In this Edition:
Joint Session on Pennsylvania’s Opioid and Heroin Epidemic
On Wednesday, I participated in a joint session of the Senate and House of Representatives, during which Governor Tom Wolf called on the General Assembly to pass legislation to address the current opioid and heroin epidemic in Pennsylvania.
Later that day, the Senate unanimously approved three measures addressing this growing addiction crisis.
Senate Bill 1212 would establish the School Aged Children Opioid Awareness Education Program. The Departments of Drug and Alcohol Programs, Health, and Education will work together to design a request for proposals for organizations that can provide opioid awareness education programs to be delivered in schools.
Senate Bill 1367, which I am co-sponsoring, limits the amount of opioids that children may be prescribed, with reasonable exceptions for cases involving chronic pain, cancer treatment or for palliative care or hospice care. It also requires a health care professional to obtain written consent from a minor’s parent or legal guardian to prescribe a medical treatment containing opioids, and provide information on the risks of addiction and dangers of overdose associated with the medication.
Senate Bill 1368 implements the Safe Opioid Prescribing Curriculum in all of Pennsylvania’s medical schools. The plan calls for a focus in four key areas including pain management; multimodal treatments for chronic pain that minimize the use of opioids, or when opioids are indicated, to prescribe them in a way that is safe and that follows guideline-based care; focusing on patients who have been identified as at-risk for developing problems with prescription opioids; and teaching medical students how to manage substance abuse disorders as a chronic disease. I’m co-sponsoring this bill.
The bills now go to the House of Representatives for consideration.
In June, the Senate approved Senate Bill 1202, legislation I’m co-sponsoring to require licensed medication dispensers and prescribers to receive two hours of continuing education in pain management or in the prescribing practices of opioids.
The Senate also approved a Drug and Alcohol Recovery High School Pilot Program to provide instruction in meeting state academic standards for students in grades 9 through 12 who are in recovery from drug or alcohol abuse or addiction. The measure was included as part of the School Code passed with the state budget package.
Senate Passes Senator Mensch’s Budget Reform Legislation
The Senate on Wednesday passed Senate Bill 1341, legislation I introduced to help eliminate wasteful government spending in Pennsylvania.
SB 1341, also known as Performance Based Budgeting, seeks to streamline and justify discretionary and state government spending by requiring departments and agencies to justify their budget requests for all existing programs, as well as proposed programs, for each fiscal year. This would allow the legislature and the Governor to properly budget for Pennsylvania state agencies. Specifically, the bill would create a performance-based budget board to review the performance-based budget plans of Pennsylvania agencies and make recommendations on how each agency’s programs may be made more efficient.
We need to be more objective about our government spending. Our spending is increasing but our revenue is uncertain. SB 1341 is a necessary tool that our taxpayers deserve. We have an obligation to our taxpayers to account for all state funding down to the penny and decide which expenditures are necessary and which are not.
The Senate Appropriations and Policy committees recently held a joint hearing on SB 1341. The hearing included national, state and local experts, along with representatives from the Independent Fiscal Office and the Governor’s Budget Office. The testifiers presented their experiences with performance measures and how performance management can aid in decision making.
Performance Based Budgeting will give us an objective, transparent, and effective approach to Pennsylvania’s budgetary needs. I look forward to continuing the conversation on how to streamline our spending.
Administration Reaches Contract Deal with Largest Government Unions
The Wolf Administration announced it has reached an agreement with the Commonwealth’s largest unions for a three-year contract. The agreement with the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) will provide total wage increases of 11.75% from October 2016 through January 2019.
In the past, the three-year agreement with the state’s largest unions has typically become the wage pattern for most other unions operating in state government, with the exception of public safety unions. Historically, the AFSCME agreement has been applied to the Commonwealth’s 13,000 management employees as well, which the Administration indicates will occur.
The Senate Appropriations Committee estimates the agreement will increase union employee costs by $568.2 million, plus an additional $241.3 million for management and other non-represented employees. You can read more about this and other state financial news in the committee’s monthly report.
