Senator Bob Mensch E-Newsletter

View this email in a browser

Week of October 15, 2018

In this Edition:

  • Mensch Disappointed Consensus Was Not Reached on SB 261
  • Food Stamp Fraud Prevention Bill Receives Final Approval
    Comprehensive Public Welfare Reform Bill Sent to Governor
  • Work Requirement Measure Clears Legislature
  • Alternatives to Keystone Exam Graduation Requirements Set for Enactment
  • Legislation to Relocate Domestic Violence Victims Receives Final Approval
  • Bill Extends Restitution to Government, Businesses
  • Legislation Allows Security to be Discussed in Executive Session
  • Bill Increases Penalties for Habitual DUI Offenders
  • Anti-hazing Bill Sent to Governor
  • Bill Ensuring EMS Reimbursements for Service Sent to Governor
  • Mensch Bill Overhauling Older Adult Protective Services Act Approved by Senate
  • Committee Roundup 

Mensch Disappointed Consensus Was Not Reached on SB 261

I am disappointed that consensus on SB 261 was not reached last night.  The victims of these devastating abuses deserve justice.  In addition to my support for a window to seek civil damages, I believe it is imperative we pass legislation that implements the remaining three recommendations made by the Grand Jury.

Abuse, regardless of circumstance, is a heinous act and needs to be dealt with swiftly and in the toughest terms.  I am encouraged by initiatives such as my Senate Bill 1092, passed earlier this week, which will shield vulnerable children from occurrences of abuse.  The Legislature needs to continue its work on meaningful reforms to ensure our citizens are no longer victimized.

Despite Wednesday’s results, I stand ready to continue our work towards providing justice for all victims.  I urge all parties to come together to build consensus, and I hope that the House and Senate quickly return to Harrisburg to resolve this important issue.


Below are some highlighted bills that passed the Senate this week, the last voting days of the 2017-18 legislative session, plus committee action. Next week, I’ll provide a comprehensive list of all bills. 

Food Stamp Fraud Prevention Bill Receives Final Approval

Legislation I co-sponsored to prevent the fraudulent trafficking of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, commonly known as food stamps, was sent to the Governor this week.

Senate Bill 1127 creates a new penalty for the fraudulent trafficking of SNAP benefits in an amount greater than $2,500. Under the bill, anyone convicted of SNAP trafficking could be found guilty of a second-degree felony and be required to pay restitution of up to three times the amount of the fraud they committed.

Last year, the Inspector General’s Office uncovered a scheme involving a Harrisburg restaurant trading drugs for food stamps and subsequently using them to buy thousands of dollars of supplies from a food wholesale club to be resold for profit. The scam involved the fraudulent use of nearly 60 different SNAP recipients’ benefits.Comprehensive Public Welfare Reform Bill Sent to Governor

A measure addressing egregious abuses of Pennsylvania’s public welfare system received final legislative approval on Wednesday and was sent to the Governor.

Senate Bill 6 addresses the eligibility of high-level felony drug dealers and non-compliant sex offenders for public assistance. The bill places additional controls on the use of Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards. The EBT card provides public assistance recipients with electronic access to their public assistance cash and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamp) benefits.

The measure bans the use of EBT cards at casinos and adult entertainment venues and requires lottery winnings of more than $600 to be counted as a resource for the purpose of calculating eligibility for public assistance. 

Work Requirement Measure Clears Legislature 

A bill setting work requirements for able-bodied recipients of Medical Assistance (MA) benefits cleared the General Assembly on Wednesday and is headed to the Governor.

Under House Bill 2138, able-bodied recipients must be employed, attend a job training program for 20 weeks or more, or complete 12 job training program-related activities in a month in order to continue receiving MA benefits. According to the state Department of Human Services, 51 percent of Pennsylvania’s able-bodied MA recipients do not work.

Alternatives to Keystone Exam Graduation Requirements Set for Enactment 

Legislation I co-sponsored providing alternatives to Keystone Exams to fulfill high school graduation requirements received final legislative approval this week.

Senate Bill 1095 provides several options to students to meet graduation requirements. It requires students to meet or exceed local grade requirements in core subjects as demonstrated by traditional testing.

The Keystone Exam graduation requirement has been delayed until the 2020-21 school year. The alternate graduation options in Senate Bill 1095 would take effect when the Keystone Exam delay expires.

Legislation to Relocate Domestic Violence Victims Receives Final Approval

A bill that would allow domestic violence victims who live in public housing to be relocated is on its way to the Governor.

Senate Bill 919, which I co-sponsored, allows a county housing authority to relocate a domestic violence victim to another unit under the authority’s control or in another county housing authority, or refer the victim to local advocacy organizations for housing assistance.

