Public hearing on Pittsburgh’s Airways and Inland Waterways

Senate Transportation Committee

Tuesday, June 18th, 2024 | 11 a.m.

Pitt. Int. Airport,
1000 Airport Blvd,
Landside Terminal,
4th Floor Mezz., Conference Rm A
Pittsburgh, PA


Agenda

11:00 a.m.: Welcoming Remarks

  • Housekeeping
  • Committee Member Introductions
  • Swearing-in of Testifiers

11:05 a.m.-11:55 a.m.: Roundtable

  • Pittsburgh International Airport
  • Port of Pittsburgh Commission
  • Allegheny Conference on Community Development

11:55 a.m.: Closing Remarks

Baker: Senate Advances Bills to Combat AI-Generated Revenge Porn and Child Sexual Abuse Material

HARRISBURG – A package of bills aimed at protecting children from sexual predators and the criminal use of generative artificial intelligence (“AI”) was approved by the Senate this week, said Sen. Lisa Baker (R-20).

The first two bills, Senate Bill 186 and Senate Bill 187, update Pennsylvania’s current legal term “child pornography” with “child sexual abuse material,” more accurately reflecting the true nature of the crime.

“The average person has no difficulty recognizing the sexual exploitation of children—regardless of the form or means of distribution—as vile and thoroughly unacceptable. Yet the term ‘pornography’ has come to be entangled in arguments over free speech and artistic expression in the arena of adults.” Baker said. “While the definitional clarity provided in these bills might seem like a small matter, it makes a big difference toward the successful prosecution of the creators and distributors of this destructive and harmful material.”

The terminology change was the recommendation of the Joint State Government Commission Task Force on Child Pornography, a multi-disciplinary group of experts formed to identify inadequacies in current law relating to the prosecution of child pornography. The Task Force was created through Act 53 of 2021 advanced by Baker and the late Sen. Dave Arnold from Lebanon County.

The third bill, Senate Bill 1213, addresses the uses of generative AI for criminal purposes, particularly in the context of revenge porn and child sexual abuse material.

“AI is a prime example of a powerful tool that, unfortunately, can be harnessed for nefarious purposes,” said Baker. “As technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, it is imperative that our legal frameworks evolve in tandem to ensure the safety and protection of all Pennsylvanians, particularly our most vulnerable population – children. We must remain vigilant and proactive in updating our laws to address the potential misuse of such technologies.”

State and local prosecutors across the commonwealth have encountered sexual predators using artificial intelligence to generate images of children being sexually abused. These materials, which are nearly indistinguishable from the real thing, are a growing problem for prosecutors and law enforcement because the current statute only prohibits images of actual children, not images that are artificially generated.

“There are gaps in the law when it comes to generative AI being used for illicit purposes like revenge porn and child sexual abuse material,” said Wyoming County District Attorney Joe Peters. “These gaps prevent our DAs from going after these bad actors and holding them responsible.”

Peters explained that in the context of revenge porn, the advent of AI infinitely expands the world of possible perpetrators.

“The group of people even capable of committing the crime of revenge porn was limited to those who had access to the intimate images in the first place—typically a scorned ex-lover who now seeks to damage their ex’s reputation by sharing those images with the world,” Peters said. “But with AI, that limitation is eviscerated; now, anyone with an axe to grind—whether it be against a celebrity, government official, or co-worker—can cause the same substantial harm. It’s even more concerning now because deep fakes depict things that never actually happened in reality.”

Luzerne County District Attorney Sam Sanguedolce also offered his support for the bills passed this week.

“These important bills help law enforcement and prosecutors keep up with the technology feeding the demand for sexual images of children,” Sanguedolce said. “Thanks to Sen. Baker, the late Sen. Arnold, and the Task Force on Child Pornography, we are one step closer to seeking the appropriate punishment for these images regardless of whether we can track down and prove the image is an identified child. The damage of this crime goes far beyond victimization of the child in the images, but rather in the images fueling desire for more similar, illegal abusive material.”

The bills are part of the Senate Republican effort to improve community safety across Pennsylvania and will now move to the House of Representatives for consideration.

View Baker’s floor remarks on the bills here.

CONTACT: Jennifer Wilson

Senate Committee Advances Military, Veterans and HazMat Measures

HARRISBURG – On Tuesday, the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee approved three measures important to the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and Pennsylvania veterans, and another in support of local HazMat providers, said Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-33), chairman of the committee.

Senate Bill 1160, sponsored by Mastriano, would designate March 29 each year as “Vietnam War Veterans Day.”

In 2012, President Barack Obama signed a presidential proclamation designating March 29 as the annual observance of Vietnam War Veterans Day. And in 2017, President Donald Trump signed into law the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017, which designates March 29 each year as National Vietnam War Veterans Day and amended the United States Flag Code to include National Vietnam War Veterans Day as a day on which the flag should be flown. 

