Important Harrisburg Happenings:
Senators Unveil Package to Overhaul Child Protection Laws
A bipartisan group of state Senators unveiled a package of legislation to provide sweeping improvements to Pennsylvania’s child protection laws during a March 18th press conference.
The legislative package implements changes recommended by the Pennsylvania Task Force on Child Protection created by the passage of Senate Resolution 250 in December of 2011. The panel held a series of public meetings and released its report in November of 2012.
Bills in the package include:
- Senate Bill 20 – updates the definition of “child abuse” and provides exclusions.
- Senate Bill 21 – clarifies who is a “mandatory reporter” of child abuse.
- Senate Bill 22 – increases penalties for failure to report child abuse.
- Senate Bill 23 – updates the definition of “perpetrator” and expands definition of “person responsible for a child’s welfare.”
- Senate Bill 24 – requires the Department of Public Welfare (DPW) to establish a Statewide Database of Protective Services
- Senate Bill 25 – updates procedures used to report child abuse and neglect.
- Senate Bill 26 – requires DPW to establish a three-digit, statewide number for reporting child abuse or for children in need of protective services.
- Senate Bill 27 – improves the exchange of information among medical practitioners and county agencies.
- Senate Bill 28 – amends Title 18 (Crimes and Offenses) to comprehensively strengthen Pennsylvania’s child abuse laws.
- Senate Bill 29 – requires health care providers to immediately report if a newborn is identified as being affected by prenatal exposure to illegal substances.
- Senate Bill 30 – establishes accountability and due process protections for individuals working with delinquent children in juvenile detention facilities and residential rehabilitative institutions.
- Senate Bill 31 – eliminates the separate system for reporting abuse by school employees.
- Senate Bill 32 – requires a school district to notify the county agency when a child is enrolled in a home-schooled or cyber-school program and requires the county to do a risk assessment.
- Senate Bill 33 – provides employee whistleblower protection for child abuse reporting.
- Senate Bill 34 – establishes a comprehensive system for professional educators who are investigated and disciplined for misconduct in Pennsylvania.
- Senate Bill 46 – prevents “passing the trash” – hiring educators who have been investigated, dismissed or disciplined for abuse or sexual misconduct.
Click here for audio and video from the press conference.
Community-Based Health Clinics Approved by Senate
In an effort to extend access to health care to more Pennsylvanians, the Senate passed legislation on March 19th to develop and expand community-based health care clinics.
Senate Bill 5 creates the Community-Based Health Care Program in the Department of Health to provide grants to community-based health care clinics.
Community-based health care clinics provide the uninsured with a medical home that emphasizes a partnership among the patient, physician, nurses and clinic staff. These health clinics become the place where patients are known, recognized, supported and where they find a centralized base for medical care and connection to other medical and supportive community services.
SB 5 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Mentored Hunting Bill Clears Senate
The Senate approved legislation on March 19th that would authorize the Pennsylvania Game Commission to expand its successful Mentored Youth Hunting Program to all ages. In 2006, the Game Commission launched the Mentored Youth Hunting Program with the goal of expanding hunting opportunities for individuals under the age of 12 while maintaining safety.
Senate Bill 623 expands this voluntary opportunity to all ages. The legislation does not alter any normal licensing procedures.
Purely Public Charity Measure Advances
The Senate passed a bill on March 20th that would amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to clearly define a purely public charity and ensure these organizations are eligible for an exemption from paying local property taxes.
Senate Bill 4 addresses issues that arose after a state Supreme Court ruling that left the eligibility of some charities in question and created difficult legal decisions for school boards and local governments. Because the bill amends the state Constitution, it must be passed by the General Assembly in two consecutive legislative sessions and be approved by state voters via referendum in order to become law.
Measure Requires CPR Training for School Nurses
The Senate passed legislation on March 20th that would require all school nurses be certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
Senate Bill 193 would require school nurses who are not CPR-certified – as of July 1 – to complete CPR training within one year. School nurses hired after July 1 would have to be certified in CPR or complete a training course within one year of their hiring date.
Senate Committee Action:
Committee Studies Penn State Governance
The Senate State Government Committee examined the structure, makeup and powers of the Penn State Board of Trustees during a March 18th public hearing. The hearing included testimony from Auditor General Eugene DePasquale and several current and former board of trustees members. Click here for audio and video of the hearing.