In This Update:
Senator DiSanto joins Brennan & Lesa Brackbill of Hershey. Lesa presented a copy of her book detailing her family’s journey through the loss of their daughter, Tori. This week DiSanto’s Senate Bill 983 passed the House Human Services Committee. It would strengthen our state’s newborn screening program to ensure the early detection of health disorders so that babies, like Tori, may receive prompt treatment and avoid permanent disability or death.
Reminder to Area Veterans: Sign up for Virtual Wall of Honor Recognition
In advance of Veterans Day 2020 on November 11, the veterans of the 15th State Senate District are invited to submit their names for inclusion on a Virtual Wall of Honor on my website.
From October 26 through November 20, a page on my website will serve as a Virtual Wall of Honor and list all of the veterans who have submitted their information for recognition. Information can be submitted online at www.SenatorDiSanto.com. Veterans or their families may also contact my office at 717-787-6801 for a printed submission form.
Veterans currently residing and deceased veterans whose last address was in the 15th Senatorial District are eligible for the Virtual Wall of Honor. Family members and friends are welcome to submit on behalf of deceased veterans so their service may also be recognized.
Visit https://www.senatordisanto.com/2020/10/07/disanto-announces-virtual-wall-of-honor-recognition-for-area-veterans/ for more information.
DiSanto Bill to Combat Blight Sent to Governor
Legislation I introduced to equip municipalities with a better enforcement mechanism to crack down on abandoned and dilapidated properties was approved unanimously by the Senate this week with House amendments and is now on its way to the Governor’s desk.
Senate Bill 940 enables municipalities to issue condemnation orders on properties that are unfit for human habitation and structurally dangerous to adjacent properties and neighboring residents. Municipalities may file a condemnation order against these non-compliant properties with the county recorder of deeds office and demand corrective action. The order is to be considered a lien on the property and its validity would not be impacted by upset, judiciary, or repository sale of the property.
My legislation corrects a major deficiency in current law that limits condemnation orders to a specific owner, not the property. As a result, anytime a condemned property’s ownership changes hands, local officials must expend significant time repeating their code enforcement process.
City of Harrisburg Codes Administrator Dave Patton said, “The passage of this legislation is a major step in tax sale reform. Condemned properties subject to tax sale represent a major contributor to blight in the Commonwealth and specifically from my experience as Codes Administrator for the City of Harrisburg for the past 25 years.” He added, “Mayor Papenfuse and myself are honored by Senators DiSanto’s and Argall’s dedication to contribute to the eradication of blight and extend our thanks on behalf of the City of Harrisburg.”
Senate Bill 940 also received the support of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs, and the Statewide Blight Task Force.
Senate Votes to Boost Fire and EMS Services Throughout PA
Our communities are fortunate to have many brave men and women who dedicate their time and efforts as first responders to protect our lives and property. The Senate approved a comprehensive package of bipartisan reforms this week to support our first responders and improve the delivery of fire and EMS services throughout the state.
The bill contains key improvements to grant and loan programs for fire companies, new measures to support recruitment and retention of fire personnel and critical changes in the Office of the State Fire Commissioner.
Legislation was also approved this week to increase funding to the Emergency Medical Services Operating Fund by approximately $11 million.
The reforms were based on recommendations included in the 2018 Senate Resolution 6 Report that was created to explore ways to better support fire and EMS services in Pennsylvania.
Legislation Moves Forward to Ensure Safe Visitation of Nursing Home Residents
Many Pennsylvania families faced COVID-19 restrictions that prevented them from visiting loved ones for months – even when all state and federal safety protocols could have been followed. The Senate approved legislation this week to ensure safe visitation and enhanced care for residents of long-term care facilities.
The bill would require facilities to designate at least one essential family caregiver per resident that would be permitted to visit and care for a loved one during a disaster emergency. Under the bill, caregivers would be able to remain in contact with family members and provide companionship and assist with activities requiring one-on-one direction.
Bills to Improve COVID-19 Reporting Move to Governor’s Desk
Two bills to improve reporting of COVID-19 cases and deaths in Pennsylvania are on their way to the governor to be signed into law. The bills are focused on protecting first responders and ensuring all COVID-19 deaths are reported and investigated properly.
Under the legislation, the Pennsylvania Department of Health and local health agencies would be required to notify 911 centers of the address of any known positive case of a communicable, aerosolized and transmissible disease. The legislation would ensure the information is provided to law enforcement officers, fire department personnel, emergency medical services personnel, medical examiners and coroners when they are called to carry out an essential job function at the address.
In addition, the package includes a measure to ensure county coroners are notified of all suspected deaths in their jurisdiction caused by this virus and other contagious diseases that constitute a health emergency. The bill would ensure coroners can investigate the facts and circumstances surrounding any death and eliminate inconsistencies in how COVID-19 deaths are being reported.
Senate Advances Measures to Boost Availability of Broadband
The Senate approved two bills this week to boost the state’s efforts to expand high-speed broadband internet coverage to more unserved and underserved areas in rural Pennsylvania. The bills are designed to reduce regulatory burdens on telecommunications companies and make better use of existing infrastructure to expand coverage to a broader number of communities.
One of the bills would reduce regulatory barriers to broadband deployment by modernizing the Public Utility Code and requiring the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to review and waive regulations that are no longer necessary or in the public interest.
Another bill would make broader use of existing infrastructure to further deploy broadband in areas that lack coverage. The legislation would allow electric cooperatives to utilize existing utility poles to place fiber-optic lines if the placement does not adversely affect the value or use of the property.
Legislation Offers Relief for Rural Pharmacies
In recent years, many rural pharmacies endured severe cuts to reimbursement rates from pharmacy benefit managers. Several rural pharmacists testified during a Senate Majority Policy Committee workshop discussion that the reimbursement rates they received were lower than the cost of the drug in some cases, forcing the pharmacy to operate in the red.
The Senate approved legislation this week that would support struggling rural pharmacies by improving pricing transparency for prescription drugs and ensuring these small businesses are reimbursed for the full cost of prescriptions for Medicaid patients.
The bill builds on recent progress to protect prescription drug consumers. Earlier this year, lawmakers approved the Consumer Prescription Drug Pricing and Freedom Disclosure Act to allow a pharmacy or pharmacist to provide information about the cost of a prescription drug to consumers, including the individual’s share of costs.
Bill Could Help More Pennsylvanians Benefit from Clean Slate
The Senate approved a key criminal justice reform bill this week that would allow more Pennsylvanians to have criminal records expunged if they receive a pardon or are not convicted of a crime. The measure would provide for the automatic expungement of criminal records if all court-ordered restitution is paid.
Under current law, an individual who receives a pardon or is not convicted of a crime still must pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars in legal fees to file for expungement. This bill would remove a serious barrier to employment, housing, education and other critical services for individuals who are otherwise unable to complete the process of criminal record expungement.
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