Week of October 15, 2018
In this Edition:
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
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