Legislative Bits: June 1, 2016

Driscoll promotes financial literacy

State Reps. Mike Driscoll and Leslie Acosta have introduced legislation that would require public high school students in Pennsylvania to complete a financial literacy capstone course in order to graduate.

House Bill 1961 would mandate that school districts incorporate personal finance into an appropriate curriculum and create a capstone course addressing the following issues: money management, earning income, borrowing money, financial services, risk management, saving and investing. Students would be required to take the course in 11th or 12th grade and would need to demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of financial literacy.

In addition, the state Board of Education would be required to submit a report to the state House and Senate Education committees with data of statewide assessment results for financial literacy comprehension. The state Treasury would also establish the Personal Finance Education Fund, which would partly be funded by voluntary contributions of state income tax returns.

”A financial literacy course will help students make responsible decisions with their money whether it be with student loans after they graduate or with applying for a mortgage further down the road,” Driscoll said. “These financial interactions have become such an important component of living a successful life, we are doing our students a disservice by not preparing them to make the right choices.”

Acosta and Driscoll noted that a recent report released by the Pennsylvania Task Force on Economic Education and Personal Financial Literacy Education found that fewer than 50 of Pennsylvania’s school districts require a course in personal finance for graduation, and these courses vary widely in their content. They added that a uniform financial personal literacy curriculum would ensure students across the state would be equally equipped to handle their personal finances. ••

Murt bill on newborns passes House

Legislation sponsored by state Rep. Tom Murt (R-152nd dist.) to require an additional medical test for newborns has passed the House.

House Bill 498 would amend the Newborn Child Testing Act of 1965 to add Non-ketotic Hyperglycinemia to the list of disorders for newborn screening.

NKH, also known as glycine encephalopathy, is a severe and rare disorder affecting about one in every 60,000 live births. NKH impairs nervous tissue, including the brain, leading to symptoms such as seizures, breathing and feeding difficulties, muscle limpness and lethargy.

NKH usually becomes apparent soon after birth; however, sometimes, symptoms start to arise in later infancy.

“While there is currently no known cure, detecting NKH early and beginning proper treatment may help prevent or delay some of the severe health outcomes associated with the condition,” Murt said.

While all states require newborn screenings for every infant, the number and types of conditions on a state’s screening panel varies.

The legislation is in the Senate. ••

White wants crackdown on illegals

State Rep. Martina White is supporting three bipartisan bills to curb illegal immigration throughout Pennsylvania.

Modeled after the Legal Arizona Workers Act that was recently upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, one bill would require all state employers and government entities to enroll in the federal government’s free E-Verify program to confirm the validity of Social Security numbers for prospective employees.

Mayor Jim Kenney recently declared Philadelphia a “sanctuary city” — meaning that the city will not turn over illegal aliens to federal officials. In response, White has introduced House Bill 1885 to establish criminal and economic sanctions against any illegal alien sanctuary city within the state.

“We cannot have rogue elected officials and municipal employees refusing to enforce any laws they disagree with,” White said. “So-called ‘sanctuary cities’ place themselves above the law and allow illegal immigrants who could have a criminal background to remain safe from detainment and federal deportation. This is a very real threat to public safety and sets a dangerous precedent that we must not tolerate.”

In addition to holding any “sanctuary city” responsible for the damages to persons or property as a result of criminal activity by unauthorized aliens, House Bill 1885 would require city and municipal law enforcement officers who have reasonable cause to believe that someone being arrested is in the United States illegally to immediately report the individual to the appropriate United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office within the Department of Homeland Security.

“I applaud Rep. White for introducing this important legislation,” said Rep. Jerry Knowles, a Republican from Schuylkill County. “This legislation is about public safety, and it’s long overdue. Even if this bill saves one life, isn’t it worth it?”

Under House Bill 237, any state agency that administers public benefits must verify that those benefits are being paid to only those who are eligible through the Systematic Alien Verification of Entitlement program operated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. ••

White wants focus on budget

State Rep. Martina White (R-152nd dist.) released the following statement on Gov. Tom Wolf’s decision to allow a supplemental budget bill passed by the legislature to become law:

“I am pleased the governor has agreed with the Legislature that it is time to end the long budget impasse and pain it caused across the Commonwealth. This supplemental budget bill not only restores funding vetoed by the governor in December, but it raises funding for basic education and does so without raising taxes. “The supplemental budget includes an $872.6 million increase over the 2014–15 budget, yet spends within available revenues without relying on new taxes. Basic education will see $5.93 billion in funding, an increase of $200 million over 2014–15 when including the Ready-To-Learn Block Grant.

