In This Update:
Hearing Explores Progress Toward Protecting Long-Term Care Facilities
Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities have been among the hardest-hit populations during the COVID-19 pandemic, and a Senate hearing last month exposed the Wolf Administration’s failure to protect these vulnerable members of our communities.
The Senate Aging and Youth Committee scheduled a follow-up hearing on the issue this week to learn more about what is being done to protect residents and staff at these facilities, particularly in light of the $692 million in federal CARES Act funding that was approved by lawmakers to support long-term living services recently.
Video and testimony from the hearing are available here.
PASSHE Reform Bill Heads to the Governor
Many schools in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) were facing considerable financial and enrollment pressures even before the COVID-19 pandemic, and these problems have been made worse by the temporary closing of all 14 system schools due to concerns about student health. The Senate approved a bill this week that would promote the long-term viability of all schools in the system and protect access to an affordable education for Pennsylvania students.
The legislation would help PASSHE transform its system and take advantage of opportunities to create, expand, consolidate, transfer or affiliate member schools. The bill was created with input from numerous stakeholders and ensures that any future changes to the system would be completed in an open and transparent way.
The bill is on its way to the governor to be signed into law.
Senate Committee Examines Pennsylvania’s Participation in RGGI
In October, Governor Wolf unilaterally ordered Pennsylvania to participate in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a multi-state compact to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The plan would impose a carbon tax on electricity production and require fossil fuel generators to purchase allowances, creating the threat of higher energy costs and fewer jobs at a time when the state simply cannot afford it.
Senate leaders have asked Governor Wolf to rescind his order in light of the devastating impact that COVID-19 has had on Pennsylvania’s economy. The Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee held a hearing this week on the impact that this proposal would have on Pennsylvania families and employers.
Senate Approves Bill to Strengthen School Bus Stopping Law
A recent study found that despite efforts to crack down on violations of Pennsylvania’s school bus stopping law, many motorists are continuing to ignore the law and place the lives of children in jeopardy. I worked with my colleague Senator Pat Browne on an amendment that would strengthen the law and further ensure the safety and protection of the Commonwealth’s children as they travel to and from school.
Under the bill, a $300 civil penalty is assessed to motorists found violating the law caught by a stop arm camera. In addition, funds from each fine are also allocated to the participating local police department, to defray costs of implementing the program, and the state’s School Bus Safety Grant Program, designed to educate motorists and bring greater public awareness to this safety issue.
More information about the bill is available here.
Bills Protecting Healthcare Workers Earn Final Approval
Two bills that would extend new protections for healthcare professionals were approved by lawmakers this week and sent to the governor to be signed into law.
Senate Bill 351 would stiffen penalties for assaults against a broad range of healthcare practitioners and technicians, and Senate Bill 842 would eliminate a requirement for employee badges in healthcare facilities to include an employee’s last name.
Senate Approves New Marketing Tool for Veteran-Owned Businesses
Pennsylvania veterans, reservists and members of the National Guard who own their own business could soon have a valuable new marketing tool under a bill approved by the Senate this week.
The bill would direct the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs to create special logos to promote veteran-owned businesses, creating new opportunities for Pennsylvanians to support the brave men and women who have served in the military at a time when that support is desperately needed during the state’s recovery from COVID-19.
Lawmakers Approve Bill to Require Insurance Coverage for Additional Breast Cancer Screenings
Dense breast tissue and other factors can make it more difficult to detect breast cancer early in some women, heightening the long-term risks. The Senate approved a bill this week that would require insurance companies to cover supplemental screenings if a physician believes a woman is at an increased risk for breast cancer due to these conditions.
New Guidance Released for Veterinary Care, Reopening Senior Centers
While we await a decision from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on whether Governor Wolf must perform his constitutional duty to end the current disaster declaration in accordance with state law – a ruling that could come as soon as next week – the Wolf Administration has released guidance for veterinary care and reopening senior centers, adult day centers and other senior services.
New veterinary guidance allows for the resumption of non-essential services and routine or elective surgical procedures, like spaying and neutering.
Guidance from the Department of Aging includes procedures to resume operations at adult day centers, senior community centers and aging and protective services that involve in-home visits.
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