Apr. 12, 2019

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The Weekly Roundup
The latest news from the State Capitol
Ag Committee Discusses Impact of Travel Bans on Struggling Dairy Industry

Dairy farmers, milk haulers and public safety officials appeared before the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee at the Capitol on Wednesday to discuss legislation that would exempt milk trucks from weather-related commercial vehicle travel bans.

House Bill 915 was introduced in response to the Wolf administration issuing disaster emergency declarations this winter in which commercial vehicles were banned three times from some or all of the state’s interstate highways in anticipation of snow or ice accumulations.

The ban created major challenges for milk haulers and the state’s already-struggling dairy farmers who have limited capacity for storing their milk, not to mention cows that continue to produce milk regardless of the weather. When milk trucks can’t get to the farms, farmers are left with no other option than to dump the milk.

The meeting gave the dairy farmers and milk haulers the opportunity to share their experiences and concerns not only with the members of the committee but also with state officials who are involved in making the decisions about issuing travel bans. Those officials, representing the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Pennsylvania State Police and Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, shared information about the process they go through when assessing the threat of winter weather. They pointed to past storms that have left motorists stranded for hours on end as one reason for the commercial vehicle travel bans. However, they also acknowledged the impact such bans can have on commercial traffic.

The meeting generated a good discussion of the issue. My hope is we can all work together to find a solution that protects public safety without overburdening our dairy farmers or milk haulers.
Stronger Protections for Crime Victims

With this week being National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, the House began working through a package of bills designed to help protect victims of crime.

A cornerstone of this package is Marsy’s Law, a bill that seeks to amend the state Constitution by adding a victims’ bill of rights.

Other bills in the package passed this week include measures to shield rape victims from being re-victimized by irrelevant cross examination; allow victims and witnesses with intellectual disabilities or autism to submit out-of-court statements rather than face their perpetrators in court; expand the types of crimes for which an out-of-court statement can be accepted; and allow crime victims to attend any proceeding relating to their cases, unless attending would materially alter the victims’ testimony.

The bills now head to the Senate for consideration. Learn more here.
Honoring the Victims of the Tree of Life Shooting

On Wednesday, the House and Senate held a rare and historic joint session to remember the 11 victims of the shooting rampage at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh nearly six months ago.

Members also unanimously adopted House Resolution 214, which designated April 10 as “Stronger Than Hate Day” in the Commonwealth. You can watch a video of the somber and moving ceremony here.

Expanding the Statute of Limitations for Child Sexual Abuse

As the Commonwealth marks April as Child Abuse Prevention Month, the House passed a two-bill package known as the Pennsylvania Hidden Predator Act to help empower victims of child sexual abuse.

House Bill 962 would change the civil statute of limitations for child sexual abuse, allowing childhood victims until age 55 to file suit, and provide for waivers of sovereign and governmental immunity relating to claims of childhood sexual abuse. It would also abolish the criminal statute of limitations for child sexual abuse moving forward.

House Bill 963 would amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to provide a two-year window in which civil lawsuits alleging childhood sexual abuse may be filed in court, notwithstanding any otherwise applicable statute of limitations defense.

The House also started the process of amending the Pennsylvania Constitution to provide a two-year window to anyone for whom a statutory limitations period has expired to commence action arising from childhood sexual abuse.

These bills, which will next be considered by the Senate, are important in the effort to ensure justice for victims of past abuse.
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