“I am pleased to follow suit and sponsor this legislation to permanently place Vietnam War Veterans Day into state law,” Mastriano said. “As we continue to mark the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, this measure is another way to thank our Vietnam veterans and say, ‘Welcome home.’”

Senate Bill 1192, sponsored by Sen. Chris Gebhard (R-48), would permit the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs to lease land at Fort Indiantown Gap and use the proceeds to fund programs to enhance the quality of life for service members, veterans and their families through the Service Member Veterans and Their Families Fund.

“This legislation would be a win-win for the Pennsylvania National Guard and their families – as well as businesses and the local community,” Mastriano said. “Providing additional support to our National Guard members and their families through creative means such as this should be applauded.”

Senate Bill 1193, sponsored by Mastriano, would permit local tax credits to include volunteer HazMat providers.  As amended in Committee, the bill would also increase the amounts that fire companies and emergency medical services (EMS) providers can borrow through the state fire commissioner’s low-interest loan program.

Counties, school districts and municipalities may establish property or income tax credits for volunteer firefighters and EMS providers. This legislation would permit the inclusion of volunteer HazMat providers. The committee also included an amendment supported by Mastriano that would increase the thresholds for fire and EMS loans.

“This measure recognizes the importance of HazMat providers to our communities,” Mastriano said. “I encourage their inclusion in local tax credits. I support the higher thresholds for our fire companies and EMS organizations through the low-interest loan program, operated through the State Fire Commissioner’s Office.”

The three measures now go to the full Senate for consideration.

Video from the committee meeting is available here.

Constituents of the 33rd Senatorial District can learn more about Mastriano by visiting his website at SenatorMastriano.com or following him on Facebook at Facebook.com/SenatorDougMastriano.

 

Media contact: Nate Silcox
717-787-8930

Laughlin to Introduce Bill to Help Keep Seniors Safe at Home

HARRISBURG – State Sen. Dan Laughlin (R-49) today announced he will soon introduce legislation focused on enhancing the safety and well-being of seniors in their homes. This essential legislation aims to improve the quality of life for our senior citizens by promoting the Living Independence for the Elderly (LIFE) Program.

“As our population ages, it becomes increasingly important to ensure the safety, health and well-being of our seniors,” said Laughlin. “Many prefer to remain in their own homes and communities rather than move to institutional care facilities. The LIFE Program is a proven and effective care model that provides a comprehensive array of health and social services to help seniors live independently; expanding the reach of the program will make a meaningful difference in the lives of countless Pennsylvanians.”

The LIFE Program is a joint Medicare/Medicaid managed care program that provides health and support services to qualified older Pennsylvanians who face health challenges that could threaten their continued ability to live independently in the community. Those services include:

  • Primary and specialty medical care
  • Nursing care
  • Rehabilitation services
  • Social services
  • Nutritional counseling
  • Transportation
  • Medication management

The holistic approach taken by the LIFE Program addresses the multifaceted needs of seniors and has shown the ability to reduce hospital readmissions and long-term nursing home placements, resulting in significant cost savings for Medicare and Medicaid, which ultimately benefits our entire healthcare system.

“My proposal aims to ensure Pennsylvanians are aware of their long-term care options,” Laughlin said. “We all want our seniors to have the best quality of life they can as they age; receiving personalized care plans that allow them to stay in their homes and communities, maintaining their independence and dignity, will help to make that possible.”

For more state-related news and information, constituents can visit Laughlin’s website at www.senatorlaughlin.com or follow him on Facebook and Twitter @senatorlaughlin.

Contact:  David Kozak   717-787-8927

Senate Approves Coleman Measure to Ensure Incarcerated Military Veterans Receive Treatment for Trauma

HARRISBURG – With some incarcerated veterans suffering from service-related, trauma-based conditions, the state Senate Wednesday approved a resolution introduced by Sen. Jarrett Coleman (R-16) calling for a state commission to study if they’re receiving adequate treatment.

“Many of our veterans suffered traumas during their years of service, and those experiences cause wounds that can benefit from treatment,” Coleman said. “Regardless of how a military veteran landed in the criminal justice system, we have a responsibility to provide treatment for the trauma they experienced while serving our nation.”

Coleman’s Senate Resolution 196 directs the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing to study whether military veterans in Pennsylvania’s criminal justice system suffering the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), military sexual trauma or traumatic brain injury (TBI) are being actively and adequately treated. Coleman specifically wants to know about PTSD, TBI and other trauma-based treatments among veterans because their military service may make them susceptible to developing these conditions.

The resolution calls on the commission to collaborate with the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts and the Office of Attorney General.

The resolution gives the commission 15 months to collect information, complete the study and deliver the results in the form of a report to the Senate.

