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Senator Don White

Harrisburg Happenings
A Report on the Legislative Session of
December 11, 2017

Dear Friend,

I am pleased to send you my Session Wrap Up e-newsletter. This e-newsletter features legislative activities during the Session Week of December 11, 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 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 web page and click the "contact" button. Please do not "reply" directly to this e-mail.

Sincerely,

Don White


Senate Approves Bill Restoring “Standing” for Grandparents

Legislation I introduced, Senate Bill 844, expanding the legal standing for individuals seeking to gain custody of children in cases where no biological or adoptive parent has custody was approved by the Senate on Tuesday and sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

This 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, grandparents are called upon to care for those children -- even though they currently have little to no legal standing under current state law.

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 third parties would be allowed to file for legal custody in cases where the parents are deceased or absent, provided 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’ (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.

Committee Approves Bill Ensuring EMS Reimbursements for Service

The Senate Banking & Insurance Committee, which I chair, approved legislation, Senate Bill 1003, that would require insurance companies and Medicaid to reimburse emergency medical services agencies for services provided even when transport to a hospital does not take place.

Senate Bill 1003, which I introduced, would ensure that EMS agencies are properly reimbursed for their services when called out to provide care. Currently, insurance companies and Medicaid are only required to reimburse EMS organizations for those services when they include transportation to a hospital.

There are cases where crews respond to a scene to provide care and treatment, but transportation is unnecessary or refused. Not every case requires hospital treatment or in some cases the patient is reluctant to seek further treatment. That means that these responders can be stiffed for payment by insurance companies and that’s just not fair. There are costs incurred and man hours spent by these organizations. Senate Bill 1003 will ensure those organizations are properly reimbursed for their services.

The committee also approved Senate Bill 637, my bill that would establish a Pharmaceutical Transparency Commission to review drug prices in Pennsylvania and require pharmaceutical companies to disclose information about their pricing. Audio

Healthcare costs overall are out of control and pharmaceuticals are a big part of that. Given the magnitude of the industry, there is a great need for transparency and accountability. Prescription medications have certainly improved health care and they may even reduce the aggregate costs of health care. However, there is little information available as to why they cost so much. Nothing holds down costs better than an informed consumer, which is the goal behind the Pharmaceutical Transparency Commission.

The Commission would be funded through an annual assessment on pharmaceutical manufacturers. It would consist of the Insurance Commissioner and the Secretaries of Health and Human Services, a pharmacist designated by the Pennsylvania Pharmacist Association, a consumer advocate designated by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, a physician designated by the Pennsylvania Medical Society and an insurance producer representative designated by the Pennsylvania Association of Health Underwriters.

CHIP Reauthorization Receives Final Legislative Approval

The Senate gave final approval Monday to legislation extending the life of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and sent the bill to the Governor for enactment into law. House Bill 1388 changes the expiration date of CHIP from December 31, 2017, to December 31, 2019.

UC System Upgrades Measure Sent to Governor

The Senate gave final legislative approval Wednesday to legislation that provides for the completion of long-awaited updates to the Unemployment Compensation (UC) program’s computer system. The measure now goes to the Governor for enactment.

House Bill 1915 provides a total of $115.2 million in funding over four years for UC operations and technological upgrades and requires the Department of Labor and Industry to end its reliance on transfers into the Service and Infrastructure Improvement Fund.

Governor Wolf shut down three Unemployment Compensation Service Centers (Allentown, Altoona and Lancaster) late last year after the Legislature refused to transfer $57 million into SIIF without receiving assurances that the money was spent responsibly.

Several Bills Advance as Legislature Closes Out 2017

Several bills received final legislative approval this week and were sent to the Governor’s desk as the General Assembly wrapped up its activities for 2017.

Senate Bill 3 amends the Abortion Control Act to reduce the maximum gestational age for legal abortions from 24 to 20 weeks and prohibits dismemberment abortion.

