Apr. 28, 2017

The Weekly Roundup
The latest news from the State Capitol

Protecting the Second Amendment
To prevent local governments from enacting their own laws seeking to diminish the Second Amendment, the House gave its approval to House Bill 671 this week and sent it to the Senate for consideration.

Although Commonwealth law already stipulates that local governments cannot pass their own firearms laws, some communities have done so anyway. As a result, citizens with no criminal intent are placed in danger of breaking rules they don’t know exist.

The bill, which I am sponsoring, would deter local jurisdictions from imposing illegal ordinances by requiring them to reimburse reasonable attorneys fees and costs to bring a lawsuit challenging the illegal ordinance.

The measure, which was originally enacted in 2014, directly responds to a state court decision which ruled the law unconstitutional. That ruling was based on technical grounds, and the substance of the legislation was never called into question.

Additionally, the annual Second Amendment Rally will be held Monday, May 22, at 10 a.m. in the Main Rotunda of the State Capitol.
Strengthening Animal Cruelty Laws
Legislation to update Pennsylvania’s animal protection laws and increase penalties for abusing an animal passed the House this week.

House Bill 1238 would apply criminal penalties based on the severity of the offense and divide the types of abuse into three categories: neglect, which would include failure to provide food, water or shelter; cruelty, which would include recklessly overloading, beating or abandonment; and aggravated cruelty, which would include intentionally torturing an animal to the point where it causes bodily injury or death.

The proposal would also place limitations on the tethering of dogs outdoors, allow local district attorneys to decide the appointment of humane society police officers, and provide civil immunity to veterinarians or vet techs who report animal neglect, along with humane society police officers who investigate possible abuse cases.

The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.
Battling Blight
On Monday, I joined other legislators and representatives from various groups at a Capitol press conference to highlight recently passed laws that are assisting communities large and small address property blight and abandonment. We also provided an update on the Blight Task Force for the 2017-18 session.

Anti-blight legislation is one of the top priorities of the House Urban Affairs Committee, which I chair.
Leveling the Education Playing Field
To help enhance educational opportunities offered by public, cyber charter and charter schools, legislation passed the state House this week to make commonsense reforms to the state’s charter school law.

House Bill 97 would update the funding formula for cyber charter schools, which are funded mainly by school districts and local tax dollars, to ensure greater fairness for both school districts and charters. It would also improve school choice by strengthening current state law and adding accountability measures for ethics, transparency, governance and auditing.

Under the proposal, academic quality of charter and cyber charter schools would be monitored and held to the same standards as public schools. Additionally, teachers would be evaluated using the same system implemented statewide a few years ago in public schools.

The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.
Consumers Want More Choices, Convenience
Building on the success of recent reforms that have opened the private marketplace to sell wine in Pennsylvania, the House approved a four-bill package this week to expand those opportunities.

The bills would establish licenses for retail stores to sell wine and spirits; authorize licensees with seating capacities to sell spirits in addition to wine; and allow private wine retailers and importers to have more control over the supply, delivery and pricing of wine.

The reforms are designed to gradually dismantle the archaic system of the state selling alcohol and provide more opportunities for the private sector, along with raising hundreds of millions in much-needed state revenue.

The bills go to the Senate for review.

Congratulating a State Champ

I had the pleasure of spending some time with Trinity High School soccer player Mayleigh Perkins and her parents at the Capitol on Wednesday. The team was here to be recognized by the House for winning the PIAA Class AA Girls Soccer Championship back in November. The Perkins live in Shermans Dale, Perry County.

From left to right: Wayne Perkins, Mayleigh Perkins, Alessandra Perkins and Head Coach Terry Mull.