In this Update:
Governor Shapiro Fails to Deliver on Promises
After Senate Republicans worked diligently to pass a bipartisan state budget, Gov. Josh Shapiro went back on one of his priority campaign commitments to provide school choice opportunities. He now says he will veto that provision within the budget we worked to pass. The governor has decided to betray the good faith agreement reached with legislative leaders, leaving an estimated quarter-million children in failing schools across Pennsylvania.
The Pennsylvania Award for Student Success (PASS) scholarship program would offer grants to low-income families with children in schools ranked in the bottom 15% for test scores and academic performance. Parents could use the funds for private school tuition, tutoring and other services.
Every child in Pennsylvania deserves the opportunity for a quality education, which is why the budget plan passed by the Senate last week expanded educational programs and fully funded the governor’s requested amount for basic education for school districts at historic levels.
The Senate will continue to await legislative action by the House of Representatives on the remaining budgetary components, as we work to enact a responsible spending plan that respects taxpayers and fulfills the governor’s pledge to save Pennsylvania children from failing schools.
Helping Children of National Guard and Reserve Members Adjust to New Schools
Legislation that will reduce the educational challenges faced by children of National Guard and Reserve members was unanimously approved by the Senate.
Military families face frequent reassignments, posing educational challenges for children transitioning between schools in different states. Senate Bill 209 would give children of National Guard and Reserve members the same help provided to those of active-duty military families through the Military Interstate Children’s Compact.
The compact provides a consistent set of policies that make getting started in a new school, joining extracurricular activities, facilitating enrollment and meeting graduation requirements as easy as possible for military children.
Senate Protects Sexually Exploited Children, Human Trafficking Victims
The Senate approved legislation to ensure that sexually exploited children who are human trafficking victims always have full access to appropriate services and support.
Under current Pennsylvania law, any minor who is exploited for commercial sex must identify their third-party perpetrator to be considered a victim of human trafficking, unless their purchaser is charged as a trafficker.
Senate Bill 44 would ensure that third-party control is never a consideration for access to victim services. Senate Bill 45 would eliminate the third-party control requirement to access victim services under the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline Notification Act.
Bill to Help Medically Fragile Babies Receives Senate Support
The Senate approved legislation to provide critical care for medically fragile babies by expanding access to pasteurized human donor milk.
Senate Bill 500 would require Medical Assistance coverage for medically prescribed pasteurized human donor milk in both inpatient and outpatient settings for children who are less than a year old. The donor milk must be obtained from a milk bank licensed in Pennsylvania or through a hospital licensure process in accordance with the Keystone Mothers’ Milk Bank Act of 2020.
For very low birth-weight babies and other medically compromised infants, the use of donor milk is a proven, cost-effective way to improve health outcomes and lower health care costs. It protects against serious health complications that can lead to longer hospital stays, multiple medical and surgical procedures, readmissions, lifelong disability or even death.
To qualify for coverage, the child’s mother must be medically or physically unable to produce breast milk in an amount needed to meet the child’s needs.
Senate Passes Bill Authorizing Body Cameras for Parole Agents
Legislation that would authorize state parole agents to wear body cameras was approved by the Senate.
Senate Bill 260 would allow state parole agents of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections to wear body cameras capable of capturing encounters with parolees.
Under current law, state parole agents are not authorized to wear body cameras due to the Wiretap Act’s antiquated language. Other members of law enforcement including deputy sheriffs, municipal police officers and members of the Pennsylvania State Police are authorized.
Bill Reforming Pennsylvania’s Probation System Passes Senate
The Senate passed legislation that would reform Pennsylvania’s probation system to give people a better pathway out of the criminal justice system.
Senate Bill 838 would establish a mandatory probation review conference for probationers, providing criteria for when they occur and a presumption that probation will be terminated unless the individual does not qualify.
It would also permit the review conference to occur earlier based on the good conduct of defendants by achieving certain educational, employment or other goals. A provision to allow for the waiving of the mandatory review conference in cases where all stakeholders agree it is unnecessary is also included.