Senator Bob Mensch E-Newsletter

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Week of June 18, 2018


In this Edition:

  • Senate Approves On-Time, No-Tax Budget That Invests in Education, School Safety
  • Bill Promoting Employment of People with Disabilities Signed into Law
  • Comprehensive School Safety Measure Set for Enactment
  • Other 2018-19 Budget Components Finalized
  • Senate Approves Measures Supporting Agriculture, Dairy Farms
  • Other Bills Sent to the Governor’s Desk
  • Senate Approves Bill Offering Alternatives to Keystone Exam Requirement
  • Other Measures Approved by the Senate and sent to the House
  • Committee Roundup
  • Up Next

Senate Approves On-Time, No-Tax Budget That Invests in Education, School Safety

The state Senate on Friday approved a fiscally responsible budget for Fiscal Year 2018-2019 that holds the line on spending, increases funding for education and school safety initiatives, and includes no new taxes.

The final spending total of $32.7 billion is just $560 million over the current year’s spending – below the rate of inflation, and well within the limits prescribed in the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. It also allocates money to the state’s Rainy Day fund for the first time in more than a decade.

The budget also makes a historic investment in school safety with more than $60 million in new funding for school resource officers, security equipment and other proven methods of preventing school violence.

While the funding is critical, we are fully aware that additional money won’t solve the problem alone – we need to look at programs and resources that school districts can use to keep our kids safe. A number of measures have already been introduced, and our School Safety Task Force is still developing additional initiatives.  We will use the summer to hold hearings, gather public feedback and work on a final product.

A significant part of the additional spending is devoted to education. The budget increases funding for Basic Education by $100 million, Pre-K Counts and Head Start by $25 million, and Special Education by $15 million.  Educational Improvement Tax Credits – which help students trapped in failing schools – will also see a $25 million increase.

Higher education is also a priority in the budget. State System of Higher Education funding will increase by 3.3 percent, and funding for state-related universities will increase by 3 percent. Community colleges will also see a 3-percent boost in funding.

Additional funding is also included for the Pennsylvania State Police to train three new cadet classes, which will result in nearly 300 additional troopers.

Other highlights include additional funding for:

  • Services for individuals with intellectual disabilities.
  • Home and community-based services for an additional 5,230 seniors and those with physical disabilities.
  • Child care services to an additional 1,600 children.
  • Home visit services for 800 families impacted by the opioid epidemic.
  • Career and Technical Education to ensure Pennsylvania’s workforce keeps pace with the demands of the labor market.

The budget also recognizes the importance of three industries that have historically been among Pennsylvania’s most critical sectors of the economy: agriculture, manufacturing and tourism, restoring funding that the Governor’s original budget plan cut.

Passing a fiscally responsible budget this year is an absolute necessity in the face of the daunting challenges we will face in the years to come. But with those challenges come new opportunities that could set our Commonwealth on the path to a brighter economic future.

Bill Promoting Employment of People with Disabilities Signed into Law

Legislation I championed to promote the employment of people with disabilities at competitive wages in Pennsylvania received final legislative approval and was signed into law.

House Bill 1641 is a companion to Senate Bill 21, the “Employment First Act,” I introduced last year. 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.

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, will set measurable goals for improving the percentage of workers with disabilities in Pennsylvania. It will also issue an annual progress report.

The bill will not require additional state funding. Instead, Commonwealth agencies will 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. 

Comprehensive School Safety Measure Set for Enactment

A comprehensive, bipartisan school safety bill that will dedicate significant new resources to help prevent school violence also received final legislative approval Friday.

Senate Bill 1142 establishes the Safe2Say Program for anonymous reporting of unsafe activities in schools. It also creates a new $60 million School Safety and Security Grant Program to complement a $10 million school safety grant program that was created in 2013.

