In This Update:
Senate Approves Liability Protections for Schools, Health Care Providers, More
Health care providers, schools, businesses, nonprofits and others who followed COVID-19 public health directives would be protected from unfair lawsuits for good-faith actions they took during the pandemic under legislation approved by the Senate.
In ordinary times, closing any door to the courthouse would not be a preferred step for many. Given the immense challenges we are confronting, it is hard to see how we could responsibly avoid such an action.
The legislation aims to head off waves of lawsuits that could bankrupt already struggling employers and unfairly harm institutions who did their best to follow the changing and sometimes conflicting guidance provided by state and federal governments.
When I talk to struggling business owners and nonprofit organizations, they express fear that one lawsuit could be their death sentence. Those fighting to stay open do not need to incur litigation costs and potentially get hit with judgments on top of all the other pressures and stresses afflicting them.
Complete immunity is not provided for anyone. The measure simply ensures that if people or entities follow public health directives, they will not be held responsible for any harm that allegedly occurred. Health care providers, PPE manufacturers, schools, universities, childcare providers, businesses, nonprofits, and governments would still be responsible for any intentionally wrongful or reckless acts.
Liability protection is also offered under the proposal for farmers who want to host agritourism events like hayrides, farm tours, and corn mazes. The site must post specific warning signs, and have a signed, written agreement with visitors that they have acknowledged the risk of participating in a particular activity.
Not a day goes by without news about business closures, layoffs, and permanent job losses. If we cannot put a tourniquet on the economic bleeding, the fiscal distress felt by families will deepen and the hill of eventual economic recovery will be steeper.
House Bill 1737 was returned to the House of Representatives, as amended, for further consideration.
Senate Approves Bills to Protect Second Amendment Rights of Pennsylvanians
Two bills approved by the Senate this week would ensure the Second Amendment rights of Pennsylvanians are protected during emergency declarations. Both bills were sent to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.
Under current law, the rights of law-abiding citizens to open carry firearms can be limited during a state of emergency. The Senate approved a bill that would ensure these rights are not infringed during a state of emergency. The bill would also ensure firearm sales are not prohibited during an emergency declaration.
The Senate also approved a bill that would establish the Hunting, Firearm, and Ammunition Life-Sustaining Business Act to ensure shooting ranges, sportsman clubs, hunting facilities and firearm and ammunition manufacturers, retailers and distributors are considered life-sustaining businesses that will not be shuttered by state government during an emergency declaration.
Bill Would Provide Flexibility for Teacher Certifications, Keystone Exams
Schools would have more flexibility to respond to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic under legislation that was approved by the Senate this week. The bill would ease many certification and staff development requirements that are difficult to fulfill during the pandemic and extend certain emergency permits when staff development requirements cannot be completed.
The bill would also delay the use of the Keystone Exams as a graduation requirement until the 2022-23 school year. Additional provisions are also included to deal with problems related to pupil transportation.
General Assembly Approves Bill Cracking Down on Repeat DUI Offenders
A bill that would crack down on dangerous repeat DUI offenders was approved by the Senate this week. The bill would increase jail time for certain repeat offenders, double the amount of time that repeat offenders must have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicle and ensure repeat DUI offenders with two or more prior offenses serve their sentence consecutively to any other sentence imposed by the court.
The legislation, also known as Deana’s Law, also mandates the use of continuous alcohol monitoring devices as a condition of probation, parole or bail. The devices, which are similar to home arrest monitors, are strapped to the wearer and automatically test for the presence of alcohol.
The legislation was named in honor of Deana Eckman, a Delaware County woman who was killed in 2019 in a head-on collision with a repeat DUI offender who was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident.
Legislation Supports Organ and Tissue Donation
The Robert P. Casey Memorial Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Trust Fund was created in 1994 to encourage residents to become organ donors. The program allows Pennsylvanians to voluntarily donate $3 to the fund through a check-off box when they renew driver licenses, photo ID cards and vehicle registrations.
The General Assembly approved a bill recently that updates the program to reflect the fact that Pennsylvanians can now complete vehicle registrations on a biannual basis. The legislation allows state residents to donate $6 instead of $3 when they complete a biannual registration.