Coleman’s remarks delivered in the Senate in support of the resolution are viewable here.

Residents who want to learn more about Coleman can visit his website at www.SenatorColeman.com, follow him on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/SenatorJarrettColeman and sign up for email newsletters at www.SenatorColeman.com/eNewsletters.

CONTACT: Leo Knepper

Senate Passes Senator Mastriano’s Fire and EMS Grant Renewal Bill

HARRISBURG – Today, the Senate unanimously passed legislation sponsored by Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-33) that would reauthorize the Fire Company and Emergency Medical Services Grant Program for Pennsylvania’s 1,829 fire companies and 1,259 emergency medical service (EMS) agencies.

The program is set to expire on June 30. Currently funded at $30 million, the grant program provides fire companies up to $20,000 and EMS companies up to $15,000.

Senate Bill 1099 would reauthorize the Fire Company and Emergency Medical Services Grant Program for five years. It would also:

  • Ask fire companies to provide additional contact information to ensure the State Fire Commissioner’s Office can stay in communication.
  • Eliminate the existing Firefighter 1 incentive, which has proven too cumbersome to administer.
  • Call for the utilization of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development Single Application for Assistance.
  • Eliminate the outdated COVID-19 fire and EMS grants.

“For years, the Fire Company and Emergency Medical Services Grant Program has provided crucial funding to support our fire companies and EMS agencies,” Mastriano said. “It is imperative our first responders continue to have access to important financial resources without being cumbersome. The end result will be safer communities for Pennsylvania families.”

Senate Bill 1099 now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Mastriano’s remarks delivered today in the Senate are available here.

Constituents of the 33rd Senatorial District can learn more about Mastriano by visiting his website at SenatorMastriano.com or following him on Facebook at Facebook.com/SenatorDougMastriano.

Media contact: Nate Silcox
717-787-4651

Stefano Bills on Nursing Accreditation, Utility Stakeholder Groups, Pass Senate Committee

HARRISBURG – In a meeting today, the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee voted in favor of two bills sponsored by committee chairman, Sen. Pat Stefano (R-32).

Senate Bill 1251 will make Pennsylvania Nursing Law compliant with federal rules. The law currently only recognizes regionally accredited educational institutions as eligible to offer registered nurse (RN) education programs. Senate Bill 1251 would allow both regionally and nationally accredited schools in Pennsylvania to offer RN programs.

“This small change would open a door and provide major opportunities for more schools to offer nursing programs,” said Stefano. “In light of the ongoing staffing crisis facing health care professionals, educating more nurses is critical. Making these programs more accessible to potential students is a great step in ensuring our health care providers are empowered to best serve our communities.”

The committee also passed Stefano’s Senate Bill 1250, which creates a stakeholder group for each public utility service, including electricity, natural gas, telecommunications and water/wastewater. The groups would then determine which laws, regulations or policy statements related to their industry should be repealed or amended to reduce ratepayer impact and allow the public utility to operate in a more effective, efficient or economical manner.

“Forming each stakeholder group generates discussions to reform the way each utility operates,” said Stefano. “We must continue to look for greater efficiencies to alleviate the financial burden ratepayers face.”

Senate Bill 1250 is part of a package of bills targeting ratepayer relief and reducing utility bills.

Additional bills passed by the committee today include House Bill 109, House Bill 327, House Bill 1490 and House Bill 1818.

Each bill now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

 

CONTACT: Amanda Cuteri, 717-787-7175

Senate Approves Ward, Collett Bill to Strengthen Child Sexual Abuse Laws

HARRISBURG – The state Senate today approved two bills introduced by Sen. Judy Ward (R-30) and Sen. Maria Collett (D-12) that would strengthen Pennsylvania laws related to child pornography and child sexual abuse.

“The words we use in state laws are important, especially when they are the foundation for a criminal case against a child sexual predator,” Ward said. “The internet has created a whole new front in the protection of our children.  These changes will better enable law enforcement to keep our children safe and apprehend those individuals who present a danger to them.”

Senate Bill 186 and Senate Bill 187 would implement a recommendation from a 2022 report issued by the Child Pornography Task Force of the Joint State Government Commission and Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.

The task force recommended replacing the phrase “child pornography” with “child sexual abuse material” in Pennsylvania law. The phrase “child pornography” fails to adequately capture what is contained in the images or film, whereas “child sexual abuse material” specifically identifies the child as a victim of sexual abuse that has been captured in still photographs or videos.

“It’s crucial that we update the language of our laws to call these illegal materials what they are: child abuse,” Collett said. “These bills reflect the recommendations of the Child Pornography Task Force, on which both Senator Ward and I served, and aligns the Commonwealth’s statutes with federal law and regulations. I’m grateful for our colleagues’ overwhelming support and look forward to seeing this urgent legislation signed into law.”

