Legislative Update — September 8, 2017

     When the legislature last met it was July and leaders in the House and Senate were searching for ways to balance the $32 billion state budget that was enacted at the end of June. Now that it is September, leaders in Harrisburg have yet to find agreement on how to fill the gap. The whole build up is a little reminiscent of that scene from Groundhog Day when Rita says to Phil, “Do you ever have déjà vu?” And Phil replies, “Didn’t you just ask me that?”
     The quick summary starts late in July when the Senate passed a package that assessed a new tax on natural gas bills and raised tax rates on electric and phone bills, among other revenue enhancements and borrowing. The GOP-controlled House quickly rejected the Senate package without a vote and just this week Republican rank-and-file members presented a revenue package of their own that does not raise taxes or borrow money. The proposal floated in the House relies on one time revenues from various funds and restricted accounts. The House is expected to be in session next week, and in the meantime, Gov. Wolf is warning that painful cuts are coming if the budget isn’t funded.
     There has been no movement on any of the bills we’ve been tracking, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been busy. The summer months have been a time to travel around the state, meet with members, and potential members, and continue to be a voice of reason and reform.
     For a flavor of what is going on and what we are talking about, don’t miss the PCCJR’s opinion editorial which ran on PennLive this week, “In Pa., the era of big litigation isn’t over” or the recent news about a local municipality suing pharmaceutical companies over the opioid crisis and a judge’s recent decision to deny an attorney over $1 million in fees in a case that awarded the client $125,000.

In Pennsylvania, the Era of Big Litigation Isn’t Over

By Curt Schroder via PennLive
September 7, 2017
     Remember when President Bill Clinton declared: “The era of big government is over!”? Well, a recent article in the Wall Street Journal declaring, “The Era of Tort Lawsuits Is Waning” caused quite a splash earlier this summer. However, like President Clinton’s declaration, this one does not stand up to closer scrutiny in Pennsylvania. Read more.

Bensalem targets Big Pharma with suit seeking millions!

August 31, 2017 | Newsworks
     Bensalem is poised to become the first local government in Pennsylvania to sue pharmaceutical companies in an effort to recover money it claims to have spent to fight the opioid crisis.
     Mayor Joe DiGirolamo announced his plans Wednesday to sue more than a dozen pharmaceutical companies that he said played down the addiction risks of opioid drugs they made, marketed and distributed.
     Mayor Joe DiGirolamo’s nephew, State Representative Gene DiGirolomo said of the pharmaceutical companies: “They’ve been misrepresenting the dangers of these dangerous addictive drugs for years and years. “They’ve misled the public, they’ve misled the doctors, they’ve misled the medical professions. And it’s time that they’re held accountable and accept responsibility for the damage that they done.” Read more.

Judge denies nearly $1 million in fees sought by attorney, refers case to disciplinary board

by Terrie Morgan-Besecker via Times Tribune| September 1, 2017
     A federal judge denied a Scranton law firm’s request for nearly $1 million in attorneys fees in an insurance case that netted its client just $125,000.
     In a scathing, 100-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Malachy Mannion said the fees sought by attorney Michael Pisanchyn and his co-counsel, Marsha Lee Albright, are “mind boggling,” “outrageously excessive” and not supported by documentation. The judge said he is so disturbed by the attorneys’ conduct that he plans to refer the matter to the state disciplinary board to determine if they should be sanctioned! Read more.

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