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Wolf signs legislation to reduce elderly prescription drug costs and expand broadband infrastructure

By Victor Skinner (The Center Square)

Gov. Tom Wolf signed nine bills into law this week, including legislation to reduce prescription drug costs for the elderly, expand broadband infrastructure, and allow virtual public meetings and instruction.

Wolf signed House bills 291, 1255, 1260, 1837, and 2071, as well as Senate bills 208, 772, 729 and 869.

House Bill 291 deals with eligibility for PACENET, Pennsylvania’s prescription assistance program for older adults. The bill ensure those eligible for the program at the end of the year remain eligible if the maximum income limit is exceeded due solely to a Social Security cost-of-living adjustment.

House Bill 1260 increases the annual income eligibility for PACENET from a maximum of $27,500 for one person to $33,500, and from $35,500 for a married couple to $41,500. The bill also added language to modernize the program and clarify “a claimant enrolled in a (prescription drug plan) shall not be required to pay a monthly premium for any month the claimant is not dispensed a prescription drug.”

“Together, these bills will ensure that older adults in Pennsylvania continue to have access to crucial savings through PACENET, a lifeline for hundreds of thousands of older adults who need assistance with paying for their prescription medications,” according to a Wolf news release.

House Bill 2071 establishes a new Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority to expand internet access across the state with the help of $100 million in federal aid. The bipartisan legislation ensures the federal money is used for “the broadband rollout in a coordinated and strategic way to support the construction of new towers, lines and broadband equipment and other uses in line with federal law and guidance,” Wolf said.

Several rural lawmakers applauded Wolf’s support for the measure, which includes provisions for the authority to dissolve after a decade or once the federal funds are exhausted.

“I’m confident this law is going to be a game-changer for our farmers, business owners, teachers, students, doctors, patients and all of us who have been hampered by slow or no internet service,” Rep. Clint Owlett, R-Wellsboro, said. “I believe the funding and coordination facilitated by this law will finally get broadband service to the ‘last mile.’”

House Bill 1255 provides for a five-year statute of limitations to recover damages against real estate appraisers when there is no evidence of fraud or intentional misrepresentation, and allows for longer in the case of fraud or intentional misrepresentation.

House Bill 1837 streamlines the compromise and release agreement process in the Workers’ Compensation Act.

Senate Bill 208 deals with the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code regarding subdivision and land development, allowing the prerequisite of improvements or guarantees for final plat approval. The bill, supported by the Pennsylvania Municipal League, essentially clarified bonding requirements for property improvements.

Senate Bill 772 amends the Insurance Company Law of 1921 to update the commonwealth’s annuity laws. The measure reduces the minimum nonforfeiture rate for individual deferred annuities and adopts a consumer best interest standard for annuity recommendations.

Senate Bill 729 allows for virtual instruction for certain components of nurse aide training programs governed by the Nurse Aide Resident Abuse Prevention Training Act.

Senate Bill 869 amends state law to allow licensing boards and commissions to conduct virtual public meetings.

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