Legislation Strengthening DNA Laws Approved by Senate
A long-overdue strengthening and modernization of the laws governing the collection and use of DNA technology to fight crimes in Pennsylvania was approved by the Senate on June 18th. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Bill 150, which I co-sponsored, will allow law enforcement agencies to make better use of DNA evidence by requiring individuals arrested for serious crimes to submit DNA samples. The bill also strengthens privacy protections and requires DNA laboratories and technicians to meet national standards. In addition, the bill establishes privacy protections, an expungement process and new quality controls. It also authorizes a new type of DNA search to help identify suspects in unsolved crimes.
Senate Approves Legislation Restructuring the Port Authority Board
The Senate approved legislation on June 18th that will reform and restructure the Port Authority of Allegheny County. Senate Bill 700 restructures the composition of the Port Authority Board to provide state government oversight.
The legislation, which I co-sponsored, also directs PENNDOT to study various options to lower operating expenses in order to bring the Port Authority into fiscal solvency. A report would then be issued making recommendations to elected officials and the restructured Port Authority Board in regard to initiatives which could be undertaken to achieve cost-saving and efficiency goals. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Approves Measure to Improve Safety on School Buses
The Senate passed legislation on June 19th that will improve safety and allow school districts to resolve disciplinary incidents on school buses faster and with more certainty. Senate Bill 57, which I co-sponsored, allows for audio taping on school buses. Currently, videotaping can be done on school buses but audio taping is not allowed due to concerns that it could be a violation of the Wiretap Act.
For two decades, school districts have used video monitoring of school buses for student security and discipline purposes. This has been a valuable tool in resolving discipline action and has helped reduce violent acts on school buses because the students know that there is a camera on the bus.
Other Bills Approved by the Senate the Week of June 17th
House Bill 84 changes the county inspection requirement for preserved farms from annually to every two years and eliminates some of the burdensome notification and reporting requirements. Since the statewide program began in the late 1980s, many counties have hundreds of farms preserved and limited staff to conduct inspections. In addition, technology has also evolved where aerial photographs may be used to help identify possible violations. The bill goes to the Governor for his signature and enactment into law.
Senate Bill 137 advances consumer protection and patient results by ensuring that all audiologists, and those performing the functions of the profession, are properly licensed by the state.
Senate Bill 305, which I co-sponsored, establishes a uniform procedure for the disposition of contraband left in the possession of probation and parole agencies.
House Bill 326 increases the number of members on the governing board of a third class county convention center authority from nine to 11 members. The bill now goes to the Governor for his signature and enactment into law.
Senate Bill 358, which I co-sponsored, requires facilities offering mammograms to provide patients with information regarding their breast density.
Senate Bill 437 allows the Department of Education to recognize the military science instruction certification. This legislation, which I co-sponsored, would allow those teaching JROTC to continue to provide instruction with a military science endorsement as an instructor as long as the instructor has a documented 20 years of military service.
House Bill 891 permits the checking of animal traps remotely by electronic means by a properly permitted Nuisance Wildlife Control Operator. The bill returns to the House of Representatives for concurrence on Senate amendments.
Senate Committee Action:
Finance Committee Approves Pension Reform Bill
The Senate Finance Committee approved legislation on June 19th that addresses Pennsylvania’s ongoing pension crisis. Senate Bill 922 creates a defined contribution plan, or 401(a) plan, for new hires of the Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS) and the State Employees Retirement System (SERS). This change would take effect in 2015 (January 1 for SERS members and July 1 for PSERS members). The bill would also make participation in the defined contribution plan mandatory for current legislators, the Governor, the Attorney General, the Auditor General and Treasurer upon re-election and the judiciary upon retention. Senate Bill 922 will now be referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee.