In this update:
Governor signs my anti-human trafficking bill as first law of 2020
A new measure signed into law earlier this week by Governor Wolf would place significant penalties on criminals who solicit or advertise the sexual services of victims of human trafficking.
The new law, called the “Buyer Beware Act,” builds on recent efforts over the last few years by the General Assembly to curb human trafficking in the Commonwealth.
This new law flips the conversation from punishing victims labeled as prostitutes to those who sell or solicit their services.
Human trafficking is a big business that exists in every corner of our Commonwealth and this is the big step Pennsylvania needed to take in order to shut down this devastating crime destroying so many innocent lives.
Act 1 of 2020 will subject individuals to a first-degree felony charge if the criminal recruits, harbors, entices, transports, or advertises human trafficking victims subject to sexual servitude. The bill also significantly increases monetary penalties on criminals who patronize a victim of human trafficking as well.
This new law would not have been possible without the assistance of Representative Seth Grove (R-York), Representative Wendi Thomas (R-Bucks) and York County’s District Attorney Dave Sunday, all of whom played an integral role in the creation of this legislation.
Read more about Act 1 of 2020 here.
Below, I am pictured with House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster), Representative Grove and District Attorney Sunday.
You can watch a short video below about this new law below.
Budget proposal looks to grow state spending by more than 4 percent
Before a joint session of the General Assembly, Governor Wolf outlined his vision for the 2020-2021 fiscal year, which starts July 1, 2020.
The governor proposed a $36.1 billion budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which is a $1.5 billion, or 4.2 percent increase from the budget for the current fiscal year.
Wolf would pay for this additional spending by enacting a tax on our natural gas, along with higher fees for trash companies and a new fee for state police coverage. You can see a complete breakdown of the spending in your state budget proposed by the governor here.
The state budget proposal by the governor represents the starting point in the budget process. I am very concerned about budgetary spending growth that would take our state budget over $36 billion, coupled with an ax to important programs within our state Department of Agriculture.
Meanwhile the governor continues to roll in overspending from our current budget into next year’s budget, which over the past two years has exceeded $1.4 billion. This type of deceptive budgeting is a major concern for me.
Taxpayers have had enough of the shenanigans – when we agree to a budget at the end of June, the state must live within its means.
If the governor wants to spend more than that agreed-to amount, he should absolutely have to have that appropriation pass the General Assembly in the same manner the budget is approved.
That is why Representative Grove and I have proposed a constitutional amendment to shore up our budgetary process because these gimmicks are leading us to a point of no return for taxpayers.
You can read an op-ed I recently wrote on this topic and how a constitutional amendment can make your state budget more transparent and move the governor – regardless of political party – to stop overspending.
Finally, I wish the governor fought as hard for meaningful school property tax elimination like he has for a tax on our natural gas. I will continue to fight for the people who pay our bills to ensure we are not jeopardizing our long-term financial stability by overspending with no accountability.
Measure to curb opioid abuse, save taxpayer dollars lands on governor’s desk
The Senate of Pennsylvania gave final approval to a bill I sponsored on Tuesday that would improve oversight of prescriptions to reduce the risk of opioid abuse.
Under the legislation, Medicaid Managed Care Organizations (MCOs) would have access to the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP). The PDMP was created in 2014 in an effort to provide greater monitoring over prescription drugs and potential abuse.
Allowing the MCOs to query the PDMP will provide greater collaboration and data when it comes to prescription drug abuse and misuse.
The legislation includes a provision that requires an MCO to notify the Attorney General and the Department of Human Services if it is believed that a controlled substance was prescribed or dispensed fraudulently.
The bill is currently on Governor Wolf’s desk awaiting his signature. According to media reports, the governor will sign this important bill to take the next step in our fight against opioid abuse.
It was great to provide an update on this bill to the York Opioid Collaborative meeting I attended Thursday morning.
Learn more about this bill here.
Ensuring your data at state level is secure
On Wednesday, the Senate Communications and Technology Committee, which I chair, held a hearing on the state’s efforts to secure and safeguard your data.
The hearing was important to learn more about best practices across the country when it comes to data privacy to implement at the state level to ensure sensitive information that citizens submit to obtain certain government documents, like a birth certificate or a driver’s license, does not fall into the wrong hands.
