A Report on the Legislative Session of
October 2, 2017
I am pleased to send you my Session Wrap Up e-newsletter. This
e-newsletter features legislative activities during the Session Week
of October 2, 2017.
If you find this e-newsletter useful, I invite you to visit my website
www.senatordonwhite.com for more information about your state government. If
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Bill Would Restore “Standing” for Grandparents
The devastating toll of the opioid crisis on families across the Commonwealth
can be especially heart-wrenching when it comes to the innocent children of
addicts, especially when those users become another tragic statistic on the list
of lives claimed by an overdose.
Often, grandparents are called upon to care for those children -- even though
they currently have little to no legal standing under current state law. That is
a shortfall that I want to correct.
That’s why I introduced
Senate Bill 844. This bill would expand the legal standing for
individuals seeking to gain custody of children in cases where both parents are
absent. The measure was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday
and sent to the full Senate for consideration.
Too many lives have been tragically cut short by the opioid epidemic that is
ravaging communities across the state and their children end up becoming caught
up in the turmoil that ensues. My legislation would give legal standing to
people who are sincerely concerned for these children, but do not meet the
conditions set by Pennsylvania’s custody law. In many cases, these people have
already provided financial support and/or previously performed parental duties.
Under my proposal, grandparents or other relatives would be allowed to file for
legal custody if they can show that they have a sustained, substantial and
sincere interest in the welfare of the child.
When the legislature amended the grandparent custody and visitation statute
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.
As a result there have been instances where custody was awarded to a
boyfriend or girlfriend, even though the grandparents had been involved
throughout the child’s life. Under current law, the grandparents do not meet the
conditions to have the right to pursue custody. Ironically, a third party who
resided with the child and was acting in ‘loco parentis’ -- a legal
term meaning they are performing parental duties -- would have the right to file
for custody. That’s just not right for the grandparents or the child.
“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.
Three Measures Sent to Governor for Enactment into Law
Measures permitting patients with terminal illnesses to use certain products
and devices not yet approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, honoring
a fallen western Pennsylvania police officer, and amending the state Uniform
Construction Code all received final legislative approval this week and were
sent to the Governor for his signature and enactment into law.
House Bill 45 would allow eligible patients to request and use
investigational drugs, biological products and medical devices not yet approved
by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as long as the patient has a
terminal illness and passes other requirements.
The FDA approval process for investigational drugs, biological products and
devices in the United States aims to protect patients from premature,
ineffective and unsafe medications and treatments. However, three rounds of
clinical trials can take as long as 15 years, leaving many to die while awaiting
treatment. HB 45 would allow manufacturers to make these products available to
eligible patients after the products have successfully completed the first phase
of clinical trials
House Bill 103 designates a bridge over the Chartiers Creek in
Canonsburg Borough, Washington County, as the Officer Scott L. Bashioum Memorial
Bridge. Officer Bashioum of the Canonsburg Police Department was killed in the
line of duty on Nov. 10, 2016, when he responded to a domestic violence call in
which the alleged shooter, who took his own life, also killed a woman and her
House Bill 409 makes comprehensive changes to the process used by
the Uniform Construction Code Review and Advisory Council to evaluate and adopt
building code updates.
Senate Approves Interstate Highway Safety Measure
Legislation requiring the installation of fencing on bridges over interstate
highways was unanimously approved by the Senate on Tuesday.
Senate Bill 564, which requires PENNDOT to include protective
fencing as part of new bridge projects and major renovations of existing bridges
over interstate highways, now goes to the House of Representatives for
The Senate also approved
Senate Bill 530. The bill updates Act 136 of
1998, the Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional
Law & Justice
The Senate Law & Justice Committee amended and approved
House Bill 1547 on Monday. The bill amends the Liquor law and
addresses “nuisance” bars.
In addition to Senate Bill 844, my expanded “standing” bill, the Senate
Judiciary Committee approved four other bills on Tuesday.
House Bill 203 amends the Probate, Estates and Fiduciaries Code to
increase from $5,000 to $10,000 the amount an employer may pay directly to a
surviving relative for the decedent’s final paycheck.
House Bill 352 reduces the period of time needed to acquire a title
through adverse possession under specified circumstances.
Senate Bill 499 would allow the Board of Prison Inspectors in
Eighth Class counties to meet less frequently.
House Bill 1139 amends the Newborn Protection Act to expand the
list of caregivers to whom a parent may surrender a newborn and provides for a
program to install incubators so that newborns who are surrendered may be kept
safely in a controlled environment.