Senate Approves Vulakovich/Costa Fire Training Measure

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The Senate today unanimously approved Senate Bill 955, legislation sponsored by Senators Randy Vulakovich (R-38) and Jay Costa (D-43) that creates an incentive for community colleges to establish fire fighter training programs within secondary schools.

SB 955 would establish a three-year pilot program – providing $150,000 per year to three community colleges – one each in the eastern, central, and western parts of the state.  Those colleges would be charged with establishing partnerships with secondary schools to provide fire fighter training classes for high school students.

“Many fire companies are facing severe shortages of volunteers,” said Senator Vulakovich, Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee.  “We have found that if students do not join a volunteer fire company by the time they graduate from high school, it is unlikely that they will join the firefighting ranks.  One way we can address this is to provide training to students while they are in high school.  Community colleges have been at the forefront in training future firefighters.  This legislation will help create new partnerships and ultimately help address our shortage of volunteer firefighters.”

“I support this bill and of all of the work that community colleges do, because I see the gaps that they are filling to prepare our young people for a wide variety of fields,” said Senator Costa, Democratic Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee.  “I sit on the board of the Community College of Allegheny County and I’m constantly inspired by the work that they’re doing getting students ready to attend a four-year college, or start a career.  Community college is an affordable, accessible way for students to start tackling any number of skills; in fact, I started my own post-secondary education in community college.  Maintaining a well-trained fire service is crucial for our safety across the state, and community colleges are a natural home for that training.  While Senate Bill 955 only creates a pilot program for this training, I have no doubt that our community colleges will rise to the challenge and exceed expectations, as they always have.”

This legislation is part of the statewide Fire & EMS Study that was initiated as a result of legislation, Senate Resolution 6, which Senators Vulakovich and Costa introduced.

Senate Bill 955 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

 

Contact:
Nate Silcox (717) 787-6538 (Senator Vulakovich)

Brittany Crampsie    (717) 787-7683 (Senator Costa)

Senate Adopts Mensch Resolution Preparing for Statewide Safety Radio Rollout

 Harrisburg –A measure sponsored by Sen. Bob Mensch (R-24) urging counties, local police and state authorities to prepare for rollout of a new statewide safety radio system was unanimously adopted by the Senate this week.

Senate Resolution 237 urges counties and local officials to work with the Pennsylvania State Police and the Office of Public Safety Radio to explore and execute shared services arrangements to enable operation of the new Pennsylvania Statewide Radio Network (P-25 PA-STARNet).

“PA-STARNet is the commonwealth’s statewide wireless voice and data network for public safety and emergency response communications. It will provide interoperability and enables first responders to communicate without boundaries,” said Mensch. “This statewide emergency radio communications system has been in the making for decades, and is years behind schedule. It is absolutely critical for public safety that all of the parties are prepared to work together when the system is deployed.”

The statewide rollout of the system began in northwestern Pennsylvania early last year and is set to be completed in 2021. 

Last session, the Senate adopted Senator Mensch’s measure urging the governor and the executive branch to develop a plan to implement a solution for the statewide emergency radio communications system.

Prior to the passage of this resolution, Pennsylvania taxpayers had invested more than $750 million into PA-STARNet, yet it remained unreliable, often preventing agents in the field from doing their job safely and effectively. In 2014, it was proven to be a liability in the search for Eric Frein, who ambushed and murdered one State Trooper and gravely injured another.

Since the adoption of Senate Resolution 325, Pennsylvania has switched to a new system vendor and the State Police have made great progress towards implementing the system.

“It is important that we notify counties, local law enforcement, and public safety and emergency services providers of the benefits of this new system and urge them to work with the PSP to ensure interoperability and cost-savings,” said Mensch. “If we do not take this important step of the passage of this resolution, it is possible that some counties will move ahead with deployment of their own, non-integrated system, which will ultimately be an increased cost to taxpayers.”

