In this Update:
Senate Committee Advances Bill to Enact Harsher Penalties on Drug Dealers Responsible for Overdose Deaths
Drug dealers who sell drugs that lead to the poisoning death of a victim should face harsher penalties. That’s the sentiment behind a bill I introduced that was approved Tuesday by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Pennsylvania is in the midst of a poisoning crisis. Drug dealers are lacing their products with lethal doses of fentanyl and Pennsylvanians are dying. The people across Pennsylvania who are being poisoned to death deserve justice. We want drug dealers to know if they poison someone to death, they are going to face serious consequences.
Senate Bill 235 – also known as Tyler’s Law – would establish a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a minimum $15,000 fine for anyone convicted of selling or distributing drugs that result in a death.
Under the current Drug Delivery Resulting in Death Statute, drug dealers who poison victims with fentanyl can be back out on the streets in two years or less.
I introduced Tyler’s Law in honor of Tyler Shanafelter, 18, who was the victim of drug poisoning on Oct. 10, 2020. Tyler purchased what he thought were Percocet pills. He didn’t know the pills were laced with lethal amounts of fentanyl.
Learn more about the bill by reading the rest of the article here.
Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee Advances State Fire Commissioner Nomination and Two Measures
The Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee advanced Monday the nomination of Acting State Fire Commissioner Tom Cook to the full Senate. The committee also approved two measures supporting deployed military families and extending the I-95 emergency declaration.
Cook on Jan. 13 was appointed the acting state fire commissioner to support the commonwealth’s 2,400 fire departments and personnel. Cooke previously served as the assistant state fire commissioner, where he was the administrator of the Pennsylvania State Fire Academy and responsible for the oversight of the firefighter training system for the commonwealth.
The committee approved House Bill 804, sponsored by Rep. Frank Burns (D-72), which would clarify state law to ensure military families that deploy can pay in-state tuition rates at Pennsylvania’s state-owned and state-related universities.
The committee also approved Senate Resolution 136, sponsored by Sens. Jimmy Dillon (D-5) and Frank Farry (R-6), to extend until Nov. 1 the governor’s emergency declaration for the for the I-95 bridge replacement project.
Learn more about Cook and the two bills by reading the rest of the article here.
Senate Unanimously Approves Legislation to Expand Fentanyl Testing
The Senate Wednesday approved legislation I introduced that could save lives by expanding fentanyl testing in Pennsylvania.
Senate Bill 683 would require general acute care hospitals to test for fentanyl and xylazine when treating a person who is receiving a standard, five-panel urine drug screening. A regular opioid test does not currently test for fentanyl and xylazine.
Fentanyl is the No. 1 cause of death for Americans ages 18-45. The fentanyl overdose crisis has affected communities across Pennsylvania.
Xylazine is a lethal tranquilizer that is increasingly being mixed with other illegal drugs – including methamphetamines, cocaine and counterfeit drugs such as Xanax – leading to additional overdose deaths.
A recent Epic Research study showed only 5% of toxicology screens currently test overdose patients for fentanyl. The percentage is even smaller for xylazine testing.
Rapid fentanyl and xylazine testing already exists. Three low-cost reagents have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that can be used with a chemical analyzer to determine if an individual has either drug in his or her system. Hospitals without chemical analyzer equipment can use widely available testing strips.
Learn more about the bill and how it could save lives by reading the rest of the article here.
Senate Works to Reunite Missing Children with Their Families
The Senate approved the Child Reunification Act to provide parents and law enforcement with a new tool to help identify and return missing children.
Senate Bill 460 would provide parents and guardians with free identification kits that include fingerprinting materials, DNA collection swabs and other information to help identify the child in case of an emergency.
The bill would require school districts to distribute the kits to all first graders at no cost to parents. To protect the personal information of children and families, the information would be stored securely by parents and would not be entered into any state or national database.
Work Continues on a New State Budget
This week, our work continues to complete a state budget for the 2023-24 fiscal year. Budget priorities include:
This effort requires a serious approach. We are focused on putting the right plan in place for PA families and taxpayers and ensuring that it is sustainable for this year and in the future.