Senate Bill 252 amends the Pittsburgh Parking Authority’s enabling act to assist in supporting private development.

House Bill 411 amends the state Bingo Law to increase the monetary limits for payouts and jackpots.

Senate Bill 446 provides for the regulation and certification of addiction recovery houses.

Senate Bill 458 provides new penalties for illegal household goods movers.

House Bill 561 amends the Crimes Code to repeal a sunset provision relating to the issuance of administrative subpoenas in an investigation involving child sexual exploitation or abuse.

Senate Bill 629 updates the Uniform Fraudulent Transfers Act.

Senate Bill 728 exempts Schedule V epilepsy drugs currently included in the state’s prescription drug monitoring program requirements.

Senate Bill 736 authorizes parking authorities in Second Class A and Third Class cities to enforce and administer parking ordinances and resolutions.

Senate Bill 921 conveys properties in Lehigh and McKean counties.

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.

House Bill 1231 establishes a veterans’ registry, within the Department of Veterans Affairs, to provide veterans with information regarding state benefits, programs, and services.

House Bill 1234 amends the definition of ambulatory surgical facility in the Health Care Facilities Act to reflect that surgical procedures in the facility may not exceed 24 hours.

House Bill 1420 sets new auditing thresholds for charitable organizations that receive annual contributions.

House Bill 1421 makes changes to the filing time frame for Charitable Organizations, Professional Fundraising Counsels and Professional Solicitors.

House Bill 1431 renames highways.

House Bill 1778 renames a bridge in Philadelphia.

House Bill 1902 makes various changes to the state Liquor Code.

Senate Approves, Sends Several Bills to House

The Senate approved several bills this week and sent them on to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Senate Bill 196 allows judges to order an electronic monitoring device on a defendant in a protection from abuse order.

Senate Bill 354 strengthens licensee reporting requirements to the Department of State.

Senate Bill 764 creates a recreational vehicle (RV) specific law which would govern RV dealers, manufacturers, and salespeople.

Senate Bill 798 allows the appointment of a one-star or two-star military officer to the Military Enhancement Commission.

Senate Bill 892 amends the Chiropractic Practice Act to provide clarity on the topic of clinical training.

House Bill 1175 amends state law relating to lobbying disclosure to provide for an electronic registration filing system and to increase fines and penalties for violations of the act. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

House Bill 1602 renames several bridges. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

Committee Roundup

Appropriations

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved nine bills on Monday.

Senate Bill 196 allows judges to order an electronic monitoring device on a defendant in a protection from abuse order.

Senate Bill 653 further consolidates the collection of local, non-property taxes, at the county level.

Senate Bill 796 exempts CDL licensees from the change of address fees if they have not actually moved from their home and the change of address is due to a governmental action beyond their control.

Senate Bill 799 creates a program for municipalities to meet their taxpayer-funded Chesapeake Bay nutrient reduction mandates.

Senate Bill 827 gives individuals the power to plan for the management and disposition of their digital assets by providing instructions in a will, trust, or power of attorney.

House Bill 1175 amends state law relating to lobbying disclosure to provide for an electronic registration filing system and to increase fines and penalties for violations of the act.

House Bill 1231 establishes a veterans’ registry, within the Department of Veterans Affairs, to provide veterans with information regarding state benefits, programs, and services.

House Bill 1234 amends the definition of ambulatory surgical facility in the Health Care Facilities Act to reflect that surgical procedures in the facility may not exceed 24 hours.

House Bill 1448 charges the Department of Education with providing information on its website to compare institutions of higher education.

The Appropriations Committee approved five bills on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 892 amends the Chiropractic Practice Act to provide clarity on the topic of clinical training.

House Bill 1420 sets new auditing thresholds for charitable organizations that receive annual contributions.

House Bill 1421 makes changes to the filing time frame for Charitable Organizations, Professional Fundraising Counsels and Professional Solicitors.