Senate Bill 186 would apply the change to Title 18, commonly referred to as the crimes code. Senate Bill 187 would apply the change to the Child Internet Protection Act.

The Joint State Government Commission Task Force on Child Pornography was created through Act 53 of 2021.

Senate Bill 186 and Senate Bill 187 now head to the House of Representatives for consideration.

 

Ward Contact: Nathan Akers
717-787-2421

Collett Contact: Bailey Landis
215-688-0493

Senate Approves Laughlin Legislation to Help Property Owners Deal With Squatters

HARRISBURG – The Senate today unanimously approved legislation, Senate Bill 1236, that would codify Pennsylvania case law to establish more certainty for homeowners, landlords and law enforcement who encounter squatters, announced bill sponsor Sen. Dan Laughlin (R-49).

“The escalating problem of squatters unlawfully occupying properties is more than a legal challenge – it strikes at the heart of justice and fairness for property owners across our great state,” said Laughlin. “This is a personal and emotional ordeal for countless families and individuals who find their homes and investments under siege. Under our current legal framework, too many property owners are exposed, struggling against a system that doesn’t fully shield their rights or protect their homes.”

Right now, property owners face an exhausting and often painful journey to reclaim their properties. The requirement to issue a “notice to quit” to individuals who have no legitimate claim on a property burdens property owners financially and exacts a heavy emotional toll.

“Imagine coming home, only to find strangers occupying the space where you’ve created cherished memories, and then being told that removing them will require a costly and prolonged legal battle,” Laughlin said. “It’s a situation that would fill anyone with frustration and despair.”

Under Pennsylvania law, such squatters would be considered trespassers once the landowner warns them they are not welcome and instructs them to vacate the property. Should the squatters remain in any place where they are not licensed or privileged to be, they commit the offense of defiant trespass.

Given the inconsistencies and lack of clarity in how different states address squatter concerns, Pennsylvania must establish clear and uniform guidelines for our state. SB 1236 clearly defines what constitutes a “tenant” and simplifies the process of reclaiming property from squatters, offering a practical solution to a deeply distressing problem.

“Establishing a precise legal status for squatters empowers property owners, granting them the tools need to safeguard their homes and investments quickly and effectively, without wading through needless red tape,” said Laughlin. “Senate Bill 1236 is about restoring a sense of security and justice for those who have invested their dreams, savings and emotions into their properties. It’s a balanced approach that respects the rights of all parties involved, ensuring legitimate tenants are protected while closing the door to those who exploit our system to occupy homes illegally.”

You can view Sen. Laughlin’s remarks during the Senate’s consideration of SB 1236 here.

For more state-related news and information, constituents can visit Laughlin’s website at www.senatorlaughlin.com or follow him on Facebook and Twitter @senatorlaughlin.

 

Contact:           David Kozak   717-787-8927

Senate Approves Culver Bill to Reauthorize, Reform State Board Helpful with Weather Warnings and Emergency Response

HARRISBURG – The state Senate today approved a bill introduced by Sen. Lynda Schlegel Culver (R-27) to extend the life and reform the structure of a state board responsible for policy analysis and data oversight related to weather maps, real estate listings, traffic and accident data, emergency responses and other geospatial information.

“Pennsylvanians rely on geospatial information every time they check the weather, track a package or use their GPS for directions,” Culver said. “This state board provides guidance and suggestions about policies and procedures in a field that affects the everyday lives of Pennsylvanians.”

Culver’s Senate Bill 1138 would extend the sunset date on the Pennsylvania State Geospatial Coordinating Board. The board provides advice and recommendations to the governor and citizens of the commonwealth about geospatial policy issues and establishes uniform data standards.

Geospatial data is used by federal, state and local governments to develop weather maps and issue warnings; establish property lines and track real estate transactions; provide real-time information about traffic, accidents, construction, road closures and snowplow locations; and dispatch, monitor and guide first responders.

Culver’s bill also would add the secretary of the Department of Community and Economic Development and the head of the Pennsylvania Department of State, known as the secretary of the commonwealth, as voting members of the board. The bill would increase the required number of members necessary to reach a quorum from 10 to 11. A quorum is required to hold meetings and conduct official business.

“Many Pennsylvanians might not be aware this board exists, but the work it performs is valuable for families and communities,” Culver said. “Accurate extreme weather warnings, directions for police, firefighters and other first responders, and other uses of geospatial data can save lives in our commonwealth.”

Culver’s bill now heads to the state House of Representatives for consideration.

More information about Culver is available online at SenatorCulver.com. Residents can follow her on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/SenCulver and on Instagram at Instagram.com/SenatorCulver for updates about legislative action in Harrisburg and news in the 27th District.

 

Media Contact: Betsy Reichenbach
717-787-8928

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