State Capitol Roundup
1/17/2014
House Focuses on Education Reform Measures

The House took up a number of education reforms this week to improve accountability and transparency for Pennsylvania’s schools and also to enhance education opportunities for students. House Bill 1411, also known as SchoolWATCH, would direct the Pennsylvania Department of Education to create a searchable online database detailing the revenues and expenditures of traditional, charter and cyber school districts across the Commonwealth. The bill follows the model of PennWATCH, which was created to allow Pennsylvania residents to see how tax dollars are being used by state agencies. House Bill 1741 would require school boards to provide at least 48 hours of public notice prior to voting upon any proposed collective bargaining agreement or employment contract. House Bill 1738 would create a commission to study basic education funding and develop a formula that takes into account each school district’s market value/personal income aid ratio, equalized millage rate, geographic price differences, enrollment levels, local support and other factors. House Bill 1816 would allow Pennsylvania’s teachers, guidance counselors and other school administrators to receive necessary continuing education credits if they visit certain manufacturing facilities. These visits would take educators to manufacturers for in-person tours and orientation programs in manufacturing facilities with the goal of ensuring students are more familiar with available opportunities in the modern high-tech manufacturing industry. House Bill 1878 would create the Pennsylvania Workforce Investment Strategy (Pa WInS) program, which would offer tax credits to businesses to organize and collaborate with each other to address common personnel needs and training shortfalls and then develop employee training programs and implement them with readily-available pre-existing infrastructure. All of the measures now advance to the Senate for consideration.

House Approves Bill to Improve Care and Reduce Costs for Medicaid

The House unanimously voted this week on a measure to help improve patient care and reduce health care costs through the development and use of a Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) Advisory Council for the state’s Medicaid program. House Bill 1655 would facilitate the use of the PCMH model by allowing a primary care physician or nurse practitioner to act as the primary point of contact for all medical care having to do with an individual patient. This model of care is especially effective for those with chronic diseases that require one or more specialists. Doctors, nurses, pharmacists, physical therapists and others would communicate to ensure the patient is receiving coordinated care, which includes making sure the patient does not undergo duplicative testing, receive important routine exams, and is alerted when immunizations are needed. A total of 26 other states have already launched PCMH initiatives within their Medicaid programs on a state or regional level. Private insurers also are already using PCMH models. The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.

House Votes in Support of Bill to Protect Victims Calling for Help

The House unanimously voted to help protect victims reaching out for assistance. House Bill 1796 would prohibit the adoption of a municipal ordinance to penalize a resident or landlord if police or emergency assistance was dispatched in response to an individual needing intervention or emergency help. While the bill would preserve a municipality’s ability to combat nuisance properties and false alarms, the Pennsylvania Coalition of Domestic Violence reports that at least 23 municipalities in Pennsylvania have ordinances that would penalize a victim for simply calling for help. The bill moves to the Senate for consideration.

Take Safeguards to Protect Against the Flu

The Pennsylvania Department of Health has reported that cases of the influenza virus, or flu, are now widespread in the Commonwealth, with more than 6,000 cases since September. Symptoms of the flu usually include fever, cough, headache, muscle aches and fatigue. Illness will usually begin very suddenly one to five days after exposure and commonly lasts for two to seven days.

To protect yourself and your loved ones from the flu, remember these important tips. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water before and following food preparation, before eating and after using restrooms or changing diapers. Cover the nose and mouth with hands or tissues when coughing or sneezing. Wash hands afterward to prevent spreading germs to doorknobs and other items. Discard tissues right way. Get plenty of rest, eat properly and dress appropriately for the weather. When ill, prevent the spread of germs by staying home from school or the workplace, if possible. During flu season, minimize time in crowded areas, such as shopping centers, and avoid contact with those at high risk for the flu, such as the elderly and those with chronic illness. If over the age of 65, pregnant, or have a chronic illness or disease, talk with your doctor about a flu and pneumonia vaccination. For more facts on the flu or to find a vaccination location, visit Rep. Kerry Benninghoff’s (R-Centre/Mifflin) website at www.KerryBenninghoff.com and click on the “Flu Info” link on the left-hand side.
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