Senator Baker E-Newsletter

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In this Update:

  • Senate Republicans Continue Negotiations for Pro-Growth, Responsible State Budget
  • Judiciary Committee Advances Key Bills for Law Enforcement, Enhanced Public Safety
  • Senate Votes to Stand with Israel
  • Scenes from the 20th District Photo Gallery Celebrates Community, Creativity
  • Set for Enactment: Senate Bill Expanding Access to Telemedicine Services
  • Bill Giving Parents Flexibility with Their Children’s Education Passes Senate
  • Set for Enactment: Bill Providing Free Credit Monitoring for Data Breach Victims
  • Fulbright Scholar Shelby Traver Serves as Job Shadow

Senate Republicans Continue Negotiations for Pro-Growth, Responsible State Budget

State budget negotiations are ongoing in Harrisburg, and we are encouraged by the dialogue between the Senate, House and governor. While it appears clear at this point that we will not have a full budget agreement which could be implemented by June 30, we are hopeful to reach a consensus very soon and avoid any negative impacts on the people of Pennsylvania. The Senate will return to session on Monday, July 1, at 3 p.m.

Senate Republicans continue to push for a spending plan that respects taxpayers, ensures existing resources are used wisely, and leads to economic and demographic growth in Pennsylvania. Since Gov. Josh Shapiro presented a budget plan in February that would increase overall spending by $3.2 billion, we have voiced the amount he wanted to spend is much higher than Senate Republicans believe is fiscally responsible.

Learn more about the process of enacting the 2024-25 state budget and watch the Senate in session here.

Judiciary Committee Advances Key Bills for Law Enforcement, Enhanced Public Safety

The Senate Judiciary Committee passed two significant bills this week aimed at enhancing public safety and protecting Pennsylvanians.

Senate Bill 988 seeks to help solve cold cases, ensure accurate convictions and provide a critical tool for law enforcement, particularly in challenging sexual assault cases. The bill would bring Pennsylvania in line with 33 other states, by requiring that DNA be collected at the time of arrest rather than only after conviction. An amendment I offered refines the bill by modifying the list of offenses eligible for DNA collection, removing provisions regarding modified DNA searches to reduce costs and implementing the legislation in phases to allow the state police lab to adapt to the influx of DNA samples.

At a time when we are seeing more cold cases solved by breakthroughs in technology, it is appropriate to move legislation providing extensive deployment of more complete DNA data bases to solve crimes. By expanding the DNA Collection Act, we are equipping our law enforcement agencies with the tools to solve crimes more efficiently and prevent future offenses. We owe it to our citizens to further safeguard communities by utilizing this crime-fighting tool to the greatest effect and impact.

Senate Bill 812 addresses the act of “swatting,” or making bogus emergency calls to elicit a significant response from law enforcement. These false alarms, whether part of sophisticated operations or juvenile pranks, pose serious risks and drain emergency resources. Defendants would be required to pay all costs incurred as a result of their behavior.

The practice of swatting is completely indefensible and must be punished accordingly. Our local school districts were plagued with false threats last year. These instances raise the fear level among students, parents, and school officials. They are costly for the emergency responders with respect to time, resources, and stress. This bill sends a clear message that such behavior will not be tolerated in Pennsylvania. We are committed to protecting our communities from these malicious acts.

Senate Votes to Stand with Israel

The Senate approved legislation that would prohibit the PA Treasury’s Office, the State Employees’ Retirement System, the Public School Employees’ Retirement System and the Pennsylvania Municipal Retirement System from boycotting or divesting from Israel. The measure also would cut off state tax dollars from going to higher education institutions that boycott or divest from Israel.

Senate Bill 1260 sends a loud message that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania stands with its top ally in the Middle East – Israel. On Oct. 7, 2023, more than 1,000 Israelis, mostly civilians, were murdered by Hamas terrorists. U.S. college campuses experienced volatile antisemitic protests that called for the complete destruction of Israel. Jewish students were required to shelter in place in their dorm rooms out of fear for their lives. Protesters were successful in getting some colleges to consider divesting from Israel, as well as companies that do business with the Israeli government.