Bill Extends Restitution to Government, Businesses

Legislation I co-sponsored allowing non-profit organizations, governments and businesses to collect restitution when they are victims of a crime is headed to the Governor’s desk.

Senate Bill 897 closes a current loophole in state law that defines a “victim” specifically as an individual who has suffered physical or mental injury, death or the loss of earnings.  As a result of that limited definition, a recent Supreme Court ruling found that governmental entities and businesses are not eligible for reimbursement when they are victimized and suffer losses.  The bill expands the scope of restitution to include non-profits, corporations, government agencies and similar organizations.

Legislation Allows Security to be Discussed in Executive Session

Local school districts and governments would be permitted to discuss school security matters in non-public executive session under legislation that is headed to the Governor’s desk.

 Senate Bill 1078 balances common-sense concerns about protecting sensitive discussions and documents involving school security with the public’s “right to know.” More than half of the states currently have measures in place which allow for security and safety matters to be discussed in executive session.

Bill Increases Penalties for Habitual DUI Offenders

Legislation increasing the penalties for habitual DUI offenders received final legislative approval this week. Senate Bill 961 creates a new felony DUI offense in Pennsylvania for individuals convicted of their third DUI with a BAC of .16 or higher and all persons convicted of their fourth DUI.

This bill increases the minimum jail term for a person who unintentionally causes the death of another person as a result of a second or subsequent DUI violation from three years to five years if the person has a prior DUI, and from three years to seven years if the offender has two or more prior DUIs.

Senate Bill 961 also increases the penalties for repeat offenders who are not properly licensed or under suspension.  The current penalty is a fine of $500 and imprisonment of 60 to 90 days.  The legislation increases this penalty on a second offense to a fine of $1,000 and imprisonment of at least 90 days.  A third or subsequent offense would result in a $2,500 fine and at least six months in jail.

Anti-hazing Bill Sent to Governor

 Senate Bill 1090, a measure that emphasizes prevention, enforcement and transparency in order to end hazing, received final legislative approval and was sent to the Governor for enactment into law.

The bill, which I co-sponsored, increases penalties for those involved in hazing; requires schools to have policies and reporting procedures in place to stop hazing; and ensures that parents and students are provided with information related to the issue. It establishes parameters on hazing for organizations such as fraternities and sororities, while creating safe harbor provisions so students know they can call for help for someone in distress without fear of prosecution.

Bill Ensuring EMS Reimbursements for Service Sent to Governor

Legislation requiring insurance companies and Medicaid to reimburse emergency medical services agencies for services provided when care is rendered, but transport to a hospital does not take place, was sent to the Governor’s desk.

House Bill 1013 ensures that EMS agencies are properly reimbursed for their services when called out to provide care. Currently, insurance companies and Medicaid are only required to reimburse EMS organizations for services when they include transportation to a hospital.

Mensch Bill Overhauling Older Adult Protective Services Act Approved by Senate

The Senate approved legislation I sponsored to better protect Pennsylvania’s aging senior population.  Unfortunately, the legislative session ended before the House of Representatives could take up the measure.

Senate Bill 899 re-writes the Older Adult Protective Services Act (OAPSA) to improve the delivery of resources and streamline the services provided to older adults. The bill would:

  • Streamline communications between organizations and agencies that care for seniors, and find ways to increase health care efficiency.
  • Address the rise of financial exploitation of older Pennsylvanians by giving financial institutions tools to intervene if they suspect an elder is being taken advantage of through the illegal taking, misuse or concealment of money, property or assets.
  • Provide mandatory reporters (physicians, health care providers and police) with a procedure for reporting suspected elder abuse, as well as give them the tools necessary to work together on the investigations that follow.

One of the most significant provisions of the legislation is to fix a constitutionality issue created by a state Supreme Court decision in 2015.  The decision held that it is unconstitutional for the offenses listed in the Older Protective Services Act to result in a lifetime employment ban without further evaluation.

Senate Bill 899 would have fixed this constitutionality issue and also provide for employment practices that are safe for care organizations and, most importantly, Pennsylvania’s older adults. This is important legislation and I intend to take it up again in the 2019-20 legislative session.

Committee Roundup

Aging & Youth

House Bill 270 increases the PACENET income eligibility limits from $23,500 to $27,500 for individuals and from $31,500 to $35,500 for married couples.

House Bill 1588 requires the Department of Aging to establish a process to cross reference individuals enrolled in the PACE and PACENET program, at least once per month, against the Department of Health death records information.

Appropriations

House Bill 163 removes language relating to federally mandated driver’s license suspensions for drug/controlled substance convictions, as well as state-imposed suspensions for six other crimes.

House Bill 544 addresses the issue of recreational use and liability to protect landowners in the event of injuries to recreational users.

