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Civil Damages for Harm to Pet Dogs and Cats – Senate Bill 593 of 2015
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.
The Pet Protection from Domestic Abuse Act – Senate Bill 594 of 2015:
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.
Support for Military Foster Pets – Senate Bill 595 of 2015
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.
Therapy Dogs Access to Public Transportation Act – Senate Bill 640 of 2015:
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.
Entrepreneurship Encouragement Act – Senate Bill 679 of 2015
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.
Smokeless Tobacco Tax – Senate Bill 680 of 2015:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.