Rothman Appointed to Commission to Honor Pennsylvania’s Role in America’s Founding

Senator Greg Rothman (R-34) has been appointed to the Pennsylvania Commission for the United States Semiquincentennial and the Infrastructure Improvements and Projects Committee of the America250PA Commission.

The Pennsylvania Commission for the United States Semiquincentennial (America250PA) was established by the legislature and Governor in 2018 to plan, encourage, develop, and coordinate the commemoration of the 250th anniversary of the founding of the United States, Pennsylvania’s integral role in that event, and the impact of its people on the nation’s past, present, and future.

The group’s goal is to engage citizens from across the Commonwealth, to celebrate the contributions of Pennsylvanians to our Commonwealth’s history but also to our Nation’s history, to use our history to encourage and inspire future leaders, and to spark an interest in the next generation to appreciate all the triumphs, trials and tribulations that shaped our Commonwealth.

“I’m excited about the Commission’s purpose and our plans for the next two years,” Rothman said.  “I appreciate the opportunity to engage with Pennsylvanians of all ages, backgrounds, and experiences and unite to celebrate our Commonwealth’s history as the birthplace of freedom.”

Rothman was appointed by Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman for both the Commission and the Committee, to fill a vacancy left by the departure of Senator Linda Culver.

Learn more about the Commission, including programs, projects, events, and opportunities for involvement at www.america250pa.org

Legislation Targeting AI “Deepfake” Images of Minors Proposed by Pennycuick, Dillon, Boscola

HARRISBURG –Sen. Tracy Pennycuick (R-24), Sen. Jimmy Dillon (D-5) and Sen. Lisa Boscola (D-18) introduced legislation to combat “deepfake” images of minors and child porn generated by artificial intelligence (AI).
 
Recently, some websites have published realistic AI-generated sexual images of non-consenting adults, as well as children. The images may be artificial but are created by using data and images from real individuals and children. 

While the unauthorized dissemination of an intimate image is unlawful in Pennsylvania, the law does not specially address the usage of AI deepfake technology to create and disseminate an intimate image of a non-consenting person. 

Senate Bill 1213 would make it clear that the use of AI deepfake technology to create pornographic images of an individual without their consent is prohibited. It will also prohibit the use of deepfake technology to create child pornography. 

“AI technology comes with benefits and drawbacks, and one of its most insidious uses is to create sexual images of people who did not give their consent, along with outright child porn,” said Pennycuick, who chairs the Senate Communications and Technology Committee. “This bipartisan legislation sends the message that this depraved use of AI will not be tolerated in Pennsylvania.”

“As a parent of two teenage girls, learning about AI deepfake technology was alarming,” said Dillon. “Our legislation is crucial in protecting individuals, including children, from deepfake sexual exploitation in the form of AI generated pornographic images.”

“Unfortunately, the rapid expansion of AI technology and its potential for exploitation has outpaced current law. ‘Deepfake’ content involving non-consenting adults and children has popped up both online and in our schools, with devastating results,” Boscola said. “I’m proud our legislation empowers law enforcement to fight against this vile new trend.”

CONTACT: Lidia DiFiore (215) 541-2388

Brooks Resolution Draws Attention to Lyme Disease and Tick-Borne Illnesses

HARRISBURG – May 2024 is Lyme Disease and Tick-Borne Illness Month in Pennsylvania, thanks to a resolution introduced by Sen. Michele Brooks (R-50) as part of her ongoing effort to improve the health and quality of life of commonwealth residents.

“With families looking to spend time outdoors this Memorial Day weekend, Pennsylvanians need to know about the dangers and seriousness associated with tick bites and Lyme disease,” Brooks said. “This resolution is intended to increase awareness and protect Pennsylvania families. We are blessed in Pennsylvania to have wonderful land and beautiful waterways that provide countless opportunities for outdoor recreational activities. That also makes our commonwealth a hotbed for tick-borne disease transmission. Pennsylvanians and visitors should know how to protect themselves against this threat and steps to take when bitten by a tick.”