For more information on Senator Mensch’s legislation, visit www.senatormensch.com.  State updates can also be found on Senator Mensch’s Facebook at www.facebook.com/senatormensch, or Twitter @SenatorMensch

CONTACT: Sarah Rasmussen srasmussen@pasen.gov  (215) 541-2388

Senate Committee Approves Bill Supporting Volunteer Fire Company Fundraisers

HARRISBURG – The Senate Finance Committee approved a bill today that would allow volunteer fire companies to keep more of the money they generate during fundraisers, according to the bill’s sponsor, Senator Scott Martin (R-13).

Senate Bill 952 would exempt volunteer fire companies from paying sales tax on food and beverages sold during fundraising events, such as chicken barbeques and pancake breakfasts.

Under current law, volunteer fire companies pay the six-percent sales tax on all sales during these events. Exempting these events from the sales tax would mirror the approach the state takes toward similar fundraising efforts, such as school sports booster clubs.

Martin said the legislation is a priority because the cost of firefighting equipment and training continues to rise, while the number of volunteers continues to decline. On average, the cost of equipment increases by 4.5 percent every year. A cancer preemption law passed in 2011 also placed additional financial burdens on fire companies.

“Volunteer fire companies face significant challenges not only in responding to emergencies, but also in finding enough money to afford necessary equipment and training,” Martin said. “Exempting volunteer fire company fundraisers from paying the sales tax would provide more time and money for these organizations to focus on what really matters – protecting our communities.”

Martin noted that one volunteer fire company in his district in southern Lancaster County needs to replace a 27-year-old tanker next year at a cost of up to $800,000. The fire company estimates that $15,000-$18,000 of what they raise to pay for the new tanker will have to be remitted back to the state.

The bill was sent to the full Senate for consideration.

 

CONTACT: Terry Trego (717) 787-6535

Senate Approves Proposal to Improve Special Emergency Response Times

HARRISBURG – Off-duty police officers who serve on Special Emergency Response Teams (SERTs) could respond to incidents quicker and more safely under legislation unanimously approved by the Senate today.

Senate Bill 1015, sponsored by Senators Scott Martin (R-13) and Ryan Aument (R-36), would allow SERT officers to use flashing lights and sirens when using their private vehicles to respond to incidents.

Local officials estimate that the use of lights and sirens on personal vehicles could save 10 to 15 minutes in assembling a SERT team for incidents requiring special training, such as kidnappings, barricaded gunmen and hostage negotiations.

“A delay of even a few minutes can make it much more difficult to resolve a difficult and sensitive situation without a tragic loss of life,” Martin said. “SERT officers already face significant dangers in performing their jobs, so it is critical for lawmakers to do our part to make sure they can respond to incidents as quickly and safely as possible.”

The legislation mirrors a bill from the previous legislative session that was sponsored by Aument and passed the Senate unanimously.

“Many SERT officers do not have access to police vehicles when they are off-duty, so the need to respond to incidents quickly creates a dangerous environment before they even set foot on the scene,” Aument said. “This measure will help ensure officers who have the specialized training to diffuse dangerous situations can assemble in a timely manner and get to work in protecting victims and innocent bystanders.”

Lancaster County SERT has approximately 40 members from 16 different police departments. The team has responded to an average of approximately one incident per month over the past six years.

CONTACT: 

Terry Trego (717) 787-6535 (Senator Martin)

Jake Smeltz (717) 787-4420 (Senator Aument)                     

 

Reschenthaler Calls for Stronger Constitutional Protections for Crime Victims

 

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State Senator Guy Reschenthaler (R-37) joined legislators, law enforcement officials and victim advocates today at a State Capitol rally to support legislation aimed at protecting and expanding the rights of victims of violent crime.

Reschenthaler called on the Legislature to pass Senate Bill 1011, also known as Marsy’s Law, which would establish a crime victims’ bill of rights in the Pennsylvania Constitution.   A companion bill sponsored by Representative Sheryl Delozier has been introduced in the House.

Following the rally, the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Reschenthaler serves on, passed the bill and sent it to the full Senate for consideration.

While many states, including Pennsylvania, have laws designed to assist victims in the judicial system, Reschenthaler said there are no provisions in those statutes to ensure compliance.

