This a weekly recap of legislative highlights in Harrisburg from a Republican perspective I get from state Rep. Bob Mensch. I thought I'd start sharing it with readers since some of these issues don't get much coverage.
State Capitol ROUNDUP
Health Care Debate Continues in Harrisburg
Republican lawmakers are continuing calls for a responsible solution to the state's health care problems that will improve access to care without the need for increased taxes. Questions remain as to how the Democrat plan will be funded at an estimated cost of more than $1.1 billion over the first three years, and how effective the plan will be at insuring those without adequate health care coverage. House Republicans have also introduced a health care plan, drawing on advice obtained through numerous hearings and input from experts across the state. This legislative package, known as the Real Prescription for Pennsylvania, addresses the key issues facing today's health care industry by promoting competitive pricing in the marketplace to lower health care costs, addressing the shortage of ob-gyn and emergency care practitioners, and enacting liability reform. For more details on this plan, visit HealthCareForPAFamilies.com.