In This Update:
DiSanto Bill to Better Protect Newborns Sent to Governor
Legislation I introduced to ensure newborn babies are comprehensively screened for all recommended disorders was unanimously approved in the House of Representatives this week and is now on its way to the Governor’s desk. Newborn screening is essential for early detection so prompt treatment can be provided to prevent instances of permanent disability or even death. The Governor has ten days to act on Senate Bill 983.
The Department of Health administers Pennsylvania’s Newborn Screening Program and maintains a short list of mandatory screenings and a longer list of optional ones whereby some hospitals choose to screen for all disorders while others do not.
My constituent, Lesa Brackbill of Hershey, experienced firsthand how the health of newborns is dependent on which hospital at which a baby is born after losing her young daughter, Tori, in 2016 before the age of two after a battle with Krabbe—a treatable disease when diagnosed at birth.
The lack of a comprehensive screening mandate cost Tori her life, and Lesa partnered with me on this legislation to ensure health providers screen every child equally for every disorder recommended by the federal government and the Pennsylvania Newborn Screening and Technical Advisory Board. The bill also empowers the advisory board to add clinically recommended disorders for screening in the future without being subject to Department of Health budget limitations.
Lesa has worked tirelessly over the past four years to improve Pennsylvania’s newborn screening program so that we may prevent similar tragedies from happening to other young families and newborns. It has been my honor to join Lesa in protecting the lives of Pennsylvania’s newborns by detecting and treating disorders early.
“Our family is eternally grateful to Senator DiSanto, the Pennsylvania General Assembly, the Newborn Screening Advisory Board, and all those on our ‘team’ who made this possible,” said Lesa Brackbill. “This legislation can’t save our daughter, but it can and will save the lives of babies yet to be born in Pennsylvania and ensure that fewer families endure the loss of a child. That means the world to us.”
Senate Approves Liability Protections for Schools, Health Care Providers, More
Many health care providers, schools, businesses and other entities have raised concerns about lawsuits being filed against them related to COVID-19, even if they closely followed all health directives from state and federal health agencies. The Senate approved a bill this week that would protect these entities from lawsuits if they acted in good faith to protect public health.
The liability protection does not apply in cases in which these entities were responsible for any intentional wrongful acts or reckless acts. The legislation does not provide complete immunity for any person or group; it simply ensures they will not be held responsible for any harm that occurred when health directives were followed.
Senate Approves Bills to Protect Second Amendment Rights of Pennsylvanians
Two bills approved by the Senate this week would ensure the Second Amendment rights of Pennsylvanians are protected during emergency declarations. Both bills were sent to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.
Under current law, the rights of law-abiding citizens to open carry firearms can be limited during a state of emergency. The Senate approved a bill that would ensure these rights are not infringed during a state of emergency. The bill would also ensure firearm sales are not prohibited during an emergency declaration.
The Senate also approved a bill that would establish the Hunting, Firearm, and Ammunition Life-Sustaining Business Act to ensure shooting ranges, sportsman clubs, hunting facilities and firearm and ammunition manufacturers, retailers and distributors are considered life-sustaining businesses that will not be shuttered by state government during an emergency declaration.
Bill Would Provide Flexibility for Teacher Certifications, Keystone Exams
Schools would have more flexibility to respond to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic under legislation that was approved by the Senate this week. The bill would ease many certification and staff development requirements that are difficult to fulfill during the pandemic and extend certain emergency permits when staff development requirements cannot be completed.
The bill would also delay the use of the Keystone Exams as a graduation requirement until the 2022-23 school year. Additional provisions are also included to deal with problems related to pupil transportation.
General Assembly Approves Bill Cracking Down on Repeat DUI Offenders
A bill that would crack down on dangerous repeat DUI offenders was approved by the Senate this week. The bill would increase jail time for certain repeat offenders, double the amount of time that repeat offenders must have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicle and ensure repeat DUI offenders with two or more prior offenses serve their sentence consecutively to any other sentence imposed by the court.
The legislation, also known as Deana’s Law, also mandates the use of continuous alcohol monitoring devices as a condition of probation, parole or bail. The devices, which are similar to home arrest monitors, are strapped to the wearer and automatically test for the presence of alcohol.
The legislation was named in honor of Deana Eckman, a Delaware County woman who was killed in 2019 in a head-on collision with a repeat DUI offender who was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident.
Legislation Supports Organ and Tissue Donation
The Robert P. Casey Memorial Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Trust Fund was created in 1994 to encourage residents to become organ donors. The program allows Pennsylvanians to voluntarily donate $3 to the fund through a check-off box when they renew driver licenses, photo ID cards and vehicle registrations.
The General Assembly approved a bill recently that updates the program to reflect the fact that Pennsylvanians can now complete vehicle registrations on a biannual basis. The legislation allows state residents to donate $6 instead of $3 when they complete a biannual registration.