“While the governor’s December vetoes cut tens of millions in funding for higher education, this supplemental budget bill reverses the governor’s vetoes from December and will help local families who use community colleges and the State System of Higher Education. It fully funds Pennsylvania State University, Temple University, the University of Pittsburgh, and Lincoln University. This plan also provides a minimum 5 percent increase in funding for these institutions over what was provided in 2014–15. The budget also restores funding for vital community assets like critical access hospitals, hospital-based burn centers and child advocacy centers. Now it’s time to focus on passing the 2016–17 budget.” ••

Murt wants focus on women vets

A resolution sponsored by state Rep. Tom Murt (R-152nd dist.) asking the federal government to investigate the needs of women in the military has passed the Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee.

House Resolution 264 asks Congress to expeditiously address the health, social and economic needs of female veterans.

“The Disabled American Veterans recently released a study that detailed how the needs of women in the military are not being adequately addressed,” Murt said. “Their research showed that America’s nearly 300,000 women veterans are put at risk by a system designed for and dominated by male veterans. The Veterans Administration and Department of Defense are still not fully prepared to provide equitable access to the gender-specific care and services that women need, even as the demand for such care increases.”

Among the issues Murt wants investigated include sexual trauma and the limited number of VA medical centers capable of positively identifying the problem.

“The VA and the Department of Defense also have difficulty providing gender-specific peer support, group therapy and specialized inpatient mental health care designed to meet the needs and preferences of women,” Murt said.

The study also found that women in the military who have lost limbs may not receive support and care tailored to their needs, and women are less likely to have a prosthetic that fits properly.

“We must also examine why post-9/11 women veterans have higher unemployment rates than male veterans and non-veteran women,” Murt said. “These labor market challenges are exacerbated by medical and mental health concerns. Sadly, women veterans are at least twice as likely to be homeless as non-veteran women.” ••

White addresses illegals

State Rep. Martina White (R-170th dist.) released the following statement in response to a video released by pro-illegal immigration activists, who visited her office:

“As I have said on numerous occasions, including during the ambush meeting with activists for illegal immigration, I fully support legal immigration and the diversity it brings to our country, as well as immigrants who have followed the law to get here. My legislation focuses on only one issue: upholding federal law as it applies to illegal immigrants — from any country — who break the laws of the United States. Certain activists wanting to push their own agenda have tried to twist this simple fact to suit their own purposes. I stand by this legislation as something that is needed to help protect the people of Philadelphia from crimes committed by those who are here illegally, and I know that the residents of my district stand with me.” ••

White honors Goodwin

A resolution sponsored by state Rep. Martina White (R-170th dist.) to honor the sacrifice of fallen firefighter Battalion Chief Michael R. Goodwin Sr. has passed the House of Representatives.

House Bill 1787 would rename a portion of State Route 1013 (Academy Road, from Byberry Road to Nanton Drive) in Philadelphia as the Michael R. Goodwin Sr. Memorial Highway.

“A firefighter’s first act of bravery is taking the oath to serve, and everyone who takes that pledge knows that, one day, they may not come home,” White said. “Michael R. Goodwin Sr. was one of those men.”

On April 6, 2013, Goodwin, who lived in Parkwood, answered a call to a factory fire when a floor collapsed, trapping him inside the inferno. Prior to his death, Goodwin was on the list to be promoted to the rank of battalion chief; he received the promotion posthumously.

“As new generations of Philadelphians pass by that road and see that sign, they will remember the sacrifice Mike made that day,” White said. “In a bigger way, they will understand the bravery of that special breed who leave their homes every day knowing they may never return.” ••

Ambulance companies get grants

State Reps. Mike Driscoll, Ed Neilson, Jason Dawkins and Kevin Boyle announced that four ambulance companies in the Northeast are sharing nearly $29,000 in state grants.

The grants are from Pennsylvania’s Fire Company and Volunteer Ambulance Service Grant Program and are partly funded from gaming revenue.