Lyme disease is prevalent in the commonwealth, with cases reported in all 67 counties. Pennsylvania reports more Lyme disease cases than any other state according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data show Pennsylvania had the highest incidence of Lyme disease in the United States in 10 of the past 11 years. Approximately one in four cases of Lyme disease occur in children, with children ages five to nine at the greatest risk.

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection primarily transmitted to humans through an infected blacklegged tick bite. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and a rash. Untreated infections can spread to joints, the heart and the nervous system.

Ticks pose other threats in addition to Lyme disease. Nearly 55% of ticks tested in Pennsylvania in 2022 were infected with at least one tick-borne pathogen.

Brooks introduced Senate Resolution 287 as part of her larger effort to enhance awareness about and reduce the spread of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses in Pennsylvania.

She sponsored Senate Bill 232 to provide parents and guardians with the information necessary for diagnosis and treatment after a tick is removed from their child at school. The bill would require school officials to notify parents in writing about the tick removal and provide information about the symptoms of Lyme disease. The notification would include the date of the tick removal and the recommendation that the child’s parent or guardian promptly seek medical treatment.

The bill also states that the tick must be preserved for the student’s parent or guardian to send to East Stroudsburg University’s tick lab for free testing for tick-related diseases, including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever or Powassan virus. The school also has the option of sending the tick for testing.

The bill was approved by the state Senate and currently is awaiting consideration in the House Education Committee.

Residents can learn more about how to submit a tick sample and the test results that are often necessary for doctors to pursue treatment at TickLab.org.

CONTACT: Adam Gingrich, 717-787-1322

Bipartisan Measure Prohibiting AI Interference in Elections Introduced by Pennycuick, Gebhard, Dillon, Kane

HARRISBURG – Sen. Tracy Pennycuick (R-24), Sen. Jimmy Dillon (D-5), Sen. Chris Gebhard (R-48) and Sen. John Kane (D-9) today introduced legislation prohibiting the use of generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) to fraudulently misrepresent an election candidate in Pennsylvania.

 GenAI combines machine-learning algorithms with human-generated content to produce realistic images, videos, audio, and written content.

Under Senate Bill 1217, the dissemination of a campaign advertisement containing an artificially generated impersonation of a candidate would be prohibited if done without consent and with the intent to unduly influence the outcome of the election.

“While this technology has the potential to make content creation more efficient, it also has the power to spread disinformation at an unprecedented rate through deceptively realistic content,” said Pennycuick, who chairs the Senate Communications and Technology Committee. “It’s critical that we take steps to prevent such blatant election interference and allow voters to make informed decisions when casting ballots.”

“As AI technology advances, the potential for misuse to spread disinformation could seriously undermine the political process,” said Dillon. “Our bill aims to deter AI-generated impersonations in political ads, ensuring voters receive accurate information.”

“As technology advances, we must remain vigilant to safeguard the integrity of our elections as Artificial Intelligence evolves and continues to blur the line between what is reality and what is not,” said Gebhard.

“This is about truth in our elections,” said Kane. “We are introducing this legislation to safeguard the accuracy of information and protect our voters from the influence of fabricated content. Every vote should be based on truth, not deepfakes and AI generated deception.”

Rep. Tarik Khan (D-194) has introduced similar legislation in the House of Representatives.

“People hate negative, misleading ads – but at least those ads were actual pictures and video of opponents. The negative ads of the future will be fully manufactured with only one goal: deception,” Khan said. “We can’t wait. We’re acting. We are standing with our Senate colleagues and reaching across the aisle to work together. This is how we safeguard our democracy and restore people’s trust.”

The Federal Election Commission is considering a proposal to limit false AI-generated political content, but regulatory action is uncertain. At least 14 states have adopted resolutions or enacted laws related to AI.

