Senator Bob Mensch E-Newsletter

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In this Update:

  • Senator Mensch’s Breast Cancer Checkoff Legislation Passes House of Representatives, Heads to Governor for Enactment
  • Senator Mensch’s Charitable Gift Annuities Legislation Advances Out of Senate Banking and Insurance Committee
  • Legislative Budget and Finance Committee Receives Prestigious Impact Award for Sixth Year Straight
  • Merck Sharp & Dohme Federal Credit Union – POW/MIA Chair of Honor Dedication
  • Senate Special Committee Releases Report on Election Reforms
  • Bill to Improve Safety in Daycare Facilities Approved by Senate
  • Senate Votes to Permit “Mixed Drinks to Go” Permanently and Enacts Other Steps to Help Hospitality Sector Employers
  • Legislation Preserving Nursing Home Visits During a Pandemic Approved by General Assembly
  • Senate Approves Bill Requiring Legislative Approval of RGGI Deal
  • Senate Observes Juneteenth End of Slavery
  • Happy Father’s Day
  • Department of Human Services Announces Public Comment Period for Home and Community-Based Services Federal Funding Available through American Rescue Plan Act

Senator Mensch’s Breast Cancer Checkoff Legislation Passes House of Representatives, Heads to Governor for Enactment

6/15/21 - PA House; SB445

My Senate Bill 445 was passed by the House of Representatives this week. This legislation would give individuals renewing either their vehicle registration or driver’s license an option to donate to the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition. The bill now goes to the Governor for enactment.

Read more here.

Senator Mensch’s Charitable Gift Annuities Legislation Advances Out of Senate Banking and Insurance Committee

6/15/21 - Charitable Gift Annuity Exemption Act (SB 731)

Legislation I sponsored advanced out of the Pennsylvania Senate’s Banking and Insurance Committee this week. Senate Bill 731 would provide protections for annuitants who are donors to a charity that provides for Charitable Gift Annuities. The bill now heads to the Senate floor for a vote.

Charitable Gift Annuities provide donors the opportunity to support a charitable organization while receiving fixed annuity payments. The payments can begin immediately, or the donor can choose to defer the payments to a future date. The terms of the arrangement are set forth in a contract signed by the non-profit and the donor. The arrangement terminates on the death of the annuitant(s), at which point the non-profit uses the remaining funds on its mission.

It is very difficult for smaller charitable organizations to utilize Charitable Gift Annuities under the current law, because the amount of unrestricted cash or publicly traded securities needed to cover the minimum is impractical and unworkable. Under the current law, a smaller foundation or charity must commit a significant amount of foundation resources to the annuity and not to their mission.

Read more here. 

Legislative Budget and Finance Committee Receives Prestigious Impact Award for Sixth Year Straight

As Chairman of the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LBFC), I am proud to announce that for the sixth year in a row, the Committee has had its work recognized with a Certificate of Impact from the National Legislative Program Evaluation Society (NLPES). The Certificate of Impact is presented to legislative offices that produce evaluations or audit reports that resulted in documented public policy changes, program improvements, dollar savings or other public impacts.

I’m pleased that the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee has been recognized for the sixth straight year as a recipient of this prestigious award. With this report, we were able to demonstrate to the Department of Environmental Protection the numerous ways to improve their programs while saving money and making policy changes. These changes have made a positive impact on the department, and LBFC was happy to assist in the process.

Read more here. 

Merck Sharp & Dohme Federal Credit Union – POW/MIA Chair of Honor Dedication

 

This week, one of my staff members attended the Merck Sharp & Dohme Federal Credit Union Quakertown Branch POW/MIA Chair of Honor Ceremony and presented them with a Senate certificate. This Chair of Honor commemorates American service men and women who are prisoners of war or missing in action.

Senate Special Committee Releases Report on Election Reforms

The bipartisan Special Committee on Election Integrity and Reform released a report this week detailing its findings and recommendations to strengthen Pennsylvania’s election system.

The committee was created to review all aspects of the November 2020 election. The panel held a series of hearings in March and April to review election security and best practices in other states, state and local perspectives on the administration of elections, and the management of elections in Allegheny and Philadelphia counties.

In addition, the committee created a webpage to encourage Pennsylvanians to share their experiences in the 2020 General Election. The survey generated more than 20,000 responses.

The testimony and feedback received by the committee led to a series of recommendations to boost election security, improve voter access and support counties in the efficient administration of elections. You can read the report here.

Bill to Improve Safety in Daycare Facilities Approved by Senate

The Senate approved a bill to improve safety in state-regulated daycare facilities and sent the bill to the House of Representatives for consideration.

The legislation designates the locations where smoke detectors must be installed and requires that they are interconnected so that if one is triggered, they all go off.

The measure was introduced in response to a tragic fire that claimed the lives of five young children in Erie on August 11, 2019. Only one smoke detector was found in the building and it was located in the attic.

Senate Votes to Permit “Mixed Drinks to Go” Permanently and Enacts Other Steps to Help Hospitality Sector Employers

In the ongoing effort to help employers in the hospitality sector get back on their feet following COVID-19 restrictions, the Senate voted to permanently allow “mixed drinks to go” from restaurants and hotels, extend sales for outdoor dining and expand the number of locations where ready-to-drink mixed drinks can be sold.

