Senator Bob Mensch E-Newsletter

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Week of June 18, 2019

In this Update:

  • Victims’ Rights Bills Receive Final Legislative Approval
  • Additional Bills Sent to Governor for Enactment into Law
  • Senate Approves Bills to Combat Opioid Crisis
  • Mensch Committee Releases Reports on DEP Permits, Standardized Testing
  • Senate Advances Several Budget-related Bills
  • Additional Bills Sent to the House of Representatives
  • Committee Roundup
  • Next Week

Victims’ Rights Bills Receive Final Legislative Approval

A package of bills protecting the rights of crime victims and providing stronger protections for victims of violent offenses received final legislative approval this week.

The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 276, which amends the state Constitution to create a crime victims’ “Bill of Rights,” on Wednesday. The referendum will appear on ballots across the state this fall.

The measure would ensure crime victims have a constitutional right to notices of hearings and other proceedings, protection from the accused, notice of release or escape, full and timely restitution and other protections to help balance the rights of victims with the rights of criminals.

Also sent them to the Governor’s desk for enactment into law:

House Bill 315 criminalizes the act of female genital mutilation. Offenders could be found guilty of a first-degree felony.

Senate Bill 399 provides for a comprehensive bill of rights for survivors of sexual assault.

House Bill 502 would ensure crime victims have the right to attend proceedings unless a judge determines the victim’s testimony could be affected. Current law allows judges and defense attorneys to exclude a witness from court proceedings.

House Bill 504 would prevent rape victims from being questioned in court about prior victimization. Pennsylvania’s rape shield law prevents questioning about a victim’s sexual history for the purpose of attacking the victim’s character, but the law does not extend to prior victimization.

Senate Bill 469 extends the existing Tender Years Exception – which allows certain out-of-court statements to be admissible as evidence – to include individuals with intellectual disabilities or autism.

Senate Bill 479 expands the Tender Years Exception to a wider variety of crimes, including serious sexual offenses. This exception currently only applies in cases of homicide, assault, kidnapping, burglary, robbery, and a narrow number of sexual offenses.

Additional Bills Sent to Governor for Enactment into Law 

Senate Bill 190 conveys property in Somerset Township, Somerset County.

Senate Bill 338 increases the allowable width for farm equipment on roads.

House Bill 384 increases the fine for driving a vehicle without the proper endorsement for that particular type of vehicle.

House Bill 619 establishes June 19 as “Juneteenth National Freedom Day.”

House Bill 1065 designates Route 3033 bridge over Redbank Creek in Brookville Borough, Jefferson County, as the CPL James Slagle 2nd Ranger Battalion Army Ranger WWII Memorial Bridge.

House Bill 1166 increases the fees paid for river pilot services on the Delaware River and Bay beginning in 2020.

Senate Approves Bills to Combat Opioid Crisis 

The Senate approved a package of bills this week to combat the state’s heroin and opioid epidemic by improving prescription drug monitoring, limiting opioid prescriptions, targeting drug dealers and taking other steps to limit the damage inflicted by the addiction crisis in Pennsylvania communities.

The bills approved by the Senate and sent to the House of Representatives include:

Senate Bill 93, which creates a new statute establishing a second degree felony for the delivery or distribution of an illicit drug that results in “serious bodily injury” to the user.

Senate Bill 112, which limits the prescription for a controlled substance containing an opioid to seven days unless there is a medical emergency that puts the patients’ health or safety at risk.

Senate Bill 118, which creates a “Recovery to Work” pilot program to connect individuals in recovery with occupations through local workforce development boards

Senate Bill 223, which allows providers to leave a dose package of naloxone with an on-scene caregiver of a patient who overdosed on opioids.

Senate Bill 432, which allows Medicaid Managed Care Organizations to have access to information in the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.

Senate Bill 572, which requires patients prescribed opioids to enter into treatment agreements with a prescriber to ensure they understand the risks of addiction and dangers of overdose.

Senate Bill 675, which requires certification of office-based prescribers of the addiction treatment drug buprenorphine, and limits the drug’s use.

The package of bills is a continuation of bipartisan efforts led by Senate Republicans over the past six years to combat the opioid epidemic.

Beginning in 2014, lawmakers joined the Center for Rural Pennsylvania for a series of hearings to study the problem and identify solutions. As a result of these hearings, new laws were created to limit prescriptions, improve and expand addiction treatment, and improve public education about the dangers of drug abuse.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, opioid drug deaths statewide rose steadily in the early part of the decade before peaking at 5,559 in 2017. The number of opioid drug deaths finally declined in 2018 to 4,267.  At the same time, opioid prescriptions in Pennsylvania declined by 14 percent between 2016 and 2017.

