Legislative Scorecard for 2013-2014
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Posted by: Gregg Robertson
HARRISBURG - PLNA had many successes during the 2013-2014 legislative session. Many of these successes were not achieved by PLNA alone, but through coalitions of other groups that shared similar interests to PLNA.
PLNA is always looking for partners when we pursue legislative objectives. This is why PLNA participates actively in organizations such the Pennsylvania State Council of Farm Organizations, the Penn State Ag Council, the Pennsylvania Invasive Species Council, the Fertilizer Advisory Board, the DEP Agriculture Advisory Board and other organizations. PLNA’s participation in these groups helps us develop the relationships with administrative agencies and other groups that help us advance PLNA’s legislative and regulatory interests.
HB 1439 and SB 638 – In December 2013, the Governor signed these two bills that exempted high tunnels from real estate taxes. PLNA brought this problem to the attention of the Department of Agriculture and legislators, then mobilized a broad coalition of agriculture groups to push for passage of the bills. PLNA estimates that this legislation will save the landscape and nursery industry and other segments of Pennsylvania agriculture millions of dollars in increased real estate taxes in the coming years.
HB 1440 – The Governor signed the third of our “high tunnel” bills this past October. This bill exempts all ag structures (including high tunnels and greenhouses) that grow ag products from the Uniform Construction Code. What pushed this over the goal line was a coalition of the Department of Agriculture, the Pa. Farm Bureau, the House Ag Committee and PLNA. Rep. John Maher and his staffer, Kerry Golden, worked tirelessly with PLNA and the Pa. Farm Bureau to find a way to get this last bill done.
HB 1543 – PLNA supported HB 1543 to clarify how time and materials contracts may be used under the Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act of 2008. The bill was signed on October 22, 2014 by the Governor. The bill also requires that if any information in a contractor’s registration changes, those changes must be reported and updated within thirty days.
The bill had directed that all funds from registration fees and fines under the program be dedicated for use by the attorney general for program administration, but that provision was taken out as the bill moved through the senate.
SB 1149 – This EPA-backed, PLNA-opposed turf grass fertilizer bill died at the end of the 2014 legislative session. The bill was reported out by the Senate Agriculture Committee, then was referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee. Last spring, PLNA met with Senate Appropriations Chairman Jake Corman and convinced him to keep the bill in committee.
With the retirement of the bill’s prime sponsor, Senator Mike Brubaker, the future of this legislation in the 2015 session is unclear. PLNA has been successful in two sessions of the General Assembly now in killing this bill, which is not based on sound science. PLNA will keep an eye on this for 2015 session.
HB 1565 – PLNA opposed HB 1565 because it would weaken the protection afforded exceptional value and high quality streams by forested riparian buffers under Pennsylvania’s Clean Streams Law. The bill would make forested riparian buffers optional, rather than mandatory. Riparian buffer restoration has become an important business for many PLNA members.
PLNA worked with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Nature Conservancy and other environmental groups on strategy to try and defeat the bill, but we were unsuccessful. The bill was supported by the Pennsylvania Builders Association and other development interests. PLNA was the only business association opposing the bill. We opposed the bill in both the House and Senate and finally urged the Governor to veto the bill. The bill was signed on October 22, 2014.