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|The latest news from the State Capitol
Honoring an Eagle Scout
This past weekend, my office presented a House citation to Thomas Gerrity during his Eagle Scout Court of Honor. Thomas, the son of John and Jeannine Gerrity and a member of Troop 62, improved the courtyard at Northampton Area High School for his Eagle Scout project. Pictured with Thomas (from left) are his brother, Nicholas; Jeannine Gerrity; his grandparents; and John Gerrity. Congratulations!
Continuing Support for PA Military, Veterans
In recognition of the service and sacrifice of active duty military and veterans in the Commonwealth, the House is always working to enact policies that help and support these men and women and their families.
This week, we approved House Bill 630 to extend Pennsylvania’s current employment protections to Pennsylvania citizens who are members of another state’s National Guard and are called up to serve outside of the Commonwealth.
We also approved House Bill 1050 to ensure an in-state tuition rate for military families as soon as a student enrolls in a public college or university, regardless of whether his or her military parent is reassigned out of the state. Both bills are now pending consideration in the Senate.
Finally, lawmakers joined with representatives of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) to send off seven new vans that will help DAV volunteers transport veterans to their VA medical appointments.
For more information about state services and support for our military and veterans, visit the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs website at dmva.pa.gov.
Committees Examine Impacts of Medical Marijuana on Second Amendment Rights
The House Judiciary and Health committees held a joint public hearing this week about medical marijuana use and Second Amendment rights.
While medical marijuana use is legal under state law, it remains a violation of federal law. Federal law also prohibits anyone who is an “unlawful user” or addicted to any controlled substance from buying or owning a firearm.
Committee members heard from law enforcement officials and representatives of gun rights organizations during the hearing. Key points of the discussion included the need to better inform medical marijuana users about the impact on their Second Amendment rights and how HIPAA laws protect patients from disclosing their use of medical cannabis.
Law enforcement officials also talked about other enforcement-related issues, such as how to administer field sobriety tests on a driver suspected of using cannabis.
Bills Advance to Grow PA Agriculture
To ensure the viability of the state’s top industry, the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee this week approved a package of bills to support current and future farmers in the Commonwealth.
Among the bills approved by the committee are ones to create a Rapid Response Disaster Readiness Account to ensure a quick state-level response to threats such as invasive species or disease; establish a Pennsylvania Agricultural Business Development Center to help farmers create a business plan, transition plan or succession plan; and empower the State Conservation Commission to provide technical assistance and financing options for implementing best management practices.
To ensure our youth have greater exposure to and understanding of the importance of farming, other bills would revive the PA Farm-to-School Program to support child nutrition and reestablish the former Agriculture and Rural Youth Development Program to fund youth organizations that promote development in agriculture, community leadership, vocational training and peer fellowship.
Other measures aim to boost enrollment in the veteran farmer Homegrown by Heroes program, provide specialty crop block grants, aid with meat inspection costs for small or new processors and protect agritourism business from lawsuits where no party is at fault for injuries or damages.
The bills now go to the House for consideration.
Follow This Trail for Sweet Treats!
There’s nothing like a delicious ice cream cone or sundae on a warm summer day or night…or both!
To help Pennsylvanians find the best of the best and support local farms, the state departments of Agriculture and Community and Economic Development have unveiled an expanded Pennsylvania Ice Cream Trail program for 2019.
The program includes a passport that visitors can have stamped at each of 32 stops along the three trails in eastern, southcentral and western Pennsylvania. More information about creameries on the trail, including a downloadable passport and prize information, can be found at visitPA.com/scoops. Be sure to post your pictures to social media using the #PursueYourScoops hashtag.
The trails officially opened June 1 in conjunction with the start of Dairy Month in Pennsylvania. The Commonwealth is ranked sixth in total milk production nationally, with 525,000 cows producing more than 10.8 billion pounds of milk each year. We have the second largest number of dairy farms in the country, second only to Wisconsin. The average herd size is around 80 cows, and 99% of all dairy farms in Pennsylvania are family owned.
Measures Aim to Improve Mental Health Care Access
Working to strengthen communities and support Pennsylvania families, we are continuing our efforts to improve access to behavioral health services in the Commonwealth.
House Resolution 268 directs the Joint State Government Commission (JSGC) to assess the Commonwealth’s treatment capacity for mental and behavioral health care by studying the patient care and financial impacts of delayed emergency department discharge of patients with a behavioral health diagnoses, and the cause of such delays.
A second measure, House Resolution 193, calls on JSGC to study the shortages in the mental health care workforce that are leading to delays in obtaining treatment.
The House also approved a bill to clarify current law regarding consent to mental health treatment for minor children. House Bill 672 specifically states a parent can consent to care without a minor’s approval. While this is the intent of current law, there has been confusion among parents, minors and providers about who can or must consent to care.
The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.
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