Senate Republican News Brief

“The Court agreed with General Assembly’s vision when creating this law – that only through the independence of the office can we ensure that proper scrutiny can be given to government through its public records.”

Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Centre) on the Commonwealth Court ruling reversing Gov. Wolf’s dismissal of the director of the state Office of Open Records.

Preview

Senate Reconvenes at 1 p.m.

The Senate reconvenes today at 1 p.m. Bills on the calendar that may run this week include:

Senate Bill 352 — horse racing reform. Sen. Elder Vogel (R-Beaver)
Senate Bill 590– PASSHE intellectual property. Sen. Tommy Tomlinson (R-Bucks)
Senate Bill 687, Senate Bill 688 – planned community reform. Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh)
Senate Bill 861 – insurance coverage for loaner vehicles. Sen. Don White (R-Indiana)
Senate Bill 880 – delaying Keystone Exams.  Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster)
Senate Bill 663 – rape survivor child custody. Sen. Randy Vulakovich (R-Allegheny)
Senate Bill 747 – punitive damages in health care industry. Sen. Elder Vogel (R-Beaver)
Senate Bill 772 – professional psychologists practice. Sen. John Gordner (R-Columbia)
House Bill 911 – 911 emergency communications funding.

Committee Action

The Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery), will consider bills, consider nominations to the Board of Probation and Parole, and hold a public hearing to examine the disposition of digital assets (Senate Bill 518). (Tues., 11:30 a.m., Room 8E-B)

The Senate Game and Fisheries Committee, chaired by Sen. Mario Scavello (R-Monroe), will consider bills. (Tues., 12:30 p.m., Room 8E-A)

The Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee, chaired by Sen. Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland), will hold a public hearing to consider PA Gaming and Control Board and Dept. of Drug and Alcohol Programs: gaming, internet gaming and related issues, and Title 4 (Amusements) legislation. (Wed., 9 a.m., Room 8E-B)

The Senate State Government Committee, chaired by Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon), will meet to consider bills and hold a public hearing on the Wolf Administration’s GO-TIME initiative pertaining to procurement. (Wed., 9 a.m., N. Office Bldg. Room 1)

The Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Sen. John Eichelberger (R-Blair), will hold a public hearing on municipal pension legislation. (Thurs., 9:30 a.m., N. Office Bldg. Room 1)

Senate Committee Schedule

Hearings are streamed live at PASenateGOP.com.

Review

Bill Regulating Healthcare Exchange Navigators Sent to Governor

The Senate approved and sent to the governor on Tuesday legislation to protect consumers’ rights and personal information with regard to navigators and certified application counselors created by the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.”

Senate Bill 293, sponsored by Sen. John Eichelberger (R-Blair), would require Healthcare Exchange Navigators be certified by the Department of Insurance and pass a criminal background check. The Senate concurred on House amendments to the measure and sent it on to Governor Wolf.

The federal Affordable Care Act relies on individuals, generally called “navigators,” to educate and enroll millions of uninsured Americans in Medicaid or a private insurance plan.  Although in many respects these navigators act like insurance agents, they have almost no qualifications or restrictions placed upon them by the federal statute.

Senate Establishes Scholarship Program in Public School Code

The Senate on Tuesday approved legislation to continue and codify a scholarship program for Pennsylvania students.

Senate Bill 329, sponsored by Sen. Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland), establishes the Ready to Succeed Scholarship in the Public School Code to provide for a new scholarship program administered by the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency to help defray the cost of attending a state-grant-approved institution of higher education.

Eligibility criteria set by the bill include total annual household income not in excess of $110,000 and demonstration of outstanding academic achievement. The measure was sent to the House of Representatives.

Senate Approves Blight Remediation Measure

The Senate approved legislation on Tuesday to give counties a new option to finance the demolition of blighted and abandoned properties.

Senate Bill 486, sponsored by Sen. David Argall (R-Schuylkill), would give counties the option to levy up to an additional $15 fee on deeds and mortgages recorded in the Recorder of Deeds office. The new revenue would be used exclusively for demolition funding within that specific county.

Senate Bill 486 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Senate Considers Cabinet Nominations

The Senate approved three cabinet nominations last week:

John Wetzel – Secretary of Corrections
Dr. Rachel Levine – Physician General
Eileen McNulty – Secretary of Revenue

The Senate voted 26-22 to not confirm the nomination of Marcus Brown to serve as State Police Commissioner. For a tally of nominations confirmed by the Senate, please see Fast Facts, below.

Greenleaf Announces Bill to Protect Human Trafficking Child Victims from Prosecution

Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery) held a news conference at the State Capitol on Tuesday announcing the introduction of “Safe Harbor” legislation designed to help law enforcement identify the child victims of human trafficking and avoid prosecuting children who have been forced to perform illegal activities.

The legislation follows Act 105 of 2014 that rewrote the Commonwealth’s human trafficking statute to better enable prosecutors to bring charges for human trafficking and increase penalties for traffickers.

For more on Senator Greenleaf’s legislation, please see In the Spotlight, below.

In the Spotlight

More than 100,000 children are exploited through prostitution in the United States each year.  Adults psychologically manipulate these children, often with the use of illegal drugs. As a consequence, children have been charged with prostitution, drug possession, loitering, and other offenses that are inherently related to prostitution.

Senate Bill 851 would require law enforcement to report to the Department of Human Services any encounter with a minor who has been subject to sexual exploitation.  The Department will develop and implement a statewide protocol to deliver safe long-term housing, education, life-skills training, and counseling to the children who have been exploited.  The bill would require that police be trained to identify and assist sexually exploited children.  Most importantly, the bill would require that sexually exploited children be diverted from the criminal justice system to more appropriate human services.

Senator Greenleaf: “For many years, we have treated the victims of trafficking as criminals and the criminals as victims. Children are often lured into sex trafficking and charged with serious crimes. It can be difficult to identify human trafficking victims because they either do not identify as victims, are mistrustful of law enforcement, or fear retribution from their trafficker. These children deserve the protection of the child welfare system, not re-victimization and incarceration in the juvenile justice system.”

Fast Facts

Cabinet Nominees Confirmed by Senate to Date

Major General James Joseph – Adjutant General
Teresa Osborne – Secretary of Aging
Russell Redding – Secretary of Agriculture
Robin Wiessmann – Secretary of Banking and Securities
Dennis Davin – Secretary of Community and Economic Development
Cindy Dunn – Secretary of Conservation and Natural Resources
John Wetzel – Secretary of Corrections
Gary Tennis – Secretary of Drug and Alcohol Programs
Pedro Rivera – Secretary of Education
John Quigley – Secretary of Environmental Protection
Curtis Topper – Secretary of General Services
Dr. Karen Murphy – Secretary of Health
Ted Dallas – Secretary of Human Services
Teresa Miller – Insurance Commissioner
Kathy Manderino – Secretary of Labor and Industry
Dr. Rachel Levine – Physician General
Eileen McNulty – Secretary of Revenue
Pedro Cortes – Secretary of Department of State
Leslie Richards – Secretary of Transportation