As we say goodbye to 2019 and anticipate the challenges of 2020, it’s important to see where we’ve been to understand where we’re heading.

Recognizing January 2019 as National Human Trafficking Awareness Month in Pennsylvania
Earlier in the year, we held a hearing to better understand human trafficking in the Commonwealth and the millions of people around the world threatened by domestic and transnational trafficking networks.
Status: Adopted Unanimously in January.

The Buyer Beware Act: Combatting Human Trafficking in the Commonwealth

In the same month, I joined Rep. Seth Grove (R-York) in introducing House Bill 12, known as the Buyer Beware Act, to double the amount of maximum jail time that an individual may serve for trafficking or patronizing a victim of trafficking. The bill upgrades these crimes to a first-degree felony, which carries a maximum penalty of up to 20 years in prison.
Status: Referred to House Judiciary Committee.

Compensation Suspension for Non-Passage of Budget
Also in January, I introduced House Bill 903 that would change the law so if a budget is not adopted by the start of a new fiscal year, legislators would not be paid, nor would they be able to collect retroactive compensation once a budget agreement is finally reached.
Status: Referred to House State Government Committee.

PACE/PACENET Social Security COLA Moratorium
Act 62 of 2017, which permitted approximately 13,000 PACE and PACENET cardholders to retain the benefit that they would otherwise have lost as a result of Social Security COLA increases, was set to expire in December 2019. Gov. Tom Wolf signed into law my legislation, House Bill 754, to extend the COLA moratorium until Dec. 31, 2021. It’s now Act 95 of 2019.

Changing the Terms of Members
In March, I introduced House Bill 902 to amend the state Constitution to increase the length of a senator’s term from four to six years and a representative’s term from two to four years. This amendment would also limit the terms of members of the House and Senate to three consecutive terms.
Status: Referred to House State Government Committee.

Extending School Budget Deadlines in State Budget Impasses
A month later, I introduced House Bill 1227 with Rep. Joe Ciresi (D-Montgomery). Under current law, if the state finds itself caught in a budget impasse, each school district has 15 days after the passage of the General Appropriations Act to adopt its own budget, and 20 days to levy and assess property taxes. For school districts already worrying about what the fiscal year will bring, this is a tight and stressful deadline. Our bill would give school districts 30 days to adopt budgets following a state General Appropriations Act, and 35 days to levy and assess property taxes.
Status: Referred to the House Education Committee.

Budget Impasse Legislation

House Bill 904 would remove the uncertainty and financial distress that comes with a budget impasse. This legislation would require the Commonwealth to maintain state appropriations at 80% of the prior year’s level if a General Fund budget is not enacted by June 30 of any year.
Status: Referred to the House Appropriations Committee.

Public Employee Pension Forfeiture Act
In April, the House unanimously passed House Bill 991 to amend the Public Employee Pension Forfeiture Act to close a loophole in the act relating to sexual offenses committed by public officials and employees. Currently, the law provides that pension forfeiture will occur if any of the sexual offenses found in 18 Pa.C.S. Chapter 31 (rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, institutional sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault, as examples) are committed against a student by a school employee. The act, however, does not apply to any other public official or employee or to any other victim. For example, current language does not apply to daycare workers or employees of a youth detention center, both of whom take care of the Commonwealth’s children. My bill will close the loophole and apply to all public employees and all public officials. In order for forfeiture to occur, there must be a connection between the public office or employment and the sexual offense committed.
Status: Sent to the Senate.

Senior Citizen Property Tax Freeze
Along with Rep. Frank Farry (R-Bucks), I introduced House Bill 1672 in April to allow local taxing authorities to freeze an eligible senior citizen’s property taxes at their base year amount for as long as they remain eligible. The legislation would require that the home be the primary residence and the senior citizen be 65 years of age or older. They must also have established residency within the Commonwealth, paid property taxes for more than five years prior to filing for the freeze, and their combined household income cannot exceed $65,000 per year. If their income exceeds $65,000 but their property tax liability is 10% or more of their total income they would also qualify.
Status: Referred to the House Finance Committee.

