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Legislative research agency plans 2020 series of studies

Plastics, lottery, broadband among topics on list

HARRISBURG — A legislative research agency plans to issue a series of studies next year addressing topics ranging from medical malpractice claims, use of plastics and deployment of high-speed broadband to name a few.

The Legislative Budget and Finance Committee met Tuesday to chart a course and a study schedule for reports in 2020. The committee acts on resolutions passed by lawmakers directing it to study and analyze specific topics.

The committee is scheduled to release a study Feb. 5 on the impact of a proposed rule change to venue shopping in medical malpractice cases. This study, directed under Senate Resolution 20 approved earlier this year, looks at a home-county venue rule in effect since 2002 and a proposed change being considered by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s Civil Procedural Rules Committee.

A 2002 law requires attorneys to file medical malpractice lawsuits in the same county where the alleged malpractice occurred. The rules committee proposed would allow attorneys to file suit in other counties that have ties — either corporate or personal — to a specific incident cited in a lawsuit.

The issue of venue shopping in filing lawsuits was debated in 2002 at a time when medical malpractice claims were skyrocketing. The debate has continued over whether venue shopping itself or interest rates or bad doctors fueled the crisis in the early 2000s that led to the limit on venue shopping.

The state Fiscal Code for 2019-20 bans actions by local governments to tax or regulate the use of plastics, plastic wrapping and plastic containers until two reports are finished with a July 1 deadline.

The LBFC plans to release a report this spring evaluating the impact of plastic bans on the environment and residents. The Independent Fiscal Office will release the other report looking at the economic impact to industry and consumers of plastic bans.

The committee also plans to release a study this spring authorized under Senate Resolution 48 regarding what telecommunications firms are doing to comply with a 2004 broadband deployment law. A separate study by the Joint State Government Commission will look at what’s being done to deploy broadband in underserved and rural areas.

A financial analysis of the Pennsylvania Game Commission is also on tap this year for the LBFC, as a result of a provision in the new Sunday hunting law.

Additionally, the committee plans to release reports in March on the impact of tavern games on the Pennsylvania Lottery and the Pennsylvania State Police trooper complement.

Finally, in the fall, there will be studies released pertaining to the funding of organ procurement organizations, as well as the fees charged in Pennsylvania’s instant check system for firearm purchases.

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