|House Democratic Legislative Review|
Recent legislative activity by PA House Democrats
State Rep. Maria Donatucci this week was sworn in as the state representative for the 185th Legislative District after her landslide win in a special election Feb. 1. The election was to fill the seat that her late husband Robert had held for 15 terms before his sudden death last November just days after winning reelection to a 16th term.
"If I had to summarize my priorities in two words, they would be 'public safety,'" Donatucci said. "We have to maintain programs that keep more young people from choosing drugs and violence over the path of being productive citizens. We must make them aware of the satisfaction of self-discipline and positive involvement in their community and in attaining their educational and professional goals. That's why we need our libraries and our recreational resources and good schools. Those kids are the future."
-- Read more at www.pahouse.com/Donatucci.
The House has passed Democratic Judiciary Committee Chairman Thomas Caltagirone's legislation (H.B. 38) that would bring the law regarding Pennsylvania's district justice and Philadelphia Municipal Court filing fees in compliance with a new law enacted last year that effectively raised the number of civil cases that can be heard by district justices and in Philadelphia Municipal Court to relieve some of the burden on the state's common pleas courts. Caltagirone's bill would match the language regarding filing fees in district and Philadelphia Municipal Court to the language in the new law regarding which cases these courts may hear.
"I am pleased that we were able to work with the House Republicans on passing this important piece of legislation to ensure completion of the law that increases the number of civil cases that can be heard in district and Philadelphia Municipal Court so that we can relieve some of the caseload burden from our Common Pleas Courts," said Caltagirone, D-Berks.
-- Read more at www.pahouse.com/Caltagirone.
State Rep. Jewell Williams, D-Phila., is introducing legislation that would increase penalties for filing false police reports if they are also based on discrimination. Williams' bill would make a false report based on discrimination a first-degree misdemeanor.
"People who file false reports waste precious law enforcement time that could have been better spent by protecting our neighborhoods and solving crimes," Williams said. "When you add discrimination to that crime, it's just that much more ignorant. People who perpetuate hate and divisiveness in our communities should be held responsible for their actions and punished accordingly."
-- Read more at www.pahouse.com/Williams.
Bisphenol-A can be dangerous to babies, and that is why state Rep. Lawrence Curry is continuing his fight to ban the chemical from infant and toddler products in Pennsylvania. In addition to banning the use of BPA in baby products, Curry's H.B. 192 would also prohibit manufacturers from replacing BPA with various other reproductive toxicants that could cause birth defects or harm the growth and development of infants and toddlers.
"The threat of BPA to our children is real, and inaction is inexcusable," Curry said. "When bottles containing BPA are warmed, the chemical can leach into the formula putting our children at risk."
-- Read more at www.pahouse.com/Curry.
Centre County state Rep. Scott Conklin announced this week he will introduce a bill to address lead management and lead remediation at firing ranges in Pennsylvania. Conklin said the intent of the legislation is to aid the Pennsylvania Game Commission in cleaning up ammunition shells and targets that have accumulated in areas close to sport shooting and training ranges.
"Shooting ranges are popular places for many sportsmen," Conklin said. "Keeping these areas environmentally sound will benefit all of us and all these facilities to remain a popular destination for Pennsylvania's sportsmen and other outdoor enthusiasts."
-- Read more at www.pahouse.com/Conklin.
State Rep. Sid Michaels Kavulich is crafting a bill that would prohibit members of the General Assembly from being paid to serve on the board of directors of any corporation, business or organization. Kavulich's bill would only allow elected officials to be reimbursed for expenses incurred by serving on various boards.
"Receiving compensation as an elected official could cause a conflict of interest which would be contrary to the office of state legislator," Kavulich said. "I feel that it is necessary for lawmakers to remove any indication of impropriety as we work for the citizens of the Commonwealth, and believe this bill would be an important step toward that goal."
-- Read more at www.pahouse.com/Kavulich.
State Rep. Tina Davis, D-Bucks, recently introduced a package of legislation to address health care fraud. The first bill, H.B. 636, would create a crime of "health care program fraud and make it a felony. House Bill 637 would enhance the authority of the departments of Public Welfare and Insurance and other agencies managing health care programs to ferret out fraud and abuse of programs.
"I've drafted a package of bills to address the issue of fraud in Pennsylvania's Medicaid program, as well as other state health care programs like the Children's Health Insurance Program and adultBasic," Davis said. "In 2009 alone, it is estimated that nearly $54 billion in losses to the Medicaid and Medicare programs was due to fraud. Further, it has been proven repeatedly that investments in fraud detection and enforcement pay for themselves many times over."
-- Read more at www.pahouse.com/Davis.
State Rep. Babette Josephs, D-Phila., has introduced a bill (H.B. 625) that would guarantee service members the right to vote by absentee ballot and allow the legislature to permit more Pennsylvania residents to vote by absentee ballot. Currently, Pennsylvanians are only permitted to vote by absentee ballot if they are away from their residential municipality on the day of the election due to illness or because of their job, if they're observing a religious holiday, or they have election-day duties.
"Elections are the business of the state and the counties," Josephs said. "The federal government's role is minimal, yet the only reason military personnel in Pennsylvania are guaranteed the right to vote absentee is because of federal law. My legislation, among other things, puts that right in the Pennsylvania Constitution."
-- Read more at www.pahouse.com/Josephs.
State Rep. Mark Cohen, D-Phila., has introduced legislation (H.B. 708) that would allow civil unions for same sex couples to the Commonwealth. The bill would define a civil union as a union between two members of the same sex and would have all the same state laws applicable to that union as marriage. Nothing in Cohen's bill would require any religion or any clergyman to perform any ceremony uniting people in a civil union. The legislation would merely offer committed gay couples the same legal rights that are bestowed on married people, without giving them the status of marriage.
"Civil unions are a legal arrangement for committed gay and lesbian couples to handle relations with each other, with health care decisions, with joint property and with the outside world," Cohen said. "Civil unions do not have the social significance of marriage, and they likely never will. They are however, an important step forward in the process of according gay and lesbian couples the respect as human beings that all people should have."
-- Read more at www.pahouse.com/Cohen.
State Rep. Gerald Mullery has introduced bills that would eliminate automatic cost-of-living raises for elected officials in Pennsylvania and require state representatives to pay 10 percent of the cost of their health insurance premiums. House Bill 565 would eliminate the automatic cost-of-living adjustment lawmakers receive under a 1995 law. House Bill 564 would require all state representatives to pay 10 percent of their health care coverage.
"State government needs to tighten its belt, and these are two steps we can take," said Mullery, D-Luzerne. "During these difficult economic times, Pennsylvania families have had to make sacrifices, and certainly state lawmakers should do the same."
-- Read more at www.pahouse.com/Mullery.
State Rep. Lawrence Curry has reintroduced his bill that would create a standard of care for Pennsylvanians with hemophilia and other bleeding disorders. House Bill 635 would preserve access to medical services provided by the seven state-recognized hemophilia programs and the clinical coagulation laboratories associated with them; all FDA-approved blood clotting products; and full-service home care pharmacies with ancillary home nursing care. It also would require medical screenings for bleeding disorders for women prior to undergoing certain surgical procedures.
"This bill is necessary to protect the quality of life people with bleeding disorders deserve," said Curry, D-Montgomery/Phila. "It would protect access to state-recognized hemophilia treatment centers that allow people with bleeding disorders to treat their disease effectively at home, rather than enduring lengthy, expensive hospital stays."
-- Read more at www.pahouse.com/Curry.