Looking Back as We Prepare to Move Pennsylvania Forward As 2020 is now under way, we will continue to take action as we move Pennsylvania forward, working to successfully improving how people live, work and play in Pennsylvania. At the opening of this legislative session, Speaker Turzai declared our focus would be “Family-sustaining jobs, educational opportunities, bettering our communities, and working together to eliminate the scourge of opioids are some of the common goals we will tackle together, Republican and Democrat, over the next two years.” We have successfully followed that mandate as we have been standing up for our constituents' interests by with such actions as modernizing how people vote, allowing more hunting opportunities, and making snow days a thing of the past. Once again, we passed a responsible state budget which funded our priorities without tax increases and invested in the Rainy Day Fund. Other top issues include: 1. Election modernization – the most comprehensive package of reforms in 80 years 2. Child sexual abuse protections and lifting the statute of limitations 3. Healthier PA by creating a Pennsylvania insurance exchange - lowering healthcare costs 4. Grow PA Agriculture Package – a comprehensive package of bills to help Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry grow and thrive. 5. CTE education expansion – to prepare people for jobs, jobs, jobs 6. Helpers and Heroes - what if you call 911 and no one comes? We fixed that. Now, here are some of the notable bills which became law… Government Done Right Election Modernization We modernized our system to strengthen the security of our elections, ensured voting is convenient and accessible to all eligible voters, provided new opportunities for voters, and ensured voters vote for the person – not the party. Act 77 of 2019 reduces barriers to vote and provides all citizens the opportunity to cast a vote for their candidate of choice. People (registered voters) finding it difficult to get to the polls, can now cast their ballot from the convenience of their kitchen table without excuse through mail-in voting starting with the April 28 primary. Beginning with November’s General Election is the elimination of straight-party voting that allowed voters to cast their votes for all the candidates on the Republican or Democratic tickets with the touch of one button. The revised voter registration deadline will provide all our citizens the full opportunity to participate in our republic and cast a vote for their candidate of choice - voters can register up until 15 days before an election, instead of the 30 days that has been the rule. Public Officials Do the Crime… They Won’t Get a Pension Dime Following three sessions of House-passage, public officials who commit a job-related crime will be held accountable and lose their pension – no exceptions. In fact, it is Act 1 of 2019 - Pension forfeiture for any job-related felony offense. Elected officials and public employees are now on notice that they can no longer abuse power and expect the public to pay them for their forced retirement. No More Unaccountable Cash Assistance While House Republicans support and continue to fund programs and services helping those who are truly in need – from single parents, pregnant women, disabled veterans and the elderly, the state cash program fraught with fraud and abuse (according to several Auditor General reports) has finally ended thanks to Act 12 of 2019. Do-Not-Call … And We Mean It! Tired of those darned solicitation calls? Residents can now permanently register their phone number on the state’s “Do Not Call” list. Act 73 of 2019 updated the law so that now once you register your telephone number on the Do Not Call registry, it’s permanent – or at least as long as the subscriber has that phone number or doesn’t request to be removed. If your number is not on the list and you want it to be added, you can register it by visiting the attorney general’s website at attorneygeneral.gov or by calling 1-888-777-3406. Sunday Hunting Starting this year, Pennsylvania hunters with have three Sunday’s to hit the woods and legally hunt. Act 107 of 2019 allows the Game Commission to pick which three Sundays that hunting will be permitted. One of them will be at the commission’s discretion. One will be during archery deer season, which runs late September through late November and late December through late January, and the third will be a Sunday during the firearms deer season, which runs late November through mid-December. Educating for Success Career and Technical Education We are preparing students/workers for careers with Act 76 of 2019. This law will enhance career and technical education, job training and workforce development to help prepare Pennsylvania students for the workforce and attract employers and economic development to the Commonwealth. No More School Snow Days? Act 64 of 2019 gives school districts an option when snowy, icy or hot weather or other situations arise that force buildings to close. Instead of just tacking another day on the end of the school year or taking away a scheduled day off, schools can have up to five flexible instruction days each year. On these days, students are given assignments they are to complete at home and that allows the day to count toward the required 180-day school year. Ag, PA's Top Industry Preserving Ag Heritage The so-called Pennsylvania Farm Bill is actually a multi-bill package. One provides for personal income tax credits, starting this year, for farmers who sell or lease their land and assets to beginning farmers and offering an incentive to keep the land in agricultural production. Another gives money to help seed new or expand existing dairy-related businesses to better market Pennsylvania milk (Act 38). Another provides state-level Specialty Crop Block Grants, establishes the Pennsylvania Agricultural Business Development Center, reestablishes the former Agriculture and Rural Youth Development Program and creates an Urban Agricultural Infrastructure Grant Program (Act 40). Other measures include one that creates a PA Farm to School Grant Program (Act 34) for pre-kindergarten through fifth grade students to support increased nutrition and agriculture education. And another component to fund the ongoing fight against the Spotted Lanternfly, an insect that can be destructive to grape, tree-fruit, hardwood, nursery and landscape industries (Act 35). Act 36 creates a grant program to reimburse federal meat inspection costs for small or new processors and encourages veterans to participate in the PA Preferred and Homegrown by Heroes program: Act 37 reestablishes a low-interest loan program to assist with implementation of agricultural and conservation best management practices. Smart Justice Statute of Limitations Victims of child sexual abuse now have more time to seek justice against their abusers in Pennsylvania. After several sessions of House passage to change the state’s criminal and civil statutes of limitation for child sex abuse, Act 87 of 2019 became reality. Now anyone who commits a serious sexual abuse against a child can potentially be criminally prosecuted as long as they live. Criminal Justice Reform Acting to modernize Pennsylvania’s probation and parole system, Act 114 and Act 115 will better enable rehabilitation and reward those individuals who show they have rehabilitated by getting them out of the criminal justice system quicker – with the tools to succeed. This will reduce recidivism and help formerly incarcerated individuals avoid the technical pitfalls that keep them trapped within the system. Some safety mechanisms were included such as an automatic six-month to one-year jail sentence for a parolee who continually ignores parole conditions, such as going to treatment or counseling. >> Read a more comprehensive review of 2019 legislative accomplishments here.