|House Democratic Legislative Review|
Recent legislative activity by PA House Democrats
February 11, 2011
In his first meeting as the Democratic chairman of the state House Health Committee, Rep. John Myers, D-Phila., this week led the fight against a Republican-sponsored bill (H.B. 42) that is intended to score national political points rather than benefit the people of Pennsylvania. If it becomes law, the bill would prohibit Pennsylvania from complying with the federal health care reform law because of the insurance purchase mandate.
"What my Republican colleagues on the committee should be doing is what we Democrats are most concerned about: maintaining the adultBasic insurance program scheduled to run out in three weeks, leaving another 42,000 Pennsylvanians without health insurance and susceptible to medical and financial calamity. Let's tackle real problems threatening the people rather than just march past them toward some questionable political goal."
-- Read more at www.pahouse.com/Myers.
State Rep. Bill Kortz, D-Allegheny, said language he authored was included in a reform measure this week. Kortz provided an amendment to H.B. 15, which would establish the PennWATCH Act to develop a public website containing revenue and expenditure information of Commonwealth agencies. Kortz’s amendment incorporates links to each Commonwealth agency website within the PennWATCH database.
"This would make the PennWATCH system, which is intended to create more transparency in government spending, more user-friendly," Kortz said. "This is a valuable reform measure, and I'm pleased to see that my addition received unanimous, bipartisan support."
-- Read more at www.pahouse.com/Kortz.
The state House has unanimously passed government reform legislation authored by state Rep. Marc Gergely that targets fraud and other illegal actions in the legislature. Gergely's bill, H.B. 104, changes the state's Whistleblower Law to include the legislature.
"This bill should encourage legislative employees to report fraud or waste in the legislature by protecting them from the threat of losing their job or other retaliation," Gergely said. "Under the current law, employees of the legislature are not protected by the state's Whistleblower Law, which would make many people hesitant speak out if they suspect improper activities are occurring."
-- Read more at www.pahouse.com/Gergely.
A version of state Rep. Phyllis Mundy's legislation that would allow area agencies on aging to fully use state funding that helps residents caring for an older person at home was unanimously voted out of the House Aging and Older Adult Service Committee this week. Mundy, the former chairman of the House Aging and Older Adult Services Committee, introduced a bill in the 2007-08 and 2009-10 legislative sessions to modernize Pennsylvania's Family Caregiver Support Program, and both times the House unanimously passed it. The bill stalled in the Senate both times. She recently reintroduced her legislation as H.B. 224.
"For the past several years, I have pushed legislation to recognize today's informal, unpaid caregivers are not limited to family members or family members who live in the same household," Mundy said. "This legislation is long overdue."
-- Read more at www.pahouse.com/Mundy.
The state House Aging and Older Adult Services Committee this week unanimously approved legislation sponsored by Rep. Kevin Murphy that would help protect older Pennsylvanians from financial exploitation. Murphy's legislation (H.B. 92) would allow county agencies on aging to investigate cases in which a senior was financially exploited, even if the alleged perpetrator held power of attorney for the senior.
"The overwhelming majority of people honor their responsibilities to our more vulnerable senior citizens," said Murphy, D-Lackawanna. "However, there are still some unscrupulous people among us who would gladly take advantage of an older person relying on them for help, a chance that only goes up with the economic hardships facing many people."
-- Read more at www.pahouse.com/Murphy.
State Rep. Dom Costa has reintroduced his bill that would protect the public from unscrupulous insurance adjusters by strengthening state regulations. House Bill 561, which is identical to Costa's H.B. 2370 introduced last session, would update the state's public adjuster regulations for the first time in 25 years.
"This is a consumer protection bill designed to make sure insurance adjusters are qualified and are not misrepresenting themselves when they are working with consumers on insurance claims," said Costa, D-Allegheny.
-- Read more at www.pahouse.com/DCosta.
State Rep. Neal Goodman announced that he is introducing legislation to make permanent a yearly $25 million grant program for Pennsylvania volunteer fire and ambulance companies. The legislature in 2007 reauthorized the Volunteer Fire Company and Volunteer Ambulance Service Grant Program for five years, extending it until June 30, 2012.
"Volunteer emergency services save Pennsylvania taxpayers $6 billion a year in local taxes and insurance costs," Goodman said. "This program, which helps our volunteers upgrade or replace equipment and build or renovate fire and ambulance stations, is a smart investment. It should be made permanent instead of being reconsidered every five years."
-- Read more at www.pahouse.com/Goodman.