The measure makes permanent the sale of mixed drinks to-go by restaurant or hotel licensees for off-premises consumption. Originally, mixed drinks to-go was a temporary measure allowed during the COVID-19 disaster declaration. It also allows larger outdoor dining spaces, off-premises catering permits without restrictions, and more.

It also allows a different type of product called Ready-to-Drink cocktails to be sold by restaurants, grocery stores, convenience stores, and beer distributors for off-premises consumption. Restrictions are set on alcohol-by-volume content and container size.

Legislation Preserving Nursing Home Visits During a Pandemic Approved by General Assembly

 

Legislation to allow family members to safely visit long-term care facilities as essential caregivers for Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable citizens was approved by the Senate and sent to the governor for enactment.

During the pandemic, nursing homes and other long-term care facilities were closed to visits from friends and family. The prolonged separation negatively impacted the overall health and well-being of facility residents.

The measure would allow a designated essential family caregiver to be named for each resident of a licensed long-term care facility. Protocols would be put in place to screen the essential caregivers and require additional steps to gain access to the facilities.

Senate Approves Bill Requiring Legislative Approval of RGGI Deal

In a bipartisan vote, the Senate approved legislation requiring legislative approval before Gov. Tom Wolf can have Pennsylvania join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

Under the measure, the Pennsylvania Carbon Dioxide Cap and Trade Authorization Act, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) would be required to provide a public comment period of at least 180 days and hold a minimum of four public hearings in locations that would be directly affected economically by the proposal.

Following the public comment period, DEP would be mandated to submit a report to the House and Senate Environmental Resources & Energy committees detailing the specific economic and environmental impacts that joining RGGI and imposing a carbon tax would have on affected communities, the PJM Interconnection region and ratepayers. The bill was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Senate Observes Juneteenth Holiday

Senate offices will be closed Friday to observe the Juneteenth holiday.

The June 19 holiday honors the end of slavery by commemorating the date in 1865 when Union Army Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, and announced to enslaved African Americans that the Civil War had ended and they were free. Granger’s proclamation came more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

Happy Father’s Day

 

To all fathers: I hope you have a wonderful Father’s Day this Sunday. This is the day when we celebrate your essential role in family and community. May your day be filled with love and gratitude.

Department of Human Services Announces Public Comment Period for Home and Community-Based Services Federal Funding Available through American Rescue Plan Act

The Department of Human Services (DHS) released for public comment Pennsylvania’s proposed spending plan for enhanced federal funding for home and community-based services covered through Medicaid. The enhanced funding is made available to states through the American Rescue Plan Act. The plan was submitted to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) earlier this week for consideration. DHS is accepting public comment through July 6, 2021.

The American Rescue Plan Act provides qualifying states with a temporary 10 percent increase to the federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP) for certain home and community-based services funded through Medicaid. States must reinvest the federal funds attributable to the increased FMAP to enhance, expand or strengthen home and community-based services under the Medicaid program. 

Pennsylvania’s proposed plan for this enhanced funding focuses on nine domains:

  • Increased access to home and community-based services: The enhanced funding will be used to support county and provider infrastructure necessary to facilitate growth in existing home and community-based services and expand programs to support target populations like children with complex medical needs who require in-home nursing services.
     
  • Home and community-based services payment rate and benefit enhancements: Pennsylvania is seeking to support service providers in staff recruiting and retention efforts by providing additional resources to fund sign-on and retention bonuses and providing the opportunity for increasing rates across home and community-based service systems.
     
  • Support to improve functional capabilities of people with disabilities: Providers may use funding to support increased use of assistive technology for people served through this system and support staff training in infection control and prevention. Funding can also enhance incident detection and monitoring systems for home and community-based services licensing and monitoring.
     
  • Mental health and substance use disorder services: This funding will help support expanded capacity within the mental health and substance use disorder services system. Pennsylvania’s plan proposes supporting access to counseling for COVID-19 frontline workers, building capacity in student assistance programs, expanding telehealth usage, and helping counties implement assisted outpatient therapy for people with serious mental illness involved in the civil court system.
     
  • Workforce support: The funding will allow Pennsylvania to enhance and expand training programs focused on care and service providers within Pennsylvania’s home and community-based service systems, support the workforce through recruitment and retention efforts, and embed trauma-informed care within the system.
     
  • Caregiver support: Pennsylvania is seeking to develop a centralized registry of direct care workers that will help identify supports that best meet their care needs. This funding will also support expanding respite and family support services for individuals waiting for services and for families of children with complex medical needs.
     
  • Transition support: This funding will support adaptations necessary to facilitate successful transitions from institutional or congregate care settings to home and community-based placements. Pennsylvania is also seeking to expand access to home and community-based services by expanding waiver capacity and supporting transitions from institutional settings.
     
  • Supplies and equipment: Pennsylvania is seeking to aid providers working to safely resume in-person services and visitation by reimbursing for supplies and expenses necessary to support safety for people in care, staff, and their families. This funding can also support purchasing of emergency and infection control supplies.
     
  • Home and community-based services capacity building: Funding will support improved care management and coordination, enhance use of technology like electronic health records, expand training for staff, and support work to address social determinants of health.

Interested stakeholders and parties can review Pennsylvania’s submitted plan and provide feedback by July 6, 2021 either in writing or in a virtual public comment session for individuals who are not able to submit written feedback. A more detailed plan for enhanced funding will be released after public comments are considered and the department receives a response from CMS.

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