October 15, 2012
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Pennsylvania Senate Republican News Brief
"This trust is not intended to support programs that are funded by existing revenues – such as our veterans' homes. Instead, it will allow us to do more to help the extensive outreach efforts that the veterans' groups and the department have underway."
- Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee Chair Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne) on Senate passage of her legislation establishing a State Veterans Trust Fund.
Senate Session Monday at 1 p.m.
The Senate is expected to consider a wide array of bills
this week, including one to create a special education funding commission and
implement significant charter school reforms.
On Tuesday, the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency
Preparedness Committee, chaired by Sen. Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne), will hold
an informal briefing on the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee report
titled "Pennsylvania's 911 Emergency Telephone System: Funding, Expenditures,
and Future Challenges & Opportunities." (10 a.m. N. Office Bldg. Room 1)
On Thursday, the Senate Local Government Committee, chaired
by Sen. John Eichelberger (R-Blair), will hold a public hearing on Senate
Bill 1570 (Policemen and Firemen Collective Bargaining Act) and related issues.
(10 a.m. N. Office Bldg. Room 1)
Senate Approves Bill to Curb Gang Recruitment
As part of a bipartisan effort to crack down on gang
violence, the Senate approved legislation October 3 sponsored by Senate
Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware), Sen. John Rafferty
(R-Montgomery), and Sen. Ted Erickson (R-Delaware) that would make it
a crime to recruit gang members and toughen sentences for various crimes which
are committed by criminal street gangs.
Their legislation, introduced as
Senate Bill 965, was amended into
House Bill 1121. It will create three categories of the new criminal offense
"recruiting gang members."
Individuals who solicit or otherwise cause a person to join
or remain in a gang will commit a second-degree misdemeanor. Using threats or
intimidation or inflicting bodily injury to cause a person to join or remain in
a gang will be a first-degree misdemeanor, while inflicting serious bodily
injury to cause a person to join or remain in a gang will be a third-degree
If the subject of the recruitment is under 16 years old,
the violation will be graded one degree higher.
The legislation will also provide enhancements to the
statutory sentence minimums for several crimes, including violent crimes and
drug possession with the intent to manufacture or deliver, if those crimes are
committed to benefit or promote the interests of a criminal street gang. For
more the legislation, please see In the Spotlight, below.
Senate Sends Veterans Trust Fund Measure to House
Legislation to establish a state trust fund to enhance
programs, services and benefits for Pennsylvania's one million veterans was
approved October 1 by the Senate.
Senate Bill 1531, sponsored by Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency
Preparedness Committee Chair Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne), would create the
Pennsylvania Veterans Trust Fund to supplement state appropriations for veterans
programs and support new partnerships with charities and veterans' service
The bill also creates a voluntary check-off mechanism on
driver's license renewals and vehicle registrations for motorists to donate to
the fund and provides for special veterans' license plates for both veterans and
motorists who wish to honor veterans.
Senate Acts to Ease Nursing Shortage at Veterans' Homes
In an effort to ease a nursing shortage in Pennsylvania's
six veterans' homes, the Senate approved legislation October 1 exempting direct
care positions in Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) facilities
from the Civil Service Act.
Senate Bill 819, sponsored by Sen. Bob Robbins (R-Mercer), will
enable facilities to make faster selections of personnel and hire individuals
with the most current training and enthusiasm for new careers. According to the
DMVA, the state incurs approximately $5 million in annual overtime costs, due
partly to the time it takes to fill nursing vacancies.
The facilities operated by DMVA include: the Southeastern
Veterans Center in Spring City, Chester County, the Delaware Valley Veterans
Home in Philadelphia, the Hollidaysburg Veterans Home in Hollidaysburg, the Gino
J. Merli Veterans Center in Scranton, the Pennsylvania Soldiers and Sailors Home
in Erie, and the Southwestern Veterans Center in Pittsburgh.
Legislation to Toughen Arson Penalties Approved by Senate
Legislation strengthening Pennsylvania's arson laws and
creating the new crime of "aggravated arson" was approved October 1 by the Senate.
Senate Bill 903, sponsored by Sen. John Rafferty (R-Montgomery) and
Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware), was drafted after
serial arsonists set more than 30 fires in Coatesville, Chester County several
years ago. The fires caused more than $3 million in damage, left scores of
people homeless and resulted in the death of an 83-year-old woman.
The measure creates a new class of crime known as
aggravated arson and sets tougher sentencing guidelines in cases where the crime
is intended to cause bodily injury or when the perpetrator knows that someone
was inside the property at the time. It also hikes penalties when a firefighter,
police officer, emergency responder or civilian sustained injuries as a result
of the crime. In addition, stronger sentences could be imposed if more than
three people were inside the property at the time of the crime or the arson
resulted in more than $1 million in property damage.
