With the close of the year, so too ends the PA Legislature’s 2017-2018 term.
Sifting through the thousands of bills introduced over the past year, the lingering question remains: what did they pass?! While municipalities will need to continue to push for more reform in the upcoming 2019-2020 session, below is a summary of several key pieces of legislation turned law:
Act 45 of 2018 – Eminent Domain of Open Space
This Act limits the use of eminent domain over land subject to conservation easements for “open space purposes.” Before doing so, the condemnor must secure approval from the orphan’s court. Note that these restrictions do not apply to public utilities installing underground lines that do not permanently impact open space, or condemnations by the Commonwealth.
Act 78 of 2018 – Drones
Drone regulation has officially come to the state. Act 78 makes it criminal to operate drones for surveillance of another person in a private place or in a manner that places them in reasonable fear for their safety (as if that weren’t illegal before). From the municipal side, however, the legislation preempts any municipal regulation of the ownership or operation of drones/unmanned aircraft.
Act 156 of 2018 – Sunshine Act, Executive Sessions and Safety Plans
The Legislature clarified the Sunshine Act so that comprehensive municipal safety plans are an acceptable topic for executive session – an important issue in light of school and municipal building shootings.
Act 101 of 2018 – Leaf Pickup
The Mandate on curbside leaf pickup has now been relaxed. Check the Act to see if/how you qualify!
Act 99 of 2018 – Borough Emergency Purchases
Boroughs now have additional flexibility in responding to emergencies, authorized to pursue emergency projects without advertising or bidding, provided that Council passes a resolution at its next meeting.
Act 98 of 2018 – Immunity for Recreational Use of Land
This Act expands the immunity afforded to property owners under the Recreational Use of Land and Water Act, expanding landowner immunity to cover certain property improvements and all recreational activities for exercise, education and pleasure (including ATVs and snowmobiling).
Various – Personal Property Bidding Thresholds
In most of the statewide municipal codes, the bidding threshold for the sale of personal property has increased from $1,000 to $2,000.
Act 142 of 2018 – Purchases from Volunteer Fire Companies
This Act expands the exemptions for bidding to cover contracts/purchases for personal property from a volunteer fire company, volunteer ambulance company or volunteer rescue squad.
Act 145 of 2018 – Criminal Restitution
This Act expands the restitution laws from criminal matters to include townships, boroughs and other local agencies. This legislation was in response to a Supreme Court decision that held that governmental entities do not fit within those for which restitution is available.
Act 118 of 2018 – Service Animal Registry Act
The Legislature created the PA Assistance and Service Animal Integrity Act, which provides landlords and housing associations the right to request medical documentation from a person claiming an animal as a service animal or emotional support animal. The Act further provides immunity to those landlords for any injuries caused by a person’s service animal.
Lastly, as an update to a previous Legislative Alert, note that the new PA Fireworks Law (enacted late 2017) has been pared back after a legal challenge before the Commonwealth Court. While the legalization of many consumer fireworks remains intact, the flexibility in where some are sold has gone up in smoke. The Court invalidated the provisions allowing some of the more powerful fireworks to be sold from temporary tents – which will not have the fire protection measures of a typical brick-and-mortar store.
Stay tuned for more fireworks (and more legislation) in the upcoming 2019-2020 sessions!
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