State Rep. Joseph Petrarca, D-Westmoreland/Armstrong, has introduced legislation that would establish Pennsylvania as a leader in organ and tissue donation awareness and transplantation. The legislation (H.B. 100) would establish uniform and consistent regulations for donating organs and issue for transplantation, therapy and research. This proposal conforms to the terminology and provisions of the National Organ Transplant law as well as federal regulations.
"Making Pennsylvania's law consistent with federal law and the laws in other states will help us to better facilitate donations by avoiding the confusion and uncertainty of differences in laws from state to state," Petrarca said. "My legislation will continue to move Pennsylvania forward in saving lives and giving hope to those waiting for the gift of life."
-- Read more at www.pahouse.com/Petrarca.
State Rep. Gerald Mullery, D-Luzerne, today introduced legislation (H.B. 566) that would move the first day of antlered rifle deer season in Pennsylvania from the Monday following Thanksgiving to the Saturday following Thanksgiving.
"Hunting is a wonderful tradition in this Commonwealth," Mullery said. "Changing the opening day to a Saturday would provide all hunters with a greater opportunity to enjoy this tradition."
-- Read more at www.pahouse.com/Mullery.
State Rep. Tony DeLuca, D-Allegheny, has reintroduced legislation that would require applicants for jobs in public and private schools in Pennsylvania to undergo drug testing as a condition of being hired. The legislation (H.B. 408) would not affect current school employees.
"One of my highest legislative priorities is to protect our children from situations in schools that may be harmful," DeLuca said.
-- Read more at www.pahouse.com/DeLuca.
State Rep. Greg Vitali, D-Delaware, announced at a Capitol news conference this week that he has introduced a bill that would tax Marcellus Shale natural gas production to fund environmental programs, assist local government with costs related to the industry and help fill a $4 billion shortfall in next year's state budget. The rate of the tax under H.B. 33 would be slightly less than that imposed by West Virginia. It would be 5 percent of the value of each 1,000 cubic feet of natural gas severed, plus 4.6 cents per 1,000 cubic feet.
"Pennsylvania is the only major natural gas producing state in the nation that does not have a severance tax or fee in place," Vitali said. "Out-of-state companies are profiting from the Commonwealth's resources, and the Commonwealth should benefit too."
-- Read more at www.pahouse.com/Vitali.
State Rep. Brandon Neuman, D-Washington, is introducing legislation that would help medical professionals and coaches accurately assess whether a high school student has sustained a concussion. Neuman said each student would be administered the ImPACT test, or Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing program, which measures baseline brain function. This screening would be done in conjunction with the annual physical each student athlete is required to receive prior to being eligible for participation in Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association-sanctioned sports.
"A sports-related concussion can be a serious or life-threatening injury if it is not treated properly," Neuman, who wrestled and played football and baseball in high school, said. "But athletes and their coaches may not realize that an injury, however minor it may seem, caused a concussion. Most kids want to keep playing, so they shake it off and return to the field. My bill would require each high school student athlete to receive a baseline concussion screening at the start of the season," Neuman explained. "So if an injury does occur, we know what the athlete's normal brain function should be and can accurately determine if they have a concussion and when they are ready to return to play."
-- Read more at www.pahouse.com/Neuman.
State Rep. Phyllis Mundy, D-Luzerne, has reintroduced legislation to put stronger consumer protections in place for long-term care insurance policyholders. House Bill 229 is based on the National Association of Insurance Commissioners' model law. It would: prohibit long-term care insurance companies from setting premium rates based solely on the age of the insured or duration of the policy; ensure certain levels of benefits are available to policyholders; and prohibit practices that unfairly induce policyholders to purchase coverage that will significantly increase in cost in the short term.
"My legislation would protect holders of long-term care insurance in Pennsylvania from unfair rating practices that could force them to drop their coverage or minimize needed benefits," said Mundy, the former chairman of the House Aging and Older Adult Services Committee.
-- Read more at www.pahouse.com/Mundy.
State Rep. Neal P. Goodman, D-Schuylkill, has reintroduced a bill (H.B. 560) that would allow hunters to carry wallet-sized licenses instead of wearing their license on the back of their jacket or outermost garment. Goodman said Pennsylvania is one of two states in the country that requires hunters to display their license on the back of their outmost garment. Under Goodman's bill, hunters will still be required to carry all forms of identification covered by state law.
"This is commonsense legislation wanted by hunters from across the state," Goodman said. "It will save time and money for hunters who lose the license from the back of their garments when trudging through dense brush, climbing under a fence or exiting a duck blind."
