State Sen. David G. Argall has released his weekly report on legislative actions:

Ÿ The Senate approved legislation this week designed to make natural gas service available to more Pennsylvanians.

Senate Bill 738, the Natural Gas Consumer Access Act, requires every natural gas distribution utility operating in Pennsylvania to submit a plan to the Public Utility Commission (PUC), outlining the utility's plans for extension and expansion projects. The measure will also create a system providing for expedited extension or expansion projects if an economic development agency or a large number of residential, commercial or industrial entities want to seek to obtain natural gas service.

Senate Bill 739 amends the Alternative Energy Investment Act to provide grants to schools, hospitals and small businesses to obtain access to natural gas service. The funding will come from existing, underutilized programs. Grants made under Senate Bill 739 may provide up to half of the cost of a project.

The bills now go the House of Representatives for consideration.

Ÿ Legislation abolishing Philadelphia Traffic Court goes to Governor

Legislation to abolish the Philadelphia Traffic Court received final legislative approval this week and now goes to Governor Corbett for his approval and enactment into law. The Philadelphia Traffic Court has been plagued with sustained allegations of corruption and ticket-fixing over multiple decades, leading to the recent indictments of nine current and former Traffic Court judges. Senate Bill 333 eliminates the Philadelphia Traffic Court in the state constitution. Senate Bill 334 statutorily transfers its responsibilities to Philadelphia Municipal Court.

Ÿ Bill holds repeat retail theft offenders accountable

Legislation that would ensure that repeat retail theft offenders are held accountable for their actions was approved by the Senate on Monday. Senate Bill 731 closes a loophole in current law that enables repeat offenders to avoid more serious penalties if they take part in an in Accelerated Rehabilitation Program (ARD). Offenders will still be able to have the first offense expunged from their record if they complete ARD, but they would be held accountable for potential increased penalties if they repeat the offense. The bill is now before the House Judiciary Committee.

Ÿ Committee approves bill curbing MCARE costs

The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee approved legislation on Tuesday that would curb medical liability costs and keep doctors in Pennsylvania. Senate Bill 878 amends the MCARE Act of 2002 by locking in basic insurance coverage requirements for hospitals, participating health care providers, and non-participating health care providers for a period of five years and mandates that any remaining funding left over at the end of the year be used to reduce the following year's assessments.

Other bills approved by the Senate this week

House Bill 40 amends Pennsylvania's CPA Law (Act 140 of 1947) to adopt the language in the Uniform Accountancy Act (UAA) regarding attest activity. The bill goes to the Governor for enactment.

Senate Bill 145 eliminates mechanics' lien rights for subcontractors who performed work on residential property, if the property owner has already paid the prime contractor in full. The bill goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Senate Bill 802 modernizes and revises the Commonwealth's Boiler and Unfired Pressure Vessel Law. The bill is now before the House Labor and Industry Committee for consideration.

Senate Bill 928 establishes the Service and Infrastructure Improvement Fund to support the state unemployment compensation service center system. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.