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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In this Edition:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Senate confirmed nine cabinet nominations this week:
Major General James Joseph – State Adjutant General
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:
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.
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.
The Senate returns to voting session on Monday, June 1. You can watch session live at PASenateGOP.com.
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