“Northeast Philadelphia relies on these ambulance companies and their volunteers to be there for us when every second counts,” Neilson said. “These grants will help them continue to provide this invaluable services to our community.”

The following companies each received $7,202: Northeast First Aid Corps, Burholme First Aid Corps Inc., Rhawnhurst Bustleton Ambulance Association Inc. and Wissinoming Volunteer First Aid Corps.

Grants can be used toward repairing, building or renovating facilities. Grant money also can be applied toward the purchase of new equipment, training and certification of staff, or it may go to repay debt related to equipment purchases or facility building and maintenance.

The grant program is due to expire June 30, unless reauthorized by the General Assembly. The House recently approved a bill to extend the program for another four years. Driscoll, Neilson, Dawkins and Boyle voted for the bill, which has been sent to the Senate for consideration. ••

Taylor backs sex assault bill

State Rep. John Taylor (R-177th dist.) joined a majority of his colleagues in passing legislation to extend the statute of limitations in sexual assault cases.

“House Bill 1947 was written to protect children and ensure that victims are able to hold their abusers accountable for their crimes and to seek damages for the pain they’ve endured,” Taylor said.

The bill would remove the criminal statute of limitations on sexual assault cases, and expand the statute on civil cases until the victim reaches the age of 50.

Currently, adult victims of sexual assault have 12 years to report the crime in Pennsylvania, as do victims under the age of 18 before August 2002. Sexual assault victims under the age of 18 born after August 2002 have 32 years after their 18th birthday to file criminal charges. On the civil side, a victim currently has until the age of 30 to file a lawsuit.

Under House Bill 1947, if an individual entitled to bring a civil action for child sexual abuse is under the age of 18 years at the time of the offense, the individual will have a period of 32 years after attaining the age of 18 in which to commence an action for damages. As amended in the House, this extended limitations period is declared retroactive, and so will revive lawsuits that were barred by the statute of limitations prior to the enactment of this bill.

“Too many perpetrators have been able to escape punishment both criminally and civilly by relying on the lapsing of the statute of limitations,” Taylor said. “This bill is a victory for crime victims who were often too young to speak up.” ••

Taylor recovery school bill passes House

Legislation sponsored by state Rep. John Taylor (R-177th dist.) to help students who are struggling with drug addiction has passed the House.

House Bill 1827 would establish a four-year pilot recovery high school program for students in recovery from substance abuse.

“When students with drug problems return to their previous high schools following substance abuse treatment, they are much more likely to relapse than those in schools specifically designed to provide the assistance, support and intervention,” Taylor said. “That’s why recovery schools are so important and this pilot recovery school program is critical. It would give these young students a support system so they can get their lives back on the right track and become productive and successful members of their communities and of our workforce.”

There are 35 recovery high schools in 15 states that are recognized by the Association of Recovery Schools.

House Bill 1827 is in the Senate for consideration. ••

Senate OKs Sabatina bill on child protection

The state Senate unanimously passed a bill by Sen. John Sabatina Jr. (D-5th dist.) that is aimed at bolstering Pennsylvania’s child-protection statutes.

Senate Bill 1156 clarifies changes that were made to Pennsylvania law in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child abuse case, to ensure that health-care workers who have contact with children are subject to background checks.

“When it comes to protecting children, we have to make our laws airtight and crystal clear,” said Sabatina, a former assistant district attorney. “I applaud my colleagues for their timely consideration and passage of this important bill.”

In the past, the Child Protective Services Law required certain health-care personnel to have child abuse and criminal history certifications when their job involved “regular contact with children.”

However, in amendments made to the CPSL in 2015, an attempt to clarify who was required to get clearances resulted in confusion. Much of the confusion centered on whether medical personnel, hospital personnel and clergy are required to get clearances.

“As someone who prosecuted hundreds of criminal cases, I understood that it is important to eliminate any ambiguity in the law,” Sabatina said.

Senate Bill 1156, co-sponsored by state Sen. Randy Vulakovich, a Beaver County Republican, clarifies that certain health-care personnel — including health-care providers, employees of health-care facilities and emergency medical services providers –are required to have a child abuse clearance if they are responsible for a child’s welfare or have direct contact with children.

The bill is in the House. ••