Week of June 14, 2021
In This Edition:
Mixed Drinks To-Go and Ready-to-Drink Cocktails Bill Heads to the House
This week, both the Senate Law and Justice Committee which I chair, and the full Senate, voted in support of legislation, House Bill 1154, to extend allowances provided to the restaurant industry during the COVID-19 pandemic, while also giving them and other liquor licensees the opportunity to sell pre-packaged Ready-to-Drink cocktails.
With regard to the COVID allowances, restaurants and bars were authorized through legislation last year to sell mixed drinks to-go, which are made by bartenders and put in a to-go cup for consumers. The cups must be affixed with a label stating the drink contains alcohol and must be transported in a part of a vehicle not accessible by the driver.
The Committee amended HB 1154 to also temporarily extend outdoor dining allowances, remove restrictions on off-premise catering permits, waive fees, and allow licensees who cannot operate an additional year of license safekeeping.
In addition to these COVID related provisions, the amendment to HB 1154 authorizes licensees, including restaurants, bars, hotels, grocery stores, convenience stores, and beer distributors to sell Ready-to-Drink cocktails (RTDs), which are spirit-based beverages manufactured and sold in sealed containers, such as cans or bottles. Many of you may be familiar with the malt-based versions of RTDs, which are already available at licensed retailers.
The total maximum alcohol by volume content would be 12.5%, similar to many beer products. Anything above that would have to still be sold through the state liquor stores.
HB 1154 is now before the House of Representatives for final approval. To help the restaurant industry, improve consumer convenience, and to provide an economic boost to Pennsylvania, I encourage you to contact both your Representative in the House and the Governor to express support for HB 1154.
Click here to learn more about this important issue.
Senate Approves Regan Heart and Lung Bill for Law Enforcement
On Monday, the Senate Appropriations Committee advanced and then the full Senate voted on Tuesday, in support of my legislation that would amend the Enforcement Officer Disability Benefits Law, known as the Heart and Lung Act, to expand the list of covered law enforcement officers.
Senate Bill 503 would add members of the Fort Indiantown Gap Police, commissioned police officers of the Department of Corrections’ Bureau of Investigations and Intelligence, investigative staff with the Office of Inspector General, DCNR rangers, campus police at participating state-owned, -aided, or -related colleges and universities, and county corrections and probation officers within participating counties.
Similar legislation was unanimously approved by the Senate last session. Senate Bill 503 now goes to the House for consideration.
Click here to read more.
Special Committee on Election Integrity and Reform Adopts Final Report
On Monday, the Senate Special Committee on Election Integrity and Reform, which I had the pleasure of serving on, convened its final meeting for the purpose of adopting a report of findings and recommendations.
I took the opportunity to speak during the Committee meeting to commend the Chairmen and my fellow committee members on coming together in a bi-partisan way to analyze our current election system, to hear from other states – both Republican and Democrat, and to issue a report that provides the legislature direction for improving Pennsylvania’s election law.
While there are still differing views on both sides of the aisle, I believe we all need to be committed to providing the people of Pennsylvania with the confidence that our elections are fair and impartial and that each person’s vote is counted correctly.
Medical Marijuana Update Advances in the Senate
On Tuesday, in addition to the above mentioned HB 1154, the Senate Law and Justice Committee voted in support of legislation, House Bill 1024, to amend Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Act.
During the COVID-19 pandemic several allowances were granted to medical marijuana dispensaries that HB 1024 implements permanently, including the ability to dispense a 90-day supply rather than the current 30-day supply, curbside dispensing, and remote communication between a patient and a dispensary’s physician or pharmacist.
HB 1024 also provides for designated caregivers to care for more than five medical marijuana patients and allows for background checks for both caregivers and on behalf of licensees to be submitted electronically.
The legislation also addresses aspects of the research arm of Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program, including allowing for two more clinical registrants – these are partnerships between grower/processors and medical research facilities. These partnerships are key for conducting studies that can provide guidance for prescribers and patients alike.
House Bill 1024 was referred to Senate Appropriations on Wednesday and could be brought up for consideration next week.
Click here to read more.
Second Hearing Held on Games of Skill
On Monday, the Committee on Community, Economic, and Recreational Development, which I serve on, held a hearing to receive testimony from the Pennsylvania Lottery and the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement on the issue of games of skill.
These games are slot-like machines, often found in restaurants and bars, that are not currently regulated by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, and the Commonwealth does not receive tax revenue from them, as we do with slot machines in our gaming facilities.
Monday’s hearing was the second in a series on this topic. Last Monday we heard from the Gaming Control Board, and this coming week, it is anticipated the Committee will hold a third hearing with another group of testifiers.
Click the above video to watch my Q&A with the Lottery director.
This week, five committees that I serve on convened meetings for the consideration of several bills, as well as nominations. Click each committee’s link below for details from the respective meetings.
Community, Economic, and Recreational Development – To consider SB 594
Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure – To consider SB 25
Local Government – To consider SB 208, SB 327, SB 674, and HB 523
Judiciary – To consider the nomination of Suzanne Estrella as Victim Advocate, and consideration of SB 708, SB 726, and HB 156
Rules – To consider certain Executive Nominations
31st District Happenings
Dillsburg Borough Breaks Ground on New Municipal Building
Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of participating in a ground-breaking ceremony for the new Dillsburg Borough municipal building, which will house not only the administration offices but also the maintenance building, community room, emergency management offices, and EMS Services.
The Senate will reconvene at 1pm on Monday, June 21st, and we are scheduled to be in every day of the week, possibly through Saturday, with the goal of passing the 2021-2022 State Budget.