Senator Bob Mensch E-Newsletter

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Week of June 11, 2018

In this Edition:

  • Mensch Urges Governor to Sign Bill Promoting Employment of People with Disabilities
  • Senate Approves Sweeping Reforms to Redistricting Process
  • Senate Acts to Set Strict Guidelines on Prescribing Opioids
  • Bill Promoting Telemedicine in Pennsylvania Approved by Senate
  • Bills Sent to Governor for Enactment
  • Senate Passes Bill to Expedite the Adoption Process
  • Other Bills Sent to the House of Representatives
  • Committee Roundup
  • Next Week

Mensch Urges Governor to Sign Bill Promoting Employment of People with Disabilities 

Legislation I’ve advocated to promote the employment of people with disabilities at competitive wages in Pennsylvania received final legislative approval this week and will be sent to Gov. Tom Wolf for his signature.

House Bill 1641 is a companion to my bill, Senate Bill 21, the “Employment First Act.” It calls for state agencies to employ individuals with disabilities in at least seven percent of the overall state workforce.

Across our Commonwealth today, too many people with disabilities spend their days working in segregated facilities for wages well below the minimum wage. Enactment of the Employment First Act will provide people with disabilities the opportunity to work at competitive wages in a wide range of jobs. I urge the Governor to sign this bill.

The legislation does not require state agencies to give preference in hiring to people with disabilities. An oversight commission, with people who have disabilities making up more than half of its members, would set measurable goals for improving the percentage of workers with disabilities in Pennsylvania. It would also issue an annual progress report.

The bill would not require additional state funding. Instead, Commonwealth agencies would be required to shift priorities within existing budgets.While Pennsylvania faces a shortage of workers, more and more employers are finding that people with disabilities are productive, responsible and dependable employees. The General Assembly has taken an important step for the Commonwealth and for people with disabilities – especially those with intellectual disabilities. Now it’s time for the Governor to act.

Senate Approves Sweeping Reforms to Redistricting Process 

The Senate approved legislation Wednesday that changes the way legislative and Congressional district boundaries are drawn in Pennsylvania.

Senate Bill 22 would create an independent redistricting commission made up of 11 Pennsylvania citizens who would be responsible for drawing the boundaries of legislative and Congressional districts. Elected officials, candidates for public office, lobbyists and legislative staff would be prohibited from serving on the commission.

Seven out of the 11 commissioners must vote to approve the maps, including at least two Democrats, two Republicans and two members who are not affiliated with either major political party.

The maps would be required to be created without the use of partisan data, prior election results or the addresses of specific individuals to prevent any undue political influence in the process.

Members of the commission would be appointed by the Governor and Majority and Minority Leaders of the Senate and the House of Representatives. All members of the commission must be confirmed by a super-majority of both chambers of the General Assembly.

The legislation also changes the way that appellate court judges are elected. In current practice, members of the state Supreme Court, Superior Court and Commonwealth Court are elected via a statewide vote. Senate Bill 22 would divide the state into judicial districts to ensure a broader range of regional interests are represented on Pennsylvania’s highest courts.

Because the legislation would amend the Pennsylvania Constitution, it must be approved in two consecutive legislative sessions and be approved by voters in a statewide referendum. Senate Bill 22 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Senate Acts to Set Strict Guidelines on Prescribing Opioids

Legislation I co-sponsored requiring medical professionals to adhere to strict guidelines when prescribing opioid medications was approved by the Senate on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 655 makes mandatory the current voluntary guidelines developed by the state’s Safe and Effective Prescribing Practices Task Force on the proper and safe prescribing of opioid-related pain medications.

These guidelines encourage the judicious prescribing of opioid pain medications in areas including emergency department treatment, dental practices, opioid dispensing by pharmacists, orthopedics, sports medicine, and more.  The guidelines also call for other clinical interventions prior to the initiation of opioids.

Development of the guidelines was done in partnership with the Pennsylvania Medical Society, Pennsylvania Dental Association, Pennsylvania Pharmacists Association, and other community advocates. The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration. 

Bill Promoting Telemedicine in Pennsylvania Approved by Senate

The Senate on Wednesday approved legislation I’m co-sponsoring to promote telemedicine in Pennsylvania as a way to overcome barriers to quality patient care and reduce the costs of those services. 

Telemedicine, the remote delivery of health care services and medical information using telecommunications technology, allows specialists and other health care providers to expand their reach, helping rural patients stay in their communities and avoid traveling long distances for specialized care. Senate Bill 780 establishes guidelines regarding who can provide telemedicine services, and provides clarity regarding insurance company reimbursement for those services.

Under Senate Bill 780, physicians and other health practitioners delivering telemedicine services would still be required to follow standard state licensure and medical practice laws and requirements in Pennsylvania. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration. 

Bills Sent to Governor for Enactment

House Bill 653 provides for an accelerated foreclosure process for vacant and abandoned property.

