Senator John DiSanto E-Newsletter

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Week of April 16, 2018

In this Edition:

  • DiSanto Announces Student Video Contest Semifinalists
  • Sen. DiSanto, Rep. Keller to Host Concealed Carry Seminar May 3
  • Senate Acts to Prevent Hazing Tragedies
  • Senate Approves Tougher Penalties for Repeat DUI Offenders
  • Bill Allows School Security Matters to be Discussed in Closed Sessions
  • Other Bills Approved by the Senate and sent to the House
  • Bill Reducing Costs, Opioid Abuse Under Workers’ Comp Sent to Governor
  • Bill Helping Grandparents Care for Children of Addicted Parents Sent to Governor
  • Other bills sent to the Governor
  • Committee Roundup
  • Community Calendar
  • Volunteering in Our State Parks and Forests
  • Next Week 

DiSanto Announces Student Video Contest Semifinalists 

I am pleased to announce the district semifinalists for the “Talk to Your State Senator” statewide video competition focusing on the growing heroin and opioid epidemic. Middle and high school students were encouraged to submit video entries with their suggestions to help combat the crisis, especially among younger people.

From the entries received in the 15th district, those moving on to the statewide level are:

High School Division – Harrisburg Christian School, team consisting of Anya Burns, Jackie Lehman, Brianna Hoffacker and Ian Spicher – (VIDEO)

 

Middle School Division – Susquehanna Township Middle School, Sophia McIntosh – (VIDEO)

Area officials with experience in law enforcement, human services and drug rehabilitation rated each submission on creativity, content and effectiveness of message delivery. Judges were Dauphin County Commissioner Mike Pries, Perry County District Attorney Andrew Bender, and Fern Wilcox, Executive Director of Day Star Recovery in Harrisburg.

I congratulate those students moving on in the video contest as well as thank all those who participated. As a state, we need to continue working towards a solution to the opioid crisis, and I appreciate hearing from students about approaches they think can be taken. We need everyone, from law enforcement to drug treatment specialists to young people and their parents, working together if we are to overcome this challenge.

“Talk to Your Senator” is open to Pennsylvania students in grades 6 through 12 and will provide a total of $10,000 in cash prizes to the statewide winners.  Prize money, provided by the Drug and Alcohol Service Providers Organization of Pennsylvania (DASPOP), will be awarded through the TAP 529 Account program with the PA Department of Treasury and deposited into college savings accounts in the winners’ names.

DASPOP is a statewide coalition of drug and alcohol abuse prevention and education programs, student assistance programs, drug and alcohol addiction treatment programs, recovery services, several statewide drug and alcohol organizations and others.  

Sen. DiSanto, Rep. Keller to Host Concealed Carry Seminar May 3

I’ll be joining state Rep. Mark Keller (Perry/Cumberland) to host a concealed carry seminar May 3 for interested constituents.

Designed to provide more information about Pennsylvania’s gun laws related to concealed carry, the free event is set for Thursday, May 3 at the Shermans Dale Community Fire Company, 5450 Spring Road in Shermans Dale, starting at 6:30 p.m.

The seminar will be conducted by Attorney Matt Menges, an expert on Pennsylvania’s gun laws. In addition to Rep. Keller and Sen. DiSanto, Perry County District Attorney Andrew Bender, Perry County Sheriff Steve Hile and representatives from the Pennsylvania State Police will also be present to answer questions.

Seating for the event is limited. Those interested in attending are asked to contact my Capitol office at 717-787-6801 or district office at 717-582-2454.

Senate Acts to Prevent Hazing Tragedies

The Senate approved a measure on Wednesday that provides a comprehensive rewrite of the state’s hazing laws.

Senate Bill 1090 requires schools to have policies and reporting procedures in place to stop hazing and inform students and parents of what is happening on campus. It also establishes clear-cut parameters on hazing for organizations such as fraternities and sororities.

The bill is named after Timothy Piazza, a sophomore engineering student at Penn State University who died on Feb. 4, 2017, as a result of hazing at a fraternity.

Senate Approves Tougher Penalties for Repeat DUI Offenders

Repeat DUI offenders would face tougher penalties under legislation approved by the Senate on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 961 increases the penalties for a person who unintentionally causes the death of another person as a result of a second or subsequent DUI violation. The bill increases the grading of subsequent DUI crimes and levies harsher sentences against repeat offenders who cause the death of another person.

There were 10,256 alcohol-related crashes and 297 alcohol-related fatalities in Pennsylvania in 2016.

