I recently joined the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee, chaired by Senator Doug Mastriano, for a Regulatory Reform, Red Tape Reduction & Transparency hearing held at Martin’s Famous Potato Rolls and Bread. I discussed my Senate Bills 5 and 119 to help cut red tape and keep PA open for business!
The end of 2019 marks the midway point of the 2019-2020 legislative session. Below is an update on key bills approved over the past year.
I was pleased to have one of my reform measures passed by the General Assembly and signed into law.Act 1 of 2019 ensures that elected officials and public employees who commit job-related felonies are stripped of their taxpayer-funded pension.
Two other measures I introduced were passed by the Senate. Senate Bill 637 would extend second chances for rehabilitated individuals seeking meaningful employment, while growing the commonwealth’s skilled workforce. It requires state licensing boards and commissions to apply a common set of rules when considering whether to deny, suspend, or revoke an occupational license on the basis of a criminal conviction. The proposal ends the practice of blanket prohibitions on job licenses for certain criminal records. SB 637 awaits action in the House of Representatives.
Senate Bill 669 would reinstate the Kinship Care and Subsidized Permanent Legal Custodianship Program. These programs encourage and promote the placement of children who haven’t found permanent adoptive homes. A House version of my legislation was enacted into law as Act 14 of 2019.
I also authored an amendment to Act 83 of 2019 to provide for a new nonprofit security grant to enhance safety for faith-based institutions and nonprofit organizations. The program will begin accepting grant applications no later than March 1, 2020 and will offer additional safeguards to the charities that serve our communities but have become targets of violent threats and actions.
I cosponsored bipartisan legislation, Senate Bill 76, which provides a path to total school property tax elimination by shifting school funding to increased sales and income taxes. This bill was discussed at a Senate Majority Policy Committee school property tax elimination workshop I attended at Penn State York in August. We heard about the tens of thousands of state residents—especially seniors living on fixed-incomes—forced out of their homes as they become unable to pay an ever-increasing and regressive tax. Expert panelists at the forum shared instances in which school tax bills exceeded monthly mortgage payments. I continue to advocate to my legislative colleagues to get behind a solution for our homeowners.
The Senate as a whole took action to bolster the economy, strengthen communities, improve access to quality education and health care, and protect the environment. Here are some highlights, with links to more information:
Doubled funding of the Pennsylvania First Program, which offers grants and loans to support business expansion and job growth.
Delivered additional funding to Pennsylvania’s best career and technical schools to help prepare young people and other job-seekers for quality, family-sustaining jobs.
Increased support of New Choices/New Options, which helps job-seekers get the resources they need to obtain a job and be successful in the workforce.
Bolstered Pennsylvania’s number-one industry by passing a sweeping Farming First package.
Provided security grants to faith-based institutions and nonprofit organizations to boost their safeguards and passed other crucial public safety measures.
Approved a sweeping crime victims package, including a comprehensive bill of rights for survivors of sexual assault, limiting the number of times that victims of sexually violent crimes are forced to testify at parole hearings, allowing victims to be present at more criminal proceedings, and more.
Passed criminal justice reforms to reduce incarceration and cut costs to taxpayers, streamline the placement of offenders in drug treatment programs, and more.
Strengthened support for children and families by reducing the risk of child hot car deaths, increasing the number of “safe havens” for newborns, promoting adoption, protecting seniors, and more.
Acted to make online training more readily available to emergency responders, required a review all contracts associated with the crucial Pennsylvania Statewide Radio Network, and more.
Provided $60 million for the School Safety and Security Grant Program, added new school safety measures, and helped schools purchase telepresence equipment to support homebound students.
Gave school districts the option to implement flexible instructional days in the event of an emergency school closure.
Created the Public Higher Education Funding Commission to review and make recommendations related to higher education funding, affordability and effectiveness of administration and operations.
Expanded the availability of job training programs and protected students against improper Private Licensed School closures.
Passed legislation to allow students to apply personal finance credits towards satisfying graduation requirements.
Strengthened guidelines in schools for CPR training in grades nine through 12.
Created an authority to operate a state-based health insurance exchange for Affordable Care Act individual market plans to save millions in administrative costs and premiums.
Acted to give full practice authority to Advanced Practice Registered Nurses-Certified Nurse Practitioners.
Strengthened penalties for assaults against health care practitioners and technicians.
Voted to restrict the use of firefighting foams containing added PFAS for training, while allowing continued use against real-world fires.
Acted to institute a nutrient procurement program to help Pennsylvania meet the federal Chesapeake Bay mandate by incentivizing nitrogen pollution reduction.