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In this Email Update:
Micah Gursky named Council Member of the Year by State Boroughs Association
The Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs (PSAB) held their 105th Annual Conference at the Hershey Lodge earlier this week where they honored individuals for their service to their communities.
Micah Gursky, who serves as a member on the Tamaqua Borough Council, was recognized by the PSAB as Council Member of the Year, at the suggestion of his fellow Council members.
Having known Micah for many years, I have witnessed first-hand his hard work and extraordinary dedication to revitalizing Tamaqua and its surrounding communities.
We have all seen major improvements in the borough because of his hard work.
Micah’s special gift is that he is very good at working with other local, county, state, and business leaders to build a stronger community.
You can read more about this prestigious award here.
Senate approves bill to protect energy-related Jobs
The Senate approved a bill on Wednesday intended to protect family-sustaining jobs in our region that are placed at risk by the federal Clean Power Plan.
Senate Bill 1195 provides procedures for the General Assembly’s consideration of the Department of Environmental Protection’s implementation strategy for the federal Clean Power Plan before its submission to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
Senate Bill 1195 is a compromise agreement between the General Assembly and Governor Wolf that provides important safeguards that protect local energy-producing industries, including anthracite coal, and the thousands of workers they employ from overreaching regulations that could come with Pennsylvania’s compliance with the federal Clean Power Plan.
Senate Bill 1195 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.
The Senate also approved and sent to the House five additional bills this week.
House Bill 264 requires carbon monoxide detectors to be installed in long-term care nursing facilities, personal care homes and assisted living residences that use fossil fuel burning devices or appliances. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.
Senate Bill 428 provides additional sentencing provisions for trespassing at gaming establishments.
Senate Bill 1227 transfers the responsibilities of the Public Employee Retirement Commission with regard to pension legislation to the Independent Fiscal Office and the Office of the Auditor General.
House Bill 1241 amends the definition of public utility in state law to exempt water or sewer service provided by a resort and to exempt the provision of service by a municipal corporation under certain circumstances. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.
Senate Bill 1270 amends the Real Estate Appraisers Certification Act to bring Pennsylvania into compliance with updated Federal appraiser standards.
Addressing the heroin and opioid epidemic
Given the sensitive nature of the growing number of heroin and opioid use in Pennsylvania, the legislature is moving forward to combat this growing problem through various reforms over the past two years. The following bills were signed into law that relate to this issue: 1) Senate Bill 524 created the Non-narcotic Medication Assistance Substance Abuse Treatment Grant Pilot Program within the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections; 2) Senate Bill 1164 provided legal protections for individuals providing medical assistance at the scene of a drug overdose; and 3) Senate Bill 1180, included Schedule II through Schedule V controlled substances to be monitored by the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.
There are also three proposals in the Senate related to opioids: 1) Senate Bill 532, which would establish guidelines for methadone clinics; 2) Senate Bill 1202, which would provide for additional education in pain management and the prescribing of opioids for medical health professionals; and 3) Senate Bill 1228, which would prohibit an emergency doctor from prescribing a patient with an opioid for more than 7 days.
The Center for Rural Pennsylvania, a bipartisan, bicameral legislative research agency, also released a report in December regarding the growing heroin epidemic in Pennsylvania. The report provides an in-depth analysis about heroin and opioid addiction, various laws that are currently in place that relate to this issue, as well as information about treatment options. The Center put this report together from a series of public hearings they held statewide regarding this complex issue. To date, 10 hearings have been held across the state.
In terms of combatting this issue, during the public hearings in 2014-2015 three main points were continually brought up: 1) the need to educate people about the consequences of using opioids and drug addiction; 2) increase accessibility and availability of treatment services for people; and 3) giving law enforcement the tools and resources to help eliminate heroin in our communities. Read the full report here.
Based on the statistics and numerous stories we’ve heard that either hit close to home or ones we’ve only heard about in the news, it is critical that we look for ways to not only deter individuals from using heroin or other opioids, but also provide addicts with accessible treatment services so they can seek the help they need before it is too late. This problem is something that affects all of our communities – no one is impervious to this growing health issue.
Committee approves measure to increase education for opioid prescribing
The Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee approved legislation on Tuesday 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 the Commonwealth.
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.
Argall’s monthly TV show highlights “Senator for a Day” program
The latest edition of my monthly television show includes highlights from my “Senator for a Day” student government seminar held at the Penn State Schuylkill campus with students from Schuylkill County.
The “Senator for a Day” program invited students to debate and vote on mock proposals that mirror issues currently facing the General Assembly. Students from several local school districts participated in the event.
Read more about this program here.
Liquor modernization bill signed by the governor
The governor signed into law Wednesday a new law that will allow grocery stores to sell wine, increase opportunities for the sale of beer, and improve consumer convenience for overall liquor sales.
House Bill 1690 provides many changes that increase customer convenience, including:
Four bills received final legislative approval and were sent to the Governor for his signature and enactment into law.
House Bill 57 amends the Public Utility Code to change the interest rate associated with recovery of purchased gas costs, eliminate the migration rider, and provide for recovery of costs incurred to implement customer choice.
Senate Bill 61 officially recognizes bike medics and permits them to operate their bicycles in the same manner as a police officer on a bicycle.
Senate Bill 489 reduces the maximum fee that a check casher may charge for cashing government checks.
Senate Bill 847 adds a representative from the Korean War Veterans Association to the State Veterans Commission, a panel comprised of representatives from Pennsylvania’s major veterans associations.
Ethane cracker plant to be built in Beaver County
After many years of deliberation and with bipartisan support from many state legislators, Royal Dutch Shell will be building a $6 billion ethane cracker plant in Beaver County, which will be the first premiere ethane cracker plant to be constructed outside the Gulf Coast in two decades.
The natural gas liquids that are converted from the ethane cracker plant can be utilized by chemical manufacturers to create chemicals that are used in products such as plastics, tires and antifreeze.
Once the operations of the plant are in play, the facility is anticipated to provide 600 jobs for individuals, along with approximately 6,000 jobs during the plant’s construction period, which Royal Dutch Shell hopes to begin within the next 18 months.
The building of this plant will not only help to bolster our manufacturing industry, but also puts Pennsylvania on the map for future energy job creation.
Health department working to implement Medical Cannabis program
The Pennsylvania Department of Health is currently working on temporary regulations for Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis program, with the full implementation of the program expected to take between 18 and 24 months to complete.
The first step in the process is developing an identification card system for children to receive the drug. More information about Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis program is available on the Department of Health website at www.health.pa.gov.
The Senate is scheduled to convene on Monday, June 13 at 1 p.m. You can watch session live and view the voting calendar on my website.