These programs will fund a variety of initiatives including: hiring school police officers, school resource officers, counselors and/or mental health counselors; alternative education and diversion programs; violence prevention initiatives; school safety and emergency preparedness plans; and, physical upgrades to school buildings and equipment to improve safety.

The measure also directs the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency to develop school safety assessment guidelines and it requires schools provide employees with mandatory training on school safety and security.

Senate leaders have already announced that hearings will be scheduled over the summer to gather input from various stakeholders regarding additional steps that can be taken to improve school safety. 

Other 2018-19 Budget Components Finalized

The complete package of Fiscal Year 2018-19 budget bills also received final legislative approval on Friday. Two of these bills contained provisions from bills I sponsored. House Bill 1929, the Fiscal Code component, includes language from Senate Bill 1058, which defines what constitutes abandoned property in regard to securities.  For a security to be considered abandoned the holder would have to have not increased or decreased the principal, accepted payment of principal or income, or otherwise indicated an interest in the property or in other property of the owner in possession, custody or control of the holder within a consecutive three-year period. It also provides for the calculation of the date on which a holder lost contact with the owner of the securities, including communications via mail and electronic mail.

In addition, House Bill 1448, the Public School Code component, includes language from Senate Bill 540, which I introduced to authorize a school district to excuse a student from school attendance to participate in a musical performance in conjunction with a national veterans’ organization or incorporated unit for an event or funeral. Other budget-related bills:

House Bill 1677 is the Human Services Code component.

House Bill 2078 provides funding for the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs, including the State Athletic Commission.

House Bill 2079 provides funding for the Workers’ Compensation Act and the Pennsylvania Occupational Disease Act.

House Bill 2080 provides funding for the Office of Small Business Advocate.

House Bill 2081 provides funding for the Office of Consumer Advocate.

House Bill 2082 provides funding for the Public School Employees’ Retirement Board.

House Bill 2083 provides funding for the State Employees’ Retirement Board.

House Bill 2084 provides funding for the Philadelphia Parking Authority.

House Bill 2085 provides funding for the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.

House Bill 2086 provides funding for the State Gaming Fund.

House Bill 2242 provides funding for Penn State University.

House Bill 2243 provides funding for University of Pittsburgh.

House Bill 2244 provides funding for Temple University.

House Bill 2245 provides funding for Lincoln University.

House Bill 2246 provides funding for the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine.

Senate Approves Measures Supporting Agriculture, Dairy Farms

Recognizing the importance of agriculture to Pennsylvania’s economy, the Senate passed several measures to support farmers and held a committee hearing to explore ways to promote the dairy industry.

A Tuesday public hearing of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee focused on the current state of the dairy industry. Pennsylvania dairy farming supports 52,000 jobs and contributes $14.7 billion to the state’s economy.

The Senate also approved three Resolutions to protect Pennsylvania’s dairy industry.

Senate Resolution 382 urges the Food & Drug Administration to enforce existing regulations regarding milk labeling. Senate Resolution 384 directs the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to study the efforts of other states to assist their dairy producers. Senate Resolution 403 designates June as Dairy Month in Pennsylvania.

In addition to the legislation promoting the dairy industry, the Senate approved two other measures that will benefit the agriculture community as a whole.

Senate Bill 819 would ensure agritourism activities – such as farm tours, hay rides and corn mazes – are authorized on farms that are part of the state’s farmland preservation program. Currently, some county farmland preservation boards prohibit farm owners from offering such agritourism activities. Senate Bill 819 would set a uniform standard across the state, allowing farmers to take advantage of the growing popularity of agritourism.

Senate Bill 1171 gives farmers greater input on proposed environmental regulations that could impact their farms.

Other Bills Sent to the Governor’s Desk

House Bill 17 amends the Drug and Alcohol Abuse Control Act to specify that a parent or guardian is authorized to provide consent for treatment of their minor child.

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

Senate Bill 431 increases fines for littering. 

Senate Bill 499 allows the Board of Prison Inspectors in Eighth Class counties to meet less frequently.

