In This Update:
Senate Votes to Boost Fire and EMS Services Throughout PA
Our communities are fortunate to have many brave men and women who dedicate their time and efforts as first responders to protect our lives and property. The Senate approved a comprehensive package of bipartisan reforms this week to support our first responders and improve the delivery of fire and EMS services throughout the state.
The bill contains key improvements to grant and loan programs for fire companies, new measures to support recruitment and retention of fire personnel and critical changes in the Office of the State Fire Commissioner.
Legislation was also approved this week to increase funding to the Emergency Medical Services Operating Fund by approximately $11 million.
The reforms were based on recommendations included in the 2018 Senate Resolution 6 Report that was created to explore ways to better support fire and EMS services in Pennsylvania.
Legislation Moves Forward to Ensure Safe Visitation of Nursing Home Residents
Many Pennsylvania families faced COVID-19 restrictions that prevented them from visiting loved ones for months – even when all state and federal safety protocols could have been followed. The Senate approved legislation this week to ensure safe visitation and enhanced care for residents of long-term care facilities.
The bill would require facilities to designate at least one essential family caregiver per resident that would be permitted to visit and care for a loved one during a disaster emergency. Under the bill, caregivers would be able to remain in contact with family members and provide companionship and assist with activities requiring one-on-one direction.
Bills to Improve COVID-19 Reporting Move to Governor’s Desk
Two bills to improve reporting of COVID-19 cases and deaths in Pennsylvania are on their way to the governor to be signed into law. The bills are focused on protecting first responders and ensuring all COVID-19 deaths are reported and investigated properly.
Under the legislation, the Pennsylvania Department of Health and local health agencies would be required to notify 911 centers of the address of any known positive case of a communicable, aerosolized and transmissible disease. The legislation would ensure the information is provided to law enforcement officers, fire department personnel, emergency medical services personnel, medical examiners and coroners when they are called to carry out an essential job function at the address.
In addition, the package includes a measure to ensure county coroners are notified of all suspected deaths in their jurisdiction caused by this virus and other contagious diseases that constitute a health emergency. The bill would ensure coroners can investigate the facts and circumstances surrounding any death and eliminate inconsistencies in how COVID-19 deaths are being reported.
Senate Advances Measures to Boost Availability of Broadband
The Senate approved two bills this week to boost the state’s efforts to expand high-speed broadband internet coverage to more unserved and underserved areas in rural Pennsylvania. The bills are designed to reduce regulatory burdens on telecommunications companies and make better use of existing infrastructure to expand coverage to a broader number of communities.
One of the bills would reduce regulatory barriers to broadband deployment by modernizing the Public Utility Code and requiring the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to review and waive regulations that are no longer necessary or in the public interest.
Another bill would make broader use of existing infrastructure to further deploy broadband in areas that lack coverage. The legislation would allow electric cooperatives to utilize existing utility poles to place fiber-optic lines if the placement does not adversely affect the value or use of the property.
Legislation Offers Relief for Rural Pharmacies
In recent years, many rural pharmacies endured severe cuts to reimbursement rates from pharmacy benefit managers. Several rural pharmacists testified during a Senate Majority Policy Committee workshop discussion that the reimbursement rates they received were lower than the cost of the drug in some cases, forcing the pharmacy to operate in the red.
The Senate approved legislation this week that would support struggling rural pharmacies by improving pricing transparency for prescription drugs and ensuring these small businesses are reimbursed for the full cost of prescriptions for Medicaid patients.
The bill builds on recent progress to protect prescription drug consumers. Earlier this year, lawmakers approved the Consumer Prescription Drug Pricing and Freedom Disclosure Act to allow a pharmacy or pharmacist to provide information about the cost of a prescription drug to consumers, including the individual’s share of costs.
Bill Could Help More Pennsylvanians Benefit from Clean Slate
The Senate approved a key criminal justice reform bill this week that would allow more Pennsylvanians to have criminal records expunged if they receive a pardon or are not convicted of a crime. The measure would provide for the automatic expungement of criminal records if all court-ordered restitution is paid.
Under current law, an individual who receives a pardon or is not convicted of a crime still must pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars in legal fees to file for expungement. This bill would remove a serious barrier to employment, housing, education and other critical services for individuals who are otherwise unable to complete the process of criminal record expungement.
Around the 40th District
This week, the Bridge Educational Foundation and its donors, Grane Healthcare, JL Mann Consulting and Waste Management, announced the donation of $66,000 in scholarships to local families as they start the 2020-2021 school year. Students attending the following schools in the 40th district will benefit from the tuition scholarships; Faith Christian School, Holy Family School and Immaculate Conception School.
Pennsylvania’s landmark Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) Program will celebrate two decades of success in 2021. The public-private partnership that the EITC creates is more important than ever for families suffering financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. EITC tuition scholarships can help to keep students in the schools that best fit their needs and allow new families the financial help to choose the best school to fit their family’s changing needs.
Saturday October 24th is National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, an event sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Agency to help raise awareness and give citizens across the Commonwealth the opportunity to safely dispose of unused or unwanted prescription drugs.
The 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 9.9 million Americans misused prescription drugs. It also showed that a majority of these drugs were obtained from family and friends, often from the home medicine cabinet.
Hundreds of Pennsylvania law enforcement agencies and health care facilities offer year-round drug takeback locations to help prevent prescription drugs from falling into the wrong hands. Click here to find a location near you.
The Olsen Christmas Wish was started by Stroud Area Regional Police Officer, Chris Shelly. The goal is to give Monroe County families who have been through hardship, the Christmas of their dreams! Money raised is used to provide Christmas presents to kids and also food gift cards to the parents and guardians in need.
This year in order to help raise funds for the organization, Theresa Neyhart made over 1200 handmade ornaments and is selling them. As you can see in the photo they are all unique and are beautiful! After learning about this effort I bought 500 of the ornaments. My staff is handed them out to seniors through the Retired Senior Volunteer Program of Monroe County (RSVP). RSVP this week held a drive through fair with senior resources in multiple locations throughout the Monroe County. My office is provided state based information and an ornament to each senior. A great job by Theresa for a truly wonderful cause!
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