“We should provide every opportunity for service members and veterans to use their skills and training in the civilian world. This will benefit our men and women who serve our nation and Commonwealth as well as the companies that ultimately employ them.”

Sen. Elder Vogel (R-Beaver) on enactment of legislation he sponsored that will expand job opportunities for Pennsylvania’s service members and veterans.


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Senate Session Tuesday at 1 p.m.

The Senate returns to voting session today at 1 p.m. Bills on the calendar that could be considered include:

Senate Bill 935, sponsored by Sen. John Eichelberger (R-Blair), permitting electronic publishing of Local Government Commission codes.

Senate Bill 1130, sponsored by Sen. Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland), repealing the presentment of the printed Flood Insurance Report to the General Assembly.

Senate Bill 1131, sponsored by Sen. David Argall (R-Schuylkill), removing restrictions from potato packaging.

Senate Committee Schedule

Review

Mensch Bill to Improve Breast Cancer Detection Becomes Law

Legislation sponsored by Sen. Bob Mensch (R-Montgomery) to improve the early detection of breast cancer was signed into law by Gov. Tom Corbett on Nov. 1.

Act 86 of 2013 will require facilities offering mammograms to provide patients with the notification of breast density. Those attending the bill signing with Governor Corbett and Senator Mensch included Pat Halpin-Murphy from the PA Breast Cancer Coalition, breast cancer survivors and their families, and members of the medical community. For more on Act 86, please see  In the Spotlight, below.
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New Law Ends “Triple Dipping” of Unemployment Benefits

Legislation ending so-called “triple dipping” of Unemployment Compensation benefits by retirees was signed into law Oct. 23.

The practice involves an individual who collects a public pension or private retirement benefit while returning to temporary work, only to collect unemployment compensation when leaving the job. The Senate Labor and Industry Committee , chaired by Sen. John Gordner (R-Columbia), approved the legislation in April. Act 75 of 2013 prohibits individuals from collecting unemployment compensation if they leave employment to preserve pension/retirement/annuity benefits.

Bill Allowing Medical Apologies Signed into Law

Health care professionals will again be able to say “I’m sorry” without fear of legal consequences under legislation signed into law Oct. 25.

Act 79 of 2013, sponsored by Sen. Pat Vance (R-Cumberland), makes any benevolent gesture made prior to the commencement of a medical liability action by certain health care workers inadmissible as evidence of liability or an admission against interest. A benevolent gesture is defined in the bill as any action that conveys a sense of apology, condolence, explanation, compassion, or commiseration emanating from humane impulses.

Thirty-six states, the District of Columbia and Guam have provisions allowing medical professionals to make apologies or sympathetic gestures.

Bill Expanding Veteran Job Opportunities Enacted

Legislation sponsored by Sen. Elder Vogel (R-Beaver) that will expand job opportunities for Pennsylvania’s service members and veterans was signed into law Nov. 1.

Currently, military personnel and veterans who have two years of experience driving a military commercial vehicle are eligible to waive the CDL skills test when certain criteria are met. One such requirement states that the applicant is eligible for waiver if the applicant has legally operated certain equipment for at least two years immediately preceding application for a commercial driver’s license.

Act 82 of 2013 strikes “immediately preceding” from the law, providing military personnel and veterans with at least two years of military commercial driving experience the opportunity to apply for a CDL with the possibility of a waiver within five years of their leaving military service.
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Senate Passes Bill Expanding Mental Health Service for Military Personnel

The Senate approved legislation Oct. 23 to allow volunteer doctors to provide free mental health services to military personnel and their families.

Senate Bill 81, sponsored by Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery), allows retired or currently practicing healthcare professionals to provide free, voluntary mental health services to military personnel inside or outside of a clinical setting. Mental health professionals practicing in good faith would be exempt from civil liability, currently a major roadblock to volunteer doctors.

Over 2.3 million troops have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan since September 11, 2001. Over 40 percent have been deployed more than once. According to the journal of Military Medicine, 62 percent have reported receiving mental health care since returning home. Senate Bill 81 was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Senate Approves Reduced Hunting, Fishing Fees for Disabled Vets

The Senate on Oct. 21 unanimously approved legislation to offer disabled Pennsylvania veterans reduced-fee hunting and fishing licenses.

Senate Bill 1090, sponsored by Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee Chair Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne) , and Senate Bill 1102, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson), reduce the cost of annual hunting and fishing licenses to $1 each for all disabled veterans in the Commonwealth. Currently, Pennsylvania law allows for free hunting and fishing licenses only for veterans who are either certified as 100 percent disabled or who have lost the use of one of their arms or legs.

Any Pennsylvania veteran eligible for disability compensation as determined by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs would qualify for the $1 licenses. Veterans certified as having a total disability would continue to qualify for free licenses. Pennsylvania currently offers $1 hunting and fishing licenses to certain active duty military personnel as well. Both bills now go to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Landowner Liability Protection Bill Gains Final Approval

Legislation sponsored by Senate Game and Fisheries Committee Chair Richard Alloway (R-Franklin) that will limit the liability of land owners who allow hunting on their property was signed into law Nov. 1.

Act 83 of 2013 will prevent land owners from being prosecuted for Game Code violations committed by hunters who are permitted to use the property. The bill now goes to the governor for his signature and enactment into law.

Under current law, land owners who allow hunting on their property could be held responsible for violations by hunters, such as taking an animal out of season. Property owners could still be held responsible for violations if they receive a fee, payment or gratuity from the hunter.

In the Spotlight

Dense breast tissue is a relatively common condition, but it can hide abnormalities and complicate early detection of breast cancer. Notification will allow women to know their own breast density. With that information, they can talk to their doctor about what their breast density rating means and whether they are at a higher risk for breast cancer.

An estimated 32 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in Pennsylvania every day. Women who have extremely dense breast tissue are at a four-to-six-times greater risk of developing breast cancer.

About 40 percent of women who get mammograms have dense breast tissue, but almost 95 percent of women are unaware of their own breast density. Act 86 will establish a protocol for informing women. Better communication and better screening can save lives.

Senator Mensch: “As important as mammograms are, we’ve learned that they are not enough. This new law will establish a protocol for informing women about breast density. Better communication and better screening can save lives.”

Fast Facts

State Revenue Up in October

  • Pennsylvania collected $2.1 billion in General Fund revenue in October, 1.4 percent more than anticipated.
  • Fiscal year-to-date General Fund collections total $8.2 billion, which is $41.8 million, or 0.5 percent, above estimate.
  • Sales tax receipts were $5.3 million above estimate. Year-to-date sales tax collections total $3.1 billion, which is 0.8 percent more than anticipated.
  • Personal income tax revenue was $2.4 million above estimate. This brings year-to-date PIT collections to $3.4 billion, which is 0.2 percent above estimate.
  • October corporation tax revenue of $159.9 million was $20.2 million above estimate. Year-to-date corporation tax collections total $748.8 million, which is 1.4 percent above estimate.