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Welcome to "Mike's Memo," an update on what's happening in the 48th Legislative District, the State Capitol, and the progress of my legislative priorities. If you haven't done so already, please take a few moments to visit my website at www.senatorfolmer.com to learn more about issues that may affect you and your family.

Week of October 16, 2017

Bill Signed into Law by the Governor
House Bill 45 – Act 33 – allows eligible patients with a terminal illness the “right to try” investigational drugs, biological products and devices not yet approved by the FDA.

Upcoming Senate State Government Committee Public Hearing on Senate Bill 595
The Senate State Government Committee, which I chair, will hold a public hearing on SB 595 relating to electronic notarization on October 24 at 10 a.m. in Hearing Room One, North Office Building. Panelists include Acting Secretary Robert Torres, PA Department of State; Michael Chodos, Notarize; Ray Pepe, PA Bankers Association; Michael O’Neal, PA Land Title Association; Marc Aronson, PA Association of Notaries; Brian Hughes, Quicken Loans/Title Source, and; Kerry Smith, Community Legal Services of Philadelphia.

Navigating the Aging Process Informational Sessions
WellSpan Good Samaritan Hospital, the Lebanon County Area Agency on Aging and I will hold two informational sessions in November on Navigating the Aging Process. The sessions will benefit those beginning advanced care planning and family members who may bear responsibility for their elder family members down the road. Topics will include medical directive forms, Medicaid and differences between levels of care with speakers from WellSpan Health, the Area Agency on Aging and Attorney Edward J. Coyle. Click here for details. For questions or more information, email fbinner@pasen.gov.

Nominations Open for Lebanon County Commission for Women’s Hall of Fame
Nominations are now open for the Lebanon County Commission for Women’s 2018 Women’s Hall of Fame. Consider nominating a colleague, friend, relative or acquaintance who goes above and beyond in their volunteer or professional efforts and who have made significant contributions to their community while serving as role models and hidden heroes. Nomination forms can be found here and will be accepted through November 30.

Homeland Security Extends REAL ID Enforcement Grace Period for Pennsylvania
The Department of Homeland Security announced a REAL ID enforcement grace period through January 22, 2018, which means Pennsylvania residents will not face access issues when entering federal facilities prior to that date. There is no enforcement on commercial air travel until January 22, 2018.

“Talk to Your State Senator” Middle and High School Statewide Video Competition
The PA Senate is holding a statewide video competition with support from the Drug and Alcohol Service Providers Organization of PA. The competition is open to all PA students grades 6-12. The video entry must address preventing teens from starting drugs – legal and illegal – including alcohol. Help the legislature create policies that work. Deadline for entry is December 10. Find more information, official rules and the registration form here. Videos will be judged in two categories: Middle School and High School. First place in each category will receive $2500, second place will receive $1500 and third place $1000. Prize money will be awarded through the PA 529 Guaranteed Savings Plan.

October Cable Show: Strite’s Orchard
My October Community Report cable show is ready to watch! In this month’s show, we feature Strite’s Orchard in Lower Swatara/Swatara Twp., Dauphin Co., who are celebrating over 100 years and are in their fourth generation of farming! Talking to Jon Strite took me way back to my produce broker days. Check out this wonderful local family farm… agricultural and small business at its best! Comcast On Demand and WHBG TV 20 should also be airing through the month of October.

October 2017 - Strites Orchard

Column: Reform is in the Eye of the Beholder
During the latter part of the debate on medical cannabis, Senate Majority Leader Corman took charge, saying: “This issue is too big, it’s too important, and too many people are depending on us to ‘get it right.’ And, for all the times the Senate has been criticized for acting too quickly, this is one time we’re going to take our time and ‘get it right’.”

Senator Corman was spot-on then and his comments form a guiding principle I follow as chair of the Senate State Government Committee: the need to “get it right.”

I waited eight years to chair the State Government Committee and it allows me to work to advance my “Promise to Pennsylvania”: legislative and political reform, tax and spending reform, and legal and labor law reform.

The State Government Committee has regulatory oversight over: the Governor’s Office, Pennsylvania Department of State, Department of General Services, Office of Administration, Office of General Counsel, the Executive Board, Board of Claims, Civil Service Commission, Council on the Arts, Historical & Museum Commission, Lobbying Disclosure Law Regulation Promulgation Committee, Office of Open Records, State Athletic Commission, and the State Ethics Commission.

This oversight has generated over 100 bills so far this Session, including: elections, state procurement (including state leases and land sales), Right to Know, lobbying disclosure, conduct of public officials and employees, and various Constitutional amendments.

My goal as chair is to give each bill due consideration. That’s why we hold public hearings: to be sure bills receive proper deliberation. Last Session, nearly 200 bills were referred to the Committee and about a third were reported to the full Senate.

A common question I’m asked is: “why does it take so long to change government – even the simple things?” The answer comes from the Founding Fathers who rebelled against a king making decisions and they vested authority in three separate but equal branches of government: checks and balances.

To be sure our Constitutional Republic would be especially deliberative, the Founders divided the Legislative branch into two chambers, who must agree before sending bills to the executive to be signed into law. This deliberative process helps protect everyone’s rights – including those with opinions contrary to those of the majority (50% plus one).

Our Constitution protects inalienable rights that cannot be taken away by government. It’s why some of the Founders insisted on a Bill of Rights. In a democracy, the majority is not restrained and can impose its will on the minority.

This leads to a big frustration of mine: groups who decide what constitutes “reform” and demand action on a particular bill. It’s “reform” because they say it is and don’t you dare disagree because then you’re anti-reform.

However, what’s “reform” to one may not be to another. That’s why I ask questions about any “reform.” Surprisingly, some have admitted they didn’t read the bill(s) they’re advocating. Others don’t have the answers to questions about bills they insist are “reform.” What was the process used to draft their legislation? Who made decisions and how? Why is their legislation “reform” while other bills aren’t?

Openness, transparency, and accountability are foundations of my work in the General Assembly. Sometimes this takes time. It’s always hard work and tedious details.

To quote an old advertisement, it’s important for the quality to go in before the name goes on. This is especially true whenever anyone says they want “reform.”


Contact Information
Please feel free to contact me at any time on state-related issues that are of concern to you. I may be reached through my website or my Lebanon or Harrisburg offices.

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