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In this Update:
- Mastriano Announces Legislation to Impose Tougher Penalties on Fentanyl Dealers
- Senate Committee Passes Mastriano Bill to Fund the Police and Protect Neighborhoods
- Co-Sponsor Memo: Enhancing Classroom Security
- Senate Votes to Block Wolf Administration’s Overreaching Charter School Regulations
- Senate Acts to Help Local Police Departments Find and Keep Officers
- Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program Application Deadline Extended to Dec. 31
- College Aid Webinars in June and July
- Look Out for Texting Scams about Unclaimed Property
- Happy Father’s Day
Harrisburg – Senator Doug Mastriano (PA-33) announced plans to introduce “Tyler’s Law” to target drug dealers who peddle fentanyl resulting in a fatal overdose.
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid analgesic like morphine but 50 to 100 times more potent. Fentanyl can be cut, colored, scored, and pressed to be sold as a counterfeit for other drugs. Just two milligrams of fentanyl can be a lethal dose. In some scenarios, individuals purchase what they think are Oxycodone, OxyContin, Percocet, or Xanax pills that are actually laced with fentanyl.
One such example occurred in the 33rd District. Tyler Shanafelter, 18, overdosed when he purchased what he thought was Percocet. Instead, those pills were laced with fentanyl. He tragically overdosed and lost his life.
Fentanyl is easier to produce and distribute than heroin, enhancing its appeal to dealers and traffickers. According to the Centers for Disease Control, there were over 100,000 fentanyl and opioid related deaths in 2021, a 15% increase from 2020. The epidemic only seems to be worsening here in Pennsylvania.
Under Pennsylvania’s current “drug delivery resulting in death” statute, defendants often cut deals for lenient sentencing and little to no jail time.
Under Tyler’s Law, an individual who sells or engages in a monetary transaction to distribute fentanyl resulting in a death would face a mandatory minimum 25-year sentence upon conviction. This mandatory minimum penalty would not apply to drug users who share drugs with friends or family members or those who seek medical help for individuals who overdose.
“I`m introducing Tyler’s Law to honor the legacy of Tyler Shanafelter, his family, and the other families in Pennsylvania who have lost loved ones to this horrible overdose epidemic. We must send a message to drug dealers that if you kill Pennsylvanians through the sale of fentanyl, you will be spending most of the rest of your life in prison.”
Harrisburg – The Senate Law and Justice Committee today unanimously passed legislation introduced by Senator Doug Mastriano (R-33) and Senator Devlin Robinson (R-37) to establish the “Law Enforcement Recovery Grant.” The grant program will assist agencies facing staff shortages and agencies in communities that have seen an uptick in violent crime and drug trafficking.
Senate Bill 1193 will allow municipal departments, county sheriffs, and the State Police to apply for a grant up to $2.5 million. Law enforcement agencies can use the grant money to fund strategies and incentives to attract new recruits and retain current officers, technology, equipment, and collaborative responses to violent crime and drug trafficking.
The PA Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) will administer the grant program and agencies must report how the grant money will be used. To ensure transparency, PCCD will be required to issue a report that includes the total number of agencies that applied for the grant program, total number of agencies that received a grant, and a summary of how each agency will use the grant money awarded.
“Pennsylvania currently has over 1,200 vacant police positions across the state,” said Mastriano. “This means less officers on the streets to prevent violent crimes, less resources for drug interdiction, and less opportunities for relationship building with members of the community. Compounding the issue of recruitment and retention is the rise in violent crime in Pennsylvania. Our commonwealth has had the third highest increase in violent crimes in the entire nation since 2019. To make matters worse, the proliferation of deadly drugs such as fentanyl continues to take lives. SB 1193 will ensure that agencies across the commonwealth have the resources needed to properly serve their communities and save lives.”
The bill will now advance to the full Senate for consideration.
Co-Sponsor Memo: Enhancing Classroom Security
After the recent tragedy in Uvalde, I will be introducing a bill to enhance the safety of our children while on school property.
