Senator Baker E-Newsletter

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June Enews

Combatting The Opioid Addiction Crisis

The Senate recently approved a package of bills to combat the state’s heroin and opioid epidemic by improving prescription drug monitoring, limiting opioid prescriptions, targeting drug dealers and taking other steps to limit the damage inflicted by the addiction crisis in Pennsylvania communities.

The bills approved by the Senate include:

  • Senate Bill 93, which creates a new statute establishing a second degree felony for the delivery or distribution of an illicit drug that results in “serious bodily injury” to the user.
  • Senate Bill 112, which limits the prescription for a controlled substance containing an opioid to seven-days unless there is a medical emergency that puts the patients’ health or safety at risk.
  • Senate Bill 118, which creates a Recovery-to-Work pilot program to connect individuals in recovery with occupations through local workforce development boards
  • Senate Bill 223, which allows providers to leave a dose package of naloxone with an on-scene caregiver of a patient who overdosed on opioids.
  • Senate Bill 432, which allows Medicaid Managed Care Organizations to have access to the information in the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.
  • Senate Bill 572, which requires new patients who need a prescribed opioid regimen to enter into treatment agreements with a prescriber.
  • Senate Bill 675, which requires certification of office-based prescribers of the addiction treatment drug buprenorphine, and limits the drug’s use.

The package of bills is a continuation of bipartisan efforts led by Senate Republicans over the past six years to combat the opioid epidemic.

Beginning in 2014, lawmakers joined the Center for Rural Pennsylvania for a series of hearings to study the problem and identify solutions. As a result of these hearings, new laws were created to limit prescriptions, improve and expand addiction treatment, and improve public education about the dangers of drug abuse.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, opioid drug deaths statewide rose steadily in the early part of the decade before peaking at 5,559 in 2017. The number of opioid drug deaths finally declined in 2018 to 4,267. At the same time, opioid prescriptions in Pennsylvania declined by 14 percent between 2016 and 2017.

Property Tax/Rent Rebate Deadline Extended

The deadline for older adults and Pennsylvania residents with disabilities to apply for rebates on rent and property taxes paid in 2018 has been extended from June 30 to Dec. 31, 2019. You can access Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program income guidelines and applications here: 

Bringing Balance And Fairness To The Criminal Justice Process

6/19/19 – Marsy’s Law (House Bill 276)

Lawmakers gave final approval to a bipartisan package of bills this month that will better protect the rights of crime victims and provide stronger protections for victims of violent offenses.

The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 276, also known as Marsy’s Law, which would amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to include a crime victims’ bill of rights. We have heard troubling stories from victims and their families. We have been provided with persuasive perspectives by victim advocates. This bill brings needed balance and fairness to the criminal justice process by ensuring crime victims have a constitutional right to notices of hearings and other proceedings, protection from the accused, notice of release or escape, full and timely restitution and other protections to help balance the rights of victims with the rights of criminals.

Because the bill would amend the state Constitution, passage in the House and Senate in two consecutive legislative sessions was necessary. With that requirement finally met, voters will now decide if they would like to see the proposal become law. The referendum will appear on ballots across the state this fall.

Other bills approved by the Senate and sent to the Governor include:

  • House Bill 315, which criminalizes the act of female genital mutilation.
  • House Bill 502, which strengthens the right of crime victims to attend court proceedings.
  • House Bill 504, which shields rape victims against irrelevant cross examinations.

The House of Representatives also sent three other victims’ rights bills to the Governor this month, including:

  • Senate Bill 399, which creates a comprehensive bill of rights in Pennsylvania for survivors of sexual assault, including rights pertaining to the collection and use of evidence.
  • Senate Bill 469, which would apply the existing Tender Years Exception – which allows certain out-of-court statements to be admissible as evidence – to include individuals with intellectual disabilities or autism.
  • Senate Bill 479, which I sponsored, would expand the Tender Years Exception to apply to a wider variety of crimes, including serious sexual offenses. This exception currently only applies in cases of homicide, assault, kidnapping, burglary, robbery, and a narrow number of sexual offenses.

The Senate also approved Senate Bill 123, also known as Karen’s Law, which limits the number of times that victims of sexually violent crimes are forced to testify at parole hearings. Current law allows offenders to apply for parole every year, forcing victims to relive their attack on an annual basis. The bill would increase the time between parole hearings from one year to three years. The bill was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

There is a great public interest in community safety and security. These bills bring needed balance and fairness to the criminal justice process and contribute to a greater sense of justice being served in the commonwealth. This is by no means the end of our work, but we are certainly off to a tremendous start.

Boating Basics for Boat Owners

Now that summer has arrived, many Pennsylvanians will flock to the water. Our commonwealth has about 85,000 miles of rivers and streams along with 76 natural and 2,300 constructed lakes for boating.

Whether you are new to boating or a long time mariner, find everything you need to know about boating, including registration, safety, locations, boat types, equipment, accessories and more by clicking here.

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