Week of April 8, 2019
In this Update:
Senate Passes Package of Bills to Protect Crime Victims
The Senate passed a package of bills during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week designed to protect crime victims and ensure they have more opportunities to participate in the judicial process.
The package of bills includes measures to give crime victims more rights to attend criminal trials; expand the rights of individuals with intellectual disabilities and autism to provide testimony; provide hearsay exceptions for statements made by young witnesses of cases of sexual assault; shield rape victims against irrelevant cross examinations; and provide for a bill of rights for sexual assault survivors.
Our system has strong safeguards for accused criminals, but comes up short in protecting the rights and interests of crime victims. This package ensures that those victims have more opportunity to participate in the judicial process.
The package of bills includes:
Senate Bill 399, which would create a comprehensive bill of rights in Pennsylvania for survivors of sexual assault, including rights pertaining to the collection and use of evidence.
Senate Bill 425, which would amend the Pennsylvania Crime Victims Act to ensure a victim has a right not to be excluded from a trial except in extraordinary circumstances.
Senate Bill 431, which would prevent many sexual assault survivors from facing questions during cross examination about times they were victimized previously, such as child abuse or assaults.
Senate Bill 469, which would apply the existing Tender Years Exception – which allows certain out-of-court statements to be admissible as evidence – to include individuals with intellectual disabilities or autism.
Senate Bill 479, which would expand the Tender Years Exception to apply to a wider variety of crimes, including serious sexual offenses. This exception currently only applies in cases of homicide, assault, kidnapping, burglary, robbery, and a narrow number of sexual offenses.
The bills were sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Approves Bill to Update State’s History Code
This week legislation that I co-sponsored with Senator Joe Scarnati passed unanimously out of the PA Senate – a bill which makes many key updates to the state’s History Code.
Preservation of historical items, properties such as buildings, landscapes and other components of historical significance is essential. Pennsylvania has a rich and vibrant history and we must do all we can to ensure that our heritage is preserved for future generations. SB 372 provides for a number of technical updates, including measures that increase access to public records and update definitions within the Code.
Senate Approves Measure to Help Homebound Students
Students who face an extended absence from school due to injury or illness could continue to participate in classroom activities and learning under a bill approved by the Senate on Tuesday.
Senate Bill 144, which creates the Keystone Telepresence Education Grant program, now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.
The grant program would help Intermediate Units purchase equipment that will allow homebound students to participate in normal classroom learning, schoolwork and activities remotely through the use of telepresence technology.
The grant program would be administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Funding would come from any undistributed money that is not already committed to other projects, so it would not create a new burden on taxpayers.
One additional bill was approved by the Senate and sent to the House this week:
Senate Bill 441 designates the State Route 2087 bridge over the East Branch Codorus Creek in York County as the Sgt. Christopher M. Wrinkle and Tosca Memorial Bridge.
Scavello Leads First Meeting as Senate Banking and Insurance Committee Chair
On Wednesday, I chaired my first meeting of the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee.
The committee met to consider the re-confirmation of Jessica Altman as Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner, and recommended the Senate approve the nomination.
I was honored to be appointed to head the committee by Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-25), after previously chairing the Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee.
As Senate Banking and Insurance Committee Chair, I look forward to helping develop legislation that reduces prescription drug costs, keeps insurance premiums down, and provides consumers access to affordable coverage.
Bills Sent to Governor for Enactment into Law
House Bill 18 authorizes the release of Project 70 restrictions on lands owned by the Borough of Topton, Berks County, in exchange for the imposition of the restrictions on other lands to be acquired by the borough. The bill also provides for land conveyances in Chester, Lehigh and Monroe counties.
House Bill 264 adds fiscal procedures for the collection of monies by municipal authorities.
Senate Bill 133 amends the State Constitution to allow gubernatorial candidates to select their running mate.
Senate Bill 144 creates the Keystone Telepresence Education Grant program.
Senate Bill 145 amends the Agricultural Area Security Law to allow for the voluntary relinquishment of the right to construct a residence.
House Bill 264 adds fiscal procedures for the collection of monies by municipal authorities.
House Bill 275 changes the name of the “Early Intervention Program” under the Municipalities Financial Recovery Act to the “Strategic Management Planning Program.”
