In this Update:
Veterans Appreciation Breakfast
Senate Approves Measures to Support Police and Crime Victims
Taking further action to stem the rise in violent crime in Pennsylvania, the Senate this week passed measures to support law enforcement and crime victims.
House Bill 103 seeks to better protect our law enforcement officers against harassment by strengthening penalties against criminals who intentionally spit on or throw bodily fluids at officers.
House Bill 1546 further protects law enforcement officers by prohibiting the release of a public safety official’s home address or telephone number.
While criminal prosecutions punish offenders, restitution for crime victims often falls short. When that happens, victims often turn to the civil justice system.
The Senate passed House Bill 2525 to make it easier for crime victims to obtain relevant information learned by law enforcement during the investigation of the crime. Crime victims can then use that information in civil legal actions to recover damages for their injuries.
In addition, the Senate approved House Bill 140 to help fight rampant crime in Philadelphia. It requires the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate and prosecute crimes committed within its mass transit system.
These efforts build on the work that has been accomplished over the past two years to protect crime victims, prevent human trafficking and strengthen penalties for criminals who seek to elude officers.
Fire & EMS Package Advanced by Stefano
This week, the Senate passed a measure that would provide essential funding and support for Pennsylvania’s fire and emergency medical services (EMS) community. As chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee, I was proud to work for it’s passage
With an amendment offered by Senator Stefano, House Bill 397 would:
“Our fire and EMS systems are facing serious challenges. By working together at the state and local levels, we can help mitigate the threat of any Pennsylvanian needing assistance but not receiving it in a timely fashion,” said Stefano, who inserted the package into House Bill 397. “I was pleased to work with our fire and EMS community, as well as with colleagues in the Senate and House, to put together this measure.”
House Bill 397 now moves to the governor’s desk for final approval.
Senate Acts to Add Sex Traffickers to Sex Offender Registry
A measure requiring offenders convicted of a sex trafficking-related crime to register as sex offenders received final legislative approval this week.
Senate Bill 118 adds these crimes to the reporting requirements of Pennsylvania’s Megan’s Law. The law requires the State Police to maintain a public, online registry of persons who reside, work or attend school in the Commonwealth and who have been convicted of or pleaded guilty to certain sexual offenses in Pennsylvania or another jurisdiction.
Most defendants in the FBI’s human trafficking cases had prior criminal records and are prone to recidivism. The Megan’s Law Registry has proven to be a deterrent to subsequent sexual offenses committed by those who are on it. The bill was sent to the governor for enactment.
Stefano Bill to Retain Junior Firefighters Poised for Enactment
Legislation I sponsored that would allow junior firefighters, aged 17, to train on live-burn, interior firefighter modules was passed with strong bipartisan support on Monday.
Given the increasing difficulties fire companies have in recruiting and retaining volunteers, we have to capitalize on the interest young people have rather than barring them from completing the training for activity that attracted them in the first place. We can maintain their enthusiasm for helping their communities and saving lives safely with my bill.
To participate in live burns, junior firefighters would need their parent or guardian’s permission, and local fire chief’s permission. The training would be completed under the instruction of a credentialed Pennsylvania State Fire Academy instructor.
“Permitting junior firefighters to complete interior fire training will better prepare them to help Pennsylvania communities immediately when they turn 18 years old,” said Jerry Ozog, executive director of the Pennsylvania Fire and Emergency Services Institute. “Sen. Stefano clearly understands the challenges facing Pennsylvania’s volunteer fire companies, and we thank him for his continued efforts to help Pennsylvania’s volunteer fire companies.”
Senate Bill 1027, approved by the Senate on June 13 and by the House of Representatives on Monday, now moves to the governor’s desk for final approval.
Measure to Improve Notification of Government Data Breaches Sent to Governor
Legislation requiring that state agencies, their contractors and local governments provide timely notification to victims of a data breach received final approval.
Breaches involving personally identifiable information must be reported within seven days of such a breach being determined, under Senate Bill 696.
In addition to timely notification, the measure requires the state Attorney General to be notified of a state-level breach and county district attorneys to be notified of county, municipal and school district breaches. The bill was sent to the governor for enactment.
Resolution to Bring Hope by Ringing Bells Receives Senate Support
In response to a request made by a resident of the 32nd District, I was honored to sponsor Senate Resolution 365, which recognizes three days annually to ring bells as a sign of thanks, praise and unity.
The resolution recognizes the day before Thanksgiving, the Sunday after Christmas and New Year’s Day at 6 p.m. as a time to ring bells for five minutes throughout the Commonwealth.
In 2020 and thereafter, the pandemic disrupted and tragically affected the lives of Pennsylvanians and people all over the world.
To help those who were struggling, churches in the Scottdale area of Westmoreland County provided meals and clothing for the needy, support groups and donations to Salvation Army, United Way and other organizations.
When the Scottdale Area Association of Churches met to discuss how to meet the needs of their community members, they came up with the idea of ringing bells as a way to give hope, connect people and bring comfort to others.
People of the Scottdale Area Association of Churches rang bells to bring people together physically and emotionally when isolation and many other stressors associated with the pandemic were eroding Pennsylvania’s mental health. So when Edwin Zylka of the association reached out to me to bring awareness to this tradition as it prepares for its third year, I wanted to help.
According to data compiled by the National Alliance on Mental Illness in February 2021, more than half of Americans reported that COVID-19 has had a negative impact on their mental health.
Health Care Reform Measure Receives Final Approval
The Senate gave final approval of a measure that would standardize and streamline the process of prior authorization and step therapy for medical services.
Prior authorization is the process in which health care providers obtain advance approval for purposes of payment coverage and reimbursement from an insurer before a specific procedure or service is delivered to the patient. Step therapy allows insurers to recommend different drug treatment option(s) to patients to address costs.
A recent survey of physicians found that 91% of doctors said prior authorization delays can lead to negative clinical impacts on patients, and 78% of doctors said that prior authorization delays can lead to their patients abandoning treatment plans.
Senate Bill 225 would create standards and timely feedback for commercial health insurance plans, as well as Medicaid plans, when health care providers seek prior authorization approval from insurers. The bill also reforms step therapy protocols. The bill was sent to the governor to be signed into law.
Stefano Named “Guardian of Small Business”
In Harrisburg this week, I was recognized by the National Federation of Independent Business as a Guardian of Small Business for my voting record in support of key small business issues during the 2021-22 legislative session.
While NFIB recognizes lawmakers who voted favorably on small business issues at least 70% of the time, I am proud to have been recognized in a special class of legislators who have supported small business initiatives 100% of the time.
Thank you NFIB for this recognition. I will continue to support the 32nd District and all of Pennsylvania’s small businesses, 100% of the time.
Recognizing the Contributions of First Responders
We sometimes take for granted the sacrifice and dedication of first responders, without whom our communities could not safely function.
Thank you, police officers, firefighters, emergency medical personnel and everyone else who answers the call, anytime, day or night.
Time for Trick or Treaters
Communities will be holding Halloween nights between now and Oct. 31. In addition to stocking up on candy, please keep an eye out for distracted children crossing streets and scurrying about.
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