Harrisburg Happenings

A report on the Legislative Session Week of January 13, 2014

Legislature sends bills to Governor for enactment into law

Several bills received final legislative approval this week and were sent to the Governor for his signature and enactment into law.

Senate Bill 29 requires health care providers to immediately report if a newborn is identified as being affected by prenatal exposure to illegal substances. Upon receipt of the report, the county agency shall perform an assessment and determine whether child protective services or general protective services are warranted.

House Bill 261 provides specific authority to all 29 licensing boards and commissions within the Department of State’s Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs to suspend or revoke a license for failure to pay a fine or cost assessed as a result of a disciplinary proceeding. Currently, only nine of the 29 licensing boards and commissions have specific authority to suspend or revoke a license for failure to pay a fine. The bill would also permit any associated unpaid fines, costs and interest that are equal or greater than $1,000 to be entered as a judgment at the Commonwealth Court. This process is already used for collection of unpaid criminal fines and taxes.

Senate Bill 689 provides courts with guidelines to follow during custody disputes and divorce proceedings to help identify at risk families, as well as provide a method in which a party to a child custody order may seek, through a petition process, a supplemental order establishing anti-child abduction measures.

House Bill 807 amends state law providing for the use of funds by volunteer firefighters’ relief associations. Currently, if multiple companies share a single Volunteer Firefighters Relief Association (VFRA) only one member of the relief association may attend a convention or meeting and have his or her expenses reimbursed by the association. This measure would allow each fire company to send a representative to a convention or meeting and have their expenses reimbursed.

House Bill 1529 amends the Second Class Township Code to allow for the electronic filing of enacted ordinances and authorizes the county to set up electronic storage of filed ordinances.

House Bill 1584 amends state law to specifically give waterways and wildlife conservation officers the discretion to issue warnings in lieu of making arrests or issuing citations.

House Bill 1656 repeals Act 213 of 1984, requiring a physician to obtain a signed informed consent form from a patient for the treatment of breast disease.

Senate approves measure to support local emergency responders

The Senate unanimously approved a bill on Tuesday that would provide an additional funding resource to train emergency responders. Senate Bill 707 amends the Volunteer Firefighters’ Relief Association Act to allow for the use of relief funds to pay for advanced life support (ALS) or paramedic (EMT-P) training.

Current law authorizes the use of volunteer firefighters’ relief association funds for sixteen separate categorized items, including attending firefighters’ training schools. However, it does not allow for payment of costs related to ALS or EMT-P training.

This legislation expands the authorized use of funds to allow for the payment of reasonable expenses incurred for attending emergency medical technician or paramedic training schools. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Bill would provide funding flexibility for Allegheny Medical Examiner

The Senate approved a measure on Monday amending state law to authorize the Allegheny County Medical Examiner to use funds collected from certain reports with more flexibility.

Currently, county coroners across the state receive funds from autopsy, toxicology, inquisition or coroner’s reports that may be utilized for training of the coroner and deputy coroner under the Coroners Education Board Act.  However, Allegheny County no longer has a coroner’s office, but instead has an appointed Medical Examiner and also operates its own crime lab, making it unique.

Senate Bill 1185, which is supported by the Allegheny County Executive, the Allegheny County Medical Examiner, and the Pennsylvania Coroners Association, would allow the Allegheny County Medical Examiner to use the funds for related purposes, such as its crime lab, under the Coroners Education Board Act.

The measure now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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