Senator Scott Hutchinson E-Newsletter

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Harrisburg Happenings

Dear Friend,

I am pleased to send you my Session Wrap Up e-newsletter. This e-newsletter features events and legislative activities from the Session Week of April 16, 2018.

If you find this e-newsletter useful, I invite you to visit my website www.senatorscotthutchinson.com for more information about your state government. If you do not wish to receive these e-newsletters, please click the “unsubscribe” button at the bottom of the page. If you would like to contact my office, please go to my website and click the “contact” button.  Please do not “reply” directly to this e-mail.

Sincerely,

Scott

Bill Addressing Costs, Opioid Abuse Under Workers’ Comp Sent to Governor

Legislation that would save costs and address opioid abuse under Pennsylvania’s Workers’ Compensation program received final legislative approval this week and was sent to the Governor for enactment into law.

Senate Bill 936, which was approved by the House of Representatives on Monday and by a strong bi-partisan vote in the Senate on October 25, 2017, would require the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry to adopt an evidence-based drug formulary for Pennsylvania’s Workers’ Compensation program.

In addition to lowering costs and providing better care for patients, the proposal is intended to assist the Commonwealth in its battle against opioid addiction. The adoption of a drug formulary, which is commonplace in health insurance, would reduce the over-prescription of opioid painkillers by setting evidence-based standards for the medication that can be prescribed for a Workers’ Comp patient. The legislation would also eliminate payments for overpriced, unproven pain creams.

The legislation also addresses ethical problems illustrated in a Philadelphia newspaper article. Some law firms that specialize in Workers’ Compensation have their own pharmacies. This allows them to refer clients to doctors with which they have referral agreements and, in turn, the doctors write prescriptions and send them to the pharmacy the firm owns.

Bill Expanding “Standing” for Child Custody Sent to Governor

The Senate concurred Wednesday on House amendments to a bill that expands the legal standing for third-party individuals seeking to gain custody in cases where no biological or adoptive parent has care and control of the child. Senate Bill 844 now goes to the Governor for enactment into law.

The bill addresses the devastating toll of the opioid crisis on families across the Commonwealth, which can be especially heart-wrenching when it involves the innocent children of addicts who — because of their addiction — are unable to care for them. Often, third-parties, especially grandparents, are called upon to care for those children, even though they currently have little to no legal standing under current state law.

The bill received unanimous support in both the Senate and House of Representatives and was endorsed by organizations including the Pennsylvania Bar Association, the Center for Child Advocates and Pennsylvania Legal Services.

When the legislature amended Pennsylvania’s custody and visitation law in 2010, a grandparent’s right or “standing” to file for custody of a grandchild became more limited, essentially removing what was once an automatic right.

“Standing,” in a legal sense, is a preliminary step that determines only which parties can be in the courtroom pursuing custody. In a custody trial the court considers the “best interests of the children” and takes into account the children’s relationship with all of the parties.

The bill also includes a provision under which grandparents and great-grandparents may file an action for partial physical custody or supervised physical custody in cases where the parents of the child have commenced a proceeding for custody and do not agree whether grandparents should have custody.

Other bills sent to the Governor this week include:

House Bill 595, which provides for the types of complaints that can be filed with the Bureau of Consumer Protection regarding planned communities, cooperatives and condominiums.

Senate Bill 837, which renames part of a Westmoreland County road as the Specialist 4 William J. Kolenc Memorial Highway.

Senate Bill 877, which amends the Insurance Department Act to allow producers and insurers to spend as much as $100 in marketing insurance to a client or prospective client.

Senate Bill 878, which amends the Insurance Company Law to allow producers and insurers to spend as much as $100 in marketing insurance to a client or prospective client.

House Bill 1341, which amends the Bituminous Coal Mine Safety Act to allow emergency medical responders to be employed at mines.

Anti-hazing Bill Sent to House

The Senate approved a measure on Wednesday that provides a comprehensive rewrite of the state’s hazing laws. Senate Bill 1090 requires schools to have policies and reporting procedures in place to stop hazing and inform students and parents of what is happening on campus. It also establishes clear-cut parameters on hazing for organizations such as fraternities and sororities.

The bill is named after Timothy Piazza, a sophomore engineering student at Penn State University who died on Feb. 4, 2017, as a result of hazing at a fraternity.

Senate Approves Tougher Penalties for Repeat DUI Offenders

Repeat DUI offenders would face tougher penalties under legislation approved by the Senate on Wednesday. Senate Bill 961 increases the penalties for a person who unintentionally causes the death of another person as a result of a second or subsequent DUI violation. The bill increases the grading of subsequent DUI crimes and levies harsher sentences against repeat offenders who cause the death of another person.

There were 10,256 alcohol-related crashes and 297 alcohol-related fatalities in Pennsylvania in 2016.

