November 8, 2018
New Laws Focus on Repeat DUIs, Emergency Responders, Disabled Parking
Many of the bills I introduce in the General Assembly directly respond to problems that are brought to my attention by local residents. Thanks to the support and advocacy of members of Lancaster County communities, three of these proposals I authored were signed into law in October.
One long-sought change will create tougher penalties against habitual DUI offenders, including the creation of a felony offense for the most egregious crimes. More severe penalties are also included for motorists who drive on a suspended or revoked license. More information about the new penalties is available here.
Another new law will better protect emergency responders who serve on Special Emergency Response Teams (SERTs). Off-duty officers who serve on these teams will now be allowed to use flashing lights and sirens when responding to incidents, saving precious minutes when they are forced to confront dangerous situations like hostage negotiations, kidnappings and barricaded gunmen. More information on that proposal is available here.
Finally, a measure I sponsored will clarify enforcement of parking spaces for individuals with disabilities, including the access aisles adjoining those spaces. Motorists who block access aisles will now be subject to fines. Previously, police could not issue citations to motorists who blocked access aisles. More information on that proposal is available here.
Roundtable Discussions Highlight School Safety, Economy
Jobs and education are two of the most important issues for lawmakers to address in Harrisburg. In recent weeks, I have participated in a number of roundtable discussions with experts in these fields to identify and act on local needs in our communities.
Two of the roundtables have focused on school safety – an issue that has only grown in importance in light of troubling incidents in schools throughout the nation. Warwick High School in Lancaster County hosted a roundtable discussion with members of the Senate Majority Policy Committee in September, and Penn Manor High School hosted a similar discussion with Congressman Lou Barletta in August.
My thanks goes out to all of the lawmakers, administrators, teachers, law enforcement and other stakeholders for adding their voice to the discussion regarding how we can ensure our schools are a safe environment for children.
Two other roundtable events focused on various aspects of the state and local economies. The Senate Appropriations Committee visited Thaddeus Stevens College to discuss how we can tailor educational programs to the evolving needs of the workplace, and the Senate Majority Policy Committee hosted a roundtable discussion at Swashbuckler Brewing Co. in Manheim to examine the economic impact of breweries in Lancaster County.
Welfare Reform Efforts Advance in the General Assembly
Welfare reform was one of the biggest areas of emphasis in the final scheduled voting days of the 2017-18 Legislative Session. Although I am frustrated that Governor Wolf chose to veto one proposal that would have created a work requirement for able-bodied Medicaid recipients, two other measures will help prevent tax dollars from being lost to fraud and abuse.
One of the new laws will prohibit high-level drug dealers and non-compliant sex offenders from receiving public assistance benefits and also prevent the use of Electronic Benefits Transfer cards at casinos and adult entertainment clubs. Another will create more severe penalties for individuals or businesses that illegally provide goods or services in exchange for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.
In addition to these bills protecting taxpayers against fraud, other measures passed by the Senate and signed into law in October included legislation to provide students with alternative options to meet graduation requirements without the Keystone Exams; expand prescription assistance for thousands of older Pennsylvanians; allow school security plans to be discussed in private sessions; streamline services to assist small businesses; ensure emergency responders receive reimbursements for care provided to patients on Medicaid; and address the backlog of untested rape kits in Pennsylvania.
Resolutions Promote Awareness of Down Syndrome, Childhood Cancers
One of the most important steps in addressing various diseases and conditions is building public awareness about the challenges that these individuals and families face. Two resolutions I sponsored recently were approved by the Senate: one to designate September as Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and another designating October as Down Syndrome Awareness Month in Pennsylvania.
My remarks about recognizing the struggle of families affected by childhood cancers are available here. More information regarding the importance of understanding and supporting individuals with Down syndrome is available here.
Local Championship Teams Recognized
I had the honor of recognizing several local championship sports teams at the Capitol Building in Harrisburg in recent weeks. Congratulations to all of the student athletes, coaches, parents and others who played in a role in helping these teams earn state championships!
The Lampeter-Strasburg Softball Team captured the PIAA 5A championship in June.
The Lancaster Catholic Boys’ Baseball Team earned the PIAA Class 3A state title in June.
The Lancaster Catholic Girls’ Basketball Team clinched the PIAA Class 4A state championship in March.