Senator John DiSanto E-Newsletter

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Week of April 8, 2019

In this Update:

  • Senate Passes Package of Bills to Protect Crime Victims
  • DiSanto Bill Offers Support to Communities Facing Power Plant Closures
  • Senate Approves Measure to Help Homebound Students
  • Bills Sent to Governor for Enactment into Law
  • Committee Roundup
  • Community Calendar
  • Up Next

Senator DiSanto welcomes Rabbi Ron Muroff of Chisuk Emuna Congregation, Harrisburg, as Guest Chaplain of the Senate. This session was followed by a special Joint Session of the House & Senate to honor the victims of the attack at the Tree of Life Synagogue last year and to pass resolutions designating April 10, 2019 as “Stronger Than Hate Day in Pennsylvania.”


Senate Passes Package of Bills to Protect Crime Victims

As part of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, the Pennsylvania Senate passed a package of bills designed to protect crime victims and ensure they have more opportunities to participate in the judicial process.

The package of bills includes measures to give crime victims more rights to attend criminal trials; expand the rights of individuals with intellectual disabilities and autism to provide testimony; provide hearsay exceptions for statements made by young witnesses of cases of sexual assault; shield rape victims against irrelevant cross examinations; and provide for a bill of rights for sexual assault survivors.

We have many protections for the rights of the accused, but too often the victims of crime are not treated fairly by our criminal justice system. The bills passed by the Senate balance the scales of justice, hold criminals accountable for their actions, and stop the re-victimization of those who have already been through too much.

The package of bills includes:

Senate Bill 399, which I am co-sponsoring, creates a comprehensive bill of rights in Pennsylvania for survivors of sexual assault, including rights pertaining to the collection and use of evidence.

Senate Bill 425, which would amend the Pennsylvania Crime Victims Act to ensure a victim has a right not to be excluded from a trial except in extraordinary circumstances.

Senate Bill  431, which would prevent many sexual assault survivors from facing questions during cross examination about times they were victimized previously, such as child abuse or assaults.

Senate Bill 469, which would apply 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, which would expand the Tender Years Exception to apply 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.

The bills were sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

DiSanto Bill Offers Support to Communities Facing Power Plant Closures

This week I announced forthcoming legislation which seeks to provide financial assistance to communities adversely impacted by a power plant closure within its jurisdiction.

Under my proposal, the Department of Community and Economic Development will make state grants available to localities that experience a reduction of at least 20% in property tax collections and payments in lieu of taxes received by a power plant. Eligible political subdivisions will be able to apply for temporary relief for a total of four years. Initial awards may be up to 80% of the demonstrated tax loss in year 1, 60% in year 2, 40% in year 3, and 20% in year 4.

When a power plant closes, there is significant disruption to the local community’s economy and tax base as these facilities are both major employers and taxpayers. By offering temporary relief for school districts and municipalities, local stakeholders will have additional time to replace tax shortfalls and transition, while lessening the immediate impact on schools and essential public services.

Absent a massive consumer bailout of the nuclear industry, estimated at upwards of $500 million annually, Exelon intends to close its Three Mile Island nuclear facility later this year, and I am deeply concerned about the local impact that will be felt here in Dauphin County. While I oppose burdening Pennsylvanians with costly subsidies for the benefit of big, highly profitable energy corporations, I believe we should support our local schools and municipalities through this challenging transition.

Dauphin County, Londonderry Township and the Lower Dauphin School District combined receive approximately $1.5 million annually in real estate taxes and payments in lieu of taxes from Exelon. In addition to these jurisdictions, others across the state with power plant closures would be eligible for this grant program. Funding would come from a budgetary appropriation by the General Assembly. 

Senate Approves Measure to Help Homebound Students

Students who face an extended absence from school due to injury or illness could continue to participate in classroom activities and learning under a bill approved by the Senate on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 144, which creates the Keystone Telepresence Education Grant program, now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

The grant program would help Intermediate Units purchase equipment that will allow homebound students to participate in normal classroom learning, schoolwork and activities remotely through the use of telepresence technology.

The grant program would be administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Funding would come from any undistributed money that is not already committed to other projects, so it would not create a new burden on taxpayers.

Two additional bills approved by the Senate and sent to the House this week.

Senate Bill 372 updates the state History Code.

Senate Bill 441 designates the State Route 2087 bridge over the East Branch Codorus Creek in York County as the Sgt. Christopher M. Wrinkle and Tosca Memorial Bridge.

Bills Sent to Governor for Enactment into Law 

House Bill 18 authorizes the release of Project 70 restrictions on lands owned by the Borough of Topton, Berks County, in exchange for the imposition of the restrictions on other lands to be acquired by the borough. The bill also provides for land conveyances in Chester, Lehigh and Monroe counties.

House Bill 264 adds fiscal procedures for the collection of monies by municipal authorities.

Committee Roundup 

Appropriations

Senate Bill 133 amends the State Constitution to allow gubernatorial candidates to select their running mate.

Senate Bill 144 creates the Keystone Telepresence Education Grant program.

Senate Bill 145 amends the Agricultural Area Security Law to allow for the voluntary relinquishment of the right to construct a residence.

House Bill 264 adds fiscal procedures for the collection of monies by municipal authorities.

House Bill 275 changes the name of the “Early Intervention Program” under the Municipalities Financial Recovery Act to the “Strategic Management Planning Program.”

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

Senate Bill 469 addresses testimony by those with intellectual disabilities or autism. 

Senate Bill 479 expands the Tender Years Exception for out-of-court statements to include additional serious sexual offenses. 

Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure

Public hearing on Senate Bill 510 (PA Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards & Nuclear Energy). Hearing Video & Written Testimony

Health & Human Services

Senate Bill 390 delays implementation of Medical Assistance Transportation Program pending a Department of Human Services review.

Labor & Industry

Senate Bill 304 protects the unemployment compensation rights of spouses of active duty members of the armed forces.

Senate Bill 453 provides an exemption from the Uniform Construction Code (UCC) for barns and other structures that are occasionally used for weddings or special events if certain requirements are satisfied.

Majority Policy

Public hearing on the future demographics of higher education. Hearing Video & Written Testimony

State Government

Senate Bill 22 amends the state Constitution to create a commission to draw election maps.

Senate Bill 48 delays the impending mass decertification of current voting machines until an appropriate plan between the Governor and the General Assembly and the method by which it will be paid for can be agreed to. 

Senate Bill 178 requires the electronic filing of campaign finance reports with the Department of State.

Transportation

Senate Bill 131 prohibits novice drivers (16 and 17 years old) from using cell phones while driving.

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

Community Calendar 

Various Dates April/May – City of Harrisburg Business and Entrepreneurship Workshops 

April 28 – Gamut Theatre’s 2019 Gala: Carnival de Verona, Harrisburg 

Up Next

The Senate returns to voting session on Monday, April 29, at 1 p.m. You can watch session live at SenatorDiSanto.com.

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