Senate Bill 961 increases the minimum term of imprisonment for a person who unintentionally causes the death of another person while intoxicated from three years to five years if the person has a prior DUI, and from three years to seven years if the offender has two or more prior DUIs.

The measure also increases sentencing provisions for offenders who are not properly licensed or under suspension. The current penalty is a fine of $500 and imprisonment of 60 to 90 days. Senate Bill 961 increases the penalty on a second offense to a fine of $1,000 and imprisonment of at least 90 days. A third or subsequent offense would result in a fine of $2,500 and at least six months in jail. Senate Bill 961 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Bill Allows School Security Matters to be Discussed in Closed Sessions

Local school districts and governments would be permitted to discuss school security matters in executive sessions, which are closed to the public, under a measure unanimously passed by the Senate on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 1078 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration. The bill balances common sense concerns about protecting sensitive discussions and documents involving school security with the public’s “right to know.”

In response to recent incidents of school violence across the country, many Pennsylvania school districts are reviewing and strengthening their institutional security plans to better protect students, a process that may include identifying potential weaknesses in their current plans.

If made public, this information could compromise school safety efforts and put students at risk.  More than half of the states currently have measures in place which allow for security and safety matters to be discussed in non-public executive session.

The Senate approved several additional measures this week.

Senate Resolution 260 extends the term of the Senate Resolution 6 Commission from June 30 to November 30, 2018.

Senate Resolution 278 establishes a temporary rule of the Senate regarding amendments to appropriations bills for the 2018-19 budget.

Senate Bill 742 provides for a comprehensive bill of rights for sexual assault victims.

House Bill 866 amends the Local Tax Enabling Act to clarify certain provisions related to the consolidated collection of local income taxes and delinquent taxes.

Senate Bill 880 allows trailers up to 102-inch wide on highways.

Senate Bill 915 extends the deadline for filing a post-conviction relief action.

Senate Bill 916 updates the DNA testing law.

Committee Roundup

Finance

The Senate Finance Committee, which I chair, approved Senate Bill 1056 on Tuesday. The bill allows long-standing deductions for depreciation in determining taxable income.

Appropriations

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved 11 bills on Monday.

Senate Bill 435 requires all motorists to clear snow and ice from the top of their vehicles before driving. 

Senate Bill 742 provides for a comprehensive bill of rights for sexual assault victims.

House Bill 866 amends the Local Tax Enabling Act to clarify certain provisions related to the consolidated collection of local income taxes and delinquent taxes.

Senate Bill 915 extends the deadline for filing a post-conviction relief action.

Senate Bill 916 updates the DNA testing law.

Senate Bill 1041 directs the Department of Military & Veterans Affairs to create logos to promote veteran-owned and disabled veteran-owned businesses.

Senate Bill 1070 creates a County Adult Probation and Parole Advisory Committee.

Senate Bill 1071 streamlines the process for placement in State Intermediate Punishment.

Senate Bill 1072 revises sentencing laws.

Senate Bill 1090 increases penalties for hazing and requires schools to have policies and reporting procedures in place to stop hazing.

House Bill 1869 establishes a committee to review maternal deaths and develop strategies for the prevention of maternal deaths.

Judiciary

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved three bills on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 189 amends Pennsylvania’s Crime Victims Act to allow victims to attend the entirety of criminal trials.

Senate Bill 1092 amends the Crimes Code to create an offense for domestic violence in front of children.

Senate Bill 1132 establishes an Alternative Dispute Resolution Commission.

Rules & Executive Nominations

The Senate Rules & Executive Nominations Committee approved five measures on Tuesday.

Senate Resolution 278 establishes a temporary rule of the Senate regarding amendments to appropriations bills for the 2018-19 budget.

Senate Bill 837 is a highway renaming bill.

Senate Bill 844 expands the legal standing for individuals seeking to gain custody of children where both biological parents are absent, whether due to death or for other reasons.

Senate Bill 877 amends the Insurance Department Act to allow producers and insurers to spend as much as $100 in marketing insurance to a client or prospective client.

Senate Bill 878 amends the Insurance Company Law to allow producers and insurers to spend as much as $100 in marketing insurance to a client or prospective client.

State Government

The Senate State Government Committee approved three bills on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 299 changes the way that an incumbent magisterial district judge gets on the ballot for re-election.

Senate Bill 595 authorizes the electronic notarization of documents in cases where the signer appears before the notary by means of real-time audio-video communication.

Senate Bill 1038 amends the Pennsylvania Election Code regarding residual funds.

Urban Affairs & Housing

The Senate Urban Affairs & Housing Committee approved two bills on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 735 amends the Real Estate Tax Sale Law to allow counties to establish a demolition and rehabilitation fund.

Senate Bill 962 strengthens blighted property code violations when the owner has received state funds.

Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness

The Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee approved Senate Bill 1073 on Tuesday. The legislation would extend the Pennsylvania Heart and Lung Act to include several law enforcement entities that are not currently protected by this important coverage.

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