The state has had several data breaches in the last few years, including a major breach within the Department of Education that exposed teacher information.
The hearing featured testimony from Senator Dan Laughlin (R-Erie), who is sponsoring legislation to amend the state’s Breach of Personal Information Notification Act. (You can read more about his bill here.) We also heard testimony from the National Conference of State Legislatures, and Unisys, a company that specializes in IT security.
You can learn more about this hearing here, or watch it in its entirety in the video below.
Pastor Bower of Praise Community Church opens Senate session
Many thanks to Pastor Adam Bower of Praise Community Church, who opened our Senate session in prayer on Monday.
Pastor Bower was joined by Joe D’Orsie of the church. I am very grateful they could join us this past week and serve as our Senate’s guest chaplain.
Discussing economic development in York City
On Thursday, I joined Secretary Dennis Davin of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, the York County Economic Alliance team, Downtown York, and our County Commissioners for a walking tour of the City of York.
The visit was to highlight some of the great work underway to revitalize the downtown. Our tour included stops at Sapio Sciences, the Grotto, Prince Street Cafe, York, Prince Street Cafe and Gift Horse Brewing Company.
You can view more photos of Secretary Davin’s visit on my Instagram.
Low-interest loan awarded for Glen Rock Hose and Ladder Co.
Representative Kate Klunk (R-York) and I were thrilled to announce our local Glen Rock Hose and Ladder Co. will receive a low-interest loan from the Pennsylvania State Fire Commissioner’s Volunteer Loan Assistance Program, also known as VLAP.
Glen Rock Hose and Ladder are using the loan for their new 2019 Sutphen Monarch heavy-duty rescue pumper with a 500-gallon tank replaces the company’s Pierce Heavy duty rescue, which has been in service for nearly 20 years.
Jeffrey Dell, President of Glen Rock Hose and Ladder, said, “This loan has been a very crucial part in allowing us to improve the services we provide. We have been able to replace an aging piece with a state-of-the-art vehicle that is a dual piece unit, meaning that it can be used as a suppression pumper for fires or, as a rescue, utilizing a number of tools that is carried on it.”
Learn more about this new addition to Glen Rock’s volunteer fire community here.
Senate sends bill to House to clarify who qualifies for workers compensation at local fire companies
Critical members of volunteer fire companies, ambulance corps and rescue squads who are injured in the line of duty would qualify for workers’ compensation coverage under a bill approved by the Senate earlier this week.
Legislation I sponsored along with Senator Scott Martin (R-Lancaster) would ensure coverage for all active volunteers and integral members of a volunteer fire, ambulance or rescue company insured through the State Workers Insurance Fund (SWIF).
This issue was brought to me by a local constituent who was denied worker’s compensation after being injured during a fire company carnival. This bill will provide peace of mind to all volunteers across the Commonwealth to ensure that no matter the capacity in which you volunteer, that the law protects you.
You can learn more about this legislation, which is now pending in the House of Representatives, here.
Helping Boy Scout Troop 54 earn Citizenship in the Community Badge
On Wednesday night, I joined Boy Scout Troop 54 at Roundtown Elementary School to assist them in earning their Citizenship in the Community Badge.
We discussed the obligations of citizenship and how state government works. I really enjoyed the Q&A with these bright individuals and really appreciate the time they spent with me.
They asked very thoughtful questions and are on a great path to becoming our future leaders!
Meeting Fig, a rescue dachshund advocating for Victoria’s Law
One of the Capitol’s most effective lobbyists in recent years has been Libre, the dog rescued from a puppy mill that was completely mistreated and malnourished. Libre’s story brought a series of new laws aimed at protecting pets and ensuring their safety.
On Monday, Fig, who is the product of a puppy mill, was in the Capitol to “lobby” for Victoria’s Law, a bill aimed at shutting down unscrupulous puppy mills in the Commonwealth. You can read more about this bill, which I am cosponsoring, here.
Fig is now in her forever home with her rescuer, Grace Herbert, a very strong advocate for animals all across our state. It was such a great surprise this week to meet Fig!
Mobile Office in York City this upcoming Thursday (Feb. 13)
On Thursday, February 13 from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m., our office will be in the City of York as part of our ongoing commitment to make your state Senate more accessible to you. More details can be found here.