Capitol Beat

10 bills passed by PA lawmakers this budget cycle

As budget negotiations continue, state lawmakers have kept busy by passing a flurry of bills.

State Sen. Elder Vogel shakes hands with Gov. Josh Shapiro.

State Sen. Elder Vogel shakes hands with Gov. Josh Shapiro. Commonwealth Media Services

Pennsylvania’s state budget may be more than a week late as Gov. Josh Shapiro and legislative leaders look to iron out a budget agreement, but if you think state lawmakers haven’t been keeping busy, think again. 

Lawmakers in the General Assembly have passed a wide range of legislation during this budget cycle that could affect everything from access to telemedicine services, to hunting on Sundays. As we wait with bated breath for the state budget to materialize, City & State examines some of the major bills passed by state legislators this budget cycle.

Senate Bill 739: Establishes a framework for insurers to cover telemedicine services

For years, lawmakers in the Pennsylvania House and Senate have had their sights set on enacting a bill that would establish statutory parameters for telemedicine in Pennsylvania, while also requiring insurers to cover “medically necessary” telemedicine services. But throughout several legislative sessions, then-Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed the bill, citing an abortion-related amendment that he opposed. This year, however, lawmakers sent the bill – this time without any abortion-related language – to the governor’s desk, earning the signature of Gov. Josh Shapiro on July 3. Senate Bill 739, sponsored by state Sen. Elder Vogel, is now Act 42 of 2024. At the bill-signing ceremony, Shapiro said: “More and more Pennsylvanians are relying on telemedicine to see their doctors and this bill requires insurers to cover services delivered via telemedicine the same way they cover traditional in-person services.

House Bill 2269: Removes a same-sex marriage prohibition in state law

House lawmakers voted 133-68 on July 2 to pass a bill sponsored by Democratic state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta that would remove language from state law that prohibits same-sex marriage in the commonwealth. Title 23 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes currently defines marriage as a civil contract between a man and a woman, despite a 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision that ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment requires states to license a marriage between two people of the same sex. Kenyatta’s bill, if approved by the Senate and signed by the governor, would amend the definition of marriage to be a “civil contract between two individuals” and remove an existing prohibition on same-sex marriage. The bill currently awaits consideration in the Senate.

Senate Bill 1260: Prohibits and discourages public entities from divesting from Israel

On June 27, lawmakers in the Pennsylvania Senate voted in bipartisan fashion to approve Senate Bill 1260, a bill sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Steve Santarsiero that would prohibit the state from providing state funding to colleges, universities and other institutions of higher learning that boycott or divest from Israel. The legislation also bars public funds in the commonwealth – including the State Employees’ Retirement Fund, the Public School Employees’ Retirement Fund, the Pennsylvania Municipal Retirement Fund and any other fund overseen by the state treasurer – from engaging in boycotts of or divestments from Israel. A spokesperson for Gov. Josh Shapiro said the governor will sign it into law if it reaches his desk, but the bill is currently awaiting action in the House State Government Committee.

House Bill 1140: Requires health insurers to cover contraceptives

On Tuesday, June 25, by a margin of 133-69, lawmakers in the Pennsylvania House passed House Bill 1140, which would require health insurance policies – as well as government health insurance programs like Medical Assistance and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) – to cover FDA-approved contraceptive drugs, devices and products for covered individuals. The bill’s prime sponsor, Democratic state Rep. Leanne Krueger, said in a statement after the House vote that the bill would establish state-level protections for contraceptive access. “Pennsylvania currently has no protections in state law for contraceptive access, so attacks at the federal level jeopardize our access,” Krueger said. “Today’s vote is an important first step to ensuring access to contraception for all Pennsylvanians who need, want and deserve it.” The bill currently awaits action from the state Senate.

Senate Bill 1207: Creates a ‘Cell Phone Lockable Bag Pilot Program’ in Pennsylvania schools

Legislation from Republican state Sen. Ryan Aument that would establish a pilot program to limit cell phone use in Pennsylvania schools passed the Senate with a vote of 45-5 on July 3. The bill would create a pilot program that provides grant funding to schools that develop policies to require students to place their cell phones in lockable bags throughout the school day. Participating schools would also be required to track changes in student mental health, bullying and academic performance. The bill, Senate Bill 1207, is currently in the House Education Committee, where it awaits consideration. Aument said in a statement following the bill’s passage that the bill aims to reduce mental distress among students. “Kids spend so much time on social media and using their smartphones that it’s taking a toll on them mentally, emotionally, and academically,” Aument said. “Smartphone restrictions have proved successful in reversing these trends. Students deserve to learn without a constant distraction in their pockets, and my legislation would give them that.”

Senate Bill 67 and House Bills 2106, 2107 and 2108: Repealing a prohibition on Sunday hunting

State lawmakers have passed a whole lot of hunting-related bills in recent weeks, including one bill in the Senate and three separate bills in the House. Senate Bill 67, sponsored by GOP state Sen. Dan Laughlin, would remove the state’s existing prohibition on Sunday hunting, and allow the Pennsylvania Game Commission to expand Sunday hunting opportunities in the state. The bill was approved with a 33-17 vote in the state Senate on July 3. Similarly, the House approved a slate of three bills – HB 2106, HB 2017 and HB 2108 – that would also remove the prohibition and implement other hunting-relating changes. SB 67 has been approved by the Senate and awaits action by the House Game and Fisheries Committee; while HB 2106, HB 2107 and HB 2108 were passed by the House on June 27 and await action by the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee.

HB 2433: Prohibits ‘foreign-influenced corporations’ from making contributions to influence an election

On July 1, lawmakers in the state House passed House Bill 2433 with a 126-76 vote. The bill, sponsored by Democratic state Rep. Joe Webster, would bar “foreign-influenced corporations” – a term defined in the bill – from making political contributions to influence nominations, appointments, elections and ballot questions in Pennsylvania. Corporations that make political contributions of expenditures would be required to certify to the Pennsylvania Department of State that they are not a foreign-influenced corporation. Webster, in a post on X, said: “No one and nothing should influence the outcome of PA's elections except Pennsylvania voters.” The bill now awaits action in the Senate.