Bills Impacting Authorities

HB 1956 (Harper) – requires that municipalities have a public meeting any time they are considering selling or leasing a water or sewer authority or municipal water or sewer system.  The municipality must also advertise the public meeting in a newspaper of general circulation.  PMAA and the other local government associations support the bill.

SB 724 (Vogel) –  Known as “The Watershed Improvement Act” this proposed bill would create a program for the state to purchase credits to meet TMDL parameters in impacted waterways. Draft versions of this legislation have been circulating for past few years and identify manure treatment technology as a solution to the Chesapeake Bay TMDL, and potentially other impacted state waterways. Under this bill, DEP and Pennvest are to set program guidelines and purchase price for credits from approved providers. There is currently no funding mechanism in the bill. The bill proposes a 10 year contract for credit purchases.

HB 66 (Godshall) requires authorities to have a public meeting outlining the public benefit of an authority acquiring other systems, and record that in the official minutes. This is in the Senate after unanimous passage in the House.  We were able to add an amendment in Senate Local Government with further clarifying language and a change to the time requirement for submission of our annual financial report (will now be 180 days from whenever the fiscal year ends).

SB 340 (Eichelberger) amends the Local Government Unit Debt Act (“LGUDA”) in Title 53 by strengthening regulatory oversight by DCED and restrictions on municipal borrowing and project financing.  In particular, the bill establishes an actual review process of complicated transactions by DCED before debt is incurred, eliminates the ability to charge a fee for issuing a guarantee, limits the ability of municipalities to provide unlimited guarantees of other entities' debts, amends the "self-liquidating" and "working capital" definitions to prohibit reimbursements for payments made under a guarantee or other non-project-related costs, provides for fiduciary duties of those who represent local governments, as well as penalties for false filings.

SB 341 (Blake) amends the Municipality Authorities Act by ensuring issued debt is used for the purpose of the authority’s mission and adding an enforcement mechanism for the investigation of conflicts of interest by the State Ethics Commission.  In particular, the bill amends Section 5612 (Money of the Authority) limiting the indebtedness and borrowing of the authority only for a purpose related to an authority project.  It also amends Section 5614 (Competition in Award of Contracts), and particularly (e) Conflict of Interest of an authority board member or employee.  This section will now reference a violation in the State Ethics Act prohibiting a conflict of interest and, if violated, a penalty provision of a felony with a fine of not more than $10,000 or five years imprisonment or both (Note: This is not a new provision in the Ethics Act that authorities are now subject to but SB 341 cites this section of the Ethics Act directly into the Municipality Authorities Act).

SB 342 (Folmer) amends the Municipalities Authorities Act and the Local Government Unit Debt Act to provide protections and restrictions on interest rate management agreements, commonly known as “swaps”.

Slate of Lead Bills introduced:

In response to the national coverage with lead contamination in Flint, Michigan’s drinking water, a slate of bills dealing with lead have been introduced in the House and will soon be introduced in the Senate.  Below is a brief summary of each bill:

HB 1917 (Cruz) would require children under 6 to be tested for elevated lead levels in their blood. Currently, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommends children be tested at 1, 2 and again before 6.

HB 1918 (Cruz) would amend the Safe Drinking Water Act to require more frequent testing for lead in water. Under current law, water is tested every three years at a reduced number of sample sites after the initial passing. Cruz’s legislation would require testing to be done annually at the reduced number of sample sites and a complete test from all sample sites every three years.

HB 1919 (Schlossberg) would require lessors of residential dwellings built before 1978 to inspect dwellings for the presence of lead-based paint and hazardous conditions such as chipping paint when those dwellings become vacant or prior to new occupancy. Lessors must also disclose all information regarding levels of lead and inspection results, and provide those findings to a lessee prior to occupancy.

SB 16 (Yudichak) would create a task force to study the scope of the lead issue, including an accounting of the age of the state’s housing stock, pipelines, school buildings and day care centers. It would also study best practices and make recommendations.

HB 1643 (Emrick) amends the Municipality Authorities Act requiring money due to the authority be deposited  in an account with a designated depository and shall be remitted in the name of the authority or designated recipient and shall not include the name of an individual including the treasurer of the authority. It also outlines broad procedures for the collection and handling of money allowing authorities flexibility in setting their own specific policies and procedures. We were also successful in having the same language added to this bill as HB 66 changing the time requirement for submission of an authority’s annual financial report (will now be 180 days from whenever the authority’s fiscal year ends). PMAA supports this bill. 

SB 534 (Eichelberger) – Senator Eichelberger reintroduced this bill amending the Municipality Authorities Act that enables a sewer authority to terminate sewer service to commercial customers who are seriously delinquent (at least six months) in payment of sewer bills.  The bill authorizes an authority to obtain a court order allowing it to terminate sewer service. The bill would provide for additional notices to the owner and health departments of the date that service would be terminated.

HB 768 (Masser) – This bill amends the non-compete provision in the Municipality Authorities Act. If a water or sanitary sewer authority is providing federal or state mandated (laboratory) testing services to another authority, these testing procedures on behalf of another authority shall be considered a prohibited competitive enterprise if an existing private business charging competitive rates is qualified to perform the testing procedures and is located within the service area of either authority. A water or sanitary sewer authority could continue to perform its own testing services.

SB 289 (Fontana) – This bill amends the act of April 8, 1949 (P.L.418,No.58) to allow municipal authorities and municipalities to use public funds for the improvement, extension, repair or rehabilitation of private lateral sewer lines connected to public sewer systems. The purpose of the legislation is to assist in addressing one of the major causes of wet weather overflows by providing an option to use public funds to repair private laterals.

Specifically, authorities and municipalities are authorized to use public funds for the improvement, extension, repair or rehabilitation of private lateral sewer lines connected to public sewer systems, where the authority or municipality determines that those activities will benefit the public sewer system. An authority or a municipality that has completed those activities shall not be deemed to be the owner of the private lateral sewer lines, or to have any further responsibility to conduct those activities, unless an authority or municipality makes an affirmative determination to accept such obligations. ”Private Lateral Sewer Line” means a private sewer line serving a structure or dwelling, running from the structure or dwelling to a public sewer line.

HB 445 (M. Baker) – This bill is reintroduced from last session. It transfers state enforcement authority from the Department of Labor and Industry to the Public Utility Commission (PUC), places certain duties on facility owners to report violations and participate in One Call’s member mapping system, eliminates most exemptions from the law, establishes a Damage Prevention Committee, and provides for other improvements to the law.