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Bill Strengthening Penalties for Drug Dealers Moves Closer to Enactment
Heroin and opioid addiction has impacted families throughout the country, and addressing this crisis is among my highest priorities in the Senate. This week, a bill I introduced that would help hold drug dealers more accountable for the damages they cause moved closer to a full vote in the Senate.
The scope of the addiction crisis is often measured in the number of deaths resulting from drug use, but this statistic ignores the numerous individuals who have suffered serious injuries and lifelong impairments. Heroin laced with other drugs, such as fentanyl, has led to more overdose deaths and more complications for those who survive an overdose.
Compounding this problem is the fact that local prosecutors cannot seek stronger penalties for the drug dealers that cause these injuries because Pennsylvania does not have a specific statute pertaining to serious bodily injury resulting from an overdose. These cases are often turned over to the Office of the United States Attorneys, which has created a serious backlog of casework.
Senate Bill 662 would strengthen penalties for the delivery or distribution of an illicit drug that results in serious bodily injury to the user. My bill would help local prosecutors seek justice on behalf of victims promptly, and without the need to hand cases off to federal authorities.
The bill was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee, which is the final hurdle to be cleared before a vote by the full Senate. More details about my bill are available here.
I was proud to stand with my colleagues in the General Assembly and Governor Wolf as Senate Bill 1 was recently signed into law. The legislation is one of the most significant pension reform measures passed by any state in the country.
Proposal Would Ensure Consolidation is Considered Carefully and Responsibly
As part of his budget address in February, Governor Wolf proposed the consolidation of the departments of Aging, Drug and Alcohol Programs, Health, and Human Services. Although this idea could potentially reduce costs to taxpayers and is worthy of consideration, these agencies also oversee some of the most important services available to some of our most vulnerable citizens. It is critical to ensure that if these agencies merge into a single department, the consolidation is completed carefully and responsibly.
Along with my colleagues Senators Lisa Baker and Michele Brooks, I recently announced plans to create a resolution to study the issue and determine the best way to move forward. The resolution calls for the appointment of an intermediary to examine all available options and determine the amount of money that could be saved and how a consolidation plan could be implemented with minimal impacts on providers and citizens.
More information about the plan is available here.
I had a chance to meet with some of the future leaders of Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry during 4-H Government Day in Greene County.
I was proud this week to support passage of a comprehensive re-write of Pennsylvania’s animal protection laws, including the provisions of Libre’s Law – a measure to strengthen penalties for animal cruelty. The bill is headed to Governor Wolf’s desk to be signed into law.
Other bills approved by lawmakers this week include:
Senate Bill 8, a bill that reforms state law regarding the seizure and forfeiture of assets.
House Bill 168, legislation that would make it a crime to fraudulently claim service in any branch of the armed services or to be a recipient of any service medal or award for the purpose of obtaining money, property, or other benefits.
Senate Bill 178, which would update and modernize the state’s History Code.
Senate Bill 180, a measure to update and revise the law relating to organ and tissue donations.
House Bill 217, which would strengthen penalties for endangering the welfare of a child depending on the age of the child.
Senate Bill 242, a bill to update the Pennsylvania One Call law.
Senate Bill 446, legislation providing for the regulation and certification of drug and alcohol recovery houses.
Senate Bill 553, relating to blood tests in DUI cases.
Senate Bill 656, legislation to help prevent water contamination through private water lines.
Senate Bill 741, a bill that would extend funding for the courts and indigent legal services.
Property Tax Rent Rebate Deadline Extended
Pennsylvania’s Property Tax/Rent Rebate program offers financial assistance to many low-income seniors and individuals with disabilities. The deadline to apply for rebates of rent and property taxes paid in 2016 was recently extended to December 31, 2017.
The rebate program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians age 65 and older; widows and widowers age 50 and older; and people with disabilities age 18 and older. The income limit is $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 annually for renters, and half of Social Security income is excluded.
Forms and other information are available online at www.revenue.pa.gov or by calling, toll-free, (888) 222-9190. Claimants may check the status of their claims online at www.revenue.pa.gov or by calling, toll-free, 1-888-PATAXES. If you need help completing an application, please feel free to contact one of my local district offices for assistance.
Motocross racing legend Ryan Villopoto stopped by to visit while I was filming the latest edition of my “Focus on the 46th” TV show at High Point Raceway.
West Greene Softball Team Earns State Title
Congratulations to the West Greene Lady Pioneers and Coach Simms for earning the PIAA State Softball Championship. I look forward to seeing you all in Harrisburg soon!
For more information on issues of importance to southwestern Pennsylvania, please visit my website at www.senatorbartolotta.com and connect with me on Facebook (www.facebook.com/senatorbartolotta) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/senbartolotta).
SouthPointe District Office
Greene County Office Building