In this Update:
Regan Expresses Concern with Creating Special Classes of People in Judiciary Bill
On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee met to consider bills addressing ransomware attacks, organized retail thefts and the harassment of sports officials in Pennsylvania.
Senate Bill 842 would create a specific offense of harassment of a sports official, such as referees and coaches. As a father of athletes, I know the importance these individuals play in providing a positive youth sports experience, and I know they take a lot of heat for the calls they make.
However, in preparation for this committee vote, I started thinking about how many other individuals face harassment within their line of work – restaurant servers, flight attendants, Uber drivers, pharmacists, etc. No one should have to endure being harassed by a disgruntled person when in the performance of their duties, and I expressed such concern during the discussion on SB 842.
An existing law that makes assaulting a sports official a crime, specifically a first degree misdemeanor, actually places sports officials above law enforcement in that sticking a police officer with a hypodermic needle is only considered simple assault and is graded as a second degree misdemeanor (a lower offense). SB 842 would classify harassment of a sports official as a third degree misdemeanor, compared to a summary offense for harassing anyone else.
I did vote to advance the bill out of committee, but I have spoken to the prime sponsor about my concerns and possible ways forward to strengthen our harassment laws and to ensure protections for all.
The committee also considered Senate Bill 596, which will combat large-scale organized retail theft rings in Pennsylvania. The passing of this bill would establish a division within the Attorney General’s office dedicated to prosecuting organized retail theft throughout Pennsylvania. The legislation would also lower the current monetary thresholds of thefts that would qualify for the crime of organized retail theft. I am a co-sponsor of the bill, having prime sponsored legislation last session to address organized retail theft by imposing requirements for online retailers to maintain and disclose information of third-party sellers. A House companion bill was ultimately signed into law, enacting those requirements.
Senate Bill 563 was also advanced out of committee. This bill will ensure state agencies have the necessary capabilities to discourage, combat and recover from ransomware attacks.
Click here to watch the committee meeting and my remarks on Senate Bill 842.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month Kick-Off Turns Capitol Fountain Pink
Every October, we recognize Breast Cancer Awareness Month at the Capitol by turning the fountain pink. This was done on Tuesday at a kick-off event where I had the pleasure of hearing my colleagues Senator Kim Ward and Senator Tina Tartaglione share their personal stories.
Earlier this year the General Assembly passed comprehensive breast cancer screening legislation that eliminated out-of-pocket costs for necessary BRCA testing and screening for high-risk Pennsylvanians.
Another colleague also has introduced a resolution designating October 13th as Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day in Pennsylvania. Metastatic is when the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Despite advancements in medical science, metastatic breast cancer remains incurable.
Local Bridge Maintenance and Safety Funding Bill Passes Senate
This week, the Senate passed legislation to make state funding available for local bridge projects.
Currently, state Motor License Fund dollars are made available for the construction and repair of county bridges. While the funds are used to repair county-owned bridges, spending guidance fails to note how the funds could be used for bridges owned by municipalities within the counties. As a result, municipal bridges suffer and go without repair while remaining funds go unused due to ambiguous guidance.
Senate Bill 799 would give counties the flexibility they need to fund local bridge projects.
Senate Favors Harsher Penalties for Drug Dealers
The Senate voted to enact harsher penalties for drug dealers who sell products that lead to the death of a victim, including drugs laced with fentanyl.
Senate Bill 235 would establish a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a minimum $15,000 fine for anyone convicted of selling or distributing drugs that result in a death. Under current guidelines, drug dealers whose victims die from fentanyl can be back out on the streets in two years or less.
The bill would not apply to drug users who share drugs with family members or friends or those who seek medical help for individuals who overdose.
Bill to Provide New Career Paths for Individuals in Recovery Passes Senate
Individuals in recovery for substance use disorder would be able to maintain meaningful employment and chart a new path under a pilot program approved by the Senate.
Senate Bill 69 would create a Recovery-to-Work pilot program to connect individuals in recovery with high-priority occupations through local workforce development boards. The boards would work with the treatment and recovery community as well as local employers and training providers to find job training and employment opportunities.
The pilot program would be led by the Department of Labor and Industry with the assistance of the departments of Health, Community and Economic Development, and Drug and Alcohol Programs, as well as the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.
Senate Supports Free Credit Monitoring for Data Breach Victims
The Senate approved legislation to strengthen notification requirements for data breaches and provide affected citizens with free credit monitoring.
Senate Bill 824 would provide citizens affected by a data breach a free credit report and a year of credit monitoring while they recover. The bill also strengthens state notification requirements and requires Attorney General notification if a data breach occurs in the commonwealth.
The measure would cover instances in which an individual’s first and last name or first initial and last name have been accessed in combination with any of the following information: Social Security number, bank account number, driver’s license or state ID number.
Fish and Boat Announces Trout Stocking in Local Waterways
Pennsylvania’s waterways are being restocked with approximately 117,500 hatchery-raised adult Rainbow, Brown and Brook Trout in 119 stream sections and lakes. The effort, which began this week, will continue through mid-December.
The stockings will replenish popular fishing spots across the state and provide ice fishing opportunities. Local areas being restocked include Yellow Breeches, Codorus and Fishing Creeks providing York and Cumberland Counties with a supply of fresh trout. Review the trout stocking schedules here. They are subject to change because of water temperature fluctuations and hatchery logistics.
Trout that are stocked during fall and winter can be fished for immediately. Anglers ages 16 and older must have a valid Pennsylvania fishing license and trout permit. You can buy 2023 fishing licenses and permits online or at a retail license issuing agent.