Senate Bill 667 gives redevelopment authorities the same powers to fight blight currently allotted to land banks through the Pennsylvania Land Bank Act.

Senate Bill 776 extends the Dyslexia and Early Literacy Intervention Pilot Program.

Senate Bill 851 amends the Real Estate Tax Sale Law to clarify ownership of properties that are in the delinquent tax sale process.

House Bill 1641 creates the Employment First Act.

Senate Passes Bill to Expedite the Adoption Process

The Senate unanimously approved legislation Monday that would expedite the voluntary termination of parental rights to speed up the legal adoption process. 

Senate Bill 1129 would require courts to set a hearing date no more than 30 days after birth parents file a petition for relinquishment of their parental rights to an adoption agency or an adult wishing to adopt the child. Current law requires the court to set a hearing date no less than 10 days after a relinquishment petition is filed, but does not set a deadline for holding the hearing.

The legislation also provides procedures for a diligent search for birth fathers and for the notice of a scheduled adoption hearing. Failure to appear at the hearing or file a written objection would result in termination of the birth father’s parental rights. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Other Bills Sent to the House of Representatives

House Bill 152, which requires the Insurance Department to administer and maintain a database of life insurance policies to search for potential beneficiaries. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

Senate Bill 299, which changes the way that an incumbent magisterial district judge gets on the ballot for re-election.

Senate Bill 934, which expands the authority of the Elevator Advisory Board, a subcommittee of the Industrial Board under the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry. 

Senate Bill 1087, which establishes a joint commission on the child welfare system.

Senate Bill 1156, which renames roads and bridges.

Committee Roundup

Agriculture & Rural Affairs

The Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee approved two Resolutions on Wednesday.

Senate Resolution 382 urges the federal Food & Drug Administration to enforce existing regulations that establish clear standards for milk labeling.

Senate Resolution 384 directs the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to identify and examine the statutes, best practices and proposed measures of other states to provide assistance to dairy producers.

Appropriations

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved eight bills on Monday.

House Bill 152 requires the Insurance Department to administer and maintain a database of life insurance policies to search for potential beneficiaries.

Senate Bill 735 amends the Real Estate Tax Sale Law to allow counties to establish a demolition and rehabilitation fund.

Senate Bill 891 requires the Department of Aging to cross-check its list of PACE and PACENET beneficiaries with death records maintained by the Department of Health.

Senate Bill 1087 establishes a joint commission on the child welfare system.

Senate Bill 1098 allows the placement of cameras on school buses to identify motorists who pass when red signals are flashing. 

Senate Bill 1126 requires training for the minor judiciary to better identify indigent individuals who are unable to pay court costs, fines, and fees.

Senate Bill 1171 replaces the Nutrient Management Advisory Board with a new Farm Animal Advisory Board to give farmers greater input into environmental regulations.

House Bill 1641 creates the Employment First Act.

The Appropriations Committee approved nine bills on Wednesday.

House Bill 56 provides access to adoption-related counseling services to birth parents who are considering relinquishing their parental rights.

Senate Bill 780 promotes telemedicine in Pennsylvania.

Senate Bill 819 ensures that agritourism is considered an authorized activity on farms in the state farmland preservation program.

Senate Bill 934 expands the authority of the Elevator Advisory Board, a subcommittee of the Industrial Board under the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry. 

House Bill 1659 amends the Human Services Code regarding work requirement waivers in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

House Bill 1677 updates references in the Human Services Code from “child day care” or “day care” to “child care.”

House Bill 1738 provides trained and certified non-municipal police officers the same jurisdictional flexibility as municipal police officers.

House Bill 1979 removes a sunset provision for a 20-year statute of limitations on actions on instruments under seal.

House Bill 2138 adds work requirements for eligible enrollees in Medical Assistance.

Banking & Insurance

The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee approved three bills on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 190 allows self-storage proprietors to sell content insurance.

Senate Bill 1205 provides for insurer corporate governance disclosure.

House Bill 1800 codifies a process for medication synchronization.

Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure

The Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee approved five bills on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 689 provides for the appointment of two Certified Pennsylvania Evaluators to the State Board of Certified Real Estate Appraisers.

Senate Bill 832 clarifies that revaluation company personnel who are directly responsible for the valuation of real property must be certified as Certified Pennsylvania Evaluators.

Senate Bill 1074 addresses state law regarding genetic counselors.

Senate Bill 1169 amends the Medial Practice Act providing for genetic counselors.

House Bill 1898 requires dealer disclosure of vehicles with uncorrected recalls at time of sale.

Education

The Senate Education Committee approved three bills on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 1181 requires depression screenings for students.

Senate Bill 1198 establishes in statute the Student Performance profiles webpage as a single location to access all accountability measures. 

House Bill 2124 requires institutions of higher education to send annual letters to students with information on their student loan debt, including estimates of their total debt at graduation and estimated monthly payments.

