Senate Local Government Committee Reports Out Four Bills, Including Energy Choice, Firearm Regulation Preemption Measures

(HARRISBURG) – The Senate Local Government Committee today (October 19) reported to the full Senate four bills, three of which were amended by the committee, according to Committee Majority Chairman Senator Cris Dush (R-25).

Reported from committee by a party-line 7-4 vote, Senate Bill 275, sponsored by Senator Gene Yaw (R-23), seeks to ensure that all Pennsylvania businesses and homeowners have the opportunity to access a variety of energy options, whether it be natural gas, solar, wind, geothermal or other. The bill places decisions regarding restrictions on the use of any energy source in housing and commercial energy applications solely within the purview of the state.

According to Senator Yaw, with over 2500 municipal entities in Pennsylvania, allowing energy policy decisions to be made at the lowest municipal level would create a policy founded on an unworkable patchwork of restrictions and further deny residents access to differing energy resources.

“Having all these different rules doesn’t make any sense,” said Senator Yaw. “This puts control at the state level.”

The committee adopted an amendment offered by Senator Dush on behalf of Senator Yaw to clarify the bill does not affect the authority of a municipality to take steps designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or purchase renewable energy for municipal facilities and operations.

Also approved by the committee by way of a party-line vote, Senate Bill 448 looks to ensure better enforcement of Pennsylvania’s current state preemption over local firearms and ammunition regulations.

 “As of 2015, there were approximately 100 municipalities that chose to go in direct contravention of existing law and enact their own ordinances attempting to regulate guns,” said bill sponsor Senator Wayne Langerholc, Jr. (R-35). “It’s very clear within the laws of the commonwealth that this body – the General Assembly – is tasked with those types of duties.”

Senator Langerholc said his legislation would prevent local jurisdictions from imposing ordinances more restrictive than laws passed by the General Assembly, as well as enhance and restore the original intent of the state’s existing Uniform Firearms Act.

“This would allow a person adversely affected to file suit against a municipality which enacts an overly restrictive local firearms ordinance,” said Senator Langerholc.

Also reported from committee, by way of unanimous committee votes, were Senate Bill 755 and House Bill 430.

Senate Bill 755 amends Act 247 of 1968, the Municipalities Planning Code, to specifically provide authorization for digital submissions and electronic transmittals of a proposed comprehensive plan or amendment, a proposed land use ordinance or amendment, or an adopted comprehensive plan, land use ordinance or amendment for review, comments or recommendations.

The bill would codify what is generally already current practice and eliminate the confusion on whether digital transmittals are permissible. However, the bill does not require documents to be submitted electronically, but instead specifies that such submissions are permissible.

House Bill 430 would waive the 10-percent penalty for real estate taxes within the first year of property ownership if the tax notice was not received by the property owners during the first year of ownership. The property owners will pay the full amount of the property taxes due and present a copy of their deed to prove their date of purchase.

According to bill sponsor state Representative Joe Emrick (R-137), every year property tax bills are mailed to property owners or their mortgage company, but if a property is purchased around the time the bills are mailed, the property tax bill may inadvertently be mailed to the previous owner or mortgage company, and the new owner never receives it. That, in turn, often causes the new property owners to be hit with a 10-percent penalty for late payment of a bill they never received.

Before the committee approved House Bill 430, senators adopted an amendment to the bill, offered by Senator Dush on behalf of Representative Emrick, to address concerns raised by the Pennsylvania State Tax Collectors’ Association. The amendment provides liability protection for a tax collector who accepts a waiver and tax notice payment in good faith, as well as clarifies how waiver requests are handled for mobile or manufactured homeowners.

 

CONTACT:    Zack Ankeny