Each year, more than 267,000 fires nationally are
attributed to arson. Arson results in $1.4 billion in property loss annually and
causes more than 2,000 injuries and 475 deaths.
Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act Approved by Senate
The Senate unanimously approved legislation October 1
sponsored by Sen. Jake Corman (R-Centre) intended to prevent child
abductions in custody dispute cases.
Senate Bill 1449, the Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act, provides
courts with guidelines to follow during custody disputes and divorce
proceedings. The guidelines help courts identify families at risk for abduction
and provide a method for a party in a child custody case to seek a supplemental
order establishing anti-child abduction measures.
If the risk is deemed credible, courts may provide orders
restricting travel across country and state lines and place a child's name in
the U.S. Department of State's Child Passport Issuance Alert Program, among
Senate Acts to Strengthen Power of Attorney Law
The Senate approved legislation October 1 intended to
protect against abuse by those who hold power of attorney.
Senate Bill 1092, sponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman
Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery), would give courts more power to act if
financial abuse is suspected. It would require the signature of those granting
power of attorney to be acknowledged in the presence of a notary public, and
require that those granting someone power of attorney are notified of the
The bill addresses the State Supreme Court decision in
Vine v. Commonwealth. In this case, a woman who suffered a stroke following
an automobile accident was coerced into granting power of attorney to her
husband while she was unable to speak or comprehend.
Rafferty Bill to Improve Access to Community Pharmacies Advances
Legislation sponsored by Sen. John Rafferty
(R-Montgomery) to improve access to community pharmacies was approved by the
Senate October 2 and is moving toward a final vote in the House of
Senate Bill 201 requires health insurance companies, Blue Cross and Blue
Shield plans, and government-sponsored pharmacy benefit programs to allow
patients to use retail community pharmacies, if the retail community pharmacies
agree to accept the same pricing, terms, conditions or requirements related to
the cost of the prescriptions and the quality of care as are established for
mail order pharmacies.
According to retail pharmacists, leveling the competitive
marketplace will also decrease health care costs by promoting more effective
face-to-face consultations, avoiding the waste often associated with dispensing
only long-term supplies of medications, and promoting more effective medication
Senate Approves White Bill to Update PA Code of Military Justice
The Senate approved legislation October 1 sponsored by
Sen. Mary Jo White (R-Venango) to provide the first update to the
Pennsylvania Code of Military Justice in nearly 40 years.
The Pennsylvania Code of Military Justice (PCMJ) enforces
order and discipline upon the Pennsylvania National Guardsmen who are not in
active federal service. The PCMJ has not been extensively updated since 1975 and
many of the current provisions date back to the Military Code of 1949.
Senate Bill 1442 also establishes a State Military Justice Fund to pay
expenses incurred in the administration of military justice and funded by fees
and other monies paid to the commonwealth under the PCMJ.
Folmer Paperwork Reduction Bill Passes Senate
Legislation to eliminate unnecessary government paperwork
was approved by the Senate on October 2.
Senate Bill 1591, sponsored by Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon), would
promote government efficiency by eliminating the requirement for medical
malpractice and self-insurers to file annual reports with the Pennsylvania
Insurance Department. The bill was sent to the House of Representatives for
In the Spotlight
In drafting their anti-gang legislation, the senators
worked closely with Chester County District Attorney Thomas Hogan, who is
prosecuting 12 individuals between the ages of 16 and 20 for offenses related to
the fatal stabbing of two rival gang leaders near Avondale, Chester County.
At least 20 other states - including Delaware, New Jersey,
Illinois and Michigan - have laws making it a crime to recruit gang members.
The bill is part of a comprehensive effort to crack down on
expanding gang activity in Pennsylvania. The senators applauded the work of
Sen. Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne), Sen. John Gordner (R-Columbia) and
others who have worked together with Congressman Lou Barletta on the "Operation
GangUp" initiative in northeastern Pennsylvania.
Senator Pileggi: "The impact of criminal street gangs in
rural areas is growing. This legislation gives prosecutors new and more
effective tools to combat the spread of gang violence and stop young people from
getting involved in gang activity."
Senator Rafferty: "We need to recognize the very real
and very serious threat that gangs pose to our communities and our young people.
By making it a crime to recruit gang members, we can put a serious dent in gang
participation and violence."
Senator Erickson: "This is not just a crime prevention
measure, it's a child protection effort as well. Gang leaders use lies to
recruit young people into their group, and they use intimidation and outright
violence to prevent members from leaving."
State Veterans Trust Fund
- Grants to qualified organizations for programs or projects to support
Pennsylvania veterans and their families.
- Grants or funding for new, innovative and expanded activities or programs
operated by a county or state director of Veterans Affairs.
- Grants to statewide veterans' service organizations.
- Assistance to Pennsylvania veterans in need of shelter or other
necessities of living.
- Assistance to operate, maintain and repair Pennsylvania monuments
honoring Pennsylvania service members and veterans.