-- Read more at www.pahouse.com/Goodman.
State Rep. Ed Staback, D-Lackawanna/Wayne, said this week he intends to introduce legislation to ban the personal ownership of exotic animals as pets in Pennsylvania. Staback's legislation would end the permitting process on a specific future date and would allow those who have been awarded a permit before that date to keep the animal. However, after the set date, no new permits would be given by the commission.
"Too often we learn of terrible animal attacks involving caged wild animals," Staback said. "Further, if one of the animals would escape, it poses a very real threat to public safety. My legislation would change the law so that ownership of specific wild animals for private entertainment would be considered the mistreatment of that wildlife, therefore protecting the safety of Pennsylvanians as well as these animals."
-- Read more at www.pahouse.com/Staback.
State Rep. Mike Hanna, D-Clinton/Centre, announced this week that he has reintroduced legislation (H.B. 64) that would designate the Piper J-3 Cub as the official aircraft of Pennsylvania. Hanna said the Piper J-3 Cub has a long and rich history in Pennsylvania. It was built in Lock Haven, Clinton County, between 1937 and 1947 by Piper Aircraft, became an industry standard for its safety, ease of operation and stability. A favorite of private fliers, it was also vital to the country's military preparedness and participation in World War II. Piper J-3 remains today a popular aircraft for fliers and collectors with well-attended annual fly-ins in Lock Haven.
"The Piper J-3 was originally intended for flight training but became one of the most popular and best-known light aircraft of all time," Hanna said. "The Cub's simplicity, affordability and popularity invoke comparisons to the Ford Model T."
-- Read more at www.pahouse.com/Hanna.
State Rep. Paul Costa, D-Allegheny, plans to reintroduce legislation that would ensure students and families affected by private career and trade school closures are reimbursed for tuition. Costa’s legislation would amend Pennsylvania’s Private Licensed School Act (Act 174 of 1986) to require licensed private schools to be bonded at $200,000, which is twice the currently required maximum level.
"We are fortunate in Pennsylvania that students have access to a variety of higher education and career and technical school options. Whether the student chooses a traditional college or university or a career and technical school, they have access to some of the best educational opportunities in the nation," Costa said. "While many of Pennsylvania’s private career and technical schools have been established for years and there have been no problems, there are others to which students and their families have paid or pre-paid thousands of dollars in tuition, only to see the school close. My bill would ensure that these schools have the funds available to fully reimburse students."
-- Read more at www.pahouse.com/Costa.
State Rep. Jennifer Mann, D-Lehigh, announced the introduction of legislation that would make it illegal to possess synthetic marijuana, a dangerous blend of plant materials laced with toxic chemicals sold under brand names like "K2" and "Spice." Mann’s legislation would also ban possession of Salvia Divinorum, considered to be the most dangerous naturally occurring hallucinogen in the world. It’s estimated that the abuse of these two substances led to more than 2,000 calls to poison control centers in 2010.
"This isn’t a Republican issue or a Democratic issue; it’s a public health and safety issue. That’s why Senator Pat Browne is going to co-sponsor this effort in the Senate. We can’t afford to wait any longer to get this done."
-- Read more at www.pahouse.com/Mann.
State Rep. Babette Josephs has introduced a bill (H.B. 125) that would overhaul the state's campaign finance laws. The good-government bill would set campaign contribution limits, increase fees for the late filing of campaign expense reports, require additional reports to be filed and require electronic filing of reports.
"In our democracy today, voter participation is at an all-time low. This isn't because voters are happy and content with the status quo, but because they feel that their votes can't compete with unlimited amounts of campaign contributions," Josephs said. "Something has to be done to restore the people's faith in our political process, and build trust and accountability. I believe reforming our campaign financing laws is part of the answer."
-- Read more at www.pahouse.com/Josephs.
State Rep. Phyllis Mundy, D-Luzerne, has reintroduced legislation (H.B.227) that would close a loophole in state law that makes it legally advantageous for a drunk driver to flee the scene of an accident rather than stop and offer assistance. Mundy’s legislation would reclassify a hit-and-run accident when death occurs as a second-degree felony. It would also add an additional fine and term of imprisonment for each victim, as well as raise the penalties if the hit-and-run accident is committed while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance.
"Drivers involved in an accident have a duty to stop and render aid," Mundy said. "Drivers who flee the scene of an accident may increase the time it takes for medical personnel to be notified, especially if the crash occurs in an isolated area or late at night. It also could lead to the victim suffering additional injuries or death if no one is there to assist them and alert oncoming traffic."
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