State Capitol Roundup
9/27/2013

House State Government Committee Advances Legislature Reduction Proposals

The House State Government Committee voted this week in support of two bills to reduce the size of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives to 153 members from the current 203 members, and the Senate from 50 to 38 members.  Both House Bills 1234 and 1716 aim to increase government efficiency and better enable the Legislature to reach consensus when debating and deliberating major legislative initiatives.  Changing the size of the Legislature requires an amendment to the state constitution, which means the same bill must be debated and passed by the General Assembly in two consecutive sessions, and be subsequently approved by referendum vote of the people of Pennsylvania.  Last session, the House approved a bill to reduce the size of the House and Senate; however, the bill was not voted upon by the Senate.

Judiciary Committee Continues to Focus on Child Protection Legislation

The House Judiciary Committee approved several bills this week in a continuing effort to enhance protections for Pennsylvania’s children.  House Bill 20 would increase the penalty for concealing the death of a child from a misdemeanor to a felony, which would also come with a larger fine and potentially longer prison sentence.  Under the bill, any individual residing in the same household as the child or anyone responsible for the child’s welfare may be charged with the crime of concealing the death of a child.  House Bill 494 would create a new crime of failure to report the disappearance of a child.  Under this bill, a parent of a child under age 14 can be charged with the offense if he or she acts with reckless disregard for the child’s welfare and fails to report the disappearance of the child to a law enforcement agency within 24 hours of knowing the child has gone missing.  House Bill 1045 would create the offense of making false reports of child abuse.  A person will be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to two years in prison and a $5,000 fine, if he or she knowingly or intentionally makes a false report of child abuse or induces a child to make a false report of child abuse under the Child Protective Services Law.  House Bill 1594 would increase the grading for luring a child into a motor vehicle or structure from a first-degree misdemeanor to a second-degree felony if the child is younger than 13 years old.  The legislation now goes to the full House for consideration.

Legislation Introduced to Expand Course Choice and Customize Online Learning

Legislation was introduced this week to create a clearinghouse of online courses for students in public schools, nonpublic schools and home education programs.  The bill seeks to offer greater course choice, enrich educational opportunities and offer a more customized learning experience for Pennsylvania students.  House Bill 1718, the Online Education Initiative, would require the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) to establish a database of online courses available to public schools in the Commonwealth.  Students in sixth through 12th grades would have the opportunity to choose courses selected by their school district.  The bill ensures school districts have maximum flexibility to develop their own courses, contract with online course providers and/or use courses available on the clearinghouse.  The bill has been referred to the House Education Committee for consideration.
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