“Phillip’s Law” - Study on School Mental Health Professionals
In May, Reps. Malcolm Kenyatta (D-Philadelphia) and Joanna E. McClinton (D-Philadelphia) joined me in introducing House Bill 1622, also named “Phillip’s Law”. It’s named for an 11-year-old student in Rep. Kenyatta’s district who committed suicide after enduring prolonged bullying from his peers.

According to Phillip’s family, he tried to get the attention of the support staff at his school but was told he had to wait. This bill would address this issue by requiring the Department of Education to investigate and report on the number of mental health professionals in schools in order to make recommendations on how to increase the number of school mental health professionals to meet nationally accepted ratios.
Status: Referred to the House Education Committee.

The Family Care Act
House Bill 1739, which I introduced in May with Rep. Dan Miller (D-Allegheny), is important legislation to help hard-working Pennsylvanians care for themselves and their families when serious illness strikes or when a parent becomes seriously ill by providing employees the ability to invest small deductions from their weekly earnings into a state-managed fund. Then when they need to take time off, they can retain their job and remain economically stable.
Status: Referred to the House Labor and Industry Committee.

Sterling Act Reimbursement and Credit
Also in May, I joined Rep. Frank Farry in sponsoring House Bill 1765 to amend the Sterling Act to require Philadelphia to reimburse the surrounding taxing jurisdictions that impose an earned income tax at a rate equivalent to that which would have been collected from residents of their respective areas.

House Bill 1766, also introduced with Rep. Farry, would amend the Local Tax Enabling Act to allow a taxing jurisdiction with residents working in Philadelphia and paying the non-resident wage tax to collect the resident local taxes from those individuals. In turn, the individual would be permitted to receive a credit against the Philadelphia non-resident wage tax at a rate equivalent to the local tax rate that is now being collected by their resident tax jurisdiction.
Status: Referred to the House Finance Committee.

Training Reimbursement for Newly Elected Municipal Officials

I introduced House Bill 1750 in June to permit newly elected municipal officials of first-class townships to attend conferences, institutes, schools and conventions prior to taking office. House Bill 1751 amends Titles 8 and 11 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes to allow the same. As required by current law, attendance must be approved by the municipality’s governing body for training expenses to be reimbursed.
Status: Referred to the House Local Government Committee.

Pennsylvania Energy and Water Efficiency Standards Act
I, along with Rep. Jennifer O’Mara (D-Delaware) introduced House Bill 2136, legislation to set energy efficiency and water conservation standards for commercial and residential appliances sold in the Commonwealth. Research shows that these efficiency standards will reduce climate pollution by an estimated 507 tons, conserve over 6 billion gallons of water, and save consumers approximately $217 million on their utility bills by 2025. All of these appliances are already on the market, competitively priced, and available to Pennsylvania consumers and businesses today.
Status: Referred to the House Consumer Affairs Committee.

Coming in 2020
Short-Term Limited Duration Insurance (STLDI)
I plan to introduce legislation that would more adequately regulate short-term limited duration insurance (STLDI) plans and protect consumers through duration and renewability restrictions, underwriting limitations, and additional consumer disclosures.

Many consumers purchase STLDI without a full understanding of the product’s limitations, and as a result, the Insurance Department has received numerous complaints from consumers who have purchased STLDI and subsequently received pennies on the dollar for their claims, or had their claims denied altogether.

By limiting the duration of STLDI and preventing the renewability of these policies, the distinctions between STLDI and comprehensive health insurance policies will be more evident to consumers, allowing them to make an informed decision.

Recognizing January 2020 as National Human Trafficking Awareness Month in Pennsylvania
Although strides have been made to bring awareness to the human trafficking, more needs to be done to combat the perpetrators. It is our responsibility, morally and constitutionally, to protect the victims of this insidious crime. It is imperative that we all learn more about this, realize that it is on the rise and that it does in fact happen here at home. We can’t stop this practice, but we can begin to educate those we serve and raise awareness so that we all have our eyes wide open to the potential danger.