Fight Against Opioid Abuse
10/27/2017

Harrisburg Happenings

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The latest news from the State Capitol



 

Earlier this week, I co-hosted the 2017 Rural Legislation Briefing. The focus of discussions this year was the impact of opioids on rural Pennsylvania and what we can do to help this traditionally underserved population in our state. It was a great exchange of information and ideas that I believe will help us moving forward.

I followed that briefing with a trip to Washington, D.C., on Thursday to take part in the president declaring the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency.

Opioid abuse is a national problem and I am pleased to see action taken at both the state and federal levels to attack this growing problem. For more on my reaction to the president’s announcement, click here.
 
 
PA Pharmacists Association Award


 

I was honored to receive the 2017 Legislator of the Year award from the Pennsylvania Pharmacists Association. Pictured with me, from left, are Whitney Metzler, executive director, House Health Committee; Pat Epple, CEO, Pennsylvania Pharmacists Association; and Jeff Stuby, government relations manager, Pennsylvania Pharmacists Association.
   
 
Final Pieces of Budget Package Headed to Governor

This week, the House and Senate sent to the governor’s desk the remaining pieces of the 2017-18 budget package. That includes legislation to protect taxpayers from a broad-based income, sales or utility tax increase this fiscal year, while also generating enough revenue to close out the 2016-17 fiscal year and fully fund the 2017-18 budget year. The package also includes funding for state-related higher education institutions, which include Penn State, Pitt, Lincoln, Temple and the state’s only veterinary school, Penn Vet.

Part of the funding package is based on securitizing the state’s Tobacco Settlement Fund and reforms to the state’s gaming industry, which would include enhancing the state’s Lottery Fund and legalizing many unregulated games in an effort to capture lost revenue. The funding plan also includes transferring $300 million in unspent dollars from special funds.

Lawmakers reaffirmed our commitment to quality education by increasing Basic Education Funding for our schools, as well as for early childhood education and special education programs. The Public School Code measure also would protect excellent teachers by ending the practice of seniority-based layoffs and requiring teacher performance to guide furlough and reinstatement decisions.

Ultimately, my Republican colleagues and I fought successfully to pass a spending plan that was much less than what the governor proposed while still investing in the core functions of government without further burdening taxpayers.
 
 
Improving Educational Options


The House approved two proposals this week to improve educational options for students.

House Bill 429 would allow public school students who earn credit for a course in personal financial literacy to use that credit to satisfy a graduation credit requirement in social studies, math or consumer science. This would help encourage students to acquire the knowledge necessary to make wise financial choices as adults.

The second measure, House Bill 1653, would allow students pursuing postsecondary education online to receive financial aid. Currently, this is operated as a pilot program, which was created by Act 59 of 2013, for students who take more than 50 percent of their credits online from a college or university headquartered and located in the Commonwealth.

Both bills now head to the Senate for consideration.

 
Heating Assistance Program Opens Nov. 1


Residents who are struggling with their home heating bills can apply for assistance from the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) beginning Wednesday, Nov. 1.

LIHEAP is a federally funded program that helps individuals and families pay their heating bills through home heating energy assistance grants. It also provides crisis grants to help in the event of an emergency or if a resident is in danger of losing his or her heat due to broken equipment, lack of fuel or termination of utility service.

The income eligibility guidelines for LIHEAP are set at 150 percent of the federal poverty income level. For example, the income limit for an individual is $18,090; for a couple, the limit is $24,360; and for a family of four, it is $36,900.

Residents may apply for LIHEAP online or by contacting the County Assistance Office in their county of residence.
 
 
Another Extension Granted to Comply with REAL ID


Late last week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) extended the compliance deadline for when Pennsylvania residents must use a REAL ID or other acceptable forms of enhanced identification.

Under this extension, Pennsylvania residents can use their existing driver licenses through Oct. 10, 2018. This will apply to both federal facilities and domestic airline travel.

PennDOT has begun work on the implementation of REAL ID and estimates that REAL ID-compliant driver licenses and identification cards will be available, as an option for residents, in March 2019. It is expected that Pennsylvania will continue to apply for extensions until the state has met complete compliance.

DHS has established Oct. 1, 2020, as the final REAL ID compliance deadline for all states.

Information on Pennsylvania’s REAL ID, including frequently asked questions, is available at dmv.pa.gov.
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