Senator Bob Mensch E-Newsletter

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Week of January 27, 2020

In this Update:

  • Senate Approves Mensch Bill to Cover Cost of Supplemental Breast Cancer Screenings
  • Fair Access to Cancer Treatment Act Approved by Senate
  • Human Trafficking Bill set for Enactment
  • Other Bills Receiving Final Approval
  • Senate Acts to Assist Fire, EMS Companies
  • Bill Increasing Penalties for Repeat DUI Drivers Approved by Senate
  • Senate Votes to Move Up Date of Future PA Presidential Primary Elections
  • Other Bills Approved by the Senate and Sent to the House
  • Senator Dave Arnold Sworn into Office
  • Committee Roundup
  • Next Week

1/29/20 – Breast Density Screening Insurance Coverage (SB 595)

On Wednesday the Senate approved legislation I sponsored requiring insurers to cover supplemental screenings for women at high risk for breast cancer, including women with extremely dense breast tissue.

Both cancer and density appear white on a mammogram, so detecting tumors is much more difficult in denser breasts without further screening provided by an ultrasound or an MRI. Women who have extremely dense breast tissue are four to six times more likely to develop breast cancer. Currently, insurance companies do not cover these extra screening costs for women who are at an increased risk.

While about 40 percent of women who get mammograms have dense breast, almost 95 percent of women are unaware of their own breast density, according to a recent poll. Younger women are more at risk since about 50 percent of woman under 50 years of age have dense breast.

Senate Bill 595 would amend the state Insurance Company Law to extend mandated insurance coverage to ultrasound screening and magnetic resonance imaging if a mammogram demonstrates extremely dense breast tissue. This standard is based on the Breast Imagining Reporting and Data System established by the American College of Radiology.

Additionally, insurance coverage will also be extended if a woman is believed to be at increased risk for breast cancer due to family history or prior personal history of breast cancer, positive genetic testing or other indications.

Every woman deserves the best breast cancer screening that is available. Senate Bill 595 is a significant step forward toward recognizing breast density as an increased risk factor. I am confident that this legislation will make a difference in the lives of many affected by this terrible disease.

Senate Bill 595 is supported by the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition. The bill passed in the Senate 48-0 and will now be sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.


The Senate legislation Wednesday to help cancer patients access potentially lifesaving drugs.

Under House Bill 427, the Fair Access to Cancer Treatment Act, health insurance policies that cover treatments for stage four metastatic cancers will not be able to limit or exclude innovative drugs for those patients if the drugs have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for this use and are consistent with best practices.

Patients no longer will have to first demonstrate that they failed to respond to a different drug or drugs before they are provided coverage. The amended bill was returned to the House of Representatives for action.


The Senate gave final approval on Monday to a measure I’m co-sponsoring setting significant penalties for the solicitation or advertisement of the sexual services of victims of human trafficking. Senate Bill 60 now goes to the Governor’s desk. The bill, commonly called the “Buyer Beware Act,” builds on recent efforts by the General Assembly to curb human trafficking.

The measure imposes a first-degree felony charge on those who recruit, harbor, entice, transport, or advertise human trafficking victims for sexual servitude. The bill also significantly increases monetary penalties on those who patronize a victim of human trafficking.

Other Bills Receiving Final Approval 

Senate Bill 133 allows gubernatorial candidates select their running mates after the primary election. This constitutional amendment must be approved in two consecutive legislative sessions.

Senate Bill 690 increases the public bidding threshold requirement from $1,500 to $6,000 for Incorporated Towns.

Senate Bill 691 increases the public bidding threshold requirement from $1,500 to $6,000 for Second Class Townships.

Senate Bill 692 increases the public bidding threshold from $1,500 to $6,000 for Boroughs and Third Class Cities.

Senate Bill 906 institutes a moratorium on the closing of the Polk and White Haven State Centers.


On Tuesday, the Senate approved two bills I am co-sponsoring that would help fire and EMS companies deal with funding challenges and retention of members. Pennsylvania has nearly 2,450 fire companies – including about 2,350 volunteer departments, more than any other state.

Senate Bill 908 would create a voter referendum to expand the Volunteer Fire Company, Ambulance Service and Rescue Squad Assistance Program to include paid fire and EMS companies. The bill would also increase the maximum loan amounts allowed by the program, expand the allowable list of uses of Fire Relief Funding and review the current funding formula.  It would also move the administration of the Fire Relief Program from the Auditor General to the State Fire Commissioner.

Senate Bill 910  would extend the life of the Fire Company and Emergency Medical Service Grant Program to June 2024. The program, which was created in 2003, is currently set to expire in June of this year. The bill would also expand the use of the program to include recruitment and retention programs, as well as volunteer fire length of service awards.


The Senate on Tuesday approved legislation I’m co-sponsoring that substantially increases the legal penalties imposed on repeat DUI offenders.

Senate Bill 773 — known as Deana’s Law in memory of Deana Eckman, a Delaware County woman who was killed by a drunk driver who had five previous DUI convictions — would increase jail time for those convicted of three or more DUIs and doubles the required period for anti-DUI interlock devices on any vehicle operated by a person with three or more DUI convictions. Offenders arrested for a third or subsequent DUI would also be required to wear continuous alcohol monitoring devices.

Senate Bill 773 is now before the House of Representatives for consideration.