Senate Bill 530 updates the Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors Act.

Senate Bill 564 requires PENNDOT to include protective fencing in the construction of new bridges and major renovations of existing bridges over interstate highways.

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

Senate Bill 817 addresses property issues involving the Department of General Services.

House Bill 824 establishes the National Guard Youth Challenge Program.

House Bill 863 amends the Real Estate Licensing and Registration Act.

Senate Bill 892 amends the Chiropractic Practice Act to provide clarity on clinical training.

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

Senate Bill 978 addresses drug disposal after hospice care.

House Bill 994 clarifies that the sales of telephones and related accessories are not subject to the gross receipts tax.

Senate Bill 1002 renames bridges and highways.

Senate Bill 1037 reforms and modernizes the Pennsylvania Civil Service Commission.

Senate Bill 1101 reduces the need for some consumers to obtain a recovered theft vehicle title.

Senate Bill 1132 establishes a statewide Alternative Dispute Resolution Commission.

House Bill 1232 requires schools and hospitals to display a poster that includes the statewide toll-free telephone number for reporting suspected child abuse or neglect

House Bill 1419 provides those with low-level, nonviolent criminal records a mechanism to have their record sealed from public view.

House Bill 1782 authorizes the use of alternative rate mechanisms by public utilities.

House Bill 1851 requires the Insurance Department to formalize its exam process with best practices.

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

House Bill 1918 updates and upgrades state law regarding the use of fraudulent credit card devices.

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

Senate Approves Bill Offering Alternatives to Keystone Exam Requirement

The Senate approved legislation I co-sponsored that would provide students with alternatives to Keystone Exams to fulfill high school graduation requirements.

Senate Bill 1095 would offer students who do not score proficient on Keystone Exams alternative pathways to graduate from high school. The Keystone Exam graduation requirement has been delayed until the 2019-20 school year. The alternate graduation options would take effect when the Keystone exam delay expires.

Under Senate Bill 1095, students would have to meet one of the following requirements to graduate:

  • Meet or exceed a composite score across Keystone exams in algebra I, biology, and literature, and demonstrate at least “basic” performance on each of the three exams;
  • Meet or exceed local grade requirements in subjects tested by the Keystone exams and complete a subject-specific advanced placement, international baccalaureate, or armed services vocational aptitude test, gain acceptance in a registered apprenticeship program, or attain a career readiness certificate;
  • Meet or exceed local grade requirements in subjects tested by the Keystone exams and present at least three pieces of evidence from the student’s career portfolio, which is required for federal accountability under the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Senate Bill 1095 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Other Measures Approved by the Senate and sent to the House

House Bill 126 allows certain entities to have non-patient specific epinephrine auto-injectors. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

House Bill 153 amends the state Constitution to reduce the size of the House of Representatives. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

House Bill 159 addresses juvenile delinquency. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

Senate Bill 172 provides a three-year trial period for PENNDOT to place speed cameras in active work zones on limited access highways. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

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

Senate Resolution 394 designates Pennsylvania as a Purple Heart State and recognizes August 7, 2018, as “Purple Heart Day” in Pennsylvania.

Senate Bill 595 authorizes the electronic notarization of documents in cases where the signer appears before the notary by means of real-time audio-video communication.

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

Senate Bill 945 allows for the doubling of donations to the Veterans Trust Fund on two-year vehicle registration renewals.

Senate Bill 1001 empowers the Administration to declare public health emergencies in certain cases.

Senate Bill 1011 amends the state Constitution to create a crime victims’ “Bill of Rights.”

Senate Bill 1047 eliminates the Pittsburgh Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority.

House Bill 1124 provides for the offense of neglect of a care-dependent person and creates the offense of abuse of a care-dependent person. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

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

Senate Bill 1172 amends the Price Gouging Act. 

