To say 2016 was a challenging legislative year is very much an understatement.
Some forget the FY 2015-16 state budget was only resolved on March 28 when Gov. Wolf allowed it to become law without his signature after more than a year of harsh back and forth rhetoric with the Senate and House and a bucket full of vetoes.
The FY 2016-17 budget was almost on time. Gov. Wolf also let his second General Fund budget bill become law without his signature on July 10 and then signed the final piece of the budget– a $1.3 billion revenue package— into law on July 13.
Over these two budgets, funding for Community Colleges increased by $10.7 million in FY 2015-16 and $5.7 million in FY 2016-17; very fortunate given what happened to most budget line items.
The final revenue package also continued to exempt cigars from state tobacco taxes.
Crisci Associates able to help cleanup a problem in the allocation and timing of payments from the PA Horse Breeding Fund created in the budget and earlier in the year with the passage of House Bill 941 (Regan-R-Cumberland). The fixes were included in House Bill 2303 (Causer-R-Forest) signed into law October 28 (Senate Fiscal Note and summary).
Funding was secured this year through PennDOT’s Rail Freight Assistance Program for 3 critical railroad projects–
— Buffalo & Pittsburgh Railroad Inc.: $3.6 million to improve the Butler Yard and shop tracks as well as yard tracks the company leases, as well as restoring a crossover connection and repairing eight bridge structures on its northern subdivision.
— Middleton Properties West LLC: $633,711 to rehabilitate 4,800 feet of track and construct 2,700 feet of new track.
— Pittsburgh and Ohio Central Railroad: $420,000 to install 2,650 feet of track and one new turnout in the Scully Yard.
Crisci Associates also worked on these other major initiatives that became law in 2016–
— Liquor Reform: House Bill 1690 (Turzai-R- Allegheny) the first major liquor reform law since Prohibition, authorized the LCB to allow many more outlets to sell beer and wine, allows direct wine shipment, eliminated LCB store closings on holidays and limited openings on Sunday, among other changes signed into law as Act 39 (Senate Fiscal Note and summary). (Click Here for more information.)
— Ride-Sharing Services: Senate Bill 984 (Bartolotta-R- Fayette) leveled the competitive playing field between taxi services and Uber and Lyft-type ride-sharing services statewide and in Philadelphia eliminated several onerous requirements on taxis signed into law as Act 164 (House Fiscal Note and summary). (Click Here for more information.)
— Pharmacy Reimbursements: House Bill 946 (Baker-R-Tioga) provided for transparency within the PBM industry to the benefit of patients and pharmacists and brought pharmacy reimbursements within the PACE program current with new Centers for Medicaid and Medicare requirements signed into law as Act 169 (House Fiscal Note and summary). (Click Here for more information.)
— Natural Gas Competition: House Bill 57 (Payne-R-Dauphin) further providing for natural gas completion by more frequent truing up of utility costs reflected in the price to compare signed into law as Act 47 (House Fiscal Note and summary).
— Utility Tax Computations: House Bill 1436 (Godshall-R-Montgomery) further providing for the computation of tax expenses for ratemaking purposes for utilities signed into law as Act 40 (House Fiscal Note and summary).
— Destruction Of Prescription Drugs: House Bill 1737 (Maher-R-Allegheny) further providing for the safe destruction of unwanted or unused prescription and other drugs signed into law as Act 123 (House Fiscal Note and summary). (Click Here for more information.)
— Abandoned Vehicles: House Bill 2025 (Reese-R-Somerset) making changes to abandoned vehicle and other provisions relating to vehicle registration and safety inspections signed into law as Act 165 (House Fiscal Note and summary).