In this Update:
Legislative Review: Combatting Human Trafficking
The General Assembly enacted several measures in recent years to combat human trafficking. That effort has continued in 2021 with the passage of measures to prevent this hideous practice and help victims.
Act 32 of 2021 prohibits defendants from introducing evidence of a human trafficking victim’s past sexual victimization in any human trafficking prosecution.
Act 38 of 2021 requires that a court consider whether a party or member of that party’s household has been convicted of human trafficking prior to awarding child custody.
Act 45 of 2021 requires any offender that subjected a minor to sexual servitude (human trafficking) to undergo treatment while in prison, helping to reduce recidivism.
Act 52 of 2021 permits expert witnesses in cases of domestic violence and human trafficking.
You can find a full list of bills of note passed by the Senate in 2021 here.
Preserving Services for Seniors & Adults with Disabilities
The Senate Aging & Youth Committee and the Senate Health & Human Services Committee held a joint public hearing with the House Human Services Committee and House Aging & Older Adult Services Committee this week on an issue affecting Pennsylvania seniors and adults with disabilities.
The hearing focused on the intent of the Department of Human Services (DHS) to contract with the firm Maximus US Services as its independent enrollment broker as part of the commonwealth’s Medicaid enrollment process. Members discussed the impact it will have on seniors and adults with disabilities. DHS was unable to testify due to ongoing litigation.
The panels heard about the problems caused by shifting the process from local contacts to an out-of-state vendor. You can view hearing video and testimony here.
Reducing the Impact of Invasive Species
Reducing the impact of invasive species on Pennsylvania’s economy, agriculture and natural resources was the topic of a hearing by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania this week.
The Center for Rural Pennsylvania is a bipartisan legislative agency made up of Senate and House members, and others, that serves as a resource for rural policy within the Pennsylvania General Assembly.
In 2019, the negative economic impact of the spotted lanternfly was estimated to be $13.1 million. Other invasive species include the gypsy moth, emerald ash borer, hydrilla and reed canarygrass.
The panel heard from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, Penn State Fruit Research and Extension Center and other experts. You can watch the hearing here.
Hearings Begin on Department of State Controversies
The Senate State Government Committee held the first in a series of hearings reviewing controversial actions recently undertaken by the Department of State.
The first hearing discussed post-election audits undertaken by the Department of State after the 2020 election with Acting Secretary of State Veronica Degraffenreid. The panel heard from the acting secretary, Deputy Secretary of Elections and Commissions Jonathan Marks and members of the department’s Risk Limiting Audit Work Group.
The State Government Committee will hold five additional hearings prior to the confirmation hearings for Acting Secretary Degraffenreid, covering the following:
School Buses are Back on the Roads
Children are returning to school, which means school buses are back on the roads.
Motorists must stop at least 10 feet away from school buses that have their red lights flashing and stop arm extended. PennDOT has a breakdown of the state School Bus Stopping Law, as well as tips for parents and students for getting to and from school safely.
162 Years Ago This Week Pennsylvania Strikes Oil
On August 27, 1859, the world’s first commercially successful oil well produced black gold near Titusville, Pennsylvania.
Edwin Drake, a former railroad conductor, encountered so many problems before he succeeded that his well was nicknamed “Drake’s Folly.” His financial backers had quit on him and he took out a loan to keep the project going to completion.
The legacy of the Drake Well was creating unprecedented interest and investment in oil drilling, refining and marketing. Pennsylvania would go on to be a key producer of coal and natural gas, and today includes wind and solar power in its energy portfolio.