Mensch Committee Releases Reports on DEP Permits, Standardized Testing

On Wednesday, I chaired a meeting of the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to release two reports, one evaluating the performance of DEP’s Water Permit Programs, and one reviewing the scope of Standardized Testing in Public Schools and evaluating the effectiveness.

You can view the meeting and the reports here.

Senate Advances Several Budget-related Bills 

With the June 30 deadline for approving a state spending plan for Fiscal Year 2019-20 looming, the Senate approved several budget-related bills this week and sent them to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Senate Bill 166 is the Fiscal Year 2019-20 Capital Budget.

Senate Bill 235 provides Fiscal Year 2019-20 funding for the Bureau of Professional & Occupational Affairs.

Senate Bill 236 Workers’ Compensation Act and the Pennsylvania Occupation Disease Act funding for Fiscal Year 2019-20.

Senate Bill 237 provides Fiscal Year 2019-20 funding for the Office of Small Business Advocate.

Senate Bill 238 provides Fiscal Year 2019-20 funding for the Office of Consumer Advocate.

Senate Bill 239 provides Fiscal Year 2019-20 funding for the Public School Employees’ Retirement Board.

Senate Bill 240 provides Fiscal Year 2019-20 funding for the State Employees’ Retirement Board.

Senate Bill 241 provides Fiscal Year 2019-20 funding for the Philadelphia Parking Authority.

Senate Bill 242 provides Fiscal Year 2019-20 funding for the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.

Senate Bill 243 State Gaming Fund Appropriations funding for Fiscal Year 2019-20.

Senate Bill 733 provides for the Pennsylvania Gaming Economic Development and Tourism Fund Capital Budget for 2019.

Additional Bills Sent to the House of Representatives 

Senate Bill 123 limits parole re-application for sexually violent offenders. The bill increases the minimum time between parole hearings from one year to three years.

Senate Bill 321 gives municipalities the option to ban gaming establishments.

Senate Bill 536 creates the Public Higher Education Funding Commission.

Senate Bill 634 creates a “Conservation Excellence Grant Program” to provide financial and technical assistance to farmers to install and implement best management practices.

Senate Bill 661 creates the Commonwealth Specialty Crop Block Grant Fund.

Senate Bill 724 amends Title 24 (Education) and Title 71 (State Government) to make technical corrections to certain sections added or amended by Act 5 of 2017 and adds provisions for nonparticipating employer withdrawal liability under the Public School Employees’ Retirement Fund.

Committee Roundup

Appropriations

Senate Bill 166 is the 2019-20 Capital Budget.

Senate Bill 235 provides Fiscal Year 2019-20 funding for the Bureau of Professional & Occupational Affairs.

Senate Bill 236 provides Workers’ Compensation Act and the Pennsylvania Occupation Disease Act funding for Fiscal Year 2019-20.

Senate Bill 237 provides Fiscal Year 2019-20 funding for the Office of Small Business Advocate.

Senate Bill 238 provides Fiscal Year 2019-20 funding for the Office of Consumer Advocate.

Senate Bill 239 provides Fiscal Year 2019-20 funding for the Public School Employees’ Retirement Board.

Senate Bill 240 provides Fiscal Year 2019-20 funding for the State Employees’ Retirement Board.

Senate Bill 241 provides Fiscal Year 2019-20 funding for the Philadelphia Parking Authority.

Senate Bill 242 provides Fiscal Year 2019-20 funding for the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.

Senate Bill 243 provides State Gaming Fund Appropriations funding for Fiscal Year 2019-20.

Senate Bill 634 creates a “Conservation Excellence Grant Program” to provide financial and technical assistance to farmers to install and implement best management practices.

Senate Bill 661 creates the Commonwealth Specialty Crop Block Grant Fund.

House Bill 1166 increases the fees paid for river pilot services on the Delaware River and Bay beginning in 2020.

The Appropriations Committee approved 10 bills on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 147 empowers the Pennsylvania Game Committee to allow Sunday hunting.

House Bill 195 allows pharmacies to synchronize monthly medication fill dates for a patient so all of their prescriptions are filled on the same day of the month.

House Bill 276 adds a victims’ bill of rights to the Pennsylvania Constitution.

Senate Bill 325 officially recognizes Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists under Pennsylvania statute. 

House Bill 330 amends the Taxpayer Relief Act making editorial changes to incorrect references.

House Bill 370 addresses provisions for farmland preservation.

