Senator Cris Dush E-Newsletter

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In this Update:

  • Legislature Approves Extension of Pandemic Waivers of Government Regulations
  • Senate Acts to Prevent Repeat of Botched Constitutional Amendment Process
  • Program to Battle Opioid Abuse Extended by Senate
  • Senate Passes Measures to Help Pennsylvania Farmers Move Goods
  • Senate Passes Dush Bill to Improve Second Class Township Code
  • Domestic Violence: Identifying the Signs and Getting Help

Legislature Approves Extension of Pandemic Waivers of Government Regulations

The Senate voted to extend waivers of an array of regulatory statutes, rules and regulations to aid in Pennsylvania’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill was approved by the House of Representatives and signed into law.

The waivers affecting health and human services, as well as consumers and employees, were due to expire Thursday. Enactment of the legislation would extend the waivers until March 31, 2022.

In May, voters stripped Gov. Tom Wolf of the authority he claimed to extend emergency declarations without approval of the General Assembly. Delivering on a promise to the people that we work better together, the General Assembly initially extended these waivers as part of the budget in June.

Approval of the following waivers is critical to providing flexibility in managing the pandemic during a workforce shortage crisis:

Waivers Benefiting Consumers and Employees

  • Suspending the requirements for initial patient evaluations for buprenorphine narcotics treatment to be completed via telehealth.
  • Allowing up to 28 days of take-home medications for patients on stable dosages if deemed appropriate by their physician.
  • Quicker access to home health care and home care services by allowing nurse practitioners to sign eligibility forms.
  • Telehealth access for individuals seeking behavioral and mental health services.
  • Flexibilities for visitation in foster care and group home settings for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
  • Temporary removal of barriers to employment by waiving in-person meetings and allowing electronic signature requirements.
  • Flexibility in scheduling and notice for unemployment compensation hearings.
  • Allowing for telephonic testimony and use of documents in unemployment compensation referee hearings. 

Waivers Aiding the Work of Health Care Facilities and Services

  • The ability for acute care hospitals to use alternative locations for overflow, quarantining, and surveillance efforts to help manage the influx of patients in their emergency departments.
  • Flexibilities in staffing health care facilities.
  • The ability for pharmacists to administer COVID-19 vaccinations.
  • Reimbursement for those providing telehealth through the Medical Assistance program.
  • The ability to maintain COVID-19 surveillance efforts within child care and congregate settings to reduce spread and respond to outbreaks.

Senate Acts to Prevent Repeat of Botched Constitutional Amendment Process

The Senate approved two measures aimed at preventing a repeat of the Pennsylvania Department of State’s devastating failure to carry out a proposed constitutional amendment to help victims of sexual abuse.

In the 2019-20 session, the General Assembly approved a proposed constitutional amendment, which would have given voters the opportunity to decide if a two-year window for victims of childhood sexual abuse to file litigation against their abusers should be created. The Department of State admitted earlier this year that it failed to properly advertise the proposed constitutional amendment, preventing the issue from going before voters and forcing the entire effort to be restarted.

One measure would require the Department of State to create a publicly accessible website to provide Pennsylvanians a transparent way to track every step of the constitutional amendment process, including:

  • A copy of the notice and constitutionally required deadline.
  • A listing of every newspaper in which the constitutional amendment notice was published and the date of said publication.
  • The earliest possible Election Day it may be considered by voters.

A second bill would require formal training for the Department’s employees regarding their legislative responsibilities and the constitutional amendment process.

A 68-page Inspector General report on the botched handling of the constitutional amendment showed that some Department of State staff lack the formal training needed to properly handle their responsibilities with legislation.

Both bills now go to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Program to Battle Opioid Abuse Extended by Senate

The Senate approved a bill that continues a program designed to help doctors and pharmacists battle opioid abuse. The program, set to expire on June 30, 2022, would be extended until Dec. 31, 2028. The bill now goes to the governor for enactment.

The measure extends the successful Achieving Better Care by Monitoring All Prescriptions (ABC-MAP) program that allows access to a patient’s prescription medication history through an electronic system to those who prescribe medications and those who dispense medication.

Electronic access to a patient’s prescription medication history allows doctors, pharmacists and other medical professionals to better treat patients. ABC-MAP enables opioid prescribers and dispensers to identify warning signs of abuse including “doctor shopping” and “pharmacy shopping” that occurs when patients attempt to obtain opioid prescriptions from multiple doctors or pharmacies.

Senate Passes Measures to Help Pennsylvania Farmers Move Goods

The Senate passed two measures to help Pennsylvania farmers make home deliveries and meet other transportation needs. The bills were sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

“The passage of these two bills are common sense solutions to helping Pennsylvania’s farmers to cut through the bureaucratic red tape and do their jobs daily,” said Senator Cris Dush (R-25). “These bills will allow farmers to save time and money, which are both vital to farmers.”

One bill would enable a farmer to register a farm vehicle for the delivery of milk and other agricultural products to both businesses and homes. Under current law, a farmer is required to purchase, register and maintain a separate commercial vehicle for home deliveries while also maintaining a farm vehicle to deliver products to businesses.

Another measure would allow farmers to use a Class A, B or C driver’s license when operating farm vehicles with a combined weight of more than 26,000 pounds on roadways.

Act 170 of 2014 clarified that farmers did not need a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) when operating farm trucks, or farm trucks hauling trailers, with a combined weight of more than 26,000 pounds. However, it was unclear as to whether a farmer could use a Class B, Class C or Class A driver’s license when operating those vehicles. A Class A driver’s license is a graduated license above the common Class C license and requires an additional road test and fee.

Senate Passes Dush Bill to Improve Second Class Township Code

This week the state Senate approved a measure that seeks to modernize and improve portions of Pennsylvania’s Second Class Township Code.

“This legislation will provide further consistency among municipal classifications for procedural issues, offer greater autonomy for a township to receive management services and provide good-faith protection to township officials for decision-making,” said Senator Cris Dush (R-25).

Mirroring changes enacted last year for Pennsylvania’s First Class townships, Senate Bill 673 would ensure a Second Class township officer may not be surcharged if the officer acted in good faith reliance on a written, non-confidential opinion of the township’s solicitor or on the solicitor’s publicly stated opinion at an open meeting. However, the protection does not apply if the solicitor’s opinion was rendered under duress or if the parties seeking the opinion colluded to purposefully commit a violation of law.

The legislation also allows a township board of supervisors to appoint a partnership, limited partnership, association or professional corporation as the township manager under a professional services agreement, something Senator Dush said could save Second Class townships some money.

The bill has been sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.  

Domestic Violence: Identifying the Signs and Getting Help

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Help is available if you’re experiencing abuse or concerned about a friend or family member:

Call: 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE)

Text: START to 88788

Chat: At National Domestic Violence Hotline

You can find out how to identify abuse, plan for your safety or help others. You don’t have to take it, and you don’t have to suffer in silence.

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