Senate Bill 961 increases the minimum term of imprisonment for a person who unintentionally causes the death of another person while intoxicated 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.

The measure also increases sentencing provisions for offenders who are not properly licensed or under suspension. Senate Bill 961 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Bill Allows School Security Matters to be Discussed in Closed Sessions

Local school districts and governments would be permitted to discuss school security matters in executive sessions, which are closed to the public, under a measure unanimously passed by the Senate on Tuesday. 

Senate Bill 1078 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration. The bill balances common sense concerns about protecting sensitive discussions and documents involving school security with the public’s “right to know.”

In response to recent incidents of school violence across the country, many Pennsylvania school districts are reviewing and strengthening their institutional security plans to better protect students, a process that may include identifying potential weaknesses in their current plans. 

If made public, this information could compromise school safety efforts and put students at risk.  More than half of the states currently have measures in place which allow for security and safety matters to be discussed in non-public executive session.

Other Bills Approved by the Senate and sent to the House

Senate Resolution 260 extends the term of the Senate Resolution 6 Commission on fire and EMS issues from June 30 to November 30, 2018.

Senate Resolution 278 establishes a temporary rule of the Senate regarding amendments to appropriations bills for the 2018-19 budget. (No House action required)

Senate Bill 653 further consolidates the collection of local, non-real estate taxes, at the county level.

Senate Bill 742 provides for a comprehensive bill of rights for sexual assault victims.

House Bill 866 amends the Local Tax Enabling Act to clarify certain provisions related to the consolidated collection of local income taxes and delinquent taxes.

Senate Bill 880 allows trailers up to 102-inch wide on highways.

Senate Bill 915 extends the deadline for filing a post-conviction relief action.

Senate Bill 916 updates the DNA testing law.

Bill Reducing Costs, Opioid Abuse Under Workers’ Comp Sent to Governor

Legislation that would save costs and address opioid abuse under Pennsylvania’s Workers’ Compensation program received final legislative approval this week and was sent to the Governor for enactment into law.

Senate Bill 936, which was approved by the House of Representatives on Monday and by a strong two-thirds vote in the Senate on October 25, 2017, would require the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry to adopt an evidence-based drug formulary for Pennsylvania’s Workers’ Compensation program.

In addition to lowering costs and providing better care for patients, the proposal is intended to assist the Commonwealth in its battle against opioid addiction. The adoption of a drug formulary, which is commonplace in health insurance, would reduce the over-prescription of opioid painkillers by setting evidence-based standards for the medication that can be prescribed for a Workers’ Comp patient. The legislation would also eliminate payments for overpriced, unproven pain creams.

The legislation also addresses ethical problems illustrated in a Philadelphia newspaper article. Some law firms that specialize in Workers’ Compensation have their own pharmacies. This allows them to refer clients to doctors with which they have referral agreements and, in turn, the doctors write prescriptions and send them to the pharmacy the firm owns.

Bill Helping Grandparents Care for Children of Addicted Parents Sent to Governor

The Senate concurred Wednesday on House amendments to a bill that expands the legal standing for grandparents and other third-party individuals seeking to gain custody in cases where no biological or adoptive parent has care and control of the child. Senate Bill 844 now goes to the Governor for enactment into law.

The bill addresses the devastating toll of the opioid crisis on families across the Commonwealth, which can be especially heart-wrenching when it involves the innocent children of addicts who — because of their addiction — are unable to care for them. Often, third-parties, especially grandparents, are called upon to care for those children, even though they currently have little to no legal standing under current state law.

The bill received unanimous support in both the Senate and House of Representatives and was endorsed by organizations including the Pennsylvania Bar Association, the Center for Child Advocates and Pennsylvania Legal Services.

When the legislature amended Pennsylvania’s custody and visitation law in 2010, a grandparent’s right or “standing” to file for custody of a grandchild became more limited, essentially removing what was once an automatic right.

“Standing,” in a legal sense, is a preliminary step that determines only which parties can be in the courtroom pursuing custody.  In a custody trial the court considers the “best interests of the children” and takes into account the children’s relationship with all of the parties.

The bill also includes a provision under which grandparents and great-grandparents may file an action for partial physical custody or supervised physical custody in cases where the parents of the child have commenced a proceeding for custody and do not agree whether grandparents should have custody.

Other bills sent to the Governor

House Bill 595, which provides for the types of complaints that can be filed with the Bureau of Consumer Protection regarding planned communities, cooperatives and condominiums.