Special License Plate for Military Members Sent to Governor
The Senate gave final approval on Monday to a bill that recognizes and honors Pennsylvania’s military personnel and sent the measure to the Governor for enactment into law.
Senate Bill 1155, which I’m co-sponsoring, establishes a special vehicle license plate for members of the United States Armed Forces adding special recognition for current members of the military, reserves, and Pennsylvania National Guard. This would be in addition to the currently available license plates with special recognition for World War II veterans, Purple Heart recipients and Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans.
Two additional bills received final legislative approval this week and were sent to the Governor.
House Bill 380 reduces the mandatory separation period that is required prior to entry of a no-fault divorce from two years to one year.
House Bill 665 makes technical changes to Title 20 (Decedents, Estates and Fiduciaries) concerning powers of attorney.
Senate Approves Cybersecurity Bill
With reports of hacking appearing in the news on an almost daily basis, the Senate acted on Wednesday to ensure citizens will be expeditiously notified if their information in state databases is compromised.
Senate Bill 1048, which updates Pennsylvania’s Breach of Personal Information Notification Act, now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration. Specifically, the measure sets the following:
Requires a state agency, county, school district or municipality to notify the subject of a breach of security within seven business days following the discovery of a breach of security.
Requires a state agency to notify the state Attorney General and the Office of Administration within three business days following the discovery of a breach of security.
Requires a county, school district or municipality to notify the respective district attorney’s office within three business days following the discovery of a breach of security.
Senate Bill 1048 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Additional Bills Approved by the Senate and Sent to the House
Senate Bill 340 amends the Local Government Unit Debt Act to provide adequate oversight and enforcement.
Senate Bill 341 amends the Municipality Authorities Act and the Public Official and Employee Ethics Act to coordinate the conflict of interest provisions covering municipal authorities.
Senate Bill 344 requires 100 percent security from a contractor prior to the awarding of a contract for the construction, reconstruction, alteration or repair of any public building or other public work or public improvement where the contract exceeds $10,000.
Senate Bill 869 amends Titles 4 (Amusements), 18 (Crimes and Offenses) , 30 (Fish), 42 (Judiciary and Judicial Procedure) and 75 (Vehicles) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes to address the seizure and forfeiture of property that is related to criminal offenses. I’m co-sponsoring this bill.
Senate Bill 1086 allows the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to suspend the registration of motorists who fail to pay tolls on the Pennsylvania Turnpike until the motorist makes the payment.
Senate Bill 1235 extends the sunset provision of the Underground Utility Protection Law from December 31, 2016 to December 31, 2021 and moves oversight of the One Call System from the Department of Labor and Industry to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC).
Senate Bill 1352 provides a rate increase for the river pilots who navigate along the Delaware River and its navigable tributaries.
Senate Bill 1353 permits the Navigation Commission for the Delaware River and its Navigable Tributaries to increase fees for the issuance of original and renewed pilot’s licenses.
Panel Explores Effects of Offshoring, Automation on Manufacturing Jobs
On Wednesday, the Economy, Business and Jobs Caucus, which I co-chair, held a hearing with the Manufacturing Caucus to explore recent developments affecting manufacturing jobs.
Specifically, we discussed reshoring/offshoring, automation, industrial robotics and 3D printing, and the impact on Pennsylvania’s manufacturing industry.
It was an informative, thought-provoking hearing, and I invite you to view it here.
Appropriations Committee Round-Up
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved nearly two dozen bills this this week, including:
Senate Bill 525 authorizes joint ventures between correctional facilities and private industry.
Senate Bill 851 addresses procedures applicable to victims of human trafficking.
Senate Bill 1048 amends the Breach of Personal Information Notification Act (Act 94 of 2005) to require notification within a specific time period.
Senate Bill 1086 prohibits inhibiting the operation of electronic toll collection systems and provides for the suspension of a driver’s registration for unpaid tolls.
Click on the calendar for a complete list of committee bills approved on September 26 and September 27.
The Senate will reconvene Monday, October 17 at 1 p.m. You can watch session live at PASenateGOP.com.
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