In this Update:
Expanding Early Intervention Services for Infants and Mothers Passes Senate Committee
The Senate Health and Human Services Committee unanimously passed legislation I sponsored with Senator Judy Schwank (D-11) to add postpartum depression as an at-risk category for Early Intervention.
Under Senate Bill 200, a child would be eligible for Early Intervention screening and tracking services if his or her mother is experiencing, or screens at risk for, postpartum depression. The bill makes it easier for providers to connect both infant and parent to critical intervention programs.
Current law provides screening and tracking services for infants with qualifying health conditions or those who are born into certain circumstances. By adding postpartum depression to the list of qualifying conditions, infants and their mothers who suffer from this condition will have access to the services that are already in place in communities to support healthy child development.
New mothers and their babies deserve the best chance at a healthy start, and strong mental health plays an integral role. Senate Bill 200 is a commonsense solution to helping women who need the support of those around them at home and in their communities. They need to know that programs free from any shame are available to help them if they are struggling. When they are in the depths of despair, we need to lift them up.
The bill now moves to the full Senate for consideration.
Senate Acts to Provide Parents with Online Access to their Children’s School Curriculum
Parents would have greater ability to review what their children are being taught in school through curriculum transparency legislation approved by the Senate.
House Bill 1332 would require K-12 schools to post curricula online in a standardized, user-friendly manner. Under the bill, beginning with the 2022-23 school year, school districts must post on their websites an internet link or title for:
To prevent placing another burden on teachers, the bill stipulates that a school administrator or designee would be required to post the curricula online. House Bill 1332 is on it’s way to the Governor.
Senate Prohibits Vaccine Mandates for School Children
As Pennsylvania has struggled to keep children in their classrooms because of questionable COVID-19 policies, the Senate acted to prevent students from being barred from school if they don’t get vaccinated for COVID-19.
Senate Bill 937 would prohibit a child from being required to be immunized for COVID-19 as a condition of attendance in any public or private K-12 school. The bill now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.
The bill does not contest the efficacy of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, which is now available to children ages 5 to 15 under U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) emergency use authorization, and full FDA approval for anyone 16 years of age and older.
The legislation acknowledges parents have a right to be involved with the health care decisions for their children. And because the COVID-19 vaccine for those under age 16 has only received FDA emergency use authorization (EUA), federal EUA law prohibits patients from being coerced into taking the vaccine. That means those children have the right to refuse the medical treatment, with their parents exercising that right on their behalf.
Landmark Bipartisan Broadband Legislation Approved by Senate
The Senate acted to improve access to high-speed internet in underserved communities by creating the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority (PBDA). The bill was sent to the governor for enactment.
House Bill 2071 would establish a single point-of-contact for federal broadband funding and includes safeguards so legitimate contractors are chosen. Entities eligible for funding must have technical, managerial and financial expertise to design, build and operate high-speed service infrastructure.
The PBDA primarily would be tasked with creating a broadband plan that allows the state to apply for competitively awarded federal infrastructure money. The bill would also require the state to create a database to monitor all broadband deployment activities across the state.
Comprehensive Probation Reform Approved by Senate
The Senate approved probation reform measures aimed at reducing the amount of taxpayer dollars spent on the system while better integrating probationers into society. The bills will be sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Bill 913 is a bipartisan bill I introduced with Sen. Lisa Baker (R-20) and Sen. Anthony Williams (D-8) to address serious flaws of Pennsylvania’s probation system that traps nonviolent offenders in a cycle of incarceration. The bill provides an opportunity for early release from probation and ensures fewer individuals return to prison by rewarding positive behavior and participation in education, employment, vocational and drug treatment programming shown to reduce recidivism.
With the passage of my bill, we move another step closer to rehabilitating offenders and restoring families and communities.
Among other goals, the measure is intended to prevent cases in which technical violations, such as a minor traffic offense, can perpetually extend the clock on an offender’s term and result in re-confinement.
Deadline Approaching for Property Tax/Rent Rebate Applications
The deadline for older and disabled Pennsylvanians to apply for rebates on rent and property taxes paid in 2020 is Dec. 31, 2021.
The rebate program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians age 65 and older, widows and widowers age 50 and older, and people with disabilities age 18 and older. The income limit is $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 annually for renters, and half of Social Security income is excluded.
Claimants of the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program are encouraged to file their rebate applications online by visiting mypath.pa.gov. You can check the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program instruction booklet to learn which information you will need to input/upload to complete the process.