|No Welfare for Drug Dealers
To help ensure public assistance benefits are dedicated to those truly in need, the House endorsed legislation this week to prevent convicted drug dealers from receiving welfare.
House Bill 129 would prohibit individuals convicted of violating the Controlled Substance Act from eligibility for public assistance. The applicable sections of the Controlled Substance Act are the so-called “kingpin” provisions which relate to a specific set of offenders who sell and deliver large quantities of illegal drugs.
When individuals are arrested for drug trafficking crimes, a subsequent search by law enforcement often reveals large sums of money and information indicating that the individual was receiving welfare benefits.
The bill now moves to the state Senate for consideration.
Foy Avenue Ramp to Close Next Week
The ramp from Route 2016 (High Street) to Foy Avenue in the City of Williamsport is expected to be closed beginning next week so a contractor can make repairs to the bridge spanning the ramp and Lycoming Creek.
Traffic will be detoured on to Lycoming Creek Road northbound to the jug handle at Mill Lane to Lycoming Creek Road southbound and the exit at the Foy Avenue off ramp. The detour will be in effect until the end of July. The project limits are from Mill Lane on Lycoming Creek Road in Old Lycoming Township to Hepburn Street in the city.
This work is part of a resurfacing project on High Street that began earlier this year. Work includes milling and paving the road, new curb ramps, and minor structure work on the bridge over Lycoming Creek.
Get Involved with DEP Connects Program
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has launched “DEP Connects,” a new initiative aimed at helping residents in our communities learn more about the agency’s role and foster discussion about issues of local interest.
DEP Connects is designed to be flexible and dynamic, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. Each DEP regional office will hold at least three events each year, but the topic, format, and location for each event will change, because each DEP Connects event will be designed to address local issues and needs.
To sign up to receive notifications about DEP Connects programs, click here and complete a brief survey, including name, contact information, and topics of interest.
Lawmakers, EMS Personnel Rally to Save Our Ambulance Services
With ambulance companies in urban, suburban and rural communities across the state struggling to keep their doors open, lawmakers and EMS personnel gathered on the steps of the Capitol Rotunda in Harrisburg this week and issued a call to action on legislation to help ensure fair reimbursement for services provided.
House Bill 699 would increase the Medicaid reimbursement rate for Basic Life Support (BLS) and AdvanceD Life Support (ALS) to $180 and $200, respectively. The current rates are 200 percent below Medicare and commercial insurance reimbursements and haven’t been increased since 2004.
House Bill 1013/Senate Bill 1003 would require reimbursement for services rendered by an ambulance service, even if no transport takes place. Under current law, an ambulance service responding to a person in diabetic shock or overdosing may provide care that eliminates the need to transport the patient to the hospital, but that also means the ambulance personnel receive no reimbursement for their time, fuel, equipment or medication used.
The number of ambulance services operating in the Commonwealth has declined by approximately 400 over the last five years. In addition to financial challenges, ambulance companies are also struggling to recruit and retain volunteers and/or staff. A bipartisan, bicameral commission is currently studying additional options to help ensure emergency medical services remain available to all Pennsylvanians.
Keeping Dangerous Drugs off the Streets
Legislation designed to help keep unused prescription drugs from finding their way to the streets was approved by the state House and sent to the state Senate for review.
House Bill 2152 would allow hospice staff to properly destroy unused drugs following a patient’s death.
According to the Department of Health, 13 individuals are dying every day in the Commonwealth due to an opioid or heroin overdose. In 2016 alone, 4,812 Pennsylvanians died from an overdose of opioid drugs.
This legislation is a follow-up to a federal regulation from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) that encourages hospice staff to help families destroy leftover medications. However, those staff members are prohibited from destroying the medications themselves unless permitted by state law. Several surrounding states, including Ohio, Delaware and New Jersey, have already enacted similar laws.
Ensuring Justice, Safety for Crime Victims
In an effort to help ensure justice and safety for crime victims, the House Judiciary Committee this week reported out several bills to empower victims and safeguard them from being penalized or ignored by the justice system.
Among the bills in the package are those designed to give child victims safe harbor protections, particularly so they can get the crucial help and services they need; prevent young children and those with intellectual disabilities and autism from feeling victimized all over again by testifying against their abuser; exclude evidence of past sexual victimization from trials; and amend the state Constitution to include a Victim’s Bill of Rights (Marsy’s Law).
Additionally, the package includes a comprehensive rewrite of the state’s anti-hazing laws. Of note, the bill would encourage students to seek emergency assistance for those who have been hazed, and individuals would be immune from prosecution for hazing and underage drinking if they call 911 or law enforcement, believe they’re the first to call for help, and remain with the victim until emergency personnel arrive.
Protecting Our Students
Keeping students safe was the goal of bipartisan legislation endorsed by the House Education Committee this week.
The first measure, House Bill 2327, would allow public school entities, such as school boards, to go into private, executive session for school safety discussions. This would prevent information about a school’s security measures from falling into the wrong hands and compromising student safety.
The second, House Bill 2215, would require school entities to conduct one school security drill per school year in each school building in place of a monthly fire drill. This would take Act 55 of 2017, which was passed last year to encourage schools to conduct the safety drill yearly, one step further to enhance school safety.