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Below are brief summaries of pending bills and resolutions that I have introduced. To read the actual legislation, see who the co-sponsors are, or to see the history of action on them, just click on the bill number bold-faced in the summary.
Small Business Tax Credit for Daycare Services
SB 219 — Small business tax credit to assist in day care coverage for employees’ dependents. Businesses with 50 or fewer employees would be given a tax credit of 20 percent for expenses incurred in providing or assisting to provide day care to employees for their children under 12 and adult dependents (parents, spouses and children) with a qualifying disability. The annual credit would be capped at $ 5 million. Companies would be able to carry unused credits over for up to 15 years. Part of PA WORKS. Co-sponsors: Washington, Tartaglione, Williams, Farnese, Teplitz, Brewster, Stack, Yudichak, Smith, Kitchen, Hughes, Ferlo, Fontana, Solobay, Wozniak, Waught, Costa and Boscola
Charter School Funding
SB 335 — Relieves school districts that provide a qualifying cyber program from financial responsibility for resident students enrolled in a cyber charter program outside the district. Where a district offers a cyber program equal in scope and content to a non-district cyber charter school and the family chooses to attend the cyber school outside the district, the family will bear the tuition costs instead of the district having to pay over to the charter the weighted state subsidy. Co-sponsors: Ferlo, Fontana, Solobay, Argall, Boscola, Brewster,Yudichak, Wozniak, Stack, Costa, Leach and Tartaglione
SB 336 — Reduces the Legislature reduce the General Assembly by more than a third, to 40 Senators and 121 Representatives through a proposed constitutional amendment. the ratio of Representatives to Senators to 3:1 from 4:1, which is within the historic parameters for the General Assembly. Co-sponsors: Vogel, Teplitz, Brewster, Yudichak, Kasunic, Smith, Erickson, Vulakovich, Ferlo, Solobay, Waugh, Brubaker, Baker, Boscola
The PA Safe Campuses
SB 337 — The PA Safe Campuses Act is modeled on federal Clery Act requirements and can be enforced by state authorities. All post- secondary schools colleges and universities will be required to have policies and programs to make students, staff and officials aware of the risks of sexual assault and intimate partner violence, and to annually report the number of instances of sexual assault and intimate partner violence on campus, along with the security policies and procedures they have established to deal with the issues. Reports would be public and would be required to be posted on the school’s official website. Schools also would be required to have sexual assault and intimate partner violence policies to ensure that students and officials are aware of the rights of victims and responsibilities of witnesses, and that instances involving minors are immediately reported. Schools also would be required to have prevention and awareness programs for all. Co-sponsors:Williams, Greenleaf, Teplitz, Farnese, Washington, Tartagliione, Brewster, Stack, Yudichak, Browne, Hughes, Ferlo, Vulakovich, Fontana, Solobay, Wozniak, Costa, Boscola, Baker
Child Protective Services
SB 338 — The Auditor General would be authorized under the Child Protective Services law access to child abuse records in order to facilitate external oversight of child protective services. Co-sponsors:Williams, Teplitz, Farnese, Washington, Tartaglione, Yudichak, Browne, Hughes, Ferlo, Fontana, Solobay, Wozniak, Waugh, Costa, Boscola, Brewster.
Volunteer Emergency Responder Organizations
SB 339 — Volunteer emergency responder organizations would be allowed to transfer real estate to successor organizations without incurring state realty transfer tax liability. They would be added as a 23rd exemption to the tax. Co-sponsors: Tartaglione, Farnese, Brewster, Yudichak, Smith, Ward, Erickson, Hughes, Rafferty, Vulakovich, Fontana, Solobay, Wozniak, Waugh, Costa, Baker, Boscola
Help for Distressed School Districts
SB 1430 would establish a Priority Assistance Grant for Education (PAGE) program, which would make $30 million available to 18 academically or financially distressed school districts, including Reading. A special leadership team for each district would be named to guide how the grant funds are to be used based on research-proven strategies. The bill would also create an Academic Excellence Commission to oversee the program and prepare an annual report on the program to the General Assembly.
Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Funding
SB 1435 would amend the Public Welfare Code to make the award of contracts to providers of services to victims of sexual assault and domestic violence more fair, effective and cost efficient by establishing more specific eligibility and funding criteria. DPW would be required to establish a formula for funding awards which removes current criteria that are irrelevant or unnecessary to the delivery of services. DPW also would be permitted to contract either directly with local providers or with state coalitions of the service providers in order to cut out duplication, redundancy and avoidable administrative conflicts in order to strengthen direct victim services, and it would be directly responsible for ensuring accountability for contract funds.
