Senator John DiSanto E-Newsletter

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Week of April 29, 2019

In this Update:

  • DiSanto Announces School Safety & Community Violence Reduction Grants
  • DiSanto Announces Student Video Contest Semi-Finalists
  • DiSanto Convenes Hearing to Improve Older Adult Protective Services
  • Senate Acts to Give Schools Flexible Instructional Days
  • Other Bills Approved by the Senate and Sent to the House
  • Committee Roundup
  • Community Calendar
  • Next Week

DiSanto Announces School Safety & Community Violence Reduction Grants

This week I announced the approval of competitively awarded school safety and community violence reduction grants for the 15th Senatorial District.

School safety grants were awarded to the following area school districts:

  • Halifax Area School District ($34,000)
  • Lower Dauphin School District ($24,750)
  • Newport School District ($31,883)
  • Susquenita School District ($224,069)
  • Upper Dauphin Area School District ($77,760)
  • West Perry School District ($46,308)
  • Williams Valley School District ($225,000)

The grants were awarded by the School Safety and Security Committee within the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) as part of the School Safety and Security Grant Program, which was created by lawmakers in 2018.

I supported the establishment of this grant program because each school district has different security needs depending on their circumstances and their buildings, and any assistance must recognize that. These grants will help ensure a safe learning environment for students, teachers and staff.

Eligible uses for the grants include hiring school security officers, purchasing security-related technology, completing safety and security assessments, implementing violence prevention curricula, offering counseling services for students, and creating other programs to protect students.

Every school district in the state that submitted a meritorious application was awarded a $25,000 grant last October to improve school safety. The grants announced this week were awarded on a competitive basis to schools that were seeking additional funding beyond the original grant.

In addition, a total of $7.5 million in grants were also awarded statewide for community violence reduction initiatives. Locally, the Community Action Commission of Harrisburg was awarded $346,749 to reduce violence and improve safety for middle school students in the Camp Curtain (Uptown) neighborhood.

The Commission sought the grant to address community violence and school safety by: identifying and eradicating crime hotspots and blight via improvements to the physical environment; addressing the need for transformative trauma-informed educational practices and preventive mental health services in the public schools; and mobilizing community coalitions of parents and youth to work together on solutions for crime hotspots. 

DiSanto Announces Student Video Contest Semi-Finalists

I had the pleasure this week to announce district semifinalists for the “Talk to Your State Senator” statewide video competition focusing on improving school safety. Middle and high school students were encouraged to submit video entries with their suggestions for addressing this issue.

From the entries received in Senator DiSanto’s district, those moving on to the statewide competition are the Harrisburg Christian School team, in the high school division, consisting of Hadley Beittel, Brianna Hoffacker, Ruiqi Xiong, and Wendy Yu.(You can view their video here.)

Area officials with experience in law enforcement and emergency management rated each submission on creativity, content and effectiveness of message delivery. Judges for my senate district were Dauphin County Sheriff Nicholas Chimienti and Kraig Nace, Chief of Operations for Duncannon Emergency Medical Services.

Congratulations to students moving on in the video contest and thank you to all who participated.

The legislature dedicated an additional $60 million to school safety initiatives this year, and we are continuing to have a dialogue with school leaders, law enforcement and other stakeholders about additional steps that can be taken to improve school safety. This contest was an opportunity for students to share the kind of issues they see in their hallways and classrooms every day and offer solutions to help make our schools a safer environment for learning.

DiSanto Convenes Hearing to Improve Older Adult Protective Services

As Chairman of the Senate Aging & Youth Committee, I convened a joint public hearing Monday with the House of Representatives on the Office of State Inspector General investigation into the Pennsylvania Department of Aging’s protective services system.

The department directs the program for the prevention and treatment of elder abuse, neglect, exploitation, and abandonment and oversees the 52 local Area Agencies on Aging that investigate abuse allegations.

Deficiencies Identified

The Inspector General found significant deficiencies in the protective services system, including failure to interview abused adults and substantiate abuse allegations within required timeframes, inadequate and outdated training for intake and caseworkers, and insufficient monitoring and guidance from the Aging Department.

After reading the Inspector General Report, I was incredibly concerned about the condition of our older adults protective services system. The investigation revealed a situation in which there were significant and repetitive compliance issues that left vulnerable seniors at risk without the resources and supports they need. These are our parents and grandparents, and one day it will be us.

Better Training and Monitoring

As they testified at the hearing, the Aging Department and county Area Agencies on Aging responded to the investigation by overhauling their training standards and updating monitoring tools for oversight. More resources have also been made available in the protective services budget to hire additional staff and add capacity to handle the growing number of financial exploitation cases.

This hearing was to ensure the Department and Area Agencies on Aging are actively pursuing and implementing the Inspector General recommendations to better serve and protect our senior population. Elder abuse reports are increasing with Pennsylvania’s aging population and we must effectively address the growing needs. (You can view the hearing here.)

Senate Acts to Give Schools Flexible Instructional Days 

The Senate approved legislation on Tuesday that would give school districts the option to implement flexible instructional days in the event of an emergency school closure.

Senate Bill 440 allows any public school to use up to five flexible instructional days in special instances such as weather-related closures, building or infrastructure problems, or if threats are made against buildings.

