In this Update:
Senate Approves Mastriano Bill to Double Prison Time for Drug Dealers Responsible for Overdose Deaths
The state Senate today approved through a bipartisan vote a bill introduced by Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-33) that would enact harsher criminal penalties on drug dealers who sell drugs that lead to a death.
“Pennsylvanians are dying because drug dealers are lacing their products with lethal doses of fentanyl,” Mastriano said. “People we know and love are being poisoned to death. The victims in this poisoning crisis deserve justice. This bill makes a bold statement that here in Pennsylvania, you cannot kill our citizens and get away without facing severe consequences.”
Mastriano’s 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 kill Pennsylvanians can be back out on the streets in two years or less.
The latest numbers from the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing show the average offender convicted under the statute from 2017-2021 received a sentence of less than five years. A significant number of offenders received no jail time at all.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were more than 100,000 fentanyl- and opioid-related deaths in 2021, representing a 15% increase from 2020.
Mastriano 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. Tyler lived in the Senate district Mastriano represents.
Following Tyler’s death, his mom, Laura Shanafelter, learned the dealer who poisoned her son was back on the streets shortly after her son was killed. Laura has since become an advocate for holding drug dealers accountable.
“It’s heartbreaking to hear about young Pennsylvanians unknowingly ingesting fentanyl and being poisoned to death,” Mastriano said. “The family members and friends of fentanyl poisoning victims are crying out for justice and my bill would deliver it. Drug dealers who kill Pennsylvanians should spend hard time behind bars.”
Mastriano’s harsher penalties would not apply to drug users who share drugs with family members or friends, or those who seek medical help for individuals who overdose.
Senate Bill 235 now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Bill to Provide New Career Paths for Individuals in Recovery Passes Senate
Individuals in recovery for substance use disorder would be able to maintain meaningful employment and chart a new path under a pilot program approved by the Senate.
Senate Bill 69 would create a Recovery to Work pilot program to connect individuals in recovery with high-priority occupations through local workforce development boards. The boards would work with the treatment and recovery community as well as local employers and training providers to find job training and employment opportunities.
The pilot program would be led by the Department of Labor and Industry with the assistance of the departments of Health, Community and Economic Development, and Drug and Alcohol Programs, as well as the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.
Senate Votes to Improve Bridge Maintenance and Safety
This week, the Senate passed legislation to make state funding available for local bridge projects.
Currently, state Motor License Fund dollars are made available for the construction and repair of county bridges. While the funds are used to repair county-owned bridges, spending guidance fails to note how the funds could be used for bridges owned by municipalities within the counties. As a result, municipal bridges suffer and go without repair while remaining funds go unused due to ambiguous guidance.
Senate Bill 799 would give counties the flexibility they need to fund local bridge projects.
Bill Offering Free Credit Monitoring to Data Breach Victims Receives Senate Support
The Senate approved legislation to strengthen notification requirements for data breaches and provide affected citizens with free credit monitoring.
Senate Bill 824 would provide citizens affected by a data breach a free credit report and a year of credit monitoring while they recover. The bill also strengthens state notification requirements and requires Attorney General notification if a data breach occurs in the commonwealth.
The measure would cover instances in which an individual’s first and last name or first initial and last name have been accessed in combination with any of the following information: Social Security number, bank account number, driver’s license or state ID number.
Recognizing Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Every October, we recognize Breast Cancer Awareness Month. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime, but early detection can drastically increase the survival rate. Take action by scheduling regular clinical breast exams and mammograms.
Of course, my colleagues and I work throughout the year to support people facing breast cancer. We passed comprehensive breast cancer screening legislation earlier this year that eliminated out-of-pocket costs for necessary BRCA testing and screening for high-risk Pennsylvanians.
This week, we also supported a resolution highlighting metastatic breast cancer – stage four when cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Despite advancements in medical science, metastatic breast cancer remains incurable.
Stocking PA’s Waters with Trout
Pennsylvania’s waterways are being restocked with approximately 117,500 hatchery-raised adult Rainbow, Brown and Brook Trout in 119 stream sections and lakes. The effort, which began this week, will continue through mid-December.
The stockings will replenish popular fishing spots across the state and provide ice fishing opportunities. Review the trout stocking schedules here. They are subject to change because of water temperature fluctuations and hatchery logistics.
Trout that are stocked during fall and winter can be fished for immediately. Anglers ages 16 and older must have a valid Pennsylvania fishing license and trout permit. You can buy 2023 fishing licenses and permits online or at a retail license issuing agent.
Tour State Game Lands on Oct. 8 and 15
Across the commonwealth, you can tour state game lands the next two Sundays: Oct. 8 and 15. The drive-through tours, offered by the Pennsylvania Game Commission, are free and held rain or shine for vehicles licensed to travel on public roads.
The tours offer the opportunity to learn about the historical aspects of the game lands and the habitat improvements being made on them.
Find specific locations and times for the tours here.