In this update:
My Bill Protecting Medical Patients Passes Senate Committee
The Senate Transportation Committee unanimously passed Senate Bill 167, legislation I sponsored to protect Pennsylvanians suffering from chronic illness from an inconsistency in the state’s driving under the influence (DUI) law that leaves them vulnerable to wrongful criminal conviction.
In the law legalizing medical marijuana, there were protections for employees, professional license holders and those involved in custody litigation. However, the legislation did not address Pennsylvania’s zero-tolerance controlled substance DUI laws. Currently, medical cannabis patients can be arrested, prosecuted and convicted even if they are not impaired.
Senate Bill 167 would treat the medical cannabis patient similarly to one using a prescription narcotic by requiring proof that the motorist is impaired and unable to safely operate a motor vehicle.
While the responsible medical cannabis patient never drives impaired, the risk of a zero-tolerance DUI arrest and prosecution is one of the most serious issues confronting Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis community. My bill would protect this community without sacrificing the safety of our roads.
The bill now moves to the full Senate for consideration.
Free Barbecue Picnic for Veterans and Service Members on July 15
I invite veterans and active duty service members of the 46th District and their families to attend a veterans appreciation barbecue picnic on Friday, July 15, from 5-8 p.m. at Mingo Creek Park, 3111 Route 136, Finleyville, pavilion 7.
This picnic is an opportunity to thank the men and women who have sacrificed their time and put their lives on hold to defend our great country. Of course, it is also about their families, who lived without their loved ones, often in fear for their safety when they were gone. I encourage all veterans and active duty members of the 46th District and their spouses to attend.
Space is limited for the picnic, so veterans and their families are asked to RSVP by Friday, July 8, online at SenatorBartolotta.com/Veterans-BBQ or by calling Bartolotta’s district office at 724-225-4380.
Wolf Administration Plan to Toll Interstate Bridges Halted by Court
In a major win for motorists and communities near interstate highways, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania issued a ruling blocking the Wolf Administration from moving forward with its plan to toll nine interstate bridges across the state.
The decision follows a previous ruling temporarily halting the initiative, siding with a county and several municipalities that challenged the constitutionality of the plan to toll interstate bridges under the public-private partnership (P3) bridge program.
PennDOT attempted to move forward with tolling without approval from the General Assembly. The Senate passed Senate Bill 382 to require the P3 process to be more transparent while stopping the current initiative. Gov. Wolf vowed to veto the measure.
The new order voids the entire Major Bridge P3 Initiative, including the following bridges:
Bill to Improve Medical Care for Patients Approved by Senate
The Senate voted to improve the health care experience for patients by streamlining the prior authorization and step therapy processes for medical treatment. The bill goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Prior authorization means that, to qualify for payment, physicians and other health care providers must obtain advance approval from a health plan before a specific procedure or service. Step therapy requires patients to try prescription drug treatment options chosen by the patient’s insurance provider.
Senate Bill 225 would set standards for commercial insurance plans, as well as Medicaid plans, when seeking prior authorization approval and with step therapy protocols. The legislation would also provide a timely process for appeals determinations.
A recent American Medical Association survey found that prior authorization delays overwhelmingly result in patients forgoing treatment, leading to negative clinical impacts.
Senate Acts to Improve Drug Overdose Tracking and Response
The Senate approved legislation to improve drug overdose tracking and response in Pennsylvania, which ranks third in the nation for overdose deaths. The bill will be sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Bill 1152 would require law enforcement and emergency medical services agencies to report all overdose incidents within 72 hours to the statewide Overdose Information Network or any other platform approved by the Pennsylvania State Police to capture real-time overdose reporting.
The State Police will be required to document the numbers, trends and patterns associated with known and suspected overdoses and issue an annual report available in an online format for reference by public officials and the general public.
Access to real-time data will help public officials ensure that adequate overdose reversal drug supplies are available, substance use outreach efforts are enhanced and law enforcement investigations are undertaken to interrupt sources of deadly substances.
Legislation Boosting Safety of Child Care Facilities Set for Enactment
Legislation to improve safety in state-regulated child care facilities was approved by the Senate and is set to be signed into law.
Senate Bill 563 was introduced in response to a tragic fire that claimed the lives of five young children in Erie in 2019. Only one smoke detector was found in the care home, and it was in the attic.
The measure designates the locations where smoke alarms must be installed in child care facilities and require the alarms be interconnected so that if one is triggered, they all go off.
Increased Penalties for Hiring Unauthorized Workers Approved by Senate
A bill to improve enforcement of the construction industry’s use of the federal E-Verify system was approved by the Senate and sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
The federal E-Verify system determines the eligibility of employees – both U.S. and foreign citizens – to work in America. The Public Works Employment Verification Act already requires all public construction contractors and subcontractors to use E-Verify to confirm the legal employment eligibility of new hires. However, despite these requirements, the practice of hiring unauthorized workers continues due to the enforcement mechanisms being weak.
Senate Bill 1147 would make the financial penalties more meaningful. Rather than the current penalty of $250 – $1,000, violators would face a fine of $2,500 – $25,000. Senate Bill 1147 streamlines enforcement and reduces the need for time-consuming audits by requiring construction contractors to be enrolled in E-Verify upfront and makes it a punishable offense if they are not.
Have a Happy Independence Day
I hope you have a great July 4th holiday with friends and family as we celebrate the birth of our great nation, which remains the best hope for freedom and liberty on Earth.