Senate Weekly Session Wrap
A Report on the Legislative Session Week of December 12, 2011
Important Harrisburg Happenings:
Legislative Redistricting Maps Finalized
After an in-depth study and conducting several public forums, the Legislative Reapportionment Commission approved the realignment of Pennsylvania's state legislative districts on December 12th to reflect population shifts as indicated by the 2010 census. The new districts will become effective in 2012.
Unlike Congressional Reapportionment, state Legislative Reapportionment does not require approval by the General Assembly.
The Commission, a bi-partisan, bi-cameral panel, actively worked to ensure the process was open to public review and input and that the final maps truly reflect the population and diversity of Pennsylvania. To view the final maps, visit the Commission's website: www.redistricting.state.pa.us.
The new map substantially changes the boundaries of the 16th Senatorial District, which I represent, by moving the entire district into Lehigh County. The new 16th District will be made up of the following Lehigh County areas: the City of Allentown; the Townships of Heidelberg, Lower Macungie, Lower Milford, Lowhill, Lynn, North Whitehall, South Whitehall, Upper Macungie, Upper Milford, Upper Saucon, Washington and Weisenberg; and, the Boroughs of Alburtis, Coopersburg and Macungie.
Adam Walsh' Child Protection Bill Headed to Governor
The Senate concurred on December 14th with the House or Representatives amendments to Senate Bill 1183 and sent the measure on to the Governor for his signature and enactment into law. The bill, also known as the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, will ensure that Pennsylvania meets federally mandated national standards to strengthen sex offender registration and notification.
Specifically, the measure, which I co-sponsored, strengthens the state's efforts to track and prosecute sex offenders, includes the state as part of a national registry that law enforcement officials can access and expands the list of sexually violent offenses covered under the law.
In addition to
establishing a national system for the registration of convicted sex offenders,
the bill also closes loopholes in current law that have allowed homeless and
out-of-state offenders to avoid registering under the state's Megan's Law.
Bill Increasing Standards for Abortion Clinics Headed to Governor
Legislation increasing state oversight of abortion clinics and providing additional safeguards for the women who use those facilities is headed to the Governor for enactment into law following Senate concurrence on House amendments on December 14th.
Senate Bill 732, which I co-sponsored, sets licensing standards and provides for regular inspections of abortion clinics by the state Department of Health. The legislation also requires clinics that perform abortions meet higher standards for treatment and care.
The legislation is intended to address the lack of regulatory review and standards in Pennsylvania that led to the horrible conditions and practices detailed in a Philadelphia County grand jury report on an abortion clinic run by Dr. Kermit Gosnell.
At least two women died as a result of botched late-term abortions, according to the grand jury report released in January 2011. Some babies were born alive and then killed by having their spinal cords snipped by scissors, and untrained personnel performed medical procedures, sometimes using unsterilized implements that spread venereal diseases. Gosnell and several employees were charged with murder and numerous other offenses in the case.
The grand jury also revealed that complaints about unsafe and unsanitary conditions went unheeded for more than a decade until drug investigators finally put a stop to the business in February 2010. Seven state employees have either resigned or been terminated since the situation came to light.
Senate Passes Transportation Public-Private Partnerships Measure
The Senate approved legislation on December 14th that would encourage the private sector to join with the Commonwealth in funding transportation projects throughout the state.
Senate Bill 732, which I co-sponsored, would establish Public-Private Partnerships (P3s), which are contractual agreements that allow for greater private sector participation in the delivery and financing of transportation needs and improvements.
A recent report by the U.S. Department of Transportation found that more transportation public-private partnerships were completed over the last three years than in any other comparable time period in history. According to the report, more than 20 major highway and transit projects at various stages of development are currently being conducted in partnership with the private sector in the U.S.
SB 344 would:
The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Task Force to Examine Child Abuse Reporting Laws and Procedures
The Senate approved a resolution on December 13th that will establish a special panel to conduct a sweeping review of Pennsylvania laws and procedures governing child protection and the reporting of child abuse.
Senate Resolution 250 creates an 11-member Task Force on Child Protection composed of individuals who are experienced in issues relating to child abuse or in providing services to victims of child abuse.
The panel's final report, which must be submitted by November 30, 2012, will include recommendations: to improve the reporting of child abuse; to implement necessary changes in state statutes, practices, policies and procedures relating to child abuse; and, to train appropriate individuals in the reporting of child abuse.
In 2010, Pennsylvania's child abuse hotline – ChildLine - received approximately 121,868 calls, including 39,791 referrals for General Protective Services. At least 344 Pennsylvania children died from abuse between 2002 and 2009, with many of them dying before their second birthday and many within families previously known to the children and youth system.
Congressional Reapportionment Map Approved
Every 10 years, Pennsylvania's Congressional districts are redrawn based on U.S. Census data to ensure state residents receive equal representation in the U.S. House of Representatives. Unlike state Legislative reapportionment, which is handled by a special commission, Congressional reapportionment must be completed by legislation in the General Assembly.
The Senate completed this task on December 14th with the final approval of Senate Bill 1249. For more informational about Congressional reapportionment and maps and details about the new districts, which become effective after next year's elections, visit the Pennsylvania redistricting website, www.redistricting.state.pa.us.
Bill Will Limit State-Funded Transportation to Methadone Clinics
Legislation enacting commonsense limits on transportation for methadone clients who are part of the Medicaid Transportation program is headed to Governor Corbett's desk for his signature and enactment into law.
Under Senate Bill 638, which received final legislative approval in the Senate on December 14th, individuals receiving payments for mileage reimbursements or using public transportation would be required to go to the clinic closest to their residence.
Currently, methadone recipients choose their preferred service location and the cost of the transportation is paid with tax dollars. Transportation costs totaled $32.5 million in 2009-10, an increase of 26.3 percent from 2007-08. More than one-in-three trips paid for through the Medical Assistance Transportation Program (MATP) is for methadone maintenance.
Measure Will Save Money for Small Townships
The Senate approved a bill on December 12th that will help Pennsylvania's smaller townships save money on their health care costs.
Senate Bill 894, which I co-sponsored, amends the Second Class Township Code to authorize townships to pay the cost, in whole or in part, of the expenses associated with supplemental Medicare insurance coverage for supervisors and their employees. This authorization would provide continued health care coverage for eligible township personnel at significantly reduced costs.
Currently, the Second Class Township Code mandates a group insurance plan for a township that provides health insurance coverage to its employees, but does not allow the township to reimburse individuals for any type of alternative coverage, including Medicare, or the costs associated with such coverage.
The bill is now before the House Local Government Committee.