Jun. 02, 2017

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The Weekly Roundup


 The latest news from the State Capitol

Bill Creating Treatment Bed Registry Advances

Watch video

My bill to create a psychiatric and detoxification treatment bed registry passed the House Human Service Committee last week. We need to do all we can to make treatment beds available for those seeking them. Check out the video above to learn more about the bill.

Legislation to Safeguard Children from Online Sexual Predators
To help keep children safe from online predators, the House approved legislation to allow the state attorney general and district attorneys to continue to have the authority to use administrative subpoenas to identify information pertaining to child sex predators transmitting child pornography. 

This bill was first enacted in 2014 but included a sunset date of Dec. 31, 2017. House Bill 561 would remove the sunset date and give this authority to prosecutors permanently.

Since its enactment, this law has been a vital tool for law enforcement to make it easier to track child sex predators. The bill is with the Senate for review.

Bill to Boost Reimbursement for Ambulance Services Advances

Ambulance companies would be reimbursed for providing medical treatment, even if the patient is not transported to a hospital, under legislation approved by the House recently.

Under current law, EMS agencies can only be reimbursed by insurance companies if they transport the patient, even though time is spent, supplies are used and services are provided regardless of whether a transport takes place. This is a significant contributor to the financial challenges facing ambulance companies.

House Bill 1013 would allow for reimbursement when transport does not take place as long as the following conditions are met: The Basic Life Support (BLS) or Advanced Life Support (ALS) unit must be dispatched by a county 911 center, and the EMS provider must have rendered care even though the transport was declined. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Strengthening Penalties for DUI
To help keep repeat offenders of driving under the influence off the road, the House passed legislation recently to strengthen penalties for those who have been convicted of DUI and continue to operate a vehicle under a suspended driver’s license.

Currently, anyone convicted of a DUI who then operates a vehicle despite their driver’s license suspension currently faces the same penalty – a $500 fine and 60-90 days in jail -- no matter how many times they get behind the wheel.

House Bill 1049 would create a tiered system that increases the fines and sentences with each subsequent offense. Those sentence enhancements would range from a $1,000 fine and a minimum 90-day jail term for a second offense, to a $5,000 fine and no less than two years in jail for a fourth offense. In addition, the legislation would allow a judge to impose a maximum five-year jail sentence if the offender is also convicted of homicide by vehicle. The bill is now with the state Senate.

Bill to Halt Spot Property Tax Assessments Advances
Legislation to eliminate the practice used by some school districts to file spot appeals of the property tax assessments of individual properties has passed the House Commerce Committee.

Pennsylvania courts in some recent cases have approved spot appeals despite the Uniformity Clause in the Pennsylvania Constitution and previous court decisions siding against “spot appeals.”

Under House Bill 1213, a taxing district may not appeal the assessment of property based on the following:
•    Purchase or sale of the property.
•    Purchase or sale of a partial or total interest in the entity holding legal title to the property.
•    Financing or refinancing of the property.
•    Investments in the property, including those related to operation of, or devices related to fire and security, and investments related to fair housing or disability laws and regulation.

A taxing district has the right to appeal an assessment only when one or more of the following are met:

•    The appeal is from a countywide reassessment and the appeal is filed by Sept. 1 or the annual appeal date of the taxable year following the new effective county reassessment values.
•    A parcel of land is divided or conveyed into smaller parcels.
•    A change has occurred in the productive use of the property by material alteration in the use or through alteration or additions that modify the property.

The bill now moves to the Senate.

Town Hall Meeting Set for June 15
I will be holding a Town Hall Meeting on Thursday, June 15, at Whispering Pines, Penn Forest Fire Co. No. 1, Route 903, Jim Thorpe, at 5:30 p.m. Mark your calendars and make plans to attend this meeting during which we will discuss local and legislative issues.
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