The Education Committee approved two measures on Wednesday.

Senate Resolution 293 directs the Joint State Government Commission to conduct a comprehensive review of school safety.

Senate Bill 1095 addresses graduation requirements.

Environmental Resources & Energy

The Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee approved six measures on Tuesday.

Senate Resolution 326 encourages Congress to accept the conclusions of the National Park Service in recognizing the Eastern Legacy of the Lewis and Clark National Trail for its historic national significance.

Senate Resolution 373 establishes a special bipartisan legislative commission to recommend safety, oversight and interagency coordination improvements for the transport of oil, natural gas and other hazardous liquids through pipelines in Pennsylvania.

Senate Resolution 375 urges Congress to support the development of an Appalachian ethane storage hub. 

Senate Bill 917 expands the definition of “compost materials” in state law to include spent mushroom substrate.

House Bill 927 provides for a municipal exemption from leaf waste collection requirements.

Senate Bill 1189 provides for economic compensation for property owners impacted by Delaware River Basin Commission actions.

Finance

The Senate Finance Committee approved House Bill 939 on Wednesday. The bill provides for the forfeiture of a public pension when a public employee is found guilty of, or pleads guilty or no contest to, an offense classified as a felony or punishable by a term of imprisonment exceeding five years. 

Health & Human Services

The Health and Human Services Committee approved three bills on Tuesday.

House Bill 1659 amends the Human Services Code regarding work requirement waivers in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

House Bill 1677 updates references in the Human Services Code from “child day care” or “day care” to “child care.”

House Bill 2138 adds work requirements for eligible enrollees in Medical Assistance.

Judiciary

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved seven bills on Tuesday.

House Bill 44 amends the Protection from Abuse Act to provide courts with information regarding whether the defendant has been involved with a child abuse investigation.

House Bill 128 increases the penalty for human trafficking in infant children.

House Bill 594 prohibits Accelerated Rehabilitation Disposition for certain offenses against children.

Senate Bill 820  provides some protection from civil liability for owners and operators of agritourism activities.

House Bill 1539 allows a grandparent or other specific relatives of a minor child to petition for temporary guardianship when a parent has entered a rehabilitation facility for treatment of a drug or alcohol addiction or has been subject to emergency medical intervention due to abuse of drugs or alcohol.

House Bill 1885 allows a Register of Wills to determine and direct the personal representative of an estate to post additional security after examining the inventory or inheritance tax return of an estate.

House Bill 1886 updates Orphans’ Court report procedures.

The Judiciary Committee approved House Bill 2050 on Wednesday. The bill prohibits an abortion solely on the basis of a prenatal diagnosis, or belief, that the unborn child has Down syndrome.

Local Government

The Senate Local Government Committee approved two bills on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 1168 amends the process by which a borough with a population of 3,000 residents or less can reduce the size of its borough council.

Senate Bill 1176 amends the Home Rule Law.

Majority Policy

The Senate Majority Policy Committee held the second of two briefings on welfare reform efforts on Tuesday.

Tuesday’s briefing featured Ron Haskins, a Senior Fellow and Cabot Family Chair in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution. Haskins served in various roles in the federal government including 14 years with the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, as a senior advisor to President George W. Bush for welfare policy, and was appointed by Speaker Paul Ryan to co-chair the Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission. He also co-authored “Work over Welfare: The Inside Story of the 1996 Welfare Reform Law.” Hearing Video, Written Testimony & Data 

Last week the Committee heard from Sam Adolphsen, a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Government Accountability and Vice President of Rockwood Solutions. He served as Chief Operating Officer at the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. In Maine, Adolphsen was responsible for welfare eligibility and fraud detection programs as well as oversight over the state’s Medicaid budget. Hearing Video & Data

The briefings were designed to bring in national experts on the topic to provide guidance and feedback on best practices in other states and how Pennsylvania can strengthen its existing safety net while providing individuals with the best opportunity to climb out of poverty.

State Government

The Senate State Government Committee approved two bills on Wednesday.

House Bill 110 is a constitutional amendment providing for state government spending limitations.

House Bill 153 is a constitutional amendment reducing the size of the General Assembly.

Urban Affairs & Housing

The Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee approved two bills on Wednesday.

House Bill 1499 amends Title 68 (Real and Personal Property) to clarify and update provisions relating to planned communities, condominiums and cooperatives.

House Bill 2049 creates the Assistance and Service Animal Integrity Act to address documentation requirements for service animals in housing, and to establish penalties for misrepresentation.

Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness

The Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee approved two bills on Wednesday.

House Bill 247 allows monuments and memorials to be eligible expenses under the Veterans Trust Fund.

Senate Bill 1019 updates the Emergency Management Sections of Title 35 (Health & Safety) and enhances Pennsylvania’s ability to prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from natural and manmade disasters.

Next Week 

The Senate returns to voting session on Monday at 1 p.m. You can watch session live at SenatorMensch.com.

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