House Votes to Empower Victims
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House Votes to Empower Victims

In a historic, bipartisan vote, the House passed legislation that would empower victims of sexual abuse by eliminating the criminal statute of limitations for prosecutions of sexual abuse of minors and extending the civil statute of limitations for lawsuits alleging sexual abuse of minors until the victim reaches 50 years of age.

The bill would also waive sovereign and governmental immunity for claims, and remove caps on damages against governmental parties sued for sexual abuse of minors.

Among its most notable provisions, the House voted to open a two-year statute of limitations window for those victims claiming abuse who are beyond the age of 50.

According to statistics, one-third of victims of child sex abuse disclose the incidents when they are still children, while another one-third never disclose. For the remaining one-third, studies show that the average age to disclose is 52.

This legislation, Senate Bill 261, includes several of the recommendations outlined in the report released in August by the state attorney general. The bill now goes back to the Senate for concurrence.

Another one of the recommendations -- which would increase penalties for mandated reporters who continue to fail to report suspected child abuse and broaden the “continuing course of action” provision -- was reported out of the House Children and Youth Committee on Wednesday. That goes now to the House floor. 
Overcoming Barriers of Welfare Dependency

On Tuesday, I participated in a thoughtful discussion on welfare dependency in our nation with former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum. The briefing, hosted by the House and Senate Republican Policy committees, focused on how to implement welfare reform policies that help people gain employment and improve the quality of life for themselves, their families and future generations.

Among the topics discussed were family leave, shortcomings in our existing public assistance programs, and the unnecessary barriers to work created by bad public policy. Over this last session, each committee has held both hearings and briefings on this topic to uncover new solutions to improve the welfare system, with the ultimate goal of helping as many Pennsylvanians as possible lead empowered, successful lives free of dependency on government assistance. 
House Endorses Domestic Violence Bill to Save Lives

Seeking to help protect victims of domestic violence, the House voted in favor of House Bill 2060, which would take firearms out of the hands of convicted abusers sooner than in existing law. House Bill 2060 would make the relinquishment period 24 hours, rather than the current timeframe of 60 days.

Under House Bill 2060, firearms relinquishment would take place in the case of a conviction for a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence when the defendant has been proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In the case of a civil Protection From Abuse (PFA) order, a judge would order the relinquishment of firearms after a hearing at which evidence is presented and both parties have a chance to speak. A final PFA order cannot exceed three years.

House Bill 2060 would make it mandatory that firearms are relinquished to law enforcement, to an officer of the court, to a licensed firearms dealer or to a commercial armory -- and not to a family member or friend. Relinquishment would only apply after due process is complete and the person has been deemed by the court to be violent and a threat.

The bill now goes to the state Senate for consideration.

Both federal and state criminal law currently prohibit known abusers from having firearms in their possession. No firearms will be taken from responsible gun owners. 
Seventy Years of Serving Our Communities
Congratulations to Central Susquehanna Sight Services Inc. on its 70th anniversary. The organization was first founded as the Lower Susquehanna Branch of the Pennsylvania Association for the Blind, and the name changed to its current one in 1996. Over the years it has continued to provide quality service in the prevention of blindness. In addition to offering vision screenings and low-cost eyewear, CSSS offers a variety of programs about good eye health and eye safety. I recently presented its officials with a congratulatory citation from the state House. Pictured with me were President Jim McCann and CEO Shelly Stroble. 
Broadband Caucus Looks for Ways to Expand Access, Availability

More than 30 members of the state House gathered Tuesday at the state Capitol for the inaugural meeting of the General Assembly’s Broadband Caucus. The goal of the group, which includes members from both sides of the aisle, is to bring access to high-speed internet to unserved and underserved areas of the Commonwealth.

Speakers included representatives from AT&T, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC), Department of Community and Economic Development, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and Pennsylvania State Grange.

Leaders of the caucus have put forward a four-bill package of legislation that would address compliance of non-rural telecommunication carriers, use of existing state communications assets, recommend improvements to the deployment of high-speed broadband services and audit the existing Educational Technology Fund.

The Broadband Caucus considers addressing the lack of access to sufficient broadband internet service to be critical if Pennsylvania wishes to remain economically, medically and personally competitive. 
Welcome, Brett!

Brett Swineford, a student at Lock Haven University, visited me during session at the state Capitol on Wednesday. While at the Capitol, Brett learned more about the state legislative process and sat in on important debate on several pieces of legislation. We are pictured with Jeff Cole, my district office manager. 
Organizations Given Option of Carrying EpiPens

To help save lives in emergency situations, the House unanimously approved legislation this week that would allow law enforcement and a variety of organizations and businesses to carry epinephrine auto-injectors, known as EpiPens.

House Bill 126 would permit a number of entities – law enforcement, recreation camps, colleges, universities, day cares, youth sports leagues, amusement parks, restaurants, places of employment and sports arenas – to stock a supply of EpiPens in the event a patron comes in contact with an allergen and has an anaphylactic reaction, which could be fatal.

Under the bill, a designated employee must receive training in how to recognize signs and symptoms of severe allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis; standards and procedures for the storage and administration of an epinephrine auto-injector; and emergency follow-up procedures. Immunity would be granted for those who reasonably administer the EpiPen in good faith.

Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) reports that as many as 15 million individuals have food allergies, and 6 million of those individuals are children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the prevalence of food allergies in children increased by 50 percent between 1997 and 2011.

The bill has been sent back to the Senate for agreement. 
Keeping Your Septic System Safe

This past week – Sept. 17-21 – was designated SepticSmart Week, and is a good time to check your system to ensure it is in working order.

More than one in five households in the United States depend on individual onsite or small community cluster systems (septic systems) to treat their wastewater. These systems are used to treat and dispose of relatively small volumes of wastewater, usually from houses and businesses located in suburban and rural locations not served by a centralized public sewer system.

In keeping with the national observance, the Pennsylvania Septage Management Association (PSMA) offers the following tips to keep your septic system in good working order: inspect it annually, pump the tank every three to five years, don’t overload the commode, conserve water, plant trees away from tanks, redirect rain water and protect it during cold weather.

More information is available here.  
Emergency Alert to Sound Test Next Week

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in coordination with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), will conduct a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) on Oct. 3.

The wireless portion of the test commences at 2:18 p.m. EDT, and the EAS portion follows at 2:20 p.m. EDT. The test will assess the operational readiness of the infrastructure for distribution of a national message and determine whether improvements are needed.

The WEA test message will be sent to cell phones that are connected to wireless providers participating in WEA. During this time, WEA compatible cell phones that are switched on, within range of an active cell tower and whose wireless provider participates in WEA should be capable of receiving the test message. Some cell phones will not receive the test message, and cell phones should only receive the message once.

The EAS test is made available to EAS participants (i.e., radio and television broadcasters, cable systems, satellite radio and television providers, and wireline video providers) and is scheduled to last approximately one minute. The test message will be similar to regular monthly EAS test messages with which the public is familiar.

The WEA system is used to warn the public about dangerous weather, missing children and other critical situations through alerts on cell phones. The national test will use the same special tone and vibration as with all WEA messages (i.e. tornado warning, AMBER Alert). Users cannot opt out of receiving the WEA test. 
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