In the wake of the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks, Pennsylvania’s Treasurer Stacy Garrity, who supports the legislation, invested an additional $20 million in Israel bonds, bringing the Treasury’s total investment in Israel to more than $56 million.

Scenes from the 20th District Photo Gallery Celebrates Community, Creativity

Join me in showcasing your photography skills and capturing the beauty and unique character of the community by submitting your favorite shots for inclusion in the Scenes from the 20th District photo gallery.

Submit your best photographs that highlight the natural landscapes, community events, historical landmarks and everyday life within the district, which includes all of Pike, Susquehanna, and Wyoming counties and substantial portions of Luzerne and Wayne counties.

Our district is rich with natural beauty and vibrant communities. This is a wonderful opportunity for residents to share their perspectives and showcase what makes our area so special. I am excited to see the creativity and talent of our local photographers.

To enter, participants must complete the online submission form and upload their photos via the link. All submissions should be original, high-quality images that reflect the spirit of the district. Photos must be taken by residents of the 20th Senatorial District, within the boundaries of the district.

All photos will be shared in the Scenes from the 20th Senatorial District photo gallery and may also be featured on my social media channels and in various district publications. One photo will be selected to be featured in my e-newsletter each week.

Set for Enactment: Senate Bill Expanding Access to Telemedicine Services

Legislation expanding access to telemedicine in Pennsylvania received final Senate approval and will be sent to the governor for enactment.

Telemedicine allows individuals to access health care services online using a computer, tablet or smartphone. It allows medical services to be provided to some of the most vulnerable Pennsylvanians who otherwise would not be able to receive them due to location or other circumstances.

Senate Bill 739 sets a base for how telemedicine will be covered by insurance companies and medical providers in Pennsylvania. The legislation requires:

  • Health insurance policies to provide coverage for covered health care services delivered through telemedicine consistent with the insurer’s medical policies.
  • Insurers to pay providers for covered health care services delivered through telemedicine consistent with the terms of the contract between the insurer and participating network provider.
  • Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) programs to pay for covered health care services consistent with federal and state law.

Bill Giving Parents Flexibility with Their Children’s Education Passes Senate

To ensure children with autism, developmental delays or intellectual disabilities are better prepared to enter the classroom, the Senate passed a bill allowing parents or guardians to delay their children attending school for as long as one year.

Senate Bill 1157 would allow them to request a waiver from the Department of Education to delay compulsory attendance when their child reaches the age of six if:

  • The child has been diagnosed by a qualified health professional with autism spectrum disorder or has been identified by the state as having developmental delays or intellectual disabilities.
  • The child has been evaluated by a qualified health professional in the last six months and has been recommended for continued intensive early intervention services.
  • The parent or guardian provides evidence of alternative services being provided or documentation of their efforts to obtain such services.

The bill would offer individualized learning and specialized approaches so children are able to develop the social and emotional skills necessary for future success.

Set for Enactment: Bill Providing Free Credit Monitoring for Data Breach Victims

Bipartisan legislation to strengthen notification requirements for data breaches and provide affected citizens with free credit monitoring for a year and a credit report is set to be signed into law. The bill was approved by the House of Representatives this week, following Senate passage last year.

Senate Bill 824 would cover instances in which an individual’s first and last name or first initial and last name have been accessed in combination with any of the following information: Social Security number, bank account number, driver’s license or state ID number. The bill also strengthens state notification requirements and mandates Attorney General notification if a data breach occurs in the commonwealth.

A record 3,122 data breaches occurred nationally in 2023, affecting hundreds of millions of Americans and costing billions of dollars, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center. It marked a 72% increase in data compromises from the previous all-time high in 2021.

Fulbright Scholar Shelby Traver Serves as Job Shadow

Shelby Traver of Sweet Valley recently served as my job shadow in Harrisburg. Following a discussion with Rep. Mike Cabell, she joined me for various meetings and observed a committee hearing.

Shelby is a Lake Lehman alumna and recently graduated from the University of Scranton where she majored in International Business, Political Science, and Philosophy. She earned a scholarship from The Fulbright Program to study women in politics in Rwanda this fall. There is a tremendous future ahead for this bright young lady!


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