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State bills signed include decriminalization of fentanyl test strips, help for autonomous vehicles

This May 10, 2018, file photo shows an arrangement of fentanyl test strips in New York.
Mark Lennihan
This May 10, 2018, file photo shows an arrangement of fentanyl test strips in New York.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed a flurry of bills Thursday, including energy tax credits, decriminalization of fentanyl test strips and help for autonomous vehicles, as the two-year legislative session winds down.

The 66 bills he approved include a package of tax credits, the Pennsylvania Economic Development for a Growing Economy program, that aims to promote Pennsylvania as a site for one of the hydrogen energy hubs being funded with federal subsidies.

The legislation drew opponents from both sides of the aisle, and in adding his signature to the bill, the Democratic governor said he supported it in part because it will create jobs.

“I recognize that in order for hydrogen to play a meaningful role in reducing emissions, we must ensure that the hydrogen used is truly ‘clean’ through stringent emissions standards,” he said. “We must also commit to strong and equitable community protections to prevent impacts to already overburdened communities and to guide benefits to communities that need them.”

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A bill that legalized fentanyl testing strips for personal use, a measure meant to help curb fatal overdoses, also received Wolf’s signature. It updates a law that had classified the strips as drug paraphernalia and imposed significant penalties.

Wolf additionally signed legislation to allow for driverless testing and use of autonomous vehicles, in an effort to grow jobs, improve safety and address supply chain shortages.

“This technology brings the potential for significant advancements in vehicle safety and mobility, and offers economic development benefits across Pennsylvania,” Wolf said in a signing letter.

But he also pressed the Legislature to make sure that it protects workers.

“Often new technology brings job replacement, and we must ensure Pennsylvania workers are protected and allowed the opportunity to participate in this industry as it continues to grow,” he said.

He additionally OK’d a measure to help the Pennsylvania Turnpike recover more unpaid tolls.
Wolf wielded his veto pen once, striking down a bill that would have added passenger cars to the definition of farm vehicles. In his veto message, Wolf said he had safety concerns because the cars would be exempt from registration, insurance and inspections.

With the singular veto Thursday, Wolf has vetoed 65 bills since 2015, the most coming in 2020. He has surpassed Democratic Gov. Robert P. Casey, who compiled 50 vetoes. A spokeswoman said that he has signed 95% of the bills that came to his desk.

The veto and signatures cap the near-end of Wolf’s second term and the two-year session. Lawmakers will return later this month, but with the session’s conclusion any bill that doesn’t pass before new legislators are sworn in in January will die or need to be reintroduced.