Senator Don White

Harrisburg Happenings
A Report on the Legislative Session of
October 17, 2016

Dear Friend,

I am pleased to send you my Session Wrap Up e-newsletter. This e-newsletter features legislative activities during the Session Week of October 17, 2016.

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Don White

Senate Recognizes “Drugs Kill Dreams Day in Pennsylvania”

10/17/16 - Resolution Recognizing "Drugs Kill Dreams" Opioid Alert Day

The Senate adopted my Resolution on Monday designating February 12, 2017 as “Drugs Kill Dreams Day” in Pennsylvania.

Drugs Kill Dreams is a great program that started right here in our community and is one of a number of programs throughout the state that partners with schools, churches and other community organizations to share education materials and prevention messages with young people.

It effectively and successfully promotes drug and alcohol prevention awareness in schools and communities throughout Western Pennsylvania with the strong belief that if we increase prevention we will decrease addiction and crime.”

The organization -- which serves as a model for many similar community-based drug prevention programs across the Commonwealth -- was established in 1994 by Armstrong County Magisterial District Judge, J. Gary DeComo. In 2000, it was renamed “Drugs Kill Dreams” following a fourth grade poster contest.

With opioid abuse reaching epidemic proportions, Magisterial District Judge DeComo, asked us to designate ‘Drugs Kill Dreams, Opioid Alert Day’ in an effort to expand the message of prevention. This program can help to raise the level of prevention awareness regarding opioids with the goal of stopping drug and alcohol addiction and abuse before it begins.

Click for audio of my comments from the floor of the Senate on the Drugs Kill Dreams Resolution 

Senate Banking & Insurance Committee Approves Three Bills

10/19/16 - Consideration of Bills and Hearing on SB 1158

The Senate Banking & Insurance Committee, which I chair, considered and approved three bills and held a public hearing on Wednesday

Senate Bill 978 establishes the Quality Eye Care for Insured Pennsylvania Act and sets regulations and restrictions on participating provider agreements between eye care providers and insurers, vision care plans or government programs.

House Bill 2241 provides for limitations for retroactive denial of reimbursements. The bill restricts the amount of time an insurer has to retroactively deny reimbursement to a health care provider to 24 months and requires retroactive denial of reimbursements to be based upon coding guidelines and policies in effect at the time the service subject to the denial was rendered.

House Bill 1698 establishes the Abuse-Deterrent Opioid Analgesic Drug Products Coverage Act. It requires health insurance carriers to provide coverage for abuse-deterrent opioids (ADOs) if they provide coverage for opioid analgesic drugs. Insurance carriers must provide coverage for 3 ADOs in a manner that preserves therapeutic choices for prescribers and patients.

All three bills now go to the full Senate for consideration.

The committee also held a public hearing on Senate Bill 1158, which establishes procedures for surprise balance billing.

Click for audio from the meeting. 

Senate Approves My Bill Clarifying GESA Language

On Tuesday, the Senate approved my bill that clarifies language regarding a procurement program that allows local governments, schools, and other state and local agencies to receive state funding to enter into guaranteed energy savings contracts to offset the cost of infrastructure improvements

Senate Bill 1313 amends the Guaranteed Energy Savings Act (GESA) to set definitions for “energy-related cost savings,” “energy savings company” and “operating costs” and amends the definition of “energy conservation measure” to clarify what costs are qualified under the act.

The GESA program has been successfully utilized across the Commonwealth, including by school districts in the 41st Senatorial District.  However, it recently came to my attention that the term “operating cost,” is not defined in the current law, and as a result, has caused some public entity solicitors to have concerns. The current lack of a definition in the law makes it unclear what costs are actually qualified under the act.  A number of solicitors believe this ambiguity in the law could cause the use of some energy savings to be challenged.  As a result, a number of school districts—based on their solicitors’ advice—have chosen to forego the benefits of the GESA program.

My bill clarifies the language and brings the definition of operating costs in line with the federal definition contained in the Federal Energy Management Guidelines under the Federal Department of Energy.  Senate Bill 1313 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration. 

Nine Bills Sent to Governor

Nine bills received final legislative approval this week and were sent to the Governor’s desk for enactment into law.

Senate Bill 286 increases transparency and accountability regarding the Delaware River Port Authority.

House Bill 447 amends the Landlord and Tenant Act by adding provisions for early termination of a lease if a tenant dies.

House Bill 683 eliminates Federal veterans’ disability payments and State veterans’ benefits from the definition of income when determining a claimant’s eligibility for the Property Tax Rent Rebate program.

Senate Bill 889 extends benefits to enforcement officers and investigators of the Game Commission and the Fish and Boat Commission.

House Bill 1581 amends the Crimes Code by adding the offense of strangulation.

House Bill 1619 enacts the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact Act to develop a comprehensive process to allow physicians to become licensed in multiple states and allow eligible licensed physicians in one state to treat patients in other states via telemedicine.

House Bill 1734 provides a one-year extension of the continuing professional education compliance deadlines for schools, teachers and administrators.

House Bill 1841 and House Bill 1842 address temporary permits issued to those seeking to become a licensed perfusionist. A perfusionist is a certified medical technician responsible for extracorporeal oxygenation of the blood during open-heart surgery and for the operation and maintenance of equipment (as a heart-lung machine) controlling it. 

Senate Approves Legislation to Protect Responsible Gun Owners

The Senate passed legislation on Monday to prevent municipalities from targeting responsible gun owners with local firearms ordinances that are more restrictive than existing state laws.

Senate Bill 1330 would allow an individual or organization to sue to block an overly restrictive local firearms ordinance. In current practice, gun owners who are accused of violating local ordinances often lack the time and financial resources to engage in a lengthy and costly legal battle necessary to overturn unconstitutional gun regulations at the local level.

The legislation restores the original intent of the Uniform Firearms Act, which was designed to prevent municipalities from enacting their own ordinances. Similar legislation was signed into law in 2014, but a state Supreme Court ruling last year overturned the law based on procedural grounds that had nothing to do with the content of the law.

Senate Bill 1330 was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration. Ten additional bills were approved by the Senate this week and sent to the House for consideration.

House Bill 49 extends the death benefit that is currently available to other emergency responders to members of the Pennsylvania Civil Air Patrol. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

Senate Bill 535 allows Pennsylvania’s municipal police departments to use radar as a means of speed enforcement.

Senate Bill 840 provides for automated speed enforcement systems in construction zones.

House Bill 869 requires those convicted of second-degree misdemeanor, or higher, animal abuse to forfeit their animals to shelters or other organizations dedicated to preventing animal cruelty. It also permits courts to order similar forfeiture of animals upon conviction of a third-degree animal abuse misdemeanor. The bill also incorporates a number of proposals to prevent animal cruelty, including measures to prevent tethering dogs in unsafe conditions, strengthen penalties for animal abusers and include horses under Pennsylvania’s animal cruelty laws. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

Senate Bill 976 amends the Wiretap Act to permit the use of body-worn cameras by police officers.

Senate Bill 1266 amends the Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act to provide for additional consumer protections.

Senate Bill 1271 addresses the school attendance of a child placed in detention or shelter care.

Senate Bill 1300 would eliminate residency requirements imposed by a municipal code or charter as a qualification of elected office, or to fill a vacancy of elected office, for those on active military duty.

Senate Bill 1365 increases the number of judges in certain judicial districts.

Senator Don White is on facebook


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