In this Update:
Regan Bill Expanding Heart and Lung Act Coverage for Law Enforcement Advances out of House Committee
On Tuesday the House Labor & Industry Committee advanced my legislation, Senate Bill 503, which would expand benefits under the Heart and Lung Act to more members of the law enforcement community than are currently covered.
This bill, which passed the Senate unanimously last year, expands coverage to entities such as the Fort Indiantown Gap Police, investigative staff within the Office of State Inspector General, and DCNR park rangers. There are also opt-in provisions for counties to extend the benefit to county correction and probation officers, as well as for colleges and universities for campus police officers.
Heart and Lung provides disability benefits beyond Workers Comp for when these public servants doing dangerous work on a daily basis get injured on the job.
SB 503 received broad bipartisan support in committee, and I’m eager for the full House to take up the bill.
You can view the meeting here.
Regan Bill to Curb Retail Theft Advances from Senate Committee
On Wednesday, the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee, of which I am a member, advanced my legislation, Senate Bill 895, which is part of a nationwide effort to help curb retail theft and provide protections for online consumers.
Organized retail crime organizations are committing retail thefts and then selling stolen goods online to consumers who purchase the items without knowing they are stolen. Overall, retail theft is a serious issue that costs the Commonwealth over $1.2 billion in tax revenue every year.
This bill requires online marketplaces to verify third-party seller information to protect online consumers and requires the marketplaces to provide a mechanism for consumers to report suspicious activity from sellers.
SB 895 now advances to the full Senate.
Senate Votes to Ban Unsecured Ballot Drop Boxes and Private Funding of Election Operations
The Senate voted this week to safeguard the integrity of Pennsylvania’s elections by approving two bills that would prevent the future use of unsecured ballot drop boxes and ban private money to fund election operations. The measures were sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
No More Unsecured Ballot Drop Boxes
Senate Bill 1200 would require mail-in ballots that are not returned in the mail to be returned only to the County Board of Elections office, effectively eliminating drop boxes in Pennsylvania.
Drop boxes were permitted by a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling in 2020, despite the fact that they were never authorized or intended by the General Assembly through the legislative process. Since that time, numerous examples of drop boxes being misused have been discovered throughout the state, including:
Eliminating unsecured ballot drop boxes will not negatively impact voter access. There are more than 10,000 publicly available locations across the Commonwealth that voters can use to return their ballots.
Keep Outside Money Away from PA Election Process
Senate Bill 982 would ban any state employee or county from accepting money from outside groups to pay for the administration of elections in Pennsylvania.
The legislation was created in response to the use of grant money from the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) during the 2020 Election. Correspondence between CTCL officials, the Wolf Administration and county officials demonstrates that funding was intentionally directed predominantly to counties that favor Democrats.
Democrat-leaning counties were selectively invited to apply for the grants before Republican-leaning counties were even made aware of the funding. Philadelphia and its surrounding counties received more than $18 million from CTCL in the 2020 Election, while other counties received significantly less.
For example, Philadelphia received $8.83 per voter in CTCL funding in 2020. On the other side of the state, Venango County, with a Republican voter registration advantage, received only $.64 per voter in CTCL funding in 2020.
It was never the intent of the legislature to establish rogue election facilities on public street corners with pop-up tents, or in cars, trucks, and vans and without Board of Elections oversight while allowing outside third party entities to pay for them in areas of their choice.
The steps the Senate took with SB 1200 and SB 982 are a significant step towards ensuring the vote of Pennsylvanians is secure.
Senate Boosts Crime Victim Protection and Support
The Senate approved a package of bills aiding crime victims by providing stronger protections, increasing support and improving access to services. The bills now advance to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Bill 1179 extends the Domestic and Sexual Violence Victim Address Confidentiality Act to give victims of child abduction and human trafficking access to substitute mailing addresses and allows applications for address confidentiality to be submitted electronically.
Senate Bill 118 expands Megan’s Law to require offenders convicted of any sex trafficking-related offenses to register.
Senate Bill 1040 requires law enforcement to make reasonable efforts to ensure a murder victim’s family has been notified before releasing the victim’s identity to the public and media.
Senate Bill 1172 expands access to Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs) to better provide quality care for victims. SANEs have specialized training in trauma and forensic nursing and are vital to a complete care system for survivors of sexual assault.
Senate Approves Measure to Encourage Responsible Solar Development, Protect Property Owners
The Senate approved a proposal that would establish decommissioning and financial requirements for solar generation projects going out of service and offer better protections for landowners.
Senate Bill 284 includes a graduated, phase-in process for financial assurances, setting up five-year benchmarks using third-party professional engineers to assess and calculate fair market value of the project and costs to decommission it.
The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Have a Happy and Blessed Easter