The 2017-18 Legislative Session has come to an end. I was proud to bring many of the perspectives and ideas that you shared with me to the forefront in Harrisburg. Among the 164 bills that were signed into law over the past two years were several measures I authored based on the input of local residents.
One of the most important new laws approved by the General Assembly this year was a measure I sponsored along with several of my colleagues to improve school safety. The bill created a new grant program to help hire school resource officers, improve counseling services for students, allow for the purchase of security equipment, and implement other programs to help prevent school violence. Nothing is more important than protecting our children, and this new law will go a long way toward making that goal a reality.
I worked with several of my colleagues this year to finally pass long-sought reforms to the way we handle repeat DUI offenses. I am extremely proud that we finally earned legislative approval of a new law that subjects the worst habitual offenders to a felony offense.
One of the most personally gratifying measures I was involved with was a new law that will help generate additional money for pediatric cancer research. The law will allow Pennsylvania motorists to voluntarily donate $5 to a special fund dedicated to pediatric cancer research when they renew a driver’s license or vehicle registration.
I also worked with members of local Special Emergency Response Teams (SERTs) to pass a new law to ensure they can respond to accidents quicker and more safely through the use of flashing lights on personal vehicles.
In addition, I sponsored two bills that were signed into law to improve disabled parking access and streamline enforcement of parking violations and disputes, removing a substantial burden from the court system.
Protecting taxpayer dollars is one of the most important responsibilities of lawmakers. During the last two years, I fought to create a program to better manage Pennsylvania’s Medicaid program and match patients with the care they need, while at the same time saving billions of taxpayer dollars. Unfortunately, Governor Wolf vetoed that bill because the measure would have created commonsense work requirements for able-bodied Medicaid recipients.
In the years ahead, I look forward to exploring new ways to save taxpayer dollars. I take that responsibility very seriously, which is why I refuse to accept a state pension and do not collect per diem payments when I am doing business in Harrisburg.
More information on the General Assembly’s legislative accomplishments over the past two years are included in this e-newsletter.
As we look forward to the beginning of the 2019-20 Legislative Session in January, I welcome your input on how we can continue to build stronger communities here in Lancaster County. I invite you to visit my website at www.senatorscottmartinpa.com to stay up to date on the latest news in the community and in Harrisburg. My contact information is available at the bottom of the page if you have questions or would like to share your thoughts and perspectives.
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As always, thank you for giving me the opportunity to represent you in Harrisburg, and please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of assistance on any matter pertaining to state government. I hope all of you enjoy a safe and blessed holiday season with friends and loved ones.
Senator Scott Martin
New State Laws Focus on Improving Public Safety, Improving Government Operations
Two of the most important responsibilities for lawmakers are managing the public’s money wisely and ensuring our communities are protected against potential threats. Senate Republicans focused heavily on both of these issues throughout the 2017-18 Legislative Session and achieved significant reforms that will lay the groundwork for safer and more prosperous communities and better management of taxpayer dollars.
One of the most significant accomplishments was passage of a pension reform plan that will save taxpayers more than $5 billion and prevent $20 billion or more in future liabilities. The plan was one of the most significant pension reform laws in Pennsylvania’s history and was hailed as an example for other states across the country to follow.
Senate Republicans also led the way in changing how we evaluate expenses in the state budget. A new law implements performance-based budgeting – requiring all state departments and agencies to review how every taxpayer dollar is spent to ensure no public money is lost to waste, fraud and abuse.
The new performance-based budgeting tool will work hand-in-hand with the creation of an independent Office of Inspector General, which will have broader authority to investigate potential mismanagement of taxpayer dollars in all state agencies and departments. New laws enacted during the past two years will also prevent the abuse of public assistance programs by creating tougher penalties for offenders who try to cheat the system.
One of the biggest concerns for many parents in Pennsylvania is the safety of our schools. Following several tragic shootings in schools across the nation, Senate Republicans spearheaded efforts in the General Assembly to give our schools more resources to keep students safe.
The creation of a new state grant program will not only help schools hire security personnel and purchase security equipment, but also implement other proven programs and services designed to prevent school violence. A new anonymous school threat reporting system was also created, along with new requirements for vulnerability assessments to address any potential weaknesses that could be exploited by criminals.
New laws will also allow schools to discuss security plans in private executive sessions, and require schools to conduct at least one security drill every school year. Children will also benefit from better protection on their way to school thanks to a new law allowing school buses to install cameras to catch motorists who violate school bus stopping laws.
A number of critical steps were also taken to protect victims of domestic violence. New laws clarify the use of risk assessment tools to make sure the most dangerous offenders are not released on bail, provide tougher sentences for domestic violence offenses committed in front of children, and provide for the relocation of victims who live in public housing.
Additional protections were also added for other crime victims. A new law protects victims of child trafficking, ensuring sexually exploited children are diverted from the criminal justice system. A potential Constitutional amendment was approved to create of a “Bill of Rights” for crime victims, and another measure was approved to provide broader representation of crime victims on the Victims’ Services Advisory Committee.
Addressing the heroin and opioid crisis remains a top priority for lawmakers. Over the past two years, lawmakers approved funding for new addiction treatment centers, and new laws improved standards and criteria for the operation of drug recovery houses, expanded educational efforts in schools, and allowed hospice workers to dispose of unused prescriptions to prevent opioids from falling into the wrong hands.
Motorists will benefit from a number of new laws designed to make Pennsylvania’s roadways safer. New penalties were established for the most egregious DUI offenses, including habitual offenders who repeatedly put the lives and safety of other motorists at risk. New penalties were added for repeat offenders of the state’s “Steer Clear” law, and a trial program will allow for the placement of speed cameras in active work zones.
Education is another critical concern for the future of our Commonwealth. The most recent budget included a renewed emphasis on vocational and technical education to help match students to the careers of tomorrow. The Educational Improvement Tax Credit was expanded to offer scholarships to more students, and high school students were offered alternatives to the Keystone Exams in order to meet graduation requirements.
Senate Republicans are also leading the way toward reforms that will address concerns relating to the future viability of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. A new law requires colleges to provide students with information regarding student loan debt, and protections were added to ensure students are not subjected to the risks of hazing by their peers.
Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle worked to honor the service and sacrifice of the men and women who have served our nation in the military. Senate Republicans sponsored new laws to help generate additional resources for the Veterans Trust Fund, ensure the protection of monuments and memorials for veterans, and establish more reasonable residency requirements for elected office for members of the military. A new support system was created for students whose parents or guardians are in the military, and prohibitions were added to punish individuals who fraudulently present themselves as a soldier or veteran.
The community safety measures created by the General Assembly were not restricted only to humans. The 2017-18 Legislative Session featured some of the most significant new protections for animals that have been approved in decades, including new laws to aid in the prosecution of animal abusers and protections for law enforcement and emergency responders who rescue animals from hot cars.
A comprehensive list of noteworthy measures approved by lawmakers and signed into law during the 2017-18 Legislative Session is available here.
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