I plan to introduce a bill that will allow school employees who possess a valid Pennsylvania concealed carry permit to be armed while on school property. An employee who wishes to carry a firearm on school property will also be required to complete a firearms course from a certified instructor with a signed certificate showing completion of a training and proficiency course for the firearm the employee intends to carry on school grounds.
Presently, 28 states make it clear in statute that teachers or school staff can be armed while on school property. Pennsylvania is not one of them.
Mass murderers are often attracted to “soft targets” where they know victims are not armed. According to the Crime Prevention Resource Center, there has not been a single mass shooting in a school where teachers and staff were clearly allowed to carry a firearm.
Senate Votes to Block Wolf Administration’s Overreaching Charter School Regulations
The Senate voted to block Gov. Tom Wolf’s overreaching charter school regulations after his administration misused the regulatory process to avoid brokering an agreement with lawmakers.
The vote on House Concurrent Regulatory Review Resolution 1 comes after the administration didn’t adequately address concerns raised during the public comment process and instead committed to final regulations that run contrary to the intent of existing charter school law.
The Department of Education’s proposed list of wide-ranging policy changes through the regulatory process could, in effect, jeopardize the educational futures of thousands of low-income, minority and special education students through burdensome, unfunded mandates.
Many of these regulations serve as backdoor attempts to implement some of the administration’s own policy preferences, including enrollment caps, onerous application standards and one-size-fits-all health benefit requirements that will shutter operations for many smaller charters. This is egregious considering the vulnerable students these schools primarily serve.
There is bipartisan interest in making reforms to our current charter laws. Frustration over the process does not justify circumventing the legislature.
Senate Acts to Help Local Police Departments Find and Keep Officers
The Senate approved legislation expanding pension benefits for law enforcement officers who want to buy back service. The legislation now advances to the House of Representatives.
Senate Bill 669 gives municipal and regional police officers the option to buy back up to five years of previous part-time or full-time service at another department.
The change could serve as a recruitment tool for police departments. Senate hearings on rising crime in Pennsylvania uncovered a crisis facing local police departments in recruiting and retaining officers.
Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program Application Deadline Extended to Dec. 31
The deadline for older and disabled Pennsylvanians to apply for rebates on rent and property taxes paid in 2021 has been extended from June 30 to Dec. 31, 2022.
The Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians age 65 and older, widows and widowers age 50 and older, and people with disabilities age 18 and older. The income limit is $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 annually for renters, and half of Social Security income is excluded. You can apply online at mypath.pa.gov.
Under state law, the annual deadline for the program is set as June 30. However, the law requires the Department of Revenue to evaluate the program to determine if funds are available to extend the deadline. To date, funding has been available to allow all who qualify, meaning the deadline can be extended to Dec. 31 for the current year.
College Aid Webinars in June and July
The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) is holding free webinars covering the two most requested topics during this time of year as families look to achieve an affordable postsecondary education.
Deep Dive into Covering the Gap
- June 30, noon
- July 12, noon
- July 26, 6:30 p.m.
This one-hour webinar answers questions that might arise after students receive their first semester bill, such as additional costs to plan for and available loan programs.
Borrowing for Education: Which Loan is Right for Me?
- June 28, 6:30 p.m.
- July 14, 6:30 p.m.
- July 21, noon
- July 28, noon
This one-hour webinar covers available loan programs and advantages and disadvantages of each.
You can find more information on these sessions and register here.
Look Out for Texting Scams about Unclaimed Property
The Pennsylvania Treasury Department is warning Pennsylvanians that scammers are using text messages to target potential unclaimed property claimants.
About one in 10 Pennsylvanians is owed some of the more than $4 billion in unclaimed property held by the department, making the subject ripe for exploiting by scammers.
The Treasury Department never reaches out to people about any program, including unclaimed property, via unsolicited text messages. You can search the online database at patreasury.gov/unclaimed-property to see if you have property waiting and start the claim process.
Celebrating Fathers and Fatherhood
To all dads, I hope you enjoy your special day on Sunday, as we celebrate all the unique joys and talents you bring to a family.