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Senator Bob Mensch

Dear Friend,

Below is a recap of this week’s legislative activity in the Senate. It covers votes by the full Senate and a look ahead.

The highlight was Senate passage of legislation to reform our public pension systems, which are driving up taxes and draining public resources.

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Bob Mensch

In this Edition:

Senate Approves Public Pension Reform Measure
Senate Approves Medical Cannabis Bill
Senate Approves New Motorcycle License Plate to Support Veterans
Other Bills Approved by the Senate and Sent to the House
Senate Confirms Nine Cabinet Secretaries
Committee Approves Mensch’s Prostate Cancer Surveillance, Education, Detection and Treatment Act
Mensch Introduces Bill to Require Insurance Coverage for Breast Density Screening
Up Next

Senate Approves Public Pension Reform Measure

Recognizing that increasing public pension costs are creating an unsustainable burden on state government and local school districts, the Senate approved a reform measure Wednesday that is projected to produce $18.3 billion in savings over 30 years.

Senate Bill 1, which I am co-sponsoring, restructures the state’s two public employee pension systems – the State Employees’ Retirement System and the Public School Employees’ Retirement System – in order to make them viable in the long term.

The features of Senate Bill 1 include:

  • All new state and public school employees will be enrolled in a 401k-type Defined Contribution Plan similar to those used by private sector workers.
  • Members of the General Assembly, upon election or re-election, will be enrolled in the same Defined Contribution Plan as state and public school employees.
  • Current employees will be able to choose to increase their pension contribution or lower their future benefits.
  • No changes to current retiree benefits.
  • A Public Pension Management and Asset Investment Review Commission made up of investment professionals and retirement advisors will be established to make recommendations to the General Assembly and the Governor. Among their duties will be to evaluate the performance of current investment strategies and procedures of both state retirement systems regarding rates of return and associated fees paid for fund management.

Skyrocketing pension costs are driving up school property taxes and draining resources from classrooms, and prompted the Governor’s call for unprecedented state tax hikes. I hope the House of Representatives now addresses it with the same urgency as the Senate.

Watch – Speaking on the floor of the Senate, Senator Mensch outlines the scope of the pension crisis and calls for colleagues to take action.

Senate Approves Medical Cannabis Bill

The Senate on Tuesday approved legislation that would legalize the use of cannabis for medical purposes.

Senate Bill 3 would allow individuals who suffer from certain medical conditions to apply for a medical cannabis access card from the Department of Health. A licensed health care practitioner would be required to provide written certification in order for an application to the Department of Health to be considered. The legislation creates a new Board of Medical Cannabis Licensing within the Department of State that will be responsible for regulating growers, dispensers and processors.

Senate Bill 3 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Senate Approves New Motorcycle License Plate to Support Veterans

The Senate approved legislation Tuesday intended to help needy veterans through the sale of a special motorcycle license plate.

Senate Bill 284 authorizes the special “Honoring Our Veterans” license plate for motorcycles and Senate Bill 285 allocates a portion of the funds raised through sales of the plate to the Veterans Trust Fund. The trust fund assists veterans in need of help with food, utilities, mortgage or rent payments, health care and other necessities of life.

The bills now go to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Other Bills Approved by the Senate and Sent to the House

Senate Bill 264 bans the sale, possession, or distribution of shark fins.

Senate Bill 514 amends the Generic Equivalent Drug Law to provide for the substitution of an interchangeable biological product for a brand name biologic. I am co-sponsoring this measure.

Senate Bill 678 clarifies the arrest powers and jurisdiction of campus police officers employed by Pennsylvania’s 14 State System of Higher Education universities. I am co-sponsoring this measure.

Senate Confirms Nine Cabinet Secretaries

The Senate confirmed nine cabinet nominations this week:

Major General James Joseph – State Adjutant General
Dennis Davin - Secretary of Community and Economic Development
Curtis Topper - Secretary of General Services
Leslie Richards - Secretary of Transportation.
Teresa Osborne - Secretary of Aging
Russell Redding - Secretary of Agriculture
Gary Tennis - Secretary of Drug and Alcohol Programs
Dr. Karen Murphy - Secretary of Health
Kathy Manderino - Secretary of Labor and Industry

Senator Mensch and colleagues on the Senate Aging and Youth Committee met to consider the nomination of Teresa Osborne for Secretary of Aging. The Senate confirmed the nomination.

Committee Approves Mensch’s Prostate Cancer Surveillance, Education, Detection and Treatment Act

Legislation I introduced to promote early detection and treatment of prostate cancer was approved by the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 609, the Prostate Cancer Surveillance, Education, Detection and Treatment Act, will improve public awareness of the prevalence of prostate cancer and measures available to detect, diagnose and treat it and related chronic prostate conditions. It is also intended to ensure that:

  • Medical professionals, insurers, patients and governmental agencies are equally knowledgeable about screening, diagnosis and treatment options;
  • Medical professionals provide patients have sufficient information about treatment options to enable patients to make an informed choice as part of informed consent and to respect the autonomy of choice; and
  • Pennsylvania government agencies provide unbiased information regarding multiple standards of care.

The legislation directs the Department of Health to establish a 19-member task force on prostate cancer and related chronic prostate conditions to investigate and make recommendations.

Prostate cancer in Pennsylvania has similar incidence and mortality numbers as breast cancer. In the past year, over 10,240 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer. That's 28 men per day in our Commonwealth. An additional four men will die from prostate cancer every day, adding up to almost 1,300 men per year.

Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer diagnosed in Pennsylvania men. African-American men are 61% more likely than Caucasian men to be diagnosed with prostate cancer and twice as likely to die from it.

Mensch Introduces Bill to Require Insurance Coverage for Breast Density Screening

I re-introduced legislation this week supported by the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition that would require insurance plans to provide coverage for breast density screening.

Dense breast complicate early detection of breast cancer. Women who have extremely dense breast tissue are up to six times more likely to develop breast cancer.

Mammogram films of breasts with higher density are harder to read and interpret than those of less dense breasts. Breast density is one of the strongest predictors of the failure of mammography screening to detect cancer, with a mammogram missing at least 40 percent of tumors in women with the densest breasts. Both cancer and density appear white on a mammogram so detecting tumors is much more difficult in denser breasts without further screening provided by an ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Senate Bill 842 would amend the Insurance Company Law of 1921 to extend mandated insurance coverage to ultrasound screening and magnetic resonance imaging if a mammogram demonstrates heterogeneous or dense breast tissue, or if a woman is believed to be at increased risk for breast cancer due to family history or prior personal history of breast cancer, positive genetic testing or other indications.

I previously introduced this legislation in tandem with a bill that became Act 86 of 2013, requiring heath care facilities to notify women when screening indicates dense breast tissue.

Up Next

The Senate returns to voting session on Monday, June 1. You can watch session live at

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.

Contact Me

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Harrisburg Office
Senate Box 203024
Harrisburg, PA 17120-3024
Phone (717) 787-3110
FAX (717) 787-8004

Red Hill Office
56 West 4th Street
Floor 2
Red Hill, PA 18076
Phone (215) 541-2388
Toll Free 1-855-247-9020
FAX (215) 541-2387
Monday - Friday
9-4:30 pm

Lansdale District Office
645 W. 9th Street
Lansdale, PA 19446
Phone (215) 368-3117
FAX (215) 541-2387
Monday, Wednesday and Friday
9-4:30 pm

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