Lamb (D) won the special election for the 18th Congressional District seat and was sworn in the week of April 9 to serve for the rest of this session of Congress.
The March 20 filing deadline for the US House of Representative came and went and 58 candidates remain on the May 15 primary ballot for Pennsylvania’s 18 seats in the US House. Six incumbents – Reps. Charlie Dent (R-15), Ryan Costello (R-6), Bob Brady (D-1), Bill Shuster (R-9), Pat Meehan (R-7), and Lou Barletta (R-11) are not running for re-election. In addition, because of re-districting, Conor Lamb (D-18) and Keith Rothfus (R-12) will be running against each other in the fall general election.