Senate Bill 837, which renames part of a Westmoreland County road as the Specialist 4 William J. Kolenc Memorial Highway.

Senate Bill 877, which amends the Insurance Department Act to allow producers and insurers to spend as much as $100 in marketing insurance to a client or prospective client.

Senate Bill 878, which amends the Insurance Company Law to allow producers and insurers to spend as much as $100 in marketing insurance to a client or prospective client.

House Bill 1341, which amends the Bituminous Coal Mine Safety Act to allow emergency medical responders to be employed at mines.

Committee Roundup

Appropriations

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved 11 bills on Monday.

Senate Bill 435 requires all motorists to clear snow and ice from the top of their vehicles before driving. 

Senate Bill 742 provides for a comprehensive bill of rights for sexual assault victims.

House Bill 866 amends the Local Tax Enabling Act to clarify certain provisions related to the consolidated collection of local income taxes and delinquent taxes.

Senate Bill 915 extends the deadline for filing a post-conviction relief action.

Senate Bill 916 updates the DNA testing law.

Senate Bill 1041 directs the Department of Military & Veterans Affairs to create logos to promote veteran-owned and disabled veteran-owned businesses.

Senate Bill 1070 creates a County Adult Probation and Parole Advisory Committee.

Senate Bill 1071 streamlines the process for placement in State Intermediate Punishment.

Senate Bill 1072 revises sentencing laws.

Senate Bill 1090 increases penalties for hazing and requires schools to have policies and reporting procedures in place to stop hazing.

House Bill 1869 establishes a committee to review maternal deaths and develop strategies for the prevention of maternal deaths.

Education

The Senate Education Committee held a public hearing Wednesday on potential alternatives to the Act 88 collective bargaining process and teacher strikes.

Hearing Video & Written Testimony

Finance

The Senate Finance Committee approved Senate Bill 1056 on Tuesday. The bill allows long-standing deductions for depreciation in determining taxable income.

Judiciary

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved three bills on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 189 amends Pennsylvania’s Crime Victims Act to allow victims to attend the entirety of criminal trials.

Senate Bill 1092 amends the Crimes Code to create an offense for domestic violence in front of children.

Senate Bill 1132 establishes an Alternative Dispute Resolution Commission.

Labor & Industry

The Senate Labor and Industry Committee held a public hearing Tuesday on Senate Bill 479, which would provide up to six weeks of protected, unpaid leave to an employee to care for a sibling, grandparent or grandchild with a serious health condition if no other family care is available. Hearing Video & Written Testimony

State Government

The Senate State Government Committee approved three bills on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 299 changes the way that an incumbent magisterial district judge gets on the ballot for re-election.

Senate Bill 595 authorizes the electronic notarization of documents in cases where the signer appears before the notary by means of real-time audio-video communication.

Senate Bill 1038 amends the Pennsylvania Election Code regarding residual funds.

On Monday, the committee held a public hearing on Senate Bill 1037, reforming the Civil Service process. Hearing Video & Written Testimony

Urban Affairs & Housing

The Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee approved two bills on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 735 amends the Real Estate Tax Sale Law to allow counties to establish a demolition and rehabilitation fund.

Senate Bill 962 strengthens blighted property code violations when the owner has received state funds.

Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness

The Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee approved Senate Bill 1073 on Tuesday. The legislation would extend the Pennsylvania Heart and Lung Act to include several law enforcement entities that are not currently protected by this important coverage.

Community Calendar

April 22 – Gamut Theatre’s Shakespeare Birthday Celebration

May 18 – East Shore Library workshops:

Introduction to Fundraising Planning

Introduction to Finding Grants

June 16 – Elizabethville Area Community Alliance car show to raise funds for the Elizabethville Community Pool and Splash Pad project

Volunteering in Our State Parks and Forests

The Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation (PPFF) provides a place for volunteers, or “Friends,” to serve the 121 state parks and 2.2 million acres of state forest land across the commonwealth.

Here in our district, the Friends of Little Buffalo will welcome you to their events and volunteer activities. The Friends don’t have a website, but you can always find up to date volunteer information on the PPFF calendar of events.

If you want to volunteer on your own schedule, consider becoming a steward in the “Stewards of Penn’s Woods” program. In addition, the DCNR Conservation Volunteer program encourages individuals to align themselves with the parks or forests (or volunteer activities) of their choosing.

There is always work to be done – and joy to be experienced – as a state park or forest volunteer. Check out the links above or contact the Foundation at 717-236-7644.

Next Week

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

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