House Bill 599 creates the Results First Project and provides for data collection and analysis by the Independent Fiscal Office.

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

House Bill 1013 requires managed care plans and Medicaid to pay all reasonably necessary costs associated with the provision of emergency services even if the covered individual does not require transport or refuses to be transported.

Senate Bill 1069 provides for the voluntary dissolution of municipal corporations (cities, boroughs, towns, & townships) in Allegheny County and the substitution of unincorporated districts as a new form of government to be administered by the county.

House Bill 1284 enacts the Pennsylvania Business One-Stop Shop Act to provide online, one-stop services to assist businesses.

House Bill 1840 re-establishes a provision in the Workers’ Compensation Act authorizing Impairment Rating Evaluations for claimants, addresses the Supreme Court’s Protz ruling (Protz vs Derry Area School District), and increases the burial benefit in the Workers’ Compensation Act from $3,000 to $7,000.

House Bill 1884 creates the Patient Test Result Information Act.

House Bill 1936 makes editorial and technical changes to the Snowmobile and All-Terrain Vehicle Law.

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.

House Bill 2075 authorizes rate recovery by a water public utility for costs incurred to replace customer-owned lead water service lines.

The Appropriations Committee approved 17 bills on Tuesday.

House Bill 270 increases the PACENET income eligibility limits from $23,500 to $27,500 for individuals and from $31,500 to $35,500 for married couples.

House Bill 324 provides protections for retirement plan benefits due to pension de-risking.

House Bill 645 amends Article XIX-A (Neighborhood Assistance Tax Credit) of the Tax Reform Code of 1971 further providing for tax credit and grant of tax credit and providing for reporting.

House Bill 1228 permits students to self-apply a topical sunscreen during school or at school activities without a physician’s note or prescription.

House Bill 1233 establishes a new standard for assisted outpatient treatment for seriously mentally ill individuals.

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

House Bill 1497 makes several changes to the state Liquor Code.

House Bill 1511 amends the Tax Reform Code providing for definitions and imposition of a hotel occupancy tax and establishing a restricted revenue account to be known as the Tourism Promotion Fund.

House Bill 1822 establishes a new chapter in Title 24 (Education) concerning suicide prevention in institutions of higher education.

House Bill 1886 updates Orphans’ Court report procedures.

House Bill 1951 provides a new offense for selling dextromethorphan to minors.

House Bill 2052 amends the Public School Code by adding a new section concerning military parent student support.

House Bill 2131 requires PENNDOT to plant native species of vegetation along highways where feasible.

House Bill 2157 amends the Public School Code concerning the Commission for Agricultural Education Excellence, the utilization of credits, and the classification of program codes.

House Bill 2557 extends Harrisburg’s expanded taxing capabilities after its exit from Act 47.

House Bill 2638 provides for a remediation program to address contamination at Willow Grove Naval Air Station. 

The Appropriations Committee approved House Bill 2154 on Wednesday. The bill establishes the Conventional Oil and Gas Wells Act.

Education

House Bill 1822 establishes a new chapter in Title 24 (Education) concerning suicide prevention in institutions of higher education.

Health & Human Services

Senate Bill 1270 requires blood testing of young children for lead poisoning.

House Bill 1742  requires child care facilities to publicly display their current Keystone STARS rating.

Judiciary

House Bill 1951 provides a new offense for selling dextromethorphan to minors.

House Bill 2307 amends the Post-Conviction Relief Act and post-conviction DNA testing statute.

House Bill 2308 amends the Post-Conviction Relief Act and post-conviction DNA testing statute.

House Bill 2476 allows Commonwealth employees to carry or store a lawfully owned firearm and ammunition in a vehicle at a state correctional institution.

House Bill 2526 addresses female mutilation.

Law & Justice

House Bill 1497 makes several changes to the state Liquor Code.

Labor & Industry

House Bill 2071 creates the Workplace Violence Prevention Act to give employers the right to implement workplace violence policies and prevention measures and provides for civil action.

Local Government

House Bill 2557 extends Harrisburg’s expanded taxing capabilities after its exit from Act 47. 

Transportation

House Bill 2425 renames a bridge in Lancaster County.

House Bill 2638 provides for a remediation program to address contamination at Willow Grove Naval Air Station.

divider

Twitter and Facebook I post regular updates on legislative action, committee developments, useful state-related information, happenings in the 24th Senatorial District and more on Twitter @SenatorMensch and on my Facebook page.

If you find this e-newsletter useful, I invite you to visit my website www.senatormensch.com for more information about your state government.

Facebook Twitter

If you do not wish to receive this email, click here to unsubscribe.

2018 © Senate of Pennsylvania | senatormensch.com | Privacy Policy