|The latest news from the State Capitol
Governor Vetoes Down Syndrome Bill
Gov. Tom Wolf chose to veto House Bill 321, which was legislation that would make it illegal to refer a woman for an abortion as a result of her unborn child’s diagnosis of Down syndrome. This bill was a reaction against recent reports that illustrate a significant decrease (up to 40%) in Down syndrome births. Downs is a genetic condition causing some diminution of physical and mental capacity but is not incompatible with life. Indeed, people with Downs tend to be extraordinarily loving.
Experts believe that the sharp decrease in Downs births is largely due to providers referring women for abortions immediately following discovery that their unborn child tests positive. Some women later explain that they were in shock when they learned of their child’s condition and were emotionally vulnerable to their provider’s recommendations.
Our laws are intended to protect those who are least capable of protecting themselves. I voted in favor of this legislation because I believe that it is wrong to target children with disabilities for selective abortion specifically because of their disability. This legislation had broad bipartisan support in both the House and Senate.
House Considers Increasing Age for Tobacco
The House recently took up legislation that would increase the legal age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21. House Bill 473 passed the Senate and then the House, after first being amended to exclude military personnel from the age hike. I voted against this legislation.
I am no champion of tobacco use. I am not a smoker, nor is anyone in my family. I see no real societal benefit from smoking. However, I do believe that people age 18 are adults and should be treated as adults. 18-year-olds can own real estate, enter into contracts and vote on their political leaders. Smoking may be a bad decision, but if we entrust an 18-year-old with making other decisions critical to their success and failure in life, I see no rational reason to exclude the purchase of alcohol.
With specific regard to the military exception, although I honor and support all who serve in the military, members of the armed services are not a separate class of citizen which should be exempted from criminal laws that apply to everyone else. The United States has always recognized only one kind of citizenship – American citizenship – and the law should apply equally to all.
Gov. Wolf signed the tobacco legislation into law today.
Working Toward a Healthier PA
Continuing our commitment to delivering affordable and accessible health care options for Pennsylvania families regardless of where they live, the House advanced several health-related initiatives last week.
With prescription drugs playing an important role in both treatment and preventive care, we approved bills addressing the Commonwealth’s use of pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs). The measures aim to remove gag clauses that prevent pharmacists from advising their patients of options to save money on their prescriptions by bypassing insurance and ensure fair pricing and accountability regarding the use of PBMs for the state’s Medicaid program.
Other measures adopted by the House include additions to the state’s newborn screening procedures and requiring patients being prescribed opioids to have a treatment agreement with a prescriber to ensure they understand the risk of addiction, dangers of overdose and their responsibility regarding treatment.
Learn more about the #HealthierPA initiative here.
Department of Aging Warns Seniors of Genetic Testing Scam
The Department of Aging is warning Pennsylvania seniors, their families and caregivers about a scam targeting older adults.
Scammers are offering “free” genetic testing, claiming it is covered through Medicare, as a means for the senior to avoid disease or to find the right medications. This is simply an effort to gain access to a senior’s personal Medicare information, which can lead to access to financial information and more.
The Administration for Community Living suggests the following tips to avoid being scammed: Do not accept genetic testing services, including a cheek swab, from someone at a community event; always be cautious about giving out your personal information, including your Medicare number; don’t accept a genetic testing kit through the mail unless it was ordered by your physician; and always review your Medicare Summary Notice or Explanation of Benefits, watching for words such as “gene analysis” or “molecular pathology.”
If you or a loved one have already received a genetic testing cheek swab or screening that was not ordered by a trusted provider, or have any concerns about possible fraud, find and contact your local Senior Medicare Patrol here or call 1-877-808-2468.
Deadline Nears for Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program
Older adults and Pennsylvanians with disabilities have until Dec. 31 to apply for the state’s 2018 Property Tax/Rent Rebate program. Remember, assistance through my offices is always free. You need not pay a private firm for assistance.
The rebate program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians age 65 and older; widows and widowers age 50 and older; and people with disabilities age 18 and older. The income limit is $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 annually for renters, and half of Social Security income is excluded.
For additional information and applications, click here, or contact my office for assistance.
Hidden Predator Act
Last week, the Legislature passed two bills to aid childhood victims of sexual abuse.
House Bill 962 would allow child sexual abuse victims to file suit until they reach age 55. The previous statute of limitations was age 30. The bill would remove the statute of limitations for criminal cases. House Bill 963 would amend the state constitution to provide a two-year window to submit claims in civil court if the statute of limitations has already expired for an abuse victim. To become a constitutional amendment, the bill would need to be approved again in the next legislative session before it can go to voters in a referendum, which could occur as early as spring 2021.
I have concerns about both pieces of legislation and voted against both. The law should encourage victims to report the crimes against them as soon as possible so that the perpetrator can be prevented from victimizing more people. My other concerns are enumerated in this PennLive op-ed.
Gov. Wolf signed House Bill 962 into law Tuesday.
Schemel, Redding Visit Cattle Farm Awarded Grant
I recently joined Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding on a tour of Lil’ Ponderosa Beef. The grass-fed beef business recently received a $40,5000 grant from the Very Small Meat Processor Grant Program to add products from meat sourced from local farms.
Owned and operated by Bob and Kate Boyce, Lil’ Ponderosa started in the Carlisle area and sells butchered meat at 1711 Gabler Road in Hamilton Township.
Sec. Russell explained that these small meat processing facilities, which meet federal FDA standards, will allow local farms to process and sell meat locally. This offers family farms in our area more options to sell the product of their farms.
Happy Thanksgiving, safe travels and safe hunting!
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