In this update:
Public hearings to review new contract for contact tracing in PA with many unanswered questions
My latest podcast episode features Representative Jason Ortitay (R-Washington/Allegheny) where we discuss a massive data breach impacting 72,000 Pennsylvanians due to a third-party vendor’s failure to secure personal health records.
Next week, he and I will chair two separate public hearings to review the latest news out of the Department of Health – a proposed $34 million contract with a Boston-based vendor to conduct contact tracing in Pennsylvania.
This 27-minute episode sheds more light on the overall issue of the data breach suffered under the prior vendor the Department of Health contracted with to the tune of over $22 million of YOUR tax dollars.
If you want to tune in to the hearings next week, you can set a reminder on your calendar for the following:
The House State Government Subcommittee on Governmental Operations, chaired by Ortitay, will hold a public hearing to review the state’s emergency procurement process in light of this latest multi-million-dollar contract. The hearing will be held on Tuesday, July 20, at 1 p.m. in Room G-50 of the Irvis Office Building at the state Capitol.
The committee I chair will hold a public hearing to review this latest contract with Public Consulting Group on Wednesday, July 21, at 10 a.m. The hearing will be held in Hearing Room No. 1 of the North Office Building at the state Capitol.
All information, including who is testifying at these hearings, can be found here.
2021 legislative roundup: children & families
Among the key bills passed by the Senate in the first half of the year are several that strengthen protections for children and older Pennsylvanians. They include:
Act 20 of 2021 aligns the Family Caregiver Support Act with federal standards, expands the definition of “care receiver” to add a child being raised by a grandparent and an adult with a disability who is cared for by an older adult, and makes other changes to help families.
Act 42 of 2021 allows a criminal justice agency to share information relating to an allegation or instance of child abuse with a county agency or the Department of Human Services to investigate, or with a children’s advocacy center to provide services to investigating agencies.
Act 48 of 2021 gives the Attorney General’s office concurrent jurisdiction with county district attorneys to investigate individuals who use their position of trust to financially exploit older adults and care-dependent people.
Act 49 of 2021 targets elder abuse by making it a misdemeanor for a professional caretaker to post pictures of care-dependent individuals on social media without permission with the intent to ridicule or demean.
Act 53 of 2021 increases the penalties for those convicted of child pornography and permits the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing to increase penalties for those convicted of the sexual abuse of children when the victim is known to the defendant.
A complete list of notable bills passed by the Senate this year can be found here.
State government merger to save taxpayer dollars
Legislation merging the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and the Board of Probation and Parole was recently signed into law.
The new law transfers supervision of offenders and certain administrative functions from the Board to the Department but preserves parole decision–making responsibilities within the Board.
The merger is projected to save taxpayers $29.6 million through 2023 when fully implemented by eliminating redundant procedures and sharing of resources and personnel.
Preventing child deaths in hot cars
Since 1998, an average of one child per year has died in Pennsylvania after being left in a hot car. All of these tragic deaths could have been prevented.
More than half of pediatric vehicular heat stroke deaths involve children under 2 years of age. By far, the leading circumstance is children forgotten by a caregiver.
The National Safety Council advises parents and caregivers to stick to a routine and avoid distractions to reduce the risk of forgetting a child. Place a purse, briefcase or even a left shoe in the back seat to force you to take one last look before walking away. Keep car doors locked so children cannot gain access and teach them that cars are not play areas. And look in the back seat before you leave and lock your vehicle.
Touring Terra Farms in Spring Grove
This week I visited Terra Farms and their U-Pick flower field located in Codorus Township. The owners, Andy and Loni, have a passion for growing beautiful flowers and leaving the land better than they found it.
You can walk through their field and see the variety of flowers that are grown right here in York County. Their U-Pick program is a great opportunity to learn more about the flowers that you can cut and arrange yourself, creating your own bouquet of locally grown flowers. We had a great discussion about the benefits of the recently enacted law dealing with agritourism liability protection, which I sponsored in the Senate.
Their field is open for U-Pick every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, June through October.
Thank you to Terra Farms for showing me the farm! Learn more about Terra Farms here.
You can see more pictures from this magnificent property on my Instagram.
Increased unemployment compensation fraud and identity theft
The federally approved $300 per week for unemployment compensation claimants continues to be a major target for these criminals.
What to do when someone files for unemployment benefits using your identity:
Start a recovery plan with the Federal Trade Commission at identitytheft.gov.
Work search requirements reinstated for individuals applying for unemployment compensation
After being delayed due to the pandemic, the Department of Labor and Industry reinstated work search requirements for individuals seeking unemployment compensation benefits with the week ending July 17.
Applicants certifying their claim on July 18 will have to track their work searches from the prior week.
All information is posted to the department’s website listing many FAQs for this reinstated requirement.
Supporting local farmers
I recently had the opportunity to join the York County Farm Bureau at its ice cream social to discuss issues of concern to our York County farmers. During the meeting, we discussed efforts I sponsored in the Senate, alongside Representative Barb Gleim (R-Cumberland) to provide for limited liability protection for our farmers, especially with the rise in agritourism across York County and the Commonwealth.
I am happy to note that since this meeting, Rep. Gleim’s bill was signed into law, as I mentioned in an earlier email update.
You can view photos from the event on Instagram here.
Upcoming PennDOT projects
PennDOT provided its list of upcoming scheduled maintenance projects, which you can view below.