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Keeping Graduation Requirements at the Local Level – Senate Bill 1382 of 2014
This legislation calls for graduation requirements to be determined by local school districts rather than high-stakes assessments required under federal and state laws and developed with no input whatsoever from course teachers.
High school students beginning with the class of 2017 (those approaching sophomore year) will have to pass high-stakes Keystone Graduation Exams in three subject areas (Algebra I, Biology and Language Arts) in order to earn a diploma.
There is no doubt that these make-or-break exams will lead to more and less time for valuable classroom instruction. Furthermore, they set a dangerous precedent of the state and federal government wrestling control of graduate requirements away from local school districts.
Saving the Lives of Overdose Victims – Senate Bill 1376
Our region is facing a rash of heroin overdoses and we have a tool that can save lives. This legislation would put it in the hands of those who need it the most.
This legislation would provide emergency first responders and the family members of drug addicts with Naloxone (Narcan), an opioid antidote that reverses the effects of opioids and heroin.
The bill calls for the Department of Health to develop a training program for those seeking to obtain Naloxone and to work with local governments to provide information about opioid drug addiction and the prevention of overdose deaths.
In addition, the legislation would establish a drug overdose Good Samaritan law for those who administer the drug or summon medical assistance for an overdose victim.
Support for Military Foster Pets – Senate Bill 1245 of 2014
This legislation would help care for the pets of Pennsylvanians who are on active duty in the military. Several Pennsylvania non-profit organizations match up the pets of departing military with homes that can care for them. My bill would provide household approved pet foster homes an income tax credit for each three consecutive months of free foster care provided to the pet of a Pennsylvanian service member on active duty.
The men and women who risk their lives for us deserve the peace of mind that comes with knowing their pets are in good hands.
Limits on Graduation Exams – Senate Bill 1244 of 2014 – SUCCESS
This legislation would limit the Keystone Graduation Exams to the current three exams (Algebra 1, Literature and Biology) required by the federal government. The exams are required to be taken by all high school students beginning with the Class of 2017.
The current Pennsylvania School Code allows up to ten exams, and the Pennsylvania Department of Education/Independent Regulatory Review Commission regulations allow up to five exams. Each of these exams costs millions of dollars to develop, field-test and implement. School districts spend millions of dollars more to provide supplemental instruction to those who fail any of the exams.
There is no doubt that our schools are in great need of the millions of dollars we would spend on the development and implementation of additional exams.
NOTE: The Pennsylvania Department of Education recently announced that it would not expand the exams beyond the three currently required by federal law. The move is expected to save local school districts millions in taxpayer dollars.
Child Protection Task Force County Notification Act – Senate Bill 32 of 2013
While most students are seen by a teacher during the school days many non-traditional or home-schooled children are not.
This bill would require a school district to notify the county Children and Youth Agency when a child is enrolled in a home-schooled or cyber-school program. The County Agency would then be required to do a risk assessment to determine whether or not a risk of child abuse exists.
This legislation would directly address recommendations made by the Task Force on Child Protection established by Senate Resolution 250 of 2011.
Entrepreneurship Encouragement Act – Senate Bill 212 of 2013
This legislation would remove the disincentive for unemployed individuals to start their own businesses. Under current law, those receiving unemployment compensation lose their benefits with their first positive step toward starting a business, be it the renting of an office or the purchase of equipment.
Under this bill, an unemployed individual who begins a business would continue to receive unemployment compensation benefits for 26 weeks or until the profits from the new business exceed 50 percent of their unemployment compensation benefits, whichever comes first.
Military Articulation Act – Senate Bill 232 of 2013
This legislation aims to assist veterans and other military personnel in obtaining credits toward a higher education degree. The bill calls for the Transfer and Articulation Oversight Committee to study and complete a report assessing the feasibility of developing uniform standards and methods to grant academic credit for experience, education, and training obtained during military service in order to expedite undergraduate degree requirements.
Public Official and Employee Ethics Act – Senate Bill 408 of 2013
The legislation would ensure that board members, members of the administration and all applicable employees of all Pennsylvania state-related universities and their affiliates are covered under the Public Official and Employees Ethics Act.
Currently, they are not covered under the act. This bill goes hand-in-hand with legislation to extend the Right to Know requirements to all state-related universities.
Penn State Board of Trustees Reform – Senate Bill 410 of 2013
This legislation aims to make Penn State’s leadership structure more responsive and accountable by reducing the side of its Board of Trustees from 32 members to 21.
The bill calls for streamlining the Board of Trustees and making it more independent of the university’s administration by removing the university president from the board
Exemption of Continuing Education for School Administrators – Senate Bill 442 of 2013:
This legislation would waive annual administrative training requirements from school districts that succeed in making annual yearly progress or show growth in student progress assessments.
Nonpartisan School Board Elections – Senate Bill 443 of 2013:
Pennsylvania is one of only three states in the union that still allow partisan primary school board elections.