Senate Bill 485 provides for the sale of antlerless deer hunting licenses through the Game Commission’s Pennsylvania Automated Licensing System.

Senate Bill 590 creates the Charter School Funding Advisory Commission.

House Bill 751 makes technical and editorial changes to the Public Utility Code.

House Bill 826 authorizes non-profits affiliated with major league and collegiate sports teams to conduct 50/50 drawings for charity.

Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure

Senate Bill 67 addresses the adoption of the Psychology Interjurisdictional Compact to allow for tele-psychological practice across state lines and temporary in-person services.

Senate Bill 258 provides for pipeline emergency management information.

Senate Bill 284 requires pipeline operators to provide current emergency response plans to the Public Utility Commission. 

Senate Bill 586 addresses licensing requirements for cosmetologists.

Education

House Bill 265 amends the Public School Code concerning transfers of credits between institutions of higher education.

Senate Bill 751 reforms the educator evaluation system.

The Education Committee approved House Bill 1615 on Wednesday. The bill amends the Public School Code regarding educational tax credits, further providing for definitions.

Finance

House Bill 262 provides an inheritance tax exemption for a transfer of property to a child age 21 or younger from a natural parent, adoptive parent or stepparent.

House Bill 1232 amends the Fiscal Code to update the Enhanced Revenue Collection Account.

House Bill 1549 addresses a looming tax on Pennsylvania breweries.

Health & Human Services

Senate Bill 277 allows in-home care providers to review an individual’s finances and provide care pending completion of the Medicaid financial eligibility process.

House Bill 786 establishes accreditation criteria for Level III trauma centers.

Law & Justice

Senate Bill 61 amends the list of organizations eligible to receive a wine and spirits auction permit.

House Bill 131 amends the Liquor Code to further define “alcoholic cider” and “fermented fruit beverage.”

House Bill 423 creates a referendum which would allow voters to choose whether a municipality should stay completely “dry,” allow limited alcohol sales or convert to “wet.”

House Bill 947 sets the hours of operation for breweries, distilleries and limited distilleries.

House Bill 1524 allows the transfer of some liquor licenses to designated tourist development projects. 

Local Government

Senate Bill 493 defines “normal regular repairs” that a property owner may make without triggering a tax reassessment.

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

Senate Bill 495 sets a process for reducing membership of a borough council.

Senate Bill 688 amends Title 8 (Boroughs and Incorporated Towns) addressing powers and duties of elected officials, the organization of council, quorums, participation by telecommunication devices, voting, compensation and eligibility; and salaries for mayors.

Senate Bill 689 amends the Second Class Township Code standardizing the maximum salaries of supervisors, and adjusting the annual maximum salary limits according to changes in the Consumer Price Index.

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

Senate Bill 691 increases the public bidding threshold 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.

Majority Policy

On Monday, the Senate Majority Policy Committee and Senate Minority Policy Committee held a joint public hearing on the feasibility of public school district consolidation in Pennsylvania.

Hearing Video

State Government

Senate Bill 300 allows voters who are registered as independents to vote in primary elections.

Senate Bill 411 amends the State Constitution to remove some restrictions on absentee ballots.

Senate Bill 414 removes some restrictions on absentee ballots.

Senate Bill 418 addresses the minimum number of ballots that counties are required to print.

Senate Bill 421 eliminates “straight party” voting.

Senate Bill 422 establishes the Pennsylvania Election Law Advisory Board.

House Bill 448 adds the PEMA Director and the State Police Commissioner to the Pennsylvania Commission for the U.S. Semiquincentennial.

Senate Bill 693 amends state election law.

House Bill 1461 expands the investigative powers of the state Inspector General.

Transportation

Senate Bill 114 requires motorists to clear snow and ice from the top of their vehicles before driving. 

Senate Bill 778 provides for the Public Transportation Trust Fund.

House Bill 915 allows milk haulers to travel on highways during a declaration of disaster emergency.

House Bill 1077 permits the transportation of multiple hot ingots a distance of up to 125 miles.

Urban Affairs & Housing

Senate Bill 31 eliminates the $25 million cap on Realty Transfer Tax revenues deposited into the Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement Program.

Senate Bill 352 provides local taxing authorities with the option to designate deteriorated areas within their communities and offer an incentive to developers and property owners who are approved to rebuild or improve the blighted property.

House Bill 407 provides a standard definition for the term “blighted property.”

Senate Bill 438 establishes a county demolition and rehabilitation fund.

Next Week 

The Senate returns to voting session on Monday at 1 p.m. You can watch session live at PASenateGOP.com.

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