House Bill 1644 establishes the Collaborative Law Act.  The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

House Bill 1738 gives trained and certified non-municipal police officers the same jurisdictional flexibility as municipal police officers. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

House Bill 2067 designates a portion of Route 73 in Philadelphia as the Police Officer Isabel Nazario Memorial Highway. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

House Bill 2468 requires any government agency to obtain Orphans’ Court approval before using eminent domain to take permanently preserved land. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

House Bill 2477 clarifies the clinical research component of the Medical Marijuana Act. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments. 

Committee Roundup

Aging & Youth

The Senate Aging & Youth Committee approved three bills, including legislation I am sponsoring to update and revises the Older Adults Protective Services Act. Senate Bill 899  aims to detect and reduce elder abuse in the Commonwealth as well as provide protective services for Pennsylvanians over 60 years of age.

House Bill 296 excludes the principal and any interest accrued from a savings bond in determination of eligibility for PACE and PACENET.

House Bill 2133 creates the Kinship Caregiver Navigator Program. 

Appropriations

The Senate Appropriations Committee met daily and approved a number of bills.

House Bill 153 amends the state Constitution to reduce the size of the House of Representatives.

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

Senate Bill 595 authorizes the electronic notarization of documents in cases where the signer appears before the notary by means of real-time audio-video communication.

House Bill 644 removes the cap on funds which can be obtained by federally qualified health centers.

Senate Bill 668 amends and modernizes the Optometric Practice and Licensure Act.

House Bill 863 amends the Real Estate Licensing and Registration Act to increase the educational requirements for the salesperson license and to authorize brokers and salespersons to prepare Broker Price Opinions.

House Bill 864 allows 50/50 drawings at the Pittsburgh Airport and at certain athletic events at institutions of higher education.

Senate Bill 945 addresses donations to the Veterans Trust Fund.

Senate Bill 1001 empowers the Administration to declare public health emergencies in certain cases.

Senate Bill 1095 addresses graduation requirements.

House Bill 1124 provides for the offense of neglect of a care-dependent person and creates the offense of abuse of a care-dependent person. 

Senate Bill 1172 amends the Price Gouging Act. 

House Bill 1232 requires schools and hospitals to display a poster that includes the statewide toll-free telephone number for reporting suspected child abuse or neglect.

House Bill 1239 increases the fine for driving a vehicle without the proper class or type of license from $25 to $200.

House Bill 1305 sets a training requirement for educators who provide secondary transition services.

House Bill 1346 provides for the offense of unlawful use of an unmanned aircraft.

House Bill 1419 provides those with low-level, nonviolent criminal records a mechanism to have their record sealed from public view.

House Bill 1550  addresses provisions for farmland preservation to allow for the voluntary relinquishment of the right to construct a residence.

House Bill 1677 is the Human Services Code component of the Fiscal Year 2018-19 budget.

House Bill 1782 authorizes the use of alternative rate mechanisms by public utilities.

House Bill 1851 requires the Insurance Department to formalize its exam process with best practices. 

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

House Bill 1929 is the Fiscal Code component of the Fiscal Year 2018-19 budget.

House Bill 2078 provides funding for the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs, including the State Athletic Commission, for Fiscal Year 2018-19.

House Bill 2079 provides funding for the Workers’ Compensation Act and the Pennsylvania Occupation Disease Act for Fiscal Year 2018-19.

House Bill 2080 provides funding for the Office of Small Business Advocate for Fiscal Year 2018-19.

House Bill 2081 provides funding for the Office of Consumer Advocate for Fiscal Year 2018-19.

House Bill 2082 provides funding for the Public School Employees’ Retirement Board for Fiscal Year 2018-19.

House Bill 2083 provides funding for the State Employees’ Retirement Board for Fiscal Year 2018-19.

House Bill 2084 provides funding for the Philadelphia Parking Authority for Fiscal Year 2018-19.

House Bill 2085 provides funding for the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission for Fiscal Year 2018-19.