“Pennsylvania already has a strong history of protecting victims of crime, but with this legislation we are starting the process of putting the rights of victims on a level playing field with the rights of the accused,” Reschenthaler said. “We need to ensure that crime victims are treated with respect and dignity by the criminal justice system.  This proposal protects and strengthens their rights with a constitutional guarantee.”

Marsy’s Law stipulates that crime victims will have the constitutional right to:

  • Notice of hearings and other proceedings.
  • Protection from the accused, notice of release or escape.
  • Full and timely restitution, proceedings free from delays and with prompt conclusion.
  • The ability to confer with the government’s attorney and information on all of these rights.

To date, six states have passed such a strengthened constitutional amendment, including California, Illinois, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Ohio, and efforts are underway in 10 other states, including Pennsylvania.

Marsy’s Law is named for Marsy Nichols, a college student in California who was shot and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983.  Her parents started their crusade for more rights for victims and survivors of crimes and their families

Guy Reschenthaler, R-Jefferson Hills, is a member of the Pennsylvania State Senate representing parts of western Allegheny County and eastern Washington County.

CONTACT Aaron Bonnaure, 717-787-5839abonnaure@pasen.gov

Hutchinson Bill Would Protect Responsible Gun Owners During Disaster Declarations

HARRISBURG – As the debate rages over whether Governor Wolf’s opioid disaster declaration could infringe upon the Second Amendment rights of Pennsylvania citizens, a bill introduced by Senator Scott Hutchinson (R-21) could ensure responsible gun owners are protected against having their firearms confiscated during future emergency situations.

Current law allows the Governor and municipal officials to ban the legal carrying of a firearm on any public street or piece of public property during a disaster declaration. The Governor also has the ability to limit or suspend the sale of firearms during an emergency.

Senate Bill 36, which was introduced in January of last year, would amend current law to preserve the Second Amendment rights of responsible gun owners by preventing state and local governments from banning the sale of firearms and the right to legally carry firearms in a public place during an emergency. Hutchinson introduced similar legislation during the 2015-16 Legislative Session.

“The controversy over the Governor’s disaster declaration is another reminder of the need to prevent state and local governments from infringing on the rights of responsible citizens,” Hutchinson said. “Lawmakers need to take action to ensure the rights of law-abiding gun owners are protected.”

Contact:         Justin Leventry           (717) 787-9684

Martin Measure to Streamline Parking Enforcement Signed Into Law

HARRISBURG – A new law will remove a substantial burden from local law enforcement and court systems by allowing more than 50 Pennsylvania cities to utilize Parking Authorities to enforce and adjudicate parking ordinances, according to the measure’s sponsor, Senator Scott Martin (R-13).

The law gives all cities of the Second Class A and Third Class – including the City of Lancaster – the option to shift the responsibility of enforcing parking laws from the court system to the city’s parking authority. Under current state law, only Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have that authority.

Martin said the change will allow many cities to streamline the process of enforcing parking laws, collecting fines and settling disputes, removing that burden from law enforcement and an overburdended court system.

“Many district courts are already overwhelmed with cases even before considering relatively minor offenses like parking violations, and the resources of many local police forces and have been stretched extremely thin as well,” Martin said. “Changing the way that we approach parking enforcement and adjudication will create a more efficient system that still provides a mechanism for courts to settle disputes, while at the same time allowing the judiciary to find cost savings by realigning resources.”

Although parking authorities will now be the first point of contact for settling disputes, city residents can still appeal a decision by the parking authority to the courts if they are dissatisfied with the ruling.

The new law will take effect in 60 days.

Senate Bill 736, now Act 80 of 2017, is the first bill Martin has introduced that has been signed into law.

CONTACT: Terry Trego (717) 787-6535

Vulakovich, Costa Introduce Fire Training Measure

Senators Randy Vulakovich (R-38) and Jay Costa (D-43) have introduced legislation creating a pilot program between community colleges and secondary schools to provide fire training to students. 

Senate Bill 955 would provide an incentive for community colleges to establish Fire Training within secondary schools during the school year. 