Supporting Transportation Infrastructure
The Senate has been working on numerous transportation initiatives that would impact ALL areas of our state.
This week, the Senate passed Senate Resolution 136 to extend until Nov. 1 the emergency disaster proclamation issued in response to the collapse of the I-95 bridge in northeast Philadelphia.
Earlier this year, as people struggled with rising costs for all kinds of basic necessities, the Senate voted to protect Pennsylvanians’ wallets and stop the automatic gas tax increase for 2023. It would have been the second-highest gas tax in the nation, behind only California.
In another vote to bolster funding for Pennsylvania’s transportation infrastructure, the Senate passed Senate Bill 121 to restrict the diversion of transportation funding out of the Motor License Fund by the State Police for statewide highway patrol operations. The fund obtains revenue from transportation charges, including the gas tax, vehicle registration fees and driver license fees.
We also recently passed Senate Bill 656 to ensure owners of electric vehicles pay their fair share of road and bridge maintenance by enacting a flat annual fee of $290. Currently, they are required to remit the Alternative Fuels Tax based on the amount of electricity their vehicle uses, but most electric vehicle owners do not do this.
Preventing Overdoses and Easing Strain on EMS Providers
Legislation to allow Emergency Medical Service (EMS) providers responding to drug overdoses to leave a life-saving drug with caregivers received Senate support.
Senate Bill 81 would permit EMS providers to leave a dose of life-saving naloxone, or Narcan, with the on-scene caregiver of a patient who overdosed on opioids and was revived by the emergency medical technician. It would ease the strain on EMS providers by limiting repeat visits.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved naloxone nasal spray for over-the-counter use, with the change going into effect later this summer. Senate Bill 81 would expedite the timeline within Pennsylvania. It would also allow other versions of naloxone, which are still under review for over-the-counter sales, to be distributed by EMS providers.
Another measure to ease the strain on EMS providers, Senate Resolution 120, calls for a study on the dollar amount EMS providers are losing when they aren’t paid for their services.
EMS providers are not reimbursed for the treatment they provide Medicaid patients unless the patient is transported to the hospital or treatment facilities. As a result, the increased number of overdose response calls without transport hurts our EMS providers, which are already struggling financially.
Senate Advances Bill to Combat Elder Abuse
The Senate passed legislation combatting elder abuse and strengthening guardianship laws in Pennsylvania.
Senate Bill 506 would require courts to automatically appoint counsel to individuals undergoing the guardianship process, consider other less restrictive alternatives before imposing a guardianship, and institute training and screening of professional guardians. The bill would also establish more robust review procedures for those currently in a guardianship.
Currently, when an adult of any age is deemed incapacitated by a court, a guardian may be appointed to become responsible for making certain decisions on their behalf, including for financial, medical and personal matters. Pennsylvania is one of only eight states in America that does not automatically appoint counsel to represent alleged incapacitated persons.
Bill to Expand College, Job Training Opportunities Passes Senate
Each year, billions in available student financial aid goes unclaimed. This week, the Senate approved a bill to help more state residents make informed decisions about pursuing college and job training programs.
Senate Bill 750 would require high school seniors to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which determines eligibility for federal, state and school financial aid programs. Families who choose not to complete the application could opt out on a form provided to parents or guardians.
This important measure will help to train more young Pennsylvanians for family-sustaining careers that will anchor them in the commonwealth. When they put their roots down here, our state will benefit economically and attract more employers drawn by the skilled workforce. It furthers the Senate Republican priority of empowering Pennsylvania families through education empowerment and access.
Happy Independence Day
Next week marks 247 years since the 13 American colonies signed the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia to break free from British rule. As we pause to celebrate the birth of our nation, let us take a moment to remember the men and women who sacrificed so much to create this country.
If you are traveling, check out www.511pa.com, which is free and available 24 hours a day. The site provides traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, traffic speed information and access to traffic cameras.
PennDOT will also close its driver license service centers on Tuesday, July 4. Customers may still obtain a variety of driver and vehicle products and services, including all forms, publications and driver training manuals, online through PennDOT’s Driver and Vehicle Services website.
Have a safe and happy July Fourth!
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