Senator Ward, J E-Newsletter

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In this Update:

  • Legislative Reapportionment Commission Update
  • 2021 Legislative Roundup: Children & Families
  • State Government Merger to Save Taxpayer Dollars
  • Preventing Child Deaths in Hot Cars
  • Increased Unemployment Compensation Fraud and Identity Theft
  • Online Education & Nurse Aide Training Program
  • Contamination Source Identification Tour
  • Welcoming Visitors to the Capitol


Legislative Reapportionment Commission Update

The Pennsylvania Legislative Reapportionment Commission held an administrative meeting and public hearing Tuesday to focus on staffing, census data, primary election deadlines and reapportionment criteria.

You can view the agenda and video here.

The Pennsylvania Constitution requires that the legislative districts for the state House of Representatives and Senate be redrawn each decade following the federal census. This process is mandated so that each citizen’s vote ultimately carries the same weight in the ballot box. The Legislative Reapportionment Commission consists of five members: two members of both parties and a chair.

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.

Increased Unemployment Compensation Fraud and Identity Theft

According to the Department of Labor and Industry, unemployment phishing attempts are at an all-time high. Before clicking on any link or responding to suspicious messages, claimants are asked to review all verified UC contact methods.

What to do when someone files for unemployment benefits using your identity:

Online Education & Nurse Aide Training Program 

SB 729 which I introduced, would authorize online delivery for the classroom and theory component of the state-approved nurse aide training program. Presently, the state-approved nurse aide training program is comprised of at least 120-hours of in-class and clinical training. While learning has traditionally taken place in a bricks-and-mortar classroom, times have changed.  More and more students are pursuing their education online. According to a Babson Survey Research Group report entitled “Grade Increase: Tracking Distance Education in the United States”, distance education enrollments have increased for the 14th straight year. The study indicated that 31.6% of all students now take at least one distance (online) education course. In addition, online learning has grown significantly since the outbreak of COVID-19 as schools and universities were forced to provide distance education.

Recognizing the increasing role that online education is playing in learning, I believe we need to update the current program requirements for nurse aide training to allow individuals the ability to take courses online in satisfying the educational portion of their instruction. This revision would allow more individuals who have an interest in being a CNA to consider it by taking classes online and help address a long-standing labor shortage issue that the nursing home industry has been facing. Online courses would offer individuals the flexibility of taking classes on their own schedule and the convenience of completing assignments from home.

Contamination Source Identification Tour

I  recently toured the Huntingdon facility of Contamination Source Identification (CSI), which is committed to revolutionizing the standard of diagnostics by providing the first and only RNA sequencing test for tickborne diseases, such as Lyme disease. With faster identification turn-around times and state-of-the-art equipment, CSI is helping physicians to deliver accurate treatment earlier, preventing the disease from developing additional symptoms and long-term effects. CSI operates out of the Juniata College Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership.

Welcoming Visitors to the Capitol  

This week Representative Paul Schemel and I welcomed constituents from Greencastle, Franklin County to the Capitol.

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