In this Update:
Bartolotta Bills Receive Committee Approval
Three bills which I have sponsored advanced out of Senate committees this week.
Senate Bill 25 would benefit patients by improving the access they have to medical care. It would modernize the Professional Nursing Law to permit qualified APRN-CNPs to practice independent of a physician after fulfilling a three-year, 3,600-hour collaboration agreement with a physician. Current law requires nurse practitioners to practice under a collaboration agreement at all times. Twenty-three states and Washington, D.C. have already adopted full practice authority for APRN-CNPs. This measure now heads to the full Senate for consideration.
Senate Bill 319 would clarify that employers may recoup medical expenses paid to an employee for a workplace injury when a settlement or award of damages is obtained against a third party for the same injury. When an employee’s workplace injury results from an act or omission of a third party, such as a manufacturer of faulty equipment, the employee may file a civil suit against that third party. In the interim, the employer remains responsible for wage loss benefits and medical expenses under a traditional workers’ compensation claim. If the employee is successful in the third-party suit, his or her employer may recover benefits paid and future wage loss benefits under the premise that the employee should not be compensated twice for the same injury. This had been the law prior to a 2018 Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision. This bill has been referred to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Bill 708, which is part of a bipartisan package of criminal justice reform bills, would improve communication with crime victims and ensure they receive any compensation they are owed. The other two pieces of legislation included in the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, which strengthened public safety and reduced prison and probation costs, were signed into law in the last legislative session. My bill would reinvest savings generated through the companion legislation into victim services, streamlining the entire process and making sure more victims receive the help they need. This measure awaits consideration by the full Senate.
New Bills Unveiled Addressing Workforce Recovery, Workers Compensation for First Responders
This week, I introduced two new pieces of legislation.
Senate Bill 766 would utilize $15 million in federal funds allocated to Pennsylvania under the American Rescue Plan to provide competitive grants to adult education providers. The grants would be used for technical and digital literacy training, tuition assistance and provision of career services to adults that are basic skills deficient or do not have a high school diploma so they are prepared for jobs in the post-COVID workforce.
Additionally, I introduced legislation, Senate Bill 775, to make it easier for first responders to establish that they are suffering from a post-traumatic stress injury (PTSI) under the Workers’ Compensation Act. We allocate resources to train, educate and prepare first responders to protect us and respond to crises but often fail to provide sufficient resources to support these individuals’ mental health. This bill will set reasonable standards to establish a workers’ compensation PTSI claim so that our first responders can receive the treatment they need and deserve.
Bill to Improve Safety in Daycare Facilities Approved by Senate
The Senate approved a bill to improve safety in state-regulated daycare facilities and sent the bill to the House of Representatives for consideration.
The legislation designates the locations where smoke detectors must be installed and requires that they are interconnected so that if one is triggered, they all go off.
The measure was introduced in response to a tragic fire that claimed the lives of five young children in Erie on August 11, 2019. Only one smoke detector was found in the building and it was located in the attic.
Senate Votes to Permit “Mixed Drinks to Go” Permanently and Enacts Other Steps to Help Hospitality Sector Employers
In the ongoing effort to help employers in the hospitality sector get back on their feet following COVID-19 restrictions, the Senate voted to permanently allow “mixed drinks to go” from restaurants and hotels, extend sales for outdoor dining and expand the number of locations where ready-to-drink mixed drinks can be sold.
The measure makes permanent the sale of mixed drinks to-go by restaurant or hotel licensees for off-premises consumption. Originally, mixed drinks to-go was a temporary measure allowed during the COVID-19 disaster declaration. It also allows larger outdoor dining spaces, off-premises catering permits without restrictions, and more.
It also allows a different type of product called Ready-to-Drink cocktails to be sold by restaurants, grocery stores, convenience stores, and beer distributors for off-premises consumption. Restrictions are set on alcohol-by-volume content and container size.
Legislation Preserving Nursing Home Visits During a Pandemic Approved by General Assembly
Legislation to allow family members to safely visit long-term care facilities as essential caregivers for Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable citizens was approved by the Senate and sent to the governor for enactment.
During the pandemic, nursing homes and other long-term care facilities were closed to visits from friends and family. The prolonged separation negatively impacted the overall health and well-being of facility residents.
The measure would allow a designated essential family caregiver to be named for each resident of a licensed long-term care facility. Protocols would be put in place to screen the essential caregivers and require additional steps to gain access to the facilities.
Senate Approves Bill Requiring Legislative Approval of RGGI Deal
In a bipartisan vote, the Senate approved legislation requiring legislative approval before Gov. Tom Wolf can have Pennsylvania join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
Under the measure, the Pennsylvania Carbon Dioxide Cap and Trade Authorization Act, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) would be required to provide a public comment period of at least 180 days and hold a minimum of four public hearings in locations that would be directly affected economically by the proposal.
Following the public comment period, DEP would be mandated to submit a report to the House and Senate Environmental Resources & Energy committees detailing the specific economic and environmental impacts that joining RGGI and imposing a carbon tax would have on affected communities, the PJM Interconnection region and ratepayers. The bill was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Observes Juneteenth Holiday
Senate offices will be closed Friday to observe the Juneteenth holiday.
The June 19 holiday honors the end of slavery by commemorating the date in 1865 when Union Army Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, and announced to enslaved African Americans that the Civil War had ended and they were free. Granger’s proclamation came more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.
Happy Father’s Day
To all fathers: I hope you have a wonderful Father’s Day this Sunday. This is the day when we celebrate your essential role in family and community. May your day be filled with love and gratitude.