CONTACT: Lidia DiFiore (215) 541-2388

Shapiro Energy Plan is Death Sentence for Mine Land Remediation

HARRISBURG – A new energy plan spearheaded by Gov. Josh Shapiro would cripple mine land remediation efforts by closing local electric power plants, according to Sen. Dave Argall (R-29), Rep. Doyle Heffley (R-122), Rep. Jamie Barton (R-124), Rep. Mike Cabell (R-117), Rep. Tim Twardzik (R-123), Rep. JoAnne Stehr (R-107), and Rep. Dane Watro (R-116).

House Bill 2277, one of two new bills to implement Shapiro’s plan, would close all coal refuse plants within a few years, ending their longstanding, impactful work to reclaim abandoned mine lands and restore polluted streams.

“We were able to work across the aisle with Gov. Wolf, despite our differences, to help our local electric power plants survive and continue their important work,” said Argall. “The supporters of this new energy plan would prefer that many of the black and grey wastelands left behind by past mining operations remain for hundreds of more years.”

“Legislators, with common sense and bipartisanship in mind, have always worked together to provide clean air and water for residents throughout Pennsylvania, which includes supporting coal refuse plants,” said Heffley. “Now, Gov. Shapiro and his supporters are drafting plans to shut down these plants without stepping foot in the communities that are impacted the most by mountains of waste coal. If their plans are successful, the plants will shut down, and the waste coal will continue to pollute our waterways and create acid mine drainage and methane seepage, waiting to combust. I strongly urge them to reconsider, talk to the residents living in the communities impacted by these refuse piles and see firsthand the work that has been done to remediate the hazard.”

According to the PA Department of Environmental Protection, coal refuse plants in Pennsylvania have successfully reclaimed over 7,200 acres of abandoned mine land and restored more than 1,200 miles of polluted streams. They remove piles of waste coal to create electricity while also filling in abandoned strip mines.

Local legislators are asking Shapiro to reconsider this effort to kill abandoned mine land remediation efforts across Pennsylvania and to instead work with people in this region to draft a new energy plan.

In 2019 and 2020, Argall and former Sen. John Yudichak championed two pieces of bipartisan legislation to help these plants survive, both of which were signed into law by Wolf. During a public hearing on the impact of this legislation on the coal refuse industry in 2022, testifiers noted that without it, most of these plants would now be closed. House Bill 2277 would undo much of this progress.

Four coal reclamation plants are located in Schuylkill and Carbon Counties, including Rausch Creek Generation in Tremont, Panther Creek Energy Facility in Nesquehoning, Schuylkill Energy Resources in Shenandoah, and John B. Rich Memorial Power Station near Frackville.

CONTACT: Jim Brugger

Culver Bill to Protect Domestic Animals and Pennsylvania Food Supply Against Disease Signed into Law

HARRISBURG – A bill introduced by Sen. Lynda Schlegel Culver (R-27) was signed into law today to help protect domestic animals and the food supply against dangerous transmissible diseases.

“I am grateful the governor signed this bill into law today,” Culver said. “It is a great step in securing the future of the livestock industry in Pennsylvania.”

Culver’s Senate Bill 979 was signed into law as Act 15 of 2024. The new law gives the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture the authority to require retailers to post information about dangerous transmittable diseases at locations where domestic animals and feed are sold to the public.

“Biosecurity is important and spreading information is one of the strongest measures we can take to attempt to mitigate the spread of diseases,” Culver said. “This law will allow the Department of Agriculture to get important information out to small livestock operations that otherwise may not know of an outbreak near them.”

The passage of the law is timely as the nation is seeing the spread of avian influenza in cattle. There has been no spread reported in Pennsylvania at this time.

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

Brown’s Legislation to Curb Distracted Driving in Pennsylvania Headed to the Governor

Sen. Rosemary Brown speaking at her distracted driving press conference, where she unveiled Senate Bill 37.

“This was a long battle to put the safety of Pennsylvanians first, but it is a battle worth winning.”

 HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania State Legislature approved legislation to prohibit the use of handheld cellular and other devices while driving, an initiative long championed by Sen. Rosemary Brown (R-40).

