Below is a recap of this week’s legislative activity in the Senate. It covers votes by the full Senate and a look ahead.
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In this Edition:
On Monday, the Senate passed bipartisan legislation I am co-sponsoring to improve access to lobbying disclosure data.
Senate Bill 695 requires lobbyists and lobbying firms to register and file reports electronically through the computerized system developed by the Pennsylvania Department of State. In addition, the Department will be required to post on its Lobbyist Disclosure website all lobbying registration and reporting documents it receives within a week of the filing.
Currently, lobbyists may register and file reports with the state on paper forms through traditional mail. In some cases this has led to delayed posting of the information on the Department’s publicly accessible website.
Legislation I am co-sponsoring to improve access to child immunizations was approved Tuesday by the Senate.
Senate Bill 305 would allow pharmacists the ability to administer the flu vaccine to children 9 years of age and older with parental consent. The legislation would also permit pharmacy interns who have completed appropriate training to administer the flu vaccine under pharmacist supervision.
Current state law allows pharmacists and pharmacy interns to immunize only adults. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all children at least six months old receive a flu shot every year, but only about 55 percent of Pennsylvania children do.
The Senate approved a package of bills on Wednesday intended to help prevent animal cruelty.
Senate Bill 373, which I am co-sponsoring, strengthens laws regarding the tethering of dogs. It also adds a provision regarding shelter for dogs and cats to ensure that they are protected against inclement weather, kept dry and allowed to maintain their normal body temperatures.
Senate Bill 78 targets kennel owners who lose their license due to violations of the Dog Law. The legislation would prevent violators from continuing to operate a kennel at the same location by having a license issued to an immediate family member or another individual who resides at the same address.
Senate Bill 294 addresses the enforcement and application of Pennsylvania’s cruelty laws, particularly as they pertain to horses. It better defines “torture” and provides appropriate penalties based on language drafted with the assistance of the Farm Bureau. The bill also provides for the seizure of animals in extreme instances of torture or cruelty.
Senate Bill 594 adds a section to Pennsylvania's Animal Cruelty Law to specifically address when it happens in a domestic-violence situation. Under the legislation, if a person with a protection-from-abuse order against them commits animal cruelty against the pet of their spouse or partner, they would face a minimum monetary fine of $2,000 and a maximum fine of $15,000.
The Senate approved legislation Tuesday that I am co-sponsoring to include the Director of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency as a position subject to review and confirmation by the Senate. Currently, the post is filled by appointment by the Governor.
The additional review of this individual provided by Senate Bill 490 will improve agency accountability and ensure that there is strong internal and external communication and coordination between state and local agencies in responding to emergencies.
I joined my colleagues on the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee on Tuesday in approving House Bill 911, which would reauthorize the process for funding county 911 call centers.
The current fee on wireless devices is set to expire on June 30, 2015, unless the law is reauthorized. I spent a significant amount of time as past committee chairman working on this issue and I am glad to see movement toward a resolution.
House Bill 911 would set the fee at $1.65 a month per device. The bill was amended by the committee to include:
• Establishing an advisory board consisting of public and nonpublic stakeholders.
• Ensuring a higher percentage of funding is distributed to counties.
• Requiring PEMA to conduct a thorough audit and inventory of all county 911 centers and equipment.
• Requiring PEMA and the advisory board to study future methods of funding the 911 system.
• Establishing a county buy-in provision.
House Bill 911 now goes to the full Senate for consideration. Click here for video of the Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee meeting.
The Senate confirmed seven cabinet nominations this week.
The Senate returns to voting session on Monday.
On Wednesday at 2 p.m., the Senate Finance Committee will hold a public hearing on proposals to increase the sales/use tax and the personal income tax. You can watch Senate session and the hearing live at PASenateGOP.com.
Twitter and Facebook: I post regular updates on legislative action, committee developments, useful state-related information, happenings in the 24th Senatorial District and more on Twitter @SenatorMensch and on my Facebook page.
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