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In this Email Update:
Cost-saving legislation for schools sent to governor
Legislation that will allow school districts to save thousands of dollars in annual mailing costs received final legislative approval Tuesday and is headed to the governor for his signature.
Senate Bill 1077 eliminates the mandate that school districts annually inform parents by physical mailing when the district uses audio and video recording to identify and address discipline issues on school buses.
The mailer mandate was included as part of Act 9 of 2014, which gave school districts the ability to use audio recordings on school buses. Instead of the physical mailing, which can easily cost thousands of dollars each year, schools must post notice of the policy in the student handbook as well as on the school’s website.
Three additional bills received final legislative approval this week and were sent to the governor.
Senate Bill 772 updates the state Professional Psychologists Practice Act for the first time since 1986.
Senate Bill 837 expands title protection to marriage and family therapists, ensuring that only licensed and properly trained professionals can market their services to clients.
Senate Bill 983 allows parents and/or guardians of disabled adult children, who are in their care, to receive disability license plates.
Local scouts supported at 2nd Annual Service to Youth and Community Breakfast
Last week, I attended the 2nd Annual Service to Youth and Community Breakfast at the Hawk Mountain Scout Reservation in Schuylkill Haven. The breakfast raises money in order to support the Hawk Mountain Council’s scouting programs throughout Schuylkill County.
After the breakfast, I joined Tim Twardzik, who was the recipient of last year’s Distinguished Service to Youth and Community award during the inaugural breakfast, on the 600 foot long dual zip line at Hawk Mountain Scout Reservation – what a rush! We are fortunate to have so many opportunities for local scouts right in our own backyard!
Local residents visit Capitol
On Tuesday, over 40 local residents from Berks and Schuylkill Counties visited the state Capitol. During their visit, they had the opportunity to meet with other senators and representatives, took a guided tour of the Capitol, and watched the Senate and House while in Session. Thank you to those who were able to make the trip!
Senate Majority Policy Committee explores improvements to distribution of food stamps
The Senate Majority Policy Committee held a public hearing featuring Redner’s Warehouse Markets, as well as ShopRite, the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank and the Department of Human Services on reforms to the distribution of food stamps across the state.
You can watch the hearing and learn more about the issue here.
Bill to address substitute teacher shortages
Last month I met with Berks and Schuylkill County high school principals to discuss the increasing number of substitute teacher shortages in our schools. The number of substitute teachers in our classrooms is scarce, not only in Pennsylvania, but across the nation as well. This past October, a joint Senate and House Education Committee hearing was conducted on this matter, and several school districts noted that there has been only a 70 percent “fill” rate on any given school day. Testimony from the hearing can be viewed here.
To address this important issue, I signed on as a co-sponsor to Senator Lloyd Smucker’s (R-Lancaster) bill, Senate Bill 1312, which would relieve school districts from this shortage by enlarging the pool of substitute teachers that are available.
Specifically, Senate Bill 1312 would permit students attending a four-year college institution in Pennsylvania who have finished 60 credits hours and are enrolled in a teacher preparation program to serve as a substitute teacher in any of the state’s school districts for a limited amount of days. Read more about the bill here.
Senate approves measure to increase education for opioid prescribing
The Senate approved legislation on Wednesday that would require continuing medical education training as a way to stem the tide of opioid and prescription drug abuse in the state.
Senate Bill 1202 requires state licensing boards to call for two hours of continuing education in “pain management” and two hours in “opioid prescribing practices” for individuals applying for an initial license or renewal of an existing license or certification to prescribe medications in Pennsylvania.
The increased use of heroin, which often has roots in the abuse of prescription painkillers like Vicodin and OxyContin, has catapulted Pennsylvania to seventh in the nation for drug-related overdose deaths in recent federal statistics. According to a National Survey of Primary Care Physicians, nine out of 10 doctors reported prescription drug abuse as a moderate to large problem in their communities, and 85 percent believed that prescription drugs are overused in clinical practice.
The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration. Also sent to the House this week were:
Senate Bill 163, which addresses the needs of children of incarcerated parents and services available to them.
Senate Bill 1113, which provides broader representation of crime victims on the Victims’ Services Advisory Committee within the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.
House Bill 1325 gives second class townships the authority to implement storm water management ordinances and to assess a fee to fund the planning, management, implementation, construction and maintenance of storm water facilities. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.
House Bill 1766, which allows future life insurance policy reserves to be based on Principle-Based Reserving, a methodology that is more advanced and better reflects the risks of new innovative insurance policies. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.
Legislation aims to deter opioid abuse
Senator Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming) recently introduced legislation which compels insurance plans to provide access to abuse-deterrent opioid analgesic drugs, while also utilizing the same cost-sharing provisions as used with other brand name and generic drugs that are covered by the insurance plans.
The goal of this legislation is to reduce the number of individuals who become addicted to opioid prescriptions. Based on testimony gathered during some of the public hearings that were conducted by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, approximately 80 percent of individuals addicted to heroin can trace it back to the use of prescription opioids. I’m proud to co-sponsor this important measure.
Read more about the bill here.
Keystone Edge highlights Tamaqua’s ongoing revitalization
Keystone Edge, an online publication that highlights the state’s attractions, activities, communities and businesses, recently recognized Tamaqua for its ongoing revitalization and development initiatives.
Tamaqua was one of many communities in our region to suffer due to the decline of the anthracite coal industry. The article takes an in-depth look at the efforts of the community to revitalize the downtown in the face of countless challenges. The article highlights efforts of new small businesses owned by women as well as the growing arts scene in the downtown.
Read more about Tamaqua’s transformation here.
Attitude changes among Tamaqua residents
A survey was conducted by the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences in 2011 on the attitudes and opinions of rural communities across the state. The survey indicated that residents in Tamaqua held a negative attitude regarding their trust in others and whether or not their opinions and involvement in their community made a difference.
Given these dismal results, Tamaqua Area Community Partnership – including the Tamaqua Area Faith Fellowship Network, the Tamaqua Community Art Center, Tamaqua Safety Initiative, National Night Out and Dear Tamaqua -- led the effort to turn this attitude around among residents.
This year, Penn State conducted the same survey in order to compare and contrast the results from 2011 and examine whether these efforts have made a positive impact on the Tamaqua community.
The 2016 survey found that significant improvements were made among participants’ attitudes and viewpoints about fellow residents and their service to the community. Participants in the 2016 survey also felt they had a greater ability to make positive changes in Tamaqua.
Read more about the survey results here.
The Senate is scheduled to convene on Wednesday, June 22 at 3 p.m. You can watch session live and view the voting calendar on my website.