Jan. 17, 2020 / Weekly Roundup

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The Weekly Roundup
#Listrak\DateStampLong#  The latest news from the State Capitol
  
PennDOT Provides Update on Blue Church Road Project

My office has received an update from PennDOT on the construction project on the Blue Church Road Bridge in Upper Saucon Township.

On January 9, 2020 the project contract was advertised for contractors to bid on, and we anticipate receiving bids on February 13, 2020.

Once the contract is awarded it is anticipated the contractor will be given a mid-to-late March construction notice-to-proceed date, with completion of the new bridge in September.

I will continue to provide updates to you as the project progresses.
    
 
My Right-to-Know Bill Passes in House Vote


I am very pleased to report that my Right-to-Know legislation, House Bill 283, passed on second consideration this week with a vote of 193-1. It will face a final vote on the Floor next Tuesday, Jan. 21.

As we all know, the resources of our local government offices are limited. These offices, sometimes staffed by as little as one full-time employee, may be overwhelmed by a large volume of Right-to-Know requests made for commercial purposes. Additionally, taxpayers, who pay the salaries of these local government employees, may be shortchanged when those employees must dedicate substantial amounts of time and energy to fulfilling public records requests from business enterprises, some of which are located in other regions of the Commonwealth or even out-of-state.

Under my proposal, each requester will be required to indicate whether the request is being made for a commercial purpose. This legislation would also empower local and state agencies to charge search, review and duplication fees when responding to public record requests made for a commercial purpose.

The fees must be reasonable and cannot be established with the intent or effect of excluding individuals from access to records but should instead deter businesses from using these offices as corporate research firms at the taxpayers’ expense.

This legislation is designed to balance the importance of the general public’s right to know with the value of preserving the ability of our local governments to juggle their many responsibilities and serve their taxpayers.
 
 
Judiciary Committee Advances Bills to Combat Human Trafficking


With the Commonwealth ranked 10th in the nation for human trafficking, the House Judiciary Committee this week advanced a package of bills that would combat the crime and ensure justice for victims. The bills are expected to come before the full House for a vote next week.

Human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. The International Labour Organization estimates human trafficking is a $150 billion industry, of which $99 billion belongs to sexual exploitation.

Several bills aim to increase penalties or expand definitions of crimes related to human trafficking, while another would expand the list of sexual offenses that require offenders to participate in a program of counseling and therapy designed for incarcerated sex offenders.

Other measures would prohibit defendants from introducing evidence of a human trafficking victim’s past sexual victimization; expand opportunities for expert testimony in human trafficking cases; and require courts to consider human trafficking convictions when considering child custody.

Finally, the committee approved a resolution to recognize the month of January 2020 as “National Human Trafficking Awareness Month” in Pennsylvania. Click here to learn more about this crime and our efforts to address it.
 
 
House OKs Bill to Prevent Repeat DUI Offenses


Working to improve public safety, the House has approved a measure to require courts to evaluate repeat DUI offenders for the suitability of a substance monitoring program as a condition of bail.

A substance monitoring program prohibits the individual from using alcohol, controlled substances or both while also being required to use or participate in any of the following for no less than 90 days as a condition of bail: a continuous alcohol monitoring device; a remote breath testing device or any other alcohol monitoring technology or device; or random drug testing or another controlled substance monitoring device.

Recidivism rates for repeat DUI offenders who wore a device for at least 90 days are 50% less than those who did not.

A repeat DUI offender is an individual who is pending adjudication for a DUI and has one or more prior DUI convictions within the past 10 years; or is pending adjudication for two or more DUIs.

House Bill 916 now moves to the Senate for consideration. 
 
 
Tackling Medicaid Fraud, Abuse


To ensure taxpayer dollars are helping people truly in need and not being used fraudulently or misspent, a bipartisan group of lawmakers this week unveiled a comprehensive package of bills to stop fraud and abuse within the state’s Medicaid program.

The package of bills is the direct result of a grand jury report on fraud in Pennsylvania’s Medical Assistance Program, also known as Medicaid, released by the Office of Attorney General and a report recently released by the House Government Oversight Committee.

The measures would create a state version of the federal False Claims Act to recoup additional funds from false claims made against Medicaid; require state agencies to assess their program expenditures to determine how susceptible they are to improper payment; create a state-level Do Not Pay system to stop improper payments before they are made; establish requirements for contracts with Medicaid Managed Care Organizations; and increase penalties for fraudulent claims.
 
 
Sign Up to Continue Receiving My Weekly Email Updates


If you would like to continue receiving my legislative updates throughout the 60-day blackout period that limits what I can send you before an election, click here and simply enter your email. 

This will guarantee that you keep receiving my weekly updates. Please know that your information will not be shared with any third party and will be used strictly for legislative purposes.
 
 
Completing the Census is Easier Than Ever


Each decade, the federal government counts the number of people in each state to help determine how many seats the state gets in the U.S. Congress and how to distribute more than $675 billion in funding to states, counties, municipalities, school districts and social service programs and organizations.

Being counted in the Census helps to improve our communities, roads, bridges, hospitals, schools, fire and police departments, parks, playgrounds and more.

Beginning in March, Census letters will be mailed. For the first time, people can respond to the Census online. There will also be a toll-free number so residents can share their information verbally. The traditional method of filling out the paper questionnaire will also be an option.

People can be confident that the Census Bureau will not share their information with anyone, including federal, state or local authorities of any kind, including law enforcement, immigration or landlords. There are no exceptions to this law, which is enforceable with five years in jail and a fine of $250,000.

Learn more at www.pa.gov/census/.
 
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RepSimmons.com
Office Locations
21 N. Main Street, Unit 9, Coopersburg, PA 18036 | Phone: (610) 282-0160
191 Main St., Suite 104, Emmaus, PA 18049 I Phone: (610) 965-5830
56 W. Fourth St., Second Floor, Red Hill, PA 18076 I Phone: (215) 679-3152
5 East Wing, PO Box 202131, Harrisburg, PA 17120-2131 | (717) 783-1673
Email: jsimmons@pahousegop.com
TTY: 855-282-0614 
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