As Pa. legislative session winds down, Rendell signs 22 bills into law

Posted: November 25, 2010

HARRISBURG - Government workers will see smaller pension checks. There will be mandatory recycling for old TVs and computers. And you'll have to ask your pharmacist for a package of Sudafed.

These are among a raft of Pennsylvania laws set to take effect in the coming months.

Gov. Rendell on Wednesday signed 22 bills into law, the result of a rush of end-of-session legislation. He did so in private and without comment.

The pension law raises the retirement age from 62 to 65 for newly hired teachers and government workers, and sets an annual cap on employer contribution increases to help address the high cost of pension coverage. The changes are expected to save roughly $16 billion in the next 25 years, according to the administration.

The law also creates an independent fiscal office that would provide the legislature with nonpartisan budget projections. The General Assembly has had to rely on executive branch projections, which some have said can be politically motivated.

Some of the bills took years to come to fruition, like the child-custody legislation (House Bill 1639) sponsored by Rep. Kathy Manderino (D., Montgomery), who is retiring this year.

The law will make the custody process more equitable, Manderino and other supporters said.

The gender-neutral bill provides courts with a list of factors that must be considered when awarding custody, including parental duties, the need for stability in a child's life, and the availability of extended family.

Philadelphia family-law attorney Cheryl Young said that among the most important changes is that when the parent with custody relocates, he or she will have to notify the other parent and provide extensive information, such as an address and the child's school and doctor. The judges also must state their reason for awarding custody to one parent over the other.

The new electronics-recycling law (H.B. 708) mandates that makers of televisions and computers set up recycling programs to reduce the amount of hazardous waste in landfills. The manufacturers will be responsible for notifying consumers about how the programs will work and providing locations for the electronics collections. The law, similar to those in 22 others states, stipulates that in two years there will be no electronics in state landfills.

Under the law expanding the Amber Alert system (H.B. 976), the definition of missing person will include the elderly or disabled as well as children.

Another law (H.B. 196) requires any store or pharmacy selling ephedrine and pseudoephedrine to keep the products behind a counter where the public is not permitted, or in a locked cabinet to which the public does not have access. The law is aimed at combating the rise of the street drug meth, which usually contains Sudafed and similar over-the-counter drugs with ephedrine or pseudoephedrine.

Two controversial measures await Rendell's signature: the so-called castle doctrine expansion (H.B. 1926) to allow individuals to use deadly force if they are threatened in places beyond their homes, such as their businesses, cars, and other places they are legally allowed to be, and a bill (H.B. 1231) that would define cancer in most cases as an occupational disease for firefighters, making it easier for them to secure workers' compensation.

Rendell has until Friday to sign or veto the firefighter bill and until Monday to decide on the castle doctrine bill.

Contact staff writer Amy Worden

at 717-783-2584 or