“After more than a decade of relentless work to enact this legislation, the passage of Senate Bill 37 marks a monumental victory for Pennsylvania,” said Brown. “As this bill heads to the governor’s desk, I am filled with gratitude for those who helped us get this far, and I know this measure will protect drivers, prevent crashes and save lives. This bill is more than legislation – it is a reminder of the power of perseverance and the impact we can have when we prioritize public safety.” 

Senate Bill 37, also named by Brown as the Paul Miller Jr. Law, limits the use of handheld cellphones or other communication devices while operating a motor vehicle on a Pennsylvania highway or traffic way. Drivers can still use their phone if they are utilizing hands-free technology, such as a docking station, Bluetooth or speaker technology.

“Getting this bill to the finish line would not have been possible without the advocacy of Paul and Eileen Miller, the parents of Paul Miller, Jr. Their son lost his life at 21 years old to a distracted driver on Route 33 in Monroe County. They have been with me every step of the way,” Brown said. “I also want to thank the majority of my colleagues in both the Senate and the House for their votes and working to protect Pennsylvania roadways.”

Eileen Miller of Scranton shared her thoughts on the bill’s passage. “As someone who has endured profound grief caused by distracted driving, the passage of this legislation means fewer families will have to suffer the same heartbreak,” said Miller. “I find solace knowing Paul’s legacy will be a beacon of protection for every driver and passenger on Pennsylvania’s roads.”

State Rep. Ed Neilson (D-174), who serves as the majority chairman of the House Transportation Committee added “We have data that shows distracted driving now causes more harm to people on the road than driving under the influence,” Neilson said. “I’m always happy to reach across the aisle to implement important legislation that will save thousands of lives each year in the commonwealth.”

Distracted driving fatalities in Pennsylvania surged to a decade high in 2022, claiming 80 lives. The AAA Traffic Safety Culture Index found that 88% of drivers believe distracted driving has outpaced all other traffic-related issues as a growing safety concern. The study also revealed that 97% of drivers consider texting or emailing while driving to be a grave threat. 34 states have enacted hands-free laws, including all of Pennsylvania’s border states. These states report a decline in distracted driving after the implementation of a hands-free law.

“This was a long battle to put the safety of Pennsylvanians first, but it is a battle worth winning,” said Brown. “I look forward to the governor signing this bill into law so we can cross the finish line.”

The bill is now headed to the governor’s desk for signature.

 

CONTACT:
Christine Zubeck

Senate Approves Langerholc Bill to Boost PA Youth Hunting and Fishing

HARRISBURG – The Senate today unanimously approved legislation sponsored by Sen. Wayne Langerholc, Jr. (R-35) to create a new license plate for Pennsylvania sportsmen with proceeds used to fund youth hunting and fishing education. 

The Pennsylvania Sportsman plate would celebrate those who hunt and fish. Under Senate Bill 916, the plate would be designed by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, in consultation with the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

The Pennsylvania Sportsman registration plate would cost $40 plus the registration fee, of which $14 would be deposited into a Youth Hunting and Fishing Restricted Account to be allocated evenly to the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission for the purpose of promoting youth hunting and fishing activities.

“This license plate allows our rich heritage of hunting and fishing to be proudly displayed by motorists while raising money for future generations of hunters and fishermen,” Langerholc said. 

CONTACT: Gwenn Dando

Vogel’s Telemedicine Legislation Advances from the Senate

HARRISBURG – With support from the Pennsylvania Senate, Sen. Elder Vogel, Jr.’s (R-47) Telemedicine legislation (Senate Bill 739) aimed at strengthening telemedicine in the commonwealth now advances to the House for consideration.

“Telemedicine has proven to be a multifaceted approach to alleviate wait times in our healthcare facilities, serve as an alternative to residents who are unable to make it to their doctor’s appointments in person, and allow for better coordination among our healthcare providers,” said Vogel. “I am pleased that my colleagues can see the value telemedicine brings to the table for Pennsylvanians and our doctors and appreciate their support for my legislation.”

Senate Bill 739 sets a base for how telemedicine will be covered by insurance companies and medical providers in Pennsylvania.

 

CONTACT: Abby Chiumento, 717-787-3076 (Vogel)

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