State Capitol ROUNDUP

House Finance, Environmental Resources and Energy Committees  Advance Marcellus Works Bills

The House Finance Committee, chaired by Rep. Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre/Mifflin), and the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee this week advanced several bills aimed at further encouraging the development and increased use of natural gas in the Commonwealth.  The Finance Committee approved bills that would offer tax credits to taxpayers who purchase large natural gas-powered vehicles (House Bill 309); provide $5 million to companies that add natural gas pumps to existing gasoline stations or build new natural gas fueling stations along major transportation corridors within the Commonwealth (House Bill 305); and make available $25 million in tax credits for companies that transition their vehicle fleets from gasoline or diesel to natural gas-powered vehicles (House Bill 301).  The Environmental Resources and Energy Committee approved bills that would create a grant program available to small mass transit agencies to cover the cost of transitioning to natural gas buses (House Bill 302); establish a revolving loan program available to large mass transit agencies to cover the cost of transitioning to natural gas buses (House Bill 303); offer grants to municipalities, schools and the private sector for the purchase of natural gas vehicles (House Bill 306); repeal the California Air Resources Board (CARB) section 2030 to eliminate costly duplication of EPA and CARB certifications for natural gas vehicles (House Bill 307); and amend the Air Pollution Control Act to establish the Keystone Vehicle Program to offer grants to businesses for up to half the cost of purchasing newer natural gas vehicles (House Bill 308).

House Approves Bill to Increase Penalties For Willful Fraud of Unemployment Compensation System

The House voted unanimously this week in support of legislation to increase penalties on individuals who commit willful fraud to obtain unemployment compensation benefits, including cases of fraud by incarcerated individuals.  House Bill 403 would impose an additional 52-week penalty for claimants who illegally apply for benefits while in prison.  This penalty would apply to these same individuals in the future should they become eligible and attempt to apply for unemployment benefits again.  In addition to fraud by prisoners, House Bill 403 also addresses other types of fraud.  It would increase the monetary penalty from its current range of $100 to $1,000 to $500 to $1,500 for claimants who knowingly make false statements to obtain unemployment benefits.  It also would increase the minimum number of penalty weeks from two to 10 and remove the current four-year statute of limitations.  The bill also would allow for penalties to be collected through liens, civil action or any other means available by law for up to 12 years after the end of the benefit year.  House Bill 403 now heads to the Senate for consideration.

House Sends Bill to Senate to Boost Veteran Enrollment in Pennsylvania Public Universities

The House sent to the Senate this week legislation to grant in-state tuition rates to eligible veterans, their spouses and dependents at Pennsylvania’s public institutions of higher learning.  House Bill 472 would apply in-state tuition rates of Pennsylvania’s state-owned and state-related universities and community colleges, such as Penn State University, to eligible veterans seeking to study in Pennsylvania.  Currently, a full-time semester at a state-owned university averages $4,310 for Pennsylvania residents, while an out-of-state veteran would pay $9,223 for tuition at the same university.  The bill aims to level the playing field for veterans who, because of the nature of military service, may not have residency status in the Commonwealth.
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