A flexible instructional day could be used to cover necessary coursework, including English, math, social studies and science. School districts have the option to use technology for the purposes of fulfilling the coursework. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Other Bills Approved by the Senate and Sent to the House

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

Senate Bill 110 amends the Home Rule Law.

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

Senate Bill 316 allows newly elected Second Class Township Supervisors to attend conferences, institutes, schools and conventions prior to officially taking office.

Senate Bill 317 amends the Second Class Township Code regarding mandatory annual budget requirements. 

Committee Roundup

Appropriations

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

Senate Bill 89 updates the Public School Code to replace “vocational-technical schools” with “career and technical schools.”

Senate Bill 110 amends the Home Rule Law.

Senate Bill 146 makes online training more available to current and prospective first responders. 

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

Senate Bill 316 allows newly elected Second Class Township Supervisors to attend conferences, institutes, schools and conventions prior to officially taking office.

Senate Bill 317 amends the Second Class Township Code regarding mandatory annual budget requirements. 

Senate Bill 440 provides for flexible instruction days.

Agriculture & Rural Affairs

Senate Bill 583 ensures that agritourism activities are authorized on farms preserved under the state farmland preservation program.

Senate Bill 585 establishes the Pennsylvania Dairy Future Commission to review the current status of the dairy industry in the Commonwealth and make recommendations on how to support its future.

These bills are part of the Farming First initiative aimed at strengthening Pennsylvania agriculture.

Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure

House Bill 318 prohibits telemarketing on legal holidays and provides robocall requirements.

Senate Bill 491 provides for the appointment of two Certified Pennsylvania Evaluators by the Governor to the State Board of Certified Real Estate Appraisers.

Senate Bill 492 clarifies that revaluation company personnel who are directly responsible for the valuation of real property must be certified as a Certified Pennsylvania Evaluator.

Senate Bill 543 provides a rate increase for river pilots who navigate vessels on the Delaware River and its navigable tributaries.

On Wednesday, the committee held a joint public hearing with the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee to discuss Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards, which establishes the percentage of electricity supplied to PA customers that must come from alternative energy sources. Hearing Video & Written Testimony 

Finance

Senate Bill 478 provides a personal income tax credit for landowners who lease or sell their land, buildings and equipment to beginning farmers. This bill is part of the Farming First initiative aimed at strengthening Pennsylvania agriculture.

Senate Bill 568 clarifies the Sales and Use Tax regarding canned and customized software, financial institution security equipment, service fees on financial institutions and information retrieval services.

Senate Bill 613 amends the Administrative Code repealing provisions relating to employees with access to federal tax information and providing for criminal history background checks of employees and contractors with access to federal tax information.

Game & Fisheries

Senate Bill 485 provides for the sale of antlerless deer hunting licenses through the Game Commission’s automated licensing system.

House Bill 808 authorizes the Fish & Boat Commission to establish the fees for fishing and boating licenses and permits by regulatory action and expands the allowable use of funds from the sale of Lake Erie permits.

Judiciary

Senate Bill 275 ensures that a strangulation conviction could be considered in sentencing for subsequent crimes and in custody proceedings.

House Bill 279 provides for civil immunity when there is damage to a motor vehicle when forceful entry is necessary to rescue a child.

Senate Bill 500 creates a County Adult Probation and Parole Advisory Committee.

Senate Bill 501 streamlines the process for placement in intermediate punishment, allows parole agents to quickly detain parolees for violations, and streamlines the process for paroling individuals who receive a short sentence to prison. 

Senate Bill 502 amends the Crime Victims Act to better provide information and compensation to victims.

Local Government

House Bill 510 amends Title 53 (Municipalities Generally) regarding intergovernmental cooperation.

House Bill 511 amends the Second Class Township Code, providing for intergovernmental cooperation.

House Bill 512 amends Title 11 (Cities) providing for municipal authorities and cooperation with other political subdivisions.

Senate Bill 531 prevents local jurisdictions from imposing firearms and ammunition regulations and ordinances more restrictive than laws passed by the General Assembly.

House Bill 547 amends the First Class Township Code to allow townships to set their annual assessment of the property tax millage rate by resolution.

House Bill 548 amends the Borough Code and the Third Class City Code to allow boroughs and third class cities to assess their annual property tax millage rate by resolution.

Transportation

Senate Bill 45 waives Turnpike tolls for emergency vehicles when responding to an emergency situation or participating in the escort of: a fallen firefighter, ambulance service or rescue squad member, law enforcement officer, or armed service member killed in the line of duty.

Senate Bill 588 amends the Vehicle Code to permit milk haulers to travel on highways during a declaration of disaster emergency. This bill is part of the Farming First initiative aimed at strengthening Pennsylvania agriculture.

Senate Bill 593 designates a bridge on Interstate 79 over West 16th Street in Erie as the Thomas J. Kennedy, Jr., Memorial Bridge.

Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness

Senate Bill 589 creates the Military Family Education Program – or “PA Family GI Bill” – that will enable Guard members to earn educational benefits for their spouse and/or children by committing to a second six-year enlistment.

Community Calendar

May 4 – Millersburg Cherry Blossom Festival

May 5 – Garden Faire at Fort Hunter Mansion & Park

Next Week

The Senate returns to voting session on Monday, May 6, at 1 p.m. You can watch session live at SenatorDiSanto.com.

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