Senate Bill 399 provides for a comprehensive bill of rights for survivors of sexual assault.
Senate Bill 469 addresses testimony by those with intellectual disabilities or autism.
Senate Bill 479 expands the Tender Years Exception for out-of-court statements to include additional serious sexual offenses.
Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure
Health & Human Services
Senate Bill 390 delays implementation of Medical Assistance Transportation Program pending a Department of Human Services review.
Labor & Industry
Senate Bill 304 protects the unemployment compensation rights of spouses of active duty members of the armed forces.
Senate Bill 453 provides an exemption from the Uniform Construction Code (UCC) for barns and other structures that are occasionally used for weddings or special events if certain requirements are satisfied.
Public hearing on the future demographics of higher education. Hearing Video & Written Testimony
Senate Bill 22 amends the state Constitution to create a commission to draw election maps.
Senate Bill 48 delays the impending mass decertification of current voting machines until an appropriate plan between the Governor and the General Assembly and the method by which it will be paid for can be agreed to.
Senate Bill 178 requires the electronic filing of campaign finance reports with the Department of State.
Senate Bill 131 prohibits novice drivers (16 and 17 years old) from using cell phones while driving.
House Bill 384 increases the fine for driving a vehicle without the proper endorsement for that particular type of vehicle.
Around the 40th District
This weekend we celebrated the 30th Anniversary of the Slate Belt Chamber of Commerce and the many years of service they have provided to area businesses and industry. Special recognition was given to Paul Donovan for his 30 years of service to the Slate Belt Chamber since its inception, plus an additional 15 years prior with the Bangor Chamber of Commerce. Congratulations to all and we look forward to many more prosperous years ahead.
Throughout my tenure in public service, it has always been my priority to showcase local artists in my district office. Every other month or so a new artist (or artists) post their artwork for members of the community to view when they visit my office.
This month, it’s been a privilege to meet and spotlight the work of 27 Pocono Mountain East High School students, which gave them a glimpse of how to prepare for and exhibit their work in the community outside of school. Students from the AP Studio class organized and coordinated the show.
The student artwork will be on display until May 31. Please make sure to stop by and check out their talent and unique perspectives! I also want to give a special thank you to their teacher, Ms. Shelly Grillo, for her committed passion in fostering the creativity of her students.
Pictured in photo: Back Row – Shelly Grillo (Teacher), Emma Brooks, Ilija Chacon; Front Row – Barbara Leggio and Melinda Alexander.
As we look ahead to Earth Day on April 22, I want to share an encouraging story about some local students in Lower Nazareth who took matters into their own hands to help clean up litter in their local community. Sam, Allana, Niko, Eva and Joscelyn are all in the picture above.
Allana and her friends were together recently celebrating her 10th birthday and decided to go for a walk in their neighborhood. While on their walk they were bothered by all the trash they saw. They decided to begin picking it up and returned home for more trash bags.
Another girl from the neighborhood joined and brought snacks. A different girl came by riding her bike and joined as well. By the end of the walk, these five girls had picked up bags of trash, old construction materials, paint cans, a tire, and even the broken tread from a bulldozer.
These young ladies serve as an outstanding example for all, both young and old. They showed no hesitation in getting their hands dirty to make their neighborhood a more beautiful place. You can be part of that effort too – and there are plenty of opportunities coming up to join groups from around the region in picking litter, adopting highways and urging others to do the same.
Thank you all for your example!
Congratulations to Holly Denny, Gregory Breslin and Kevin Herron who were recently honored as employees of the month for Burnley Workshop and Rehabilitation Services. I was pleased to join in recognizing their hard work ethic and abilities!
The Lehigh Little League gathered this weekend to honor Gene and Joyce Ashner of Hanover Township for an outstanding 58 years of service to the League. There’s no doubt their tireless volunteerism has impacted countless young athletes throughout our region and inspired many to enjoy a lifelong sport. It’s estimated that they have served over 25,000 little league players and their families throughout the years. Thank you both for your commitment to our community!
The Senate returns to voting session on Monday, April 29 at 1 p.m. You can watch session live at SenatorScavello.com.
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