Washington, D.C. – As the 2015 legislative year comes to an end, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) announced several major legislative wins and public laws he led to passage on behalf of Pennsylvanians. 13 Casey led bills were enacted into law in 2015; 7 bills introduced by Casey, and 6 bills on which he served as the lead Democratic sponsor. These public laws will help improve the lives of Pennsylvanians across all spectrums, creating jobs, keeping kids in school by creating a more positive school climate, and keeping drivers safe by providing $73,796,694 annually to fix off-system bridges.
“I was pleased to guide into law a number of bills that will help Pennsylvanians and the economy of the Commonwealth, especially efforts to create jobs, keep kids in school, and improve our infrastructure,” said Senator Casey. “There’s much more to be done in the coming year to make sure children learn more early in life so they earn more later and so middle class incomes increase.”
The full list of bills Senator Casey led as well as bills he was the lead Democrat on can be found below.
- Depreciation Fairness Act – S.394 - The bill makes permanent the 15-year depreciation period for qualified leasehold improvement property, qualified restaurant property, and qualified retail improvement property. It ensures the depreciation schedule permanently reflects the economic useful life of these types of investments. This change will provide businesses with the certainty they need to undertake capital expenditures, which will fuel economic activity and create jobs. Major portions of this bill were incorporated into Section 123 of the PATH Act, H.R. 2029, which became public law on December 18, 2015.
- Keep Kids in School Act – S 672. This legislation requires states and school districts to report on the use of exclusionary discipline and create plans to reduce its use. The bill also provides funding to implement activities that have been proven to create a more positive school climate. Major portions of this bill were incorporated into Sections 1005 and 4304 of the Every Student Succeeds Act, S. 1177, which became Public Law 114-95 on December 10, 2015.
- Better Educator Support and Training (BEST) Act – S 882. This bill reforms the educator professional development pieces within the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. With the passage of the Every Student Achieves Act (ESSA) ESEA reauthorization, states and districts are now required to implement evidence-based activities that help keep teachers in the classroom, strengthen the teaching profession, and ensure principals have the skills they need to be effective by setting aside specific resources for their professional development. Major portions of this bill were incorporated into Title IIA of the Every Student Succeeds Act, S. 1177, which became Public Law 114-95 on December 10, 2015.
- Empowering Parents and Students Through Information Act – S 528. This legislation helps ensure that America’s six million K-12 students with disabilities and their families have access to necessary information to make informed decisions on their child’s education and future opportunities for pursuing college and career goals. This is accomplished by clarifying clear guidelines for the use of alternate academic assessments, provides greater access to the standard academic curriculum for all students, and provides additional data transparency on the use of assessments. Major portions of this bill were incorporated into Title IA of the Every Student Succeeds Act, S. 1177which became Public Law 114-95 on December 10, 2015.
- Continuum of Learning Act – S 643. This legislation updates ESEA to strengthen connections between existing early learning programs and elementary grades. This bill helps educators from Head Start, child care, other early childhood education programs, and elementary schools work together so young children have successful continuity of learning and development that sets a strong foundation throughout the K-12 school years and beyond. Major portions of this bill were incorporated into Sections 4624 and 9212 of the Every Student Succeeds Act, S. 1177, which became Public Law 114-95 on December 10, 2015.
- Computer Science Education and Jobs Act – S 671. Adds computer science as a core academic subject within the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and adds supports for teachers who specialize in this subject area. These key provisions, included in the ESSA ESEA reauthorization as part of a definition of “well rounded education,” will provide support and clarity to states and school districts to expand this discipline, ultimately helping to keep the nation competitive in the global high-tech market. Major portions of this bill were incorporated into Title IIA, Section 4107, and Title VIII of the Every Student Succeeds Act, S. 1177, which became Public Law 114-95 on December 10, 2015.
- Clean Vehicles Corridor Act - S 1581. The principles and goals of the Clean Vehicles Corridor Act were included in section 1413 of HR 22, the DRIVE Act. Under this section, the Secretary of Transportation would designate transportation corridors to encourage fueling infrastructure for natural gas, electric, hydrogen and propane vehicles. HR 22, the DRIVE Act, the surface transportation reauthorization bill, which was signed into Public Law 114-94 on December 4, 2015.
Casey Lead Democrat
- The Protecting Our Infants Act (w/ Senator McConnell) – S 799. The Protecting Our Infants Act, which was signed into Public Law 114-91on November 25, 2015. This bill addresses the rise of prenatal opioid abuse and infants suffering from opioid withdrawal. The bill directs the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to conduct a departmental review to identify gaps in research and any duplication, overlap or gaps in prevention and treatment programs related to prenatal opioid abuse and infants born with opioid withdrawal. It also directs the Department of Health and Human Services to work with stakeholders to develop recommendations both for preventing prenatal opioid abuse, and for treating infants born dependent on opioids. Finally, this measure encourages the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to work with states and help improve their public health response to this epidemic.
- Small Business Fairness Act (w/ Senator Enzi) – S 958. This bill was included in section 867 of S. 1356, the Fiscal Year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which was signed into Public Law 114-92 on 11/25/2015. This bill allows federal agencies to enter into contracts with small businesses that are service disabled veteran owned, economically disadvantaged, women-owned or a qualified HUBZone small business, even if they are part of a teaming agreement. Current law does not allow these designated small businesses to be part of a teaming agreement and also claim a socioeconomic designation.
- Support for Bridges Act/FAST Act (w/ Senator Blunt) – S 1370. The goals of the Support for Bridges Act were included in The FAST Act. The Fast Act continues to provide $73,796,694 annually for off-system bridges in Pennsylvania which adds up to $369 million over 5 years. The bill makes an additional $4.9 billion (FY 16-20 total) available for highway bridges nationwide that lost predictable funding under MAP-21. Incorporated into Section 1106 of the FAST Act, H.R. 22, which became Public Law 114-94 on December 4, 2015.
- Small Business Tax Certainty and Growth Act of 2015 (w/ Senator Collins) - S.1141. Legislation includes 15-year recovery period for qualified leasehold improvement property, qualified restaurant property, and qualified retail improvement property (Depreciation Fairness Act –S.394). Provisions extending bonus depreciation, and a provision making permanent section 179 expensing ($500,000 expensing with $2,000,000 phase out) indexed for inflation. Major portions of this bill were incorporated into Sections 123, 124, and 143 of the PATH Act, H.R. 2029, which became public law on December 18, 2015.
- 529 Enhancement Act (w/ Senator Grassley) – S 335. The provision expands the definition of qualified higher education expenses for which 529 accounts are eligible to include computer equipment and technology, modifies 529 account rules to treat any distribution from a 529 account as coming only from that account. It also treats a refund of tuition paid with amounts distributed from a 529 account as a qualified expense if such amounts are re-contributed to a 529 account within 60 days. This legislation was incorporated into Section 302 of the PATH Act, H.R. 2029, which became public law on December 18, 2015.
- Patient Access and Medicare Protection Act (w/ Senator Portman) – S. 2425 This bill does three key things. It implements a one year delay of the CMS proposal to apply competitive bid pricing to complex rehab accessories. It freezes the current payment rates for certain radiation therapy services for 2017 and 2018. This provision would ensure that cancer patients have the option to receive care in their preferred setting. It gives CMS the ability to process physician and hospital applications for a hardship exemption from complying electronic health record meaningful use requirements more efficiently. An increase in the submission of hardship applications from requirements in effect for 2015 is expected for reasons beyond provider’ control. This bill was passed in the Senate and the House on December 18, 2015 and became public law on December 28, 2015