State Capitol Roundup

House Assessments Focus on Gifted, Special Education

Members of the House voted unanimously this week in support of a resolution that calls for a study of gifted education in school districts throughout Pennsylvania.  House Resolution 139 tasks the nonpartisan Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to conduct a comprehensive study of the process for identifying children as gifted; the process for developing and implementing gifted individualized education plans; the programs and services provided to gifted students; the cost of providing such programs and services; and a demographic breakdown of the children who benefit from such programs and services.  The resolution directs the committee to report its findings to the House Education Committee this fall.  In addition to House action on gifted education, the speaker of the House this week appointed four House members to the new Special Education Funding Commission, formed as a result of Act 3 of 2013.  The speaker appointed Rep. Bernie O’Neill (R-Bucks County), Rep. Michael Peifer (R-Monroe/Pike/Wayne counties), Rep. Mike Sturla (D-Lancaster), and Rep. Mark Longietti (D-Mercer County).  Additional members of the commission include the majority and minority chairmen of the House and Senate Education committees, four members of the Senate, the secretaries of Education and Budget, and the deputy secretary for elementary and special education.  The commission will hold public hearings this summer to work to develop a new special education funding formula.  It has until this fall to recommend a new funding formula to more effectively pay for special education throughout the state.

House Supports Measure to Study Potential Merger of Game, Fish-Boat Commissions

The House voted unanimously this week in support of a measure to launch a detailed study of the potential impacts of merging the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.  House Resolution 129 calls on the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to study the financial feasibility, impact, costs and savings that may be realized by combining the agencies.  It also calls on the committee to explore a range of options with regard to how to structure the state’s wildlife agency to best manage the wildlife and aquatic resources of the Commonwealth.  A similar study was conducted 10 years ago, and it showed a merger was feasible and would save money.  No legislative action resulted from that study’s findings, however.  The study is expected to take about six months.  Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation where management and oversight of fishing, boating and wildlife activities are managed by two separate, independent agencies.

House Passes Bill to Address Online Impersonation

The House voted to send to the Senate a measure to help prevent individuals from creating fake profiles online with the intent to maliciously harm another person.  House Bill 764 would make it a crime to use the name or identifying information of another person to create a web page; post messages or open an account/profile on a social networking site; send an email or text; or open an email account while engaging in any of the following underlying offenses: harassment, terroristic threats, stalking, and witness or victim intimidation or retaliation.  The offense would be graded as a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to two years in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000, or as one grade higher than the underlying offense, whichever is greater.  In addition, the bill would allow a court to award actual civil damages (such as loss of money, reputation or property) or $500, whichever is greater, as well as attorney fees, court costs and restitution.

Fish-for-Free Day to be Held on Memorial Day

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission will hold the first of two annual Fish-for-Free Days on Memorial Day, Monday, May 27.  Fish-for-Free Days allow anyone (resident or non-resident) to legally fish without a fishing license on all of Pennsylvania’s waterways.  All other fishing regulations still apply.  A second Fish-for-Free Day is scheduled for July 4.  For more information about Fish-for-Free Days, visit Rep. Kerry Benninghoff’s (R-Centre/Mifflin) website at