In This Update:
Peyton’s Law Awaits Governor’s Signature
This week, Senate Bill 836, known as Peyton’s Law, received final unanimous approval in both the House and the Senate, and is now on the Governor’s desk awaiting his signature.
Peyton’s Law, which I introduced in memory of Peyton Walker of Mechanicsburg, aims to educate every student athlete and their parents about EKG testing to detect underlying heart conditions that can lead to Sudden Cardiac Arrest. Peyton, a graduate of Trinity High School in Camp Hill, was only 19 years old when she died of Sudden Cardiac Arrest. She was a vibrant young athlete, and her mom Julie, Founder of The Peyton Walker Foundation, has been leading the charge to screen student athletes and donate AEDs to schools and community organizations.
Please take a minute to watch the above video from Julie’s visit to the Capitol this week following the passage of SB 836. You can also watch the press conference we held in the fall when the legislation was first moving through the Senate here.
Constitutional Amendment to Limit Emergency Declarations Earns Senate Approval
The Senate voted in favor of a bipartisan bill this week that would amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to limit future emergency declarations and require legislative approval of any declaration lasting more than 21 days.
The bill would create three separate ballot questions: one to limit emergency declarations, another to clarify the General Assembly’s authority to terminate or extend a disaster declaration without the governor’s approval, and a third to ensure equality under the law and prevent discrimination based on race or ethnicity.
Because the bill would amend the state Constitution, it does not need to be approved by the Governor. Instead, it must be approved by the General Assembly in two consecutive legislative sessions before being approved by voters via referendum.
Click here to read my latest Op-Ed, which reflects back on the steps the legislature has taken – and that the Governor has vetoed or disregarded – which brought us to the vote on SB 1166.
Legislature Sends First Responder Mental Wellness Stress Management Act to Governor
On Tuesday, the Senate and House gave final approval to House Bill 1459, sponsored by Representatives Schlossberg and Farry. This bipartisan piece of legislation creates the First Responder Mental Wellness and Stress Management Act.
As a former U.S. Marshal, I am cognizant of the fact that our first responders are exposed to things in their line of work that no person should ever have to see. In turn, they need support for processing what they saw and how it has affected them. HB 1459 implements resources to achieve this.
Click here to read an Op-Ed I wrote regarding this legislation when the Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee, which I chair, advanced the bill out of committee in June.
General Assembly Passes Constitutional Amendment Reforming Judicial Election Process
The Senate approved a potential amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution this week to reform the process of electing appellate court justices. The bill would divide the Supreme Court, Superior Court and Commonwealth Court into judicial districts to ensure a broader range of regional interests are represented on Pennsylvania’s highest courts.
Since judges are currently elected on a statewide basis, the majority come from the state’s two most populous counties, resulting in most of the state being underrepresented on the state’s highest courts. Dividing the state into judicial districts will end the current system of disproportionate representation and ensure the perspectives of all regions of the state are reflected in the makeup of the judicial branch.
The Senate and the House of Representatives have each approved the bill, which does not require the governor’s signature. As a constitutional amendment, the legislation must be approved again in the next legislative session before being put on the ballot for voters to decide.
Legislation to Restore Transparency in State Government Heads to the Governor
The Senate gave final approval to a bill this week that would restore transparency in state government by prohibiting the governor from directing a state agency to ignore records requests during an emergency declaration. The legislation would ensure Pennsylvanians can continue to access public records during a disaster declaration.
The bill is retroactive to Governor Wolf’s March 6 disaster declaration. Governor Wolf has been widely criticized for failing to provide any sense of transparency during the public health emergency, including ignoring a subpoena for information related to his confusing and inconsistent waiver process for businesses that wished to remain open during the pandemic.
Applications Available Now for Beginning Farmer Tax Credits
Experienced farmers will now have an incentive to sell or lease land, buildings and equipment to beginning farmers thanks to a new tax credit program that was created last year. Applications for the Beginning Farmer Tax Credit Program can be filed now at esa.dced.state.pa.us.
Under the program, landowners will receive a one-time personal income tax credit for the sale or a multi-year lease of property. The legislation requires all leases be enforced through written agreements and that the sale of property be for fair market value in order to qualify for the tax credit.
Complete program guidelines, eligibility, and application instructions are available here.
Bill Would Provide Greater Flexibility in Obtaining Teacher Certifications
The COVID-19 pandemic created a severe disruption in the certification process for teachers, as testing centers were closed statewide. The Senate approved a bill this week that would help teachers, recent graduates, undergraduate students and paraprofessionals to navigate the state required certification process.
The legislation will enable graduates to obtain temporary certifications and extend certain deadlines to provide additional flexibility so schools are not faced with additional challenges in recruiting staff when reopening schools.