Tom Wolf

Tom Wolf

In a flurry of pre-holiday activity, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf signed a host of bills into law on Wednesday. But Pennsylvanians will want to take note of at least two that make some major changes to existing state statute.

Wolf signed a bill raising the tobacco purchasing age for most Pennsylvanians from the current 18 to 21 years old. The new law waives that requirement, however, for active duty service members, who are allowed to buy tobacco at age 18 under federal law if they live on military installations.

Wolf also signed a related measure “[expanding] the definition of a tobacco product to include e-cigarettes and other vaping products, and expressly prohibits the possession of these items on school grounds,” the administration said.

In a statement issued by his office, Wolf touted the public health benefit of the new laws, which take effect on July 1.

“Numerous studies have shown tobacco products, including smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes, are particularly harmful and addictive to youths and young adults,” Wolf said. “Raising the age to 21 in combination with barring e-cigarettes at our schools will help us prevent young Pennsylvanians from engaging in this dangerous behavior.”

With deer season right around the corner, Wolf also signed a measure allowing hunting on three Sundays throughout the year. Wolf said the bill ““carefully balances the needs of landowners with an expanded opportunity for hunters who work or attend school during weekdays.”

Also of note, the Democrat signed a Senate bill aimed at shoring up the financial stability of rural hospitals. The legislation authorizes the state’s new Rural Health Redesign Center Authority and the Pennsylvania Rural Health Redesign Center Fund, which will “[transition] them from fee-for-service to global budget payments,” the administration said.

“Every Pennsylvanian deserves access to quality health care within a reasonable distance from home,” Wolf said in a statement. “The Rural Health Redesign Center Authority and Pennsylvania Rural Health Redesign Center Fund will help ensure the hospitals that serve rural Pennsylvanians can provide necessary services even with a lower patient volume.”

In its statement, the administration said Wolf also signed:

House Bill 17, which establishes a 10-year collection window for assessed personal income taxes.

House Bill 49, which includes school safety amendments and allows public school students to earn credits toward graduation by taking courses in personal financial literacy.

House Bill 57, which abolishes various boards, commissions, committees and other entities and makes related repeals.

House Bill 227, which amends the election code to require 10 petition signers to nominate a candidate for school director in a primary race, eliminate ballot stubs and add provisions for privacy.

House Bill 754, which amends the state lottery law to extend the cost of living adjustment moratorium to Dec. 31, 2021.

House Bill 917, which repeals a law passed in 1929 containing guidelines for municipal-funded hospitals.

House Bill 956, which sets the rate of return for the state lottery to 20% until June 30, 2024.

House Bill 1016, which amends the Insurance Company Law of 1921 providing for solvency and further providing for benefit contract and for injunction, liquidation and receivership of domestic society.

House Bill 1203, which amends existing law regarding auditing municipal authorities.

House Bill 1402, which establishes sexual extortion as a crime.

House Bill 1410, which establishes a Military Installation Remediation Program providing funding to remediate areas affected by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances and related substances.

House Bill 1547, which names numerous bridges and roadway segments.

House Bill 1772, which allows landowners to identify property as no trespassing by painting purple stripes on trees or posts.

House Bill 1896, which allows real estate to be transferred from the Owen J. Roberts School District to the Pennsylvania American Water Company.

House Bill 1982, which allows employers participating for the State Employee Retirement System to pre-fund all or a portion of their pension liability.

Senate Bill 146, which allows online training for firefighters.

Senate Bill 317, which makes changes to the timeline for a Second Class Township to pass its annual budget.

Senate Bill 456, which allows branch campuses of private licensed schools to operate in multiple counties.

Senate Bill 572, which requires patients beginning a new opioid prescription to sign an agreement with their prescribers ensuring they understand the risks of addiction and dangers of overdose. The legislation also requires new patients to undergo baseline drug testing.

Senate Bill 733, which directs $2 million per year for 10 years be paid from the Pennsylvania Gaming Economic Development and Tourism Fund to fund debt service on the Da Vinci Science Center in Allentown.

John L. Micek is Editor-in-Chief of the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, where this story first appeared.

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