The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 891, which is aimed at preventing welfare fraud and abuse of the state’s prescription assistance program.
The bill would require the Pennsylvania Department of Aging to cross-check its list of PACE and PACENET beneficiaries with death records maintained by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. PACE and PACENET are public benefit programs that provide prescription assistance to older Pennsylvanians.
The bill was referred to the House Aging and Older Adult Services Committee.
The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 1917, which strengthens the training and oversight of humane society police officers.
These officers help enforce the state’s animal cruelty laws. Under this legislation, officers will undergo additional training and will be required to reside in Pennsylvania.
In addition, the Humane Society Police Officer Advisory Board must meet at least once a year or as often as necessary to provide advice to state officials and to review and recommend training programs.
The bill became Act 77 of 2018.
The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 31, which helps those who suffer from spinal cord disabilities.
The Spinal Cord Injury Research program established by this bill will be funded with the Tobacco Settlement Fund monies. Grants will be awarded to institutions that are working to discover new and innovate treatments and rehabilitation efforts.
The bill was signed into law as Act 126 of 2018.
The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 521 which would establish a program to teach high school students how to perform CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).
Pennsylvania would join more than 30 states that teach students how to perform this life-saving technique. They would also learn about automated external defibrillators. Students may be excused from the course if they are unable to perform certain motor skills or submit a written request from their parents.
The bill was referred to the House Education Committee.
The Senate passed Senate Bill 668 by a vote of 32-17. This legislation would give optometrists more freedom in treating patients. It also opens the door for more drugs to be prescribed to patients, so long as they are approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration.
The bill would make it a crime for optometrists to advertise a service that he or she is prohibited by law from doing. This could mean fines and/or temporary suspension.
The bill was referred to the House Professional Licensure Committee.
The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 1007, which will improve the property assessment appeals process.
Members of local boards that hear such appeals will have to undergo training and qualify for their position on an appeal board. Counties will foot the bill for the training. These appeal boards must have to inform homeowners of their rights during the process. The legislation will also provide homeowners with more taxing information from their county government.
The bill was signed into law as Act 155 of 2018.
The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 1205, which provides stricter regulation of the state’s insurance industry.
Insurers will be required to provide the state with information about their corporate governance structure, as well as their policies and practices. Companies will have to file disclosure statements with the state on a yearly basis. Insurers will be penalized for not filing the required paperwork. Ultimately, the bill is aimed at helping the state understand how insurance corporations operate.
The bill was signed into law as Act 163 of 2018.
The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 1346, which regulates the use of drones. It will now be a crime to use a drone to spy on another person or fly it in a way that endangers someone.
The bill creates exceptions for certain government employees, law enforcement officials, first responders and utility company employees who use drones while doing their job. The bill also creates a state preemption over local ordinances on the use of drones.
The bill was signed into law as Act 78 of 2018.
The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 1066, which will create a new program to assist first-time home buyers.
The bill would allow Pennsylvanians to open first-time homebuyers’ savings accounts at financial institutions. Participants may deposit money into a special savings account. The big benefit to prospective buyers is that money deposited into the account can be deducted from their state income taxes.
These funds can only be used for purchasing a first home. The program would be available beginning in 2019.
The bill was referred to the House Urban Affairs Committee.
The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 1096, which would authorize the use of highly-automated work zone vehicles by PennDOT and the state Turnpike Commission.
These vehicles typically have automated driving systems or are connected wirelessly to another vehicle. The automated work zone vehicles are aimed at protecting workers in construction zones.
The bill was referred to the House Transportation Committee.
The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 1098, which would crack down on drivers who illegally pass school buses.
School districts will have the ability to install what’s referred to as “side stop signal arm enforcement systems” on school buses. These are cameras installed outside of the school bus to record vehicles illegally passing the bus. PennDOT must approve all camera systems before they are installed.
In addition, a new School Bus Safety Grant Account will be used by PennDOT to implement a safety program. The program is aimed at promoting school bus safety, education and training. PennDOT will award School Bus Safety Grants on a competitive basis.
The bill was signed into law as Act 159 of 2018.
The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 1134, which would criminalize the coercive sexual conduct.
Often referred to as “sextortion,” the bill is aimed at deterring people who try to extort sex or sexual images from a victim (instead of money). The penalty for sextortion would be a first-degree misdemeanor or a third-degree felony depending on several
factors, including age.
The bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee.
The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 1181, which would require students, beginning in sixth grade, to undergo screening for depression. Screening would be repeated in 11th grade.
As it currently stands, school-age children are required to receive certain medical tests; however, depression is not a required assessment. Every child’s school maintains a comprehensive health record for each student.
Under this bill, parents could decide if they want to share screening results with schools. If results are shared with the school, students may be referred to school student assistance programs or psychologists, or they could be referred for a disability evaluation.
The bill was referred to the House Education Committee.
The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 1209, which is intended to help reduce the backlog of untested rape kits.
Specifically, this bill establishes a commission of local and state officials to look at funding needs and improve communication. It also creates a hotline for hospitals to call if a rape kit is not picked up by authorities within a certain amount of time.
The bill was signed into law as Act 164 of 2018.
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