Pennsylvanians could play a more prominent role in future Presidential primary elections under a bill approved Wednesday by the Senate.

In current practice, most Presidential primary elections are already decided before Pennsylvania voters have a chance to cast their ballots in late April. Senate Bill 779 , which I am co-sponsoring, would move up the date of the primary in Presidential election years from the fourth Tuesday in April to the third Tuesday in March.

This would allow voters in Pennsylvania to cast their ballots the same day as other influential states, including Arizona, Florida and Illinois. The bill would not take effect until the 2024 election, and election dates would not change in non-Presidential years.

Pennsylvania is a large state with engaged voters and plenty of historical significance. It’s difficult to accept that we have to sit out presidential primaries as we’ve had to do for years. This is a straight-forward step to ensure our citizens have a say in the direction of this great country. Senate Bill 779 was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Other Bills Approved by the Senate and Sent to the House

Senate Bill 30 creates a state housing tax credit.

Senate Bill 491 provides for the appointment of two Certified Pennsylvania Evaluators by the Governor to serve on the State Board of Certified Real Estate Appraisers.

Senator Dave Arnold Sworn into Office

Senator Dave Arnold was sworn into office on Wednesday. He was elected to represent the 48th Senatorial District in a January 14 special election. The 48th District includes all of Lebanon County, as well as northern York County and southern Dauphin County. Prior to running for the Senate, Senator Arnold served 14 years as the Lebanon County District Attorney. 

Committee Roundup

Bills approved in committees. 

Appropriations

Senate Bill 30 creates a state housing tax credit.

Senate Bill 309 creates First-time Homebuyers Savings Accounts.

Senate Bill 462 repeals outdated School Code provisions.

Senate Bill 494 authorizes political subdivisions and authorities to enter into contracts for services when two consecutive advertisements fail to induce bids.

Senate Bill 640 authorizes the Commonwealth to join the interstate Physical Therapist Compact.

Senate Bill 798 removes a loophole relating to dangerous dogs from the Dog Law.

Senate Bill 908 creates a voter referendum to expand the Volunteer Fire Company, Ambulance Service and Rescue Squad Assistance Program to include paid fire and EMS companies. The bill would also increase the maximum loan amounts allowed by the program.

Senate Bill 910 reauthorizes the Fire & EMS Grant Program until June 30, 2024.

House Bill 1578 amends Title 68 (Real and Personal Property) to make technical changes and clarifications.

House Bill 64 authorizes state professional and occupational licensing boards to allow carryover of excess continuing education credits.

Senate Bill 417 requires successful write-in candidates receive at least the same number of write-in votes as would be required if they had filed nomination petitions.

Senate Bill 679 directs the Environmental Quality Board to develop regulations that authorize counties to adopt a program for stream cleaning and maintenance and the removal of obstructions and flood-related hazards from local waterways.

Senate Bill 773 increases penalties for those who have multiple DUI convictions.

House Bill 775 requires the Department of Aging to review the PACE and PACENET programs to remove deceased enrollees.

Senate Bill 779 moves Pennsylvania’s Presidential primary election day to the third Tuesday of March.

Senate Bill 997 clarifies military service credit for retirement purposes for Pennsylvania State Police members.

House Bill 1001 establishes standards for the licensure and regulation of (human) milk banks.

House Bill 1100 establishes the Energy and Fertilizer Manufacturing Tax Credit program. 

Environmental Resources & Energy 

Joint public hearing with the Senate Transportation Committee on the environmental and economic impacts of Pennsylvania’s participation in the 12-state Transportation Climate Initiative. Video & Written Testimony 

Finance

Senate Bill 997 clarifies military service credit for retirement purposes for Pennsylvania State Police members.

Judiciary

Senate Bill 968 consolidates the Department of Corrections with the Board of Probation and Parole and transfers the supervision of offenders and certain administrative functions from the board to the department and preserving parole decision–making responsibilities within the board.

Senate Bill 969 amends the Crime Victims Act to make technical changes related to the consolidation of the Department of Corrections and the Board of Probation and Parole.

Senate Bill 976 adds Veterans Courts to the list of problem-solving courts that may be established by a court of common pleas and by the Municipal Court of Philadelphia.

Labor & Industry

Public hearing on Senate Bill 580, establishing the Pennsylvania Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program. Video & Written Testimony

Law & Justice

Public hearing on the PA Liquor Control Board 2018-19 Annual Report. Video

Majority Policy

Public hearing to discuss implementation of election modernization initiatives passed in 2019. Agenda & Video

Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness

Senate Bill 932 expands the allowable uses for volunteer firefighter relief associations regarding state funding and would allow organizations with paid and volunteer firefighters to use that funding.

Senate Bill 987 restructures and enhances the Office of State Fire Commissioner. The measure would require Senate Confirmation of the Fire Commissioner, designates the Office of Fire Commissioner as the lead agency for fire services in the Commonwealth, and establishes a State Fire Advisory Board.

Senate Bill 996 exempts individuals driving Emergency Medical Service (EMS) vehicles, such as ambulances, from the requirement to hold EMS certification.

Next Week

The Senate returns to voting session on Monday at 1 p.m., and on Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. the governor gives his budget address to a joint session of the legislature. You can watch session and the address live at PASenateGOP.com.

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