Harrisburg Happenings

Senate Approves Cost-saving Legislation for Schools

The Senate approved legislation I introduced that will allow school districts to save thousands of dollars in annual mailing costs.

Senate Bill 1077 eliminates the mandate that school districts annually inform parents by physical mailing when the district uses audio and video recording to identify and address discipline issues on school buses.

The mailer mandate was included as part of Act 9 of 2014, which gave school districts the ability to use audio recordings on school buses. Instead of the physical mailing, which can easily cost thousands of dollars each year, schools must post notice of the policy in the student handbook as well as on the school’s website.

Student handbooks outlining rules and procedures are already posted on each school’s publically accessible website. Parents have to acknowledge they have read and understand the rules and procedures by an electronic signature. There is no need to require a separate, physical mailing each year for this one specific policy. This will save taxpayer dollars.

Senate Bill 1077 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration. Also sent to the House for consideration this week were:

Senate Bill 359, which revises Pennsylvania’s truancy laws by providing new procedures to be followed when a child becomes truant and additional procedures if a child becomes habitually truant.

Senate Bill 1062, which increases penalties for home invasion burglaries.

Senate Bill 1144, which prohibits the sale of over-the-counter cough medicines containing dextromethorphan to minors.

Senate Bill 1156, which requires health care personnel and clergy to obtain background checks.  

Senate Bill 1229, which I introduced corrects technical issues related to the distribution of Pennsylvania Breeding Funds.

Teacher Furlough Reform Bill Sent to Governor

The Senate gave final approval Monday to legislation that would keep the best teachers in the classroom and boost student achievement by ending the practice of seniority-based layoffs.

House Bill 805, known as the Protecting Excellent Teachers Act, would strengthen the teaching profession and boost student success by ensuring that school districts use teacher performance to guide furlough and reinstatement decisions. Performance ratings would be based on the comprehensive statewide educator evaluation system adopted in 2012, under which observed educators are assigned a rating of distinguished, proficient, needs improvement or failing. House Bill 805 prohibits school districts from using a teacher’s pay and benefits as determining factors for any layoff decision.

Currently, teacher layoffs are conducted in order of inverse seniority. The last teacher hired is the first person fired. Pennsylvania is one of only a few states that require seniority to be the sole factor in determining layoffs. House Bill 805 now goes to the Governor’s desk.

Four additional bills were also sent to the Governor this week.

House Bill 400 establishes the “Work Experience for High School Students with Disabilities Act.”

Senate Bill 811 provides for the Fiscal Year 2015-16 Capital Budget.

House Bill 1200 repeals part of an Act from 1903 that requires railroads under bridges or viaducts to pay maintenance fees.

House Bill 1788 clarifies circumstances in Philadelphia in which a Neighborhood Improvement District overlaps with a Tax Increment Financing district.

Senate Approves Anti-hazing Bill

The Senate approved legislation on Monday intended to protect students from harmful hazing rituals at Pennsylvania schools.

House Bill 1574 makes changes to the Anti-hazing Law. Currently, the offense of hazing is limited to offenses at a college or university as a condition for initiation or admission into an organization affiliated with that college or university. House Bill 1574 expands the offense to include hazing done as a condition for initiation or admission into any organization.

Currently, institutions of higher education must adopt written anti-hazing policies and rules for their enforcement. House Bill 1574 expands that requirement to public and private high schools.

The bill returns to the House of Representative for concurrence on Senate amendments.

The Senate also returned House Bill 944 to the House for a concurrence vote. The bill addresses the management of neighborhood improvement districts in the City of Philadelphia.

Also returned to the House for a concurrence vote was House Bill 1310, which provides privacy and protects the safety of individuals who call 911 to report crimes.
Senator Killion Sworn Into Office

Senator Tom Killion was sworn into office during a Wednesday ceremony in the Senate Chamber. He was elected to the Senate on April 26 under a special election to represent the citizens of the 9th Senatorial District, which includes portions of Chester and Delaware counties.

Prior to joining the Senate, he served as a State Representative for the 168th Legislative District and was Chairman of the Delaware County Council. He also founded two local small businesses. Senator Killion and his wife Eileen live in Middletown and have two adult daughters.

The Senate returned to its full complement of 50 members: 31 Republicans and 19 Democrats.

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