Sep. 27, 2019 / Weekly Roundup

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The Weekly Roundup
The latest news from the State Capitol
 
Bills to Keep Firearms Out of the Hands of Criminals, Mentally Ill Earn Committee Approval

 Working to balance public safety and Second Amendment rights, I joined my colleagues in the House Judiciary Committee this week in advancing several bills aimed at keeping firearms out of the hands of criminals and those with mental health issues.

My bill, House Bill 1066, would address how local governments continue to pass ordinances regulating firearms in defiance of state law. Where no uniform state laws are in place, the result can be chaotic as restrictions change from one local jurisdiction to another.

My legislation would deter local jurisdictions from imposing illegal ordinances by providing that anyone who successfully sues over one of these ordinances will be entitled to reimbursement for attorneys’ fees and costs.

Additionally, House Bill 1835 would reduce the time period in which a person is required to relinquish a firearm after discharge from an involuntary mental health commitment for inpatient care and treatment from 60 days to 48 hours, and would require the Pennsylvania State Police to send all records relevant to a determination of whether a person is prohibited from possessing a firearm due to a mental health commitment to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

House Bill 165 would create a voluntary self-exclusion program, in which an individual could ask to be put on a list that would prohibit him or her from purchasing or receiving a firearm for one, three or five years.

The committee also approved several bills that would address the application of mandatory minimum sentences for certain gun-related crimes and would prohibit persons convicted of attempt, conspiracy or solicitation to commit certain offenses from owning or possessing a firearm.

The measures now go to the full House for consideration.
 
 
No Public Assistance Funds for Tobacco

The House recently approved legislation that would prohibit the purchase of tobacco products using public assistance funds on electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards.

Such benefits are intended to help Pennsylvanians who cannot afford life’s essentials, not unnecessary items such as tobacco.

House Bill 847 would forbid the use of EBT cards, issued by the Department of Human Services (DHS) to administer public assistance benefits, to purchase tobacco or tobacco-related products. Personal funds on EBT cards, such as child support that is in arrears, would be exempt. The Human Services Code already prohibits the purchase of liquor and alcohol with EBT cards.

The bill now goes to the Senate for its consideration.
 
 
Supporting PA’s Helpers and Heroes

Working to support the Commonwealth’s fire and ambulance services, the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee this week approved several bills designed to address staffing and funding challenges facing these vital public safety organizations.

The committee approved bills to expand and increase the maximum loan amounts available through the Volunteer Loan Assistance Program, as well as to reauthorize the Fire and EMS Grant Program administered by the Office of State Fire Commissioner. ( House Bills 1448 , 1816 and 1834)

Two other measures aim to address stress management and post-traumatic stress injuries for first responders. (House Bills 432 and 1459)

House Bill 1839 would authorize counties to offer a property tax credit for volunteer first responders as an incentive to get more people involved in the emergency services.

To help rural EMS providers, House Bill 1869 would allow the Department of Health to grant waivers for staffing requirements on a Basic Life Support (BLS) service ambulance in sixth- through eighth-class counties.

Finally, House Bill 1838 would increase funding for the Emergency Medical Services Operating Fund and require 30% of the funds to be used to provide training to underserved rural areas and 10% of the funds to be used for medical equipment for ambulances.

The bills are awaiting action in the full House.
 
 
State Issues Warning About New Mosquito-Transmitted Disease

Earlier this week, the Pennsylvania Departments of Agriculture and Health warned Pennsylvanians to take precautionary measures against mosquito bites for themselves and their animals – specifically horses – as the rare mosquito-transmitted viral infection Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) has been confirmed in Erie, Carbon and Monroe counties.

EEE is a virus carried by birds. If a mosquito bites an infected bird it can then transmit the potentially fatal virus to humans, horses and other birds. Because of the high mortality rate in horses and humans, EEE is regarded as one of the most serious mosquito-borne diseases in the United States.

Through mid-September, there have been 18 cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control from across the country in 2019, with the majority of the cases in northeastern or Mid-Atlantic states. Several cases have been fatal.

The symptoms of EEE include a high fever of 103-106 degrees, stiff neck, headache and lack of energy. The symptoms typically show up three to 10 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito and can progress quickly.

Take steps to protect against mosquito bites by consistently using DEET-containing insect repellants and covering exposed skin with lightweight clothing. To reduce mosquito populations around your home, eliminate sources of standing water, such as containers and pots, wading pools, bird baths, gutters and more.

Read more here.
 
 
House Marks Safe2Say Something Week in PA

The House this week approved a resolution designating the week of Sept. 23-29, 2019, as Safe2Say Something Week in the Commonwealth.

The Safe2Say Something program was established last year to offer an anonymous resource for students, teachers and community members to report behavior perceived to be threatening to an individual or a school entity.

Since January 2019, more than 23,490 reports have been filed to the state attorney general’s office. In addition to potential threats, the program received reports of issues such as bullying, anxiety, depression and suicide.

For more information or to submit a report, call 1-844-Saf2Say or visit www.safe2saypa.org.
 
 
Congratulations to members of the Ickesburg Sportsmen Association, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary. I presented club members with a citation to mark the occasion.
 
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