Safe Campuses Bill
SB 1374 will amend existing Pennsylvania law to require that all post-secondary schools colleges and universities in Pennsylvania adopt policies and establish programs to make students, staff and officials aware of the risks of sexual assault and intimate partner violence, to help prevent such situations and to ensure that schools deal with them effectively when they are reported. My bill is modeled on the federal Jeanne CleryAct and amendments currently proposed to it. It would require post-secondary schools to annually report the the number of reported instances of sexual assault and intimate partner violence that occur on campus, as well as on security policies and procedures that they have in place. Reports would be public records. In addition to being available upon request, schools would be required to post them on the school’s official website. Schools also would be required to have sexual assault and intimate partner violence policies and programs to ensure that sexual assault or intimate partner violence involving a minor are immediately reported, and to ensure that students, employees and other school officials not only are aware of the rights of victims and responsibilities of witnesses, but that they are aware of information and assistance they need to avoid trouble and to deal with it when it arises.
SB 1341 would give small companies a boost in getting and keeping good workers. It will give companies that make daycare services available to their employees a tax credit against the costs they incur in doing so. The credit would be equal to 20 percent of what the company pays to provide daycare for employee’s children up to the age of 12 and dependent adults, whether directly by the company or indirectly through other care providers. Companies with 50 or fewer workers would be eligible, and would be able to carry over unused credits to succeeding tax years. Employees would be responsible for a 10 percent co-payment.
SB 1313 would change the state Insurance law by adding a new provision which recognizes that the importance of physical therapy as a component of treating illness and injury continues to grow. Under it, co-payment requirements in health insurance policies could be no more than the amount that the policy sets for visits to a doctor’s office. Requirements that can be as much as ten times more for physical therapy in some cases now than for a doctor’s office visit make it difficult for many patients to follow through on the treatments they need to recover as quickly or fully as possible. This not only deepens the economic loss of injury and illness, but in some cases actually might increase the likelihood that the original conditions will reemerge.
SB 1312 would increase the transparency and accountability of children’s protective services agencies. Under this bill, the state Auditor General would be granted access to case information needed to audit Children and Youth Services agencies to ensure their proper operations. Childrens services case information is required to be kept confidential, and only agencies involved with ensuring child welfare are given access to it. Federal auditors now have access, and the failure to allow the state Auditor General’s office to have equal access prevents the effective monitoring of programs for abused and neglected children.
SB 1079 would reduce the House of Representatives to 121 members and the Senate to 40. The state Constitution now provides for 203 Representative and 50 Senators. Because of approval requirements for constitutional amendments, the earliest the change could take effect would be for the 2015-2016 term of the General Assembly.
Although the number of 203 Representatives was not expressly stated before the 1968 Constitution, the current size essentially was set in 1874. The 19th Century need for a large number of members so voters could have contact with their legislators does not exist with today’s communication and transportation technology. Besides wasting millions of tax dollars every year, an over-sized legislature allows parochial and petty interests to distract the legislature from responding efficiently and effectively to economic, technological and social challenges Pennsylvania must meet to compete with other states and foreign countries.
SB 1137 changes the time in which the state must pay counties for Children and Youth Services costs. The state would pay counties at the beginning of each fiscal quarter, as it now does for county mental health services, rather than at the end. Counties would provide the same local share, but in the last quarter, when the state/county cost share for the year would be squared up.
Providing state- mandated services are a major share of counties’ annual operating costs, and cause many counties to annually borrow against anticipated tax revenues to pay bills early in the year. The state should pay its share of those costs in a timely fashion rather than first putting the burden, and additional expense of loans, on counties.
SB 1171 and SB 1172 would remove outdated barriers that needlessly prevent Pennsylvanians from voting. Our state Election Code requires people to vote in person if they do not fall into one of several excused classes who can vote by absentee ballot. However, most states recognize that unexpected demands commonly disrupt plans for getting to the polls, particularly for working voters with families, and allow every voter the opportunity to use an absentee ballot. Most of them also open polling places for an extended period of days.
SB 1171 would change the state Election Code to bring Pennsylvania in line with the majority of states by allowing every voter the right to an absentee ballot without excuse. With well over a century of experience with absentee voting, Pennsylvania could mark the importance of the individual vote with minimal expense or risk of fraud. SB 1172 is a proposed constitutional amendment expressly recognizing the legislature’s traditional authority to set how votes may be cast, addressing concerns by some that the state Constitution prohibits absentee voting outside the current classes.