Harrisburg Report Tax Bill Gives United Way SuccessBySix Program a Boost Legislation sponsored by Rep. Mark Longietti (DMercer) to allow businesses to receive a tax credit for supporting additional education programs, including a popular United Waysponsored prekindergarten program for needy children, was included in the tax legislation implementing the state budget. H.B. 1531 was signed into law by Governor Rendell October 9. The new law allows prekindergarten educational programs that run at least 20 days with at least 40 hours of instruction to qualify for the Educational Improvement Tax Credit. Previously, programs had to run at least 60 days with at least 120 hours of instruction for businesses to receive a tax credit for financially supporting it. Many SuccessbySix United Way programs did not meet that threshold, but would qualify under the new law. In Success by Six programs, school districts identify needy children, provide their facilities for instruction, and help select certified teachers who deliver the instruction.
HousePassed Budget Amendment Targeted ACORN During its deliberations on the state budget legislation, the House voted 15742 for an amendment sponsored by Rep. Stephen E. Barrar (RChester) to prohibit organizations under indictment, such as the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), from receiving state funding. The language of the amendment would have prohibited state funding for any nonprofit group if it is under indictment for violating any federal or state campaign finance or election law, including voter fraud; it fails to comply with federal or state lobbying requirements; it files a fraudulent form with any state or federal agency; or if it is the subject of a cease and desist order or any order from the Department of State to prohibit the solicitation of contributions. The Barrar amendment was not included in the final version of the budget bill signed into law by the Governor. The amendment’s sponsor noted in a press release that he will continue to advocate for the passage of House Resolution 426, which would institute a formal request by the House of Representatives for the state attorney general to investigate ACORN. His office has also sent a letter to the attorney general’s office to request an investigation, and he is awaiting a response.
House Acts to End Health Insurance Discrimination The House October 6 passed H.B. 1593, legislation introduced by Rep. Robert Matzie (DAllegheny) to create a Health Insurance Coverage Parity and NonDiscrimination Act in Pennsylvania. H.B. 1593 would bring Pennsylvania’s insurance law in line with new federal requirements and give the Pennsylvania Insurance Department authority to enforce those laws in the state’s insurance market. The legislation would bring Pennsylvania into compliance with the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, and Michelle’s Law. The first federal law requires that financial requirements and treatment limitations applicable to mental health or substance use disorder benefits be no more restrictive than the predominant financial requirements or treatment limitations applied to substantially all medical and surgical benefits covered by the plan. The second prohibits discrimination in premiums or contribution amounts on the basis of genetic information of a covered individual or family member, and prohibits an insurer from requesting or requiring genetic testing from an individual trying to obtain coverage. The third protects a dependent child in college who must take a leave of absence for medically necessary reasons and continues coverage to one year after the leave of absence begins or the date coverage would otherwise have terminated. The bill is currently pending in the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee.
IRRC Approves Home Health Care Regulations The Pennsylvania Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) October 1 approved regulations for the home care industry designed to benefit patients who require assistance in their homes. These regulations were required to be drafted and implemented under Act 69 of 2006, which Rep. Dick Hess (RBedford) sponsored as House Bill 247 that year. As thenchairman of the House Aging and Older Adults Services Committee, Hess drafted this measure to protect Pennsylvanians who choose to remain at home instead of residing in a nursing center or medical facility. The new regulations will require home care agencies and employees to obtain the necessary training and credentials to provide safe, quality services that will enable caredependent individuals to remain in their homes.
Governor Says LowIncome Home Energy Assistance Program Will Open Nov. 2 Pennsylvania’s LowIncome Home Energy Assistance program (LIHEAP) opens for the 200910 heating season Nov. 2, Gov. Rendell announced. LIHEAP provides cash grants to help lowincome households pay for home heating fuel and crisis grants to address heating emergencies. While the Department of Public Welfare originally considered opening LIHEAP Dec. 1 due to funding concerns, a recent increase in federal funding allows it to open Nov. 2. During the 200809 LIHEAP season, approximately 547,000 families were helped through cash grants and more than 202,000 families received crisis assistance. For the upcoming heating season, the crisis portion of the program will open on Jan. 4 rather than simultaneously with the cash grant program. Cash grants are based on income, family size, type of heating fuel and region. Crisis grants are provided to resolve heating emergencies, such as furnace failures or unexpected fuel shortages. In addition to proof of income and household size, applicants must provide a recent bill or a statement from their fuel dealer verifying their customer status and the type of fuel they use. After the program opens for the season, applications will be available at county assistance offices, local utility companies and community service agencies, such as Area Agencies on Aging or community action agencies. Applications for LIHEAP cash grants are also available at: http://www.compass.state.pa.us.