State Capitol ROUNDUP
3/15/2013

House Approves Bill to Create Fair Funding Formula for Special Education

The House voted unanimously this week in support of legislation to address the state’s distribution of special education funding.  House Bill 2 would create a 15-member legislative commission on special education funding to develop a new formula for distributing any increases in funding over the levels distributed in the 2010-11 school year.  The commission would be expected to develop a more effective funding formula that must meet certain requirements, including: establishing three cost categories for students receiving special education services, ranging from least intensive to most intensive; obtaining a student count for each school district averaged for the three most recent school years to correspond to each cost category; assigning a weight to each category of disability; and developing a fair system for distributing increases among school districts to determine the amount of funding that each school will receive under the new formula.  In addition, the commission would be required to issue a report of its findings no later than Sept. 30.  Currently, state funding for special education is distributed based on an estimate that special education students make up 16 percent of the overall student population in each school district.  House Bill 2 now goes to the Senate for consideration.

House Advances Additional Child Protection Measures

The House sent to the Senate this week two additional measures as part of the continuing effort to strengthen the state’s child protection laws.  House Bill 321 would increase penalties for child pornography offenders based upon such factors as age of the child, the number of images possessed, and the nature and character of the abuse.  The bill was modeled after federal sentencing guidelines for similar offenses.  The Pennsylvania attorney general reports that the Internet Filter Review, an online publication dedicated to protecting children from Internet pornography, has estimated that there are 100,000 websites offering illegal child pornography and that the average age of exposure to Internet pornography is 11.  House Bill 89 would provide grants to the state’s Child Advocacy Centers (CACs).  A CAC is a facility that provides a comprehensive treatment program for abused children that brings doctors, nurses, prosecutors, social workers and law enforcement to the child in a safe and nurturing environment.  There are currently 21 CACs operating in Pennsylvania.  Grant money comes from funding previously used for the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program.

March is Dog License Awareness Month in Pennsylvania

March has been designated as “Dog License Awareness Month” in the Commonwealth.  As part of the observance, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture is sponsoring a poster contest for students in first through sixth grades, calling on them to create a poster about the importance of dog licensing.  The grand prize winner will receive a $20 cash prize and his or her poster will be featured on the cover of the 2014 Dog Law Enforcement Office Coloring Book.  The deadline for submitting a poster is April 30.  State law requires all dogs three months and older to be licensed each year.  Owners who fail to license their dogs could face a fine of up to $300 for each unlicensed animal.  An annual dog license costs $8.45 and a lifetime license is $51.45.  If the animal is spayed or neutered, the annual fee is $6.45 and the lifetime license is $31.45.  Discounts are available to older adults and people with disabilities.  Dog licenses can be purchased from a county treasurer or another licensing agent, including retail stores and veterinarian offices.  They can also be purchased online, in some cases.  For more information on Pennsylvania’s dog licensing law or the poster contest, please visit www.licenseyourdogPA.com

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