House Bill 1902 makes various changes to the state Liquor Code.

House Bill 1915 provides multi-year funding for the Unemployment Compensation program to end its reliance on the supplemental transfers to the Service and Infrastructure Improvement Fund.

Education

The Senate Education Committee approved two measures on Tuesday.

Senate Resolution 248 urges the Department of Education of the Commonwealth to develop alternatives s to Keystone Exams for Federal accountability purposes.

Senate Bill 955 establishes a pilot program providing grants to community colleges to partner with secondary schools to train students in fire services.

Game & Fisheries

The Senate Game & Fisheries Committee approved House Bill 359 on Wednesday. The bill addresses penalties for hunters who mistakenly kill an animal.

Health & Human Services

The Senate Health & Human Services Committee approved three bills on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 623 updates and revises Pennsylvania law to include the codification of Pennsylvania Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment to be used by medical professionals.

Senate Bill 938 reforms expungement guidelines for the Statewide Database of Protective Services within the Department of Human Services and County Child Protective Services Databases.

Senate Bill 978 addresses drug disposal after hospice care.

Labor & Industry

The Senate Labor & Industry Committee approved House Bill 1915 on Monday. The bill provides multi-year funding for the Unemployment Compensation program to end its reliance on the supplemental transfers to the Service and Infrastructure Improvement Fund.

Law & Justice

The Law & Justice Committee approved House Bill 1902 on Monday. The bill makes various changes to the state Liquor Code.

Local Government

The Senate Local Government Committee approved three bills on Tuesday.

House Bill 99 allows boroughs to make contracts or purchases without requiring advertising, bidding or price quotations in situations deemed emergencies.

Senate Bill 597 authorizes the Auditor General to conduct audits of county and municipal authorities.

Senate Bill 979 permits a municipal or regional police officer, who has been employed with a department full-time for at least six months, to purchase previous full- or part-time police employment for pension benefit purposes.

Rules & Executive Nominations

The Senate Rules & Executive Nominations Committee approved four bills on Monday.

Senate Bill 354 strengthens licensee reporting requirements to the Department of State.

Senate Bill 458 provides new penalties for illegal household goods movers.

House Bill 1388 changes the expiration date of CHIP from December 31, 2017, to December 31, 2019.

House Bill 1431 renames highways.

The Rules & Executive Nominations Committee approved two bills, as amended by the House, on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 446 provides for the regulation and certification of addiction recovery houses.

Senate Bill 921 conveys properties in Lehigh and McKean counties.

State Government

The Senate State Government Committee approved four bills on Tuesday,

House Bill 444 amends the Election Code to change the information required to be printed on a nominating petition for school director from “residence” to “address where he is duly registered and enrolled.”

Senate Bill 761 amends the state Constitution to allow gubernatorial candidates to select their running mate as Lieutenant Governor.

Senate Bill 762 mandates an external performance audit of the Pennsylvania Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors and the process by which voter registrations records are entered and maintained.

House Bill 1787 authorizes the conveyance of two parcels located in the Borough of Kane, McKean County.

Transportation

The Senate Transportation Committee approved five bills on Wednesday

Senate Bill 55 reduces the percentage of service-connected disability required for a veteran to qualify for a severely disabled veteran license plate from 100 percent to at least 75 percent disability.

Senate Bill 898 exempts municipal trucks from state bonding requirements when these vehicles are traveling in order to maintain local roads.

Senate Bill 961 increases the penalties for someone convicted of vehicular homicide while DUI who has had prior offenses for DUI.

Senate Bill 973 renames a bridge.

Senate Bill 974 renames a bridge.

Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness

The Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee approved two measures on Wednesday.

House Bill 204 directs the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs to serve as a liaison and provide administrative support for the Civil Air Patrol.

Senate Resolution 237 urging counties and local law enforcement, public safety and emergency services to work with the State Police to facilitate the rollout of the new P25 Pa-Star Net radio system.

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