 “The number of volunteer firefighters has decreased from 300,000 in the 1970s to 50,000 today,” said Senator Vulakovich, Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee.  “Many fire companies are facing severe shortages of volunteers.  We have found that if students are not joining a volunteer fire company by the time they graduate, they rarely join the firefighting ranks.  One way we can address this is to provide training to students while they are in high school.  Community colleges have been at the forefront in training future firefighters.  This legislation will help create new partnerships and ultimately train more students in firefighting before they graduate high school.”

“I’m a supporter of this bill, and of all of the work community colleges do, because I see the gaps that they are filling to prepare our young people for a wide variety of fields.  I sit on the board of the Community College of Allegheny County and I’m constantly inspired by the work that they’re doing getting students ready to attend a four-year college, or start a career,” said Senator Jay Costa, Minority Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee.  “Community college is an affordable, accessible way for students to start tackling any number of skills; in fact, I started my own post-secondary education in community college.  Maintaining a well-trained fire service is crucial for our safety across the state, and community colleges are a natural home for that training.  While Senate Bill 955 only creates a pilot program for this training, I have no doubt that our community colleges will rise to the challenge and exceed expectations, as they always have.”

This legislation is an offspring of the statewide Fire & EMS Study that was initiated as a result of legislation, Senate Resolution 6, which Senators Vulakovich and Costa introduced.

Senate Bill 955 has been introduced and referred to the Senate Education Committee.

Contact:         Nate Silcox (717) 787-6538 (Senator Vulakovich)

                        Brittany Crampsie (717) 787-7683 (Senator Costa)

           

Senate Approves Vulakovich Bill Allowing Local Police to Use Radar

 

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The Senate today (November 14) approved Senate Bill 251, legislation introduced by Senator Randy Vulakovich that would allow Pennsylvania’s municipal police departments to use radar as a means of speed enforcement.

“This measure is long overdue. Every state but Pennsylvania permits their local police to use radar for monitoring traffic speed.  In Pennsylvania, only the State Police are authorized to use radar,” said Senator Vulakovich, a former municipal police officer.  “We often talk about equipping our officers with the latest and best in technology; however, for some reason Pennsylvania has not yet provided its law enforcement officers with radar technology that has been around since World War II.  It is well past time we provide our officers with this speed enforcement mechanism.”

The bill sets the following conditions:

  • Municipalities must pass an ordinance allowing the use of RADAR/LIDAR.
  • Municipalities with RADAR/LIDAR must post signs indicating their use.
  • Points will not be assigned if the speed recorded is less than 10 miles over the speed limit.
  • Municipalities must test RADAR and LIDAR devices at least annually and they must be approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The measure is supported by the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, the Pennsylvania Municipal League, the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs, the Pennsylvania Association of Township Commissioners, the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors and the Pennsylvania State Mayors Association.

SB 251 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Contact:

Charlie O’Neill
(717) 787-6538 

More information about state issues is available at Senator Vulakovich’s website, www.senatorvulakovich.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SenatorRandyVulakovich.   

Senate Judiciary Committee to Hold Hearing on Legislation Protecting the Victims of Human Trafficking

Today, State Senator Stewart J. Greenleaf announced the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a public hearing on SB 554, known as Safe Harbor in Human Trafficking, on Monday, November 13th at 10:30 a.m. in Room 8E-B of the State Capitol in Harrisburg.

The legislation would protect victims of human trafficking from being prosecuted for crimes they were forced or coerced to commit while under the control of a human trafficker.

SB 554 was unanimously approved by the Senate on April 25th.

***Member of the Media are encouraged to attend*** 

Witnesses to Present Testimony to the Committee: 

Hugh Organ, Association Executive Director, Covenant House Pennsylvania

Debra Schilling Wolfe, Executive Director, The Field Center for Children’s Policy, Practice & Research, University of Pennsylvania

Arielle Curry, Director of Anti-Trafficking, The Salvation Army New Day to Stop Trafficking Program

Rhonda Hendrickson, Vice President of Programs/Residential, YWCA of Greater Harrisburg

Pastor Jennifer Crist, Lutheran Advocacy Ministry of PA