Under this bill, school board elections would only occur at the November general election and would no longer be part of spring-time primary election. In addition, party affiliation would not be listed on the ballot and the number of signatures that candidates need to get on the ballot would be determined by the size of the school district.
DEP Public Notification and Access to Information Act – Senate Bill 504 of 2013
This legislation would improve the delivery of information from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and permit applications to the general public. Currently, there is a lack of public notification and information requirements regarding projects nearby local residents.
Under this bill, the DEP would require pipeline operators to notify property-owners directly affected by their proposed pipeline and for special permits to notify residents who reside within a half-mile of the project.
In addition, this bill would also require the DEP to post on its website permit applications and supporting public documents, such as engineering studies and related information.
Pipeline Acre-for-Acre Act – Senate Bill 506 of 2013
This legislation would require pipeline operators that take taxpayer-funded agriculture and conservation easements to replace them within the same county. The bill calls for requiring acre-for-acre replacement and that that pipeline operators take necessary measures to ensure that their projects do not exacerbate the stormwater runoff issues.
Condemnation Approval Act – Senate Bill 507 of 2013
This bill would further protect agricultural easements and farmland preserved under the Agricultural Area Security Law by requiring any utility eminent domain action to first be approved by Pennsylvania’s Agricultural Lands Condemnation Approval Board. Such approval is currently not required.
Aidan’s Law (Automated External Defibrillators in Schools Act) – Act 35 of 2014 PASSED
It is conservatively estimated that 2,000 children a year lose their lives to sudden cardiac arrest in the United States.
This legislation would help ensure that every public school in Pennsylvania has an automated external defibrillator (AED) that is up to date and ready to use. AEDs are portable medical devices designed to analyze the heart rhythm and deliver an electric shock to victims of ventricular fibrillation to restore the heart rhythm to normal.
The legislation is named for Aidan Silva, a seven-year-old Chester County resident who succumbed to sudden cardiac arrest in 2010. Aidan had no symptoms of a heart condition prior to his death.
Civil Damages for Harm to Pet Dogs and Cats – Senate Bill 628 of 2013
This legislation calls for expanding the civil action one may take against one who hurts or kills their dog or cat by a negligent or intentional act. Currently, such civil action may only ask for economic damages; basically the price paid for the pet. Under this bill, one could sue up to $12,000 in non-economic damages in magisterial district court.
Under this bill, a court could award the maximum $12,000 civil penalty if the act killing the pet is deemed “unlawful” or “intentional.” If the act leading to the pet’s harm or death is simply deemed “negligent,” a court could award a maximum civil penalty of $5,000.
Dog Law Amendment in Regard to Harming Livestock – Senate Bill 645 of 2013
This legislation calls for amending the Pennsylvania Dog Law to clarify when it is legal to shoot a dog that is pursuing livestock. This bill clarifies that one may only kill a dog that is pursuing any domestic animal “with the apparent intent to harm” it. The goal of this legislation is to make a clear distinction between dogs that are simply wandering on one’s property and near livestock versus dogs actually attempting to harm livestock.
Smokeless Tobacco Tax – Senate Bill 675 of 2013:
Pennsylvania is the only state in the union that does not tax smokeless tobacco. This bill calls for enacting a tax on smokeless tobacco equivalent to the tax rate on cigarettes.
Pennsylvania Family and Medical Leave Act – Senate Bill 685 of 2013
The federal Family and Medical Leave Act provides up to 12 weeks of protected, unpaid leave for mothers and fathers caring for sick children or newborns and adult children caring for ailing parents.
The Pennsylvania Family and Medical Leave Act calls for extending similar rights to siblings, grandparents and grandchildren in certain, specific cases. It would provide up to six weeks of protected, unpaid leave to an employee to care for a sibling, grandparent or grandchild with a serious health condition if such sibling, grandparent or grandchild has no living spouse, child over 17 years of age or parent under 65 years of age. The bill also ensures that no one double-dips and takes leave time from the federal and state extension program.
Sales-Tax Exemption for Fire Stations – Senate Bill 861 of 2013
This bill would exempt volunteer fire organizations from the state sales tax when purchasing materials, supplies and equipment to make physical improvements and repairs to their fire stations. The exemption would include the purchase of materials for physical improvements on their stations and would alleviate a substantial financial hardship. This legislation would provide a boost for volunteer organizations that provide vital emergency services to our communities.
Therapy Dogs Access to Public Transportation Act – Senate Bill 862 of 2013
Currently, service dogs and those they assist are allowed on publication transportation. This legislation would also allow therapy dogs on public transportation including buses and trains.
Therapy dogs differ from service dogs in that whereas service dogs are trained to do work for the benefit of an individual with a disability, therapy dogs are trained to soothe, comfort and provide therapeutic support to people in stressful situations including emergencies and natural disasters, hospitals, retirement homes, and hospices.
