State Capitol Roundup
12/13/2013
House Continues Work to Protect Children
Six bills to further protect Pennsylvania’s children are being sent to the governor’s desk this week, thanks to efforts in the House and Senate to advance numerous measures designed to strengthen the state’s child abuse laws. Bills that were approved this week include proposals to update the definition of a perpetrator, clarify mandates for reporting child abuse and accountability, and establish due process protections in the case of false reports. In addition, the House Children and Youth Committee approved several more bills that will go to the full House for consideration, including measures to allow electronic reporting of child abuse, require health care providers to report illegal substance effects in newborns, and implement protections for those who report child abuse in good faith from employment discrimination and termination. Much of the legislative effort on this issue stems from findings and recommendations from the Task Force on Child Protection, which was created in 2011 as a result of the Jerry Sandusky case at Penn State University. Anyone who suspects child abuse is occurring is urged to contact the state’s toll-free hotline, ChildLine, at 1-800-932-0313. 

Special Education Funding Reform Commission Report Released; Basic Education Funding Commission to be Created 

The Special Education Funding Commission, created by Act 3 of 2013, released its findings after a series of seven public hearings held this summer and fall. The commission recommends a new funding formula for special education based on three levels of student needs. The formula would be based on factors including small and rural school districts, income/market value and equalized millage rate. Nearly 270,000 children – one out of every seven students – receive special education services in the state’s public schools. Current state funding for special education is slightly less than $1 billion per year, and the “census formula” currently in use pays districts on calculations based on 15 percent of students having mild disabilities and 1 percent having severe disabilities. Since 2008-09, Pennsylvania has not increased special education funding, which effectively ended the use of the formula. In a similar effort to address basic education funding inequities, the House Education Committee this week approved a bill to create a Basic Education Funding Commission. The proposed group, made up of representatives from the Department of Education, Office of the Budget and the four legislative caucuses, would be tasked with conducting hearings and reviewing the current funding formula and working to create a new model to address current challenges. The commission’s basic education funding recommendation would determine only the distribution of any increase in funding. 

House Passes Education, Jobs Legislation

In a continuing effort to strengthen education and jobs in the Commonwealth, three bills to aid in the cooperation between business and education sectors to help build and improve student skills moved through House committees this week. House Bill 1816 would allow teachers, guidance counselors and other school administrators to receive necessary education credits if they visit certain manufacturing facilities for in-person tours and orientation programs. House Bill 1725 would establish the CareerBound program, which would join local workforce investment boards, businesses and schools in an effort to develop innovative school-to-work pilot programs. The seven pilot CareerBound programs would be eligible to compete for more than $10 million in funding from a one-time issuance of tax credits for contributing businesses. House Bill 1878 would create the Pennsylvania Workforce Investment Strategy, or “PA WInS,” which would offer a tax credit as an incentive to businesses to organize and collaborate with each other to address similar personnel and training issues. This would be coordinated through the Department of Labor and Industry. The bills all go to the full House for consideration. 

Winter Driving Safety Tips

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) has information on safe driving during this winter season that has already featured ice and snow in most areas. One of the most common causes of accidents in the winter is driving too fast for conditions. Just because the speed limit sign says 65 does not mean it’s always appropriate to drive at that speed. Among the recommendations for winter travel are to prepare your vehicle by checking all fluid levels and installing winter wiper blades. A check of the heating system, lights and tires is also urged. PennDOT also recommends that travelers have a winter emergency kit in the vehicle in case of an accident or being stranded during a winter storm. The kit should include, among other items, extra warm clothing and gloves, a flashlight and batteries, jumper cables, cell phone and charger, ice scraper and bottled water. More information is available on the PennDOT Just Drive PA website. For more information, visit Rep. Kerry Benninghoff’s (R-Centre/Mifflin) website at www.KerryBenninghoff.com and click on the “winter driving safety tips” link on the left-hand side.
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