House Bill 2086 provides funding for the State Gaming Fund for Fiscal Year 2018-19.

House Bill 2121 General Fund Budget for Fiscal Year 2018-19.

House Bill 2133 creates the Kinship Caregiver Navigator Program.

House Bill 2242 provides funding for Penn State University for Fiscal Year 2018-19.

House Bill 2243 provides funding for University of Pittsburgh for Fiscal Year 2018-19.

House Bill 2244 provides funding for Temple University for Fiscal Year 2018-19.

House Bill 2245 provides funding for Lincoln University for Fiscal Year 2018-19.

House Bill 2246 provides funding for the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine for Fiscal Year 2018-19.

House Bill 2477 clarifies the clinical research component of the Medical Marijuana Act.

Banking & Insurance

The Senate Banking & Insurance Committee approved two bills.

House Bill 1851 requires the Insurance Department to formalize its exam process with best practices. 

House Bill 2453 amends the Check Casher Licensing Act to strengthen enforcement provisions, increase penalties and permit cashing of certain postdated checks.

Health & Human Services

The Senate Health & Human Services Committee approved two bills.

House Bill 353 requires electronic prescriptions for certain controlled substances.

House Bill 1613 reauthorizes and modernizes the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council.

Judiciary

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved six bills.

Senate Bill 255 allows for small office gaming pools.

House Bill 1124 provides for the offense of neglect of a care-dependent person and creates the offense of abuse of a care-dependent person. 

Senate Bill 1199 requires the Attorney General’s Office to prepare a written statement that includes a bill of rights for a property owner whose real property may be acquired by a governmental or private entity through the use of the entity’s eminent domain authority.

Senate Bill 1209 addresses the backlog of untested rape kits.

House Bill 1419 provides those with low-level, nonviolent criminal records a mechanism to have their record sealed from public view.

House Bill 1929 provides for the use of funds by the First Chance Fund.

Labor & Industry

The Senate Labor & Industry Committee approved three bills.

House Bill 298 allows the Department of Labor & Industry to create an “on-the-job” trainee classification for each building code official certification.

Senate Bill 714 creates a Career Readiness Council.

House Bill 1469 provides for the use of third party agencies and for a system to handle Uniform Construction Code administrator complaints.

Local Government

The Senate Local Government Committee held a public hearing on Tuesday on Senate Bill 1099, a measure that would give some counties, municipalities and school districts more flexibility to utilize reliable, efficient alternatives for the collection of property taxes. The committee approved the bill at a separate meeting later in the week.

The committee also approved House Bill 2468, which requires any government agency to obtain Orphans’ Court approval before using eminent domain to take permanently preserved land.

State Government

The Senate State Government Committee approved House Bill 2477 on Wednesday. The bill clarifies the clinical research component of the Medical Marijuana Act.

Transportation

The Senate Transportation Committee approved two bills on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 1096 authorizes the use of highly automated work zone vehicles by PENNDOT and the Turnpike Commission and allows for the platooning of motor carrier vehicles.

House Bill 1958 authorizes the use of highly automated work zone vehicles by PENNDOT and the Turnpike Commission and allows for the platooning of motor carrier vehicles. 

Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness

The Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee approved five measures on Tuesday.

Senate Resolution 394 designates Pennsylvania as a Purple Heart State and recognizes August 7, 2018, as “Purple Heart Day” in Pennsylvania.

Senate Bill 575 establishes a Volunteer Firefighters Length of Service Award Program.

Senate Bill 933 directs any fines collected as a result of a violation of Pennsylvania’s “Stolen Valor” statute to the Pennsylvania Veterans’ Trust Fund.

House Bill 980 excludes all veterans’ benefit payments from income limitation calculations for any state program, such as PACE and PACENET.

Senate Bill 1079 makes online training more readily available to current and prospective firefighters.

Up Next 

The Senate is in recess and is expected to return to voting session in September.

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