The Pet Protection from Domestic Abuse Act – Senate Bill 863 of 2013:
All too often, an estranged spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend will get back at his or her spouse or partner by hurting or killing their cat, dog or other pet.
This bill would stiffen Pennsylvania’s Animal Cruelty Law to increase the penalty when animal abuse happens in a domestic-violence situation.
Protecting the Medal of Honor Act – Act 59 of 2014 PASSED
This legislation calls for protecting the Medal of Honor from those who falsely claim to be recipients of our nation’s highest military honor.
The U.S. Congress sought to address this problem through passage of the Stolen Valor Act in 2006. Unfortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012 struck down the law on free speech grounds.
This bill calls for enacting one of the suggestions made in the in the Supreme Court’s decision – the creation of a public database of Medal of Honor recipients. It also calls for the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs to study the feasibility of creating a database of all military awards and decorations of heroism bestowed by our nation’s military.
Charter and Cyber Charter Student Attendance Accountability – Senate Bill 978 of 2013
This legislation would require charter and cyber charter schools to enforce the existing truancy laws applicable to all students and to notify the school district in which the student is a resident when truancy is an issue.
Under current law, there is no obligation for a charter or cyber school to report when a student is truant or to assist in the prosecution of a truancy case. Instead, the School Code makes truancy enforcement the responsibility of the resident school district. This bill is a comprehensive approach to updating the law and closing that loop-hole.
Charter and Cyber Charter Financial Accountability and Transparency – Senate Bill 991 of 2013
This legislation will require charter and cyber charter schools and their trustees and administrators to be financially transparent and accountable.
This bill calls for measures to ensure that charter schools are audited and assessed, provide basic financial documentation and offer public access to their budgets and transactions. In addition, the bill includes provisions that require charter school trustees and administrators to be financially transparent in annual statements.
Protecting Early Education – Senate Bill 992 of 2013
Pennsylvania is one of only two states in the nation that delays the requirement for children to attend school until the age of eight. While school districts in Pennsylvania have at least half day kindergarten, it is possible, under current law, for financially distressed school districts to cut kindergarten through second grade programs (for children age five to seven).
Early childhood education efforts have a key role in building the necessary foundation for a child to succeed later in life. This legislation will lower the age at which a child must enter school from eight to five and ensure that all children have access to early education programs regardless of where they live.
Charter and Cyber Charter Limits on Unassigned Fund Balances – Senate Bill 993 of 2013
Currently, school districts are limited in the amount of money that can accrue in their ending unreserved, undesignated fund balances. However, charter and cyber charter schools do not have the same limitations.
This allows some charters or cyber charters to horde large sums while annually collecting funds from school districts for upcoming budgets without having to expend the excess to help mitigate costs.
This bill would add language to the provisions of the school code governing charter and cyber charter schools to cap their surplus funds to correct this inequitable and unfair accounting in the interest of Pennsylvania’s taxpayers.
Extending the Statute of Limitations for Childhood Sexual Assault – Senate Bill 1011 of 2013
It can take many years or even decades of therapy and support for victims of childhood sexual abuse to confront and process past incidents. However, under current law, the statute of limitations for victims of childhood sexual abuse to file civil actions expires at age 30.
This bill would provide a specifically defined and new, one-time two-year window during which civil lawsuits can be filed by those who allege childhood sexual abuse but for whom the statute of limitations for civil actions has expired.
To better protect the civil actions of future victims of childhood sexual abuse, this legislation also calls for increasing the statute of limitations for victims from age 30 to age 50
Residency Restrictions for Sexually Violent Predators – Senate Bill 1012 of 2013
Pennsylvania’s Megan’s Law – unlike the laws in 30 other states – does not restrict the residency of those convicted of horrific crimes against children.
This legislation would establish automatic residency restrictions for those classified as Tier II sexually violent predators under Megan’s Law. Such individuals would be prohibited from living within 1,500 feet of playgrounds, schools and daycare facilities.
As for those classified as Tier 1 or Tier II sex offenders, this bill would give judges the discretion of establishing residency restrictions.
Protecting the Home Addresses of School Employees – Senate Bill 1027 of 2013
This legislation will protect the privacy of school employees’ home addresses from public access under the Right to Know law.
With an increase in the number of threats involving our schools, teachers and employees deserve a responsible approach to the release of their personal information.
Currently, a temporary stay has been issued by the Commonwealth Court prohibiting the Office of Open Records from releasing such information. My bill will provide a simple legislative addition to the law to ensure that school safety and security extend to the home addresses of its employees.
Teen DUI Safety Act – Senate Bill 1217 of 2013
This legislation would add to the crimes for which juveniles can be tried as adults.
Currently, Pennsylvania treats older teens as adults when charged with murder, rape or aggravated assault with use of a deadly weapon. This bill would add four crimes to the list for which 15-, 16- and 17-year-olds can be treated as adults: homicide by vehicle, homicide by vehicle while under the influence, aggravated assault by vehicle, and aggravated assault by vehicle while under the influence.