Op-ed: Pediatric Cancer Research Bill Signed Into Law; Other Measures Move Forward

Each June typically brings a flurry of legislative activity as lawmakers work to enact the state budget and other bills that are critical to Pennsylvania communities. As June drew to a close, two noteworthy measures I introduced both moved forward in the Senate, including one bill that was signed into law to improve pediatric cancer research.

Act 73 of 2018 – which I authored – will help generate private donations to support pediatric cancer research by allowing Pennsylvanians to voluntarily donate $5 to the Pediatric Cancer Research Fund when electronically renewing a driver’s license, photo identification card or vehicle registration.

Pediatric cancer is the leading cause of death by disease among children nationwide. I am extremely grateful that my colleagues and I were able to provide this new resource to help improve diagnosis, treatment and prevention strategies for children and families who are afflicted by this devastating disease.

In addition, the Senate Local Government Committee approved a bill I introduced that would streamline local tax collection services by giving many counties, municipalities and school districts more options on how to collect property taxes. In certain cases, locally elected tax collectors have failed to do their jobs, creating serious consequences for many taxpayers.

The bill would allow local governing bodies to collect property taxes through the most effective means possible, including eliminating the office of Tax Collector and utilizing the County Treasurer for tax collection services. The legislation would not mandate that municipal or school district tax collector positions be eliminated; it would only give municipalities the option to eliminate these positions if property taxes can be collected more efficiently and effectively through other means.

In recent months, the Senate has also passed a number of proposals I introduced that are awaiting action in the House of Representatives, including:

  • Senate Bill 961, which includes a measure I sponsored to enact tougher penalties for repeat DUI offenders, including a felony offense for the most dangerous habitual offenders. The bill would be a critical step toward protecting innocent lives from being lost to dangerous and irresponsible drivers who repeatedly drink and drive.
  • Senate Bill 888, a proposal that would improve accessibility of parking spaces for persons with disabilities and strengthen enforcement measures against motorists who use or block these spaces illegally.
  • Senate Bill 1015, a bill that would help off-duty police officers who serve on Special Emergency Response Teams respond to incidents quicker and more safely by allowing them to use flashing lights and sirens when using their private vehicles to respond to incidents.

All of these bills enjoyed broad, bipartisan support in the Senate and await consideration in the House of Representatives. The House is scheduled to be in session for several weeks this fall before the end of the 2017-18 Legislative Session, and I am hopeful that these bills will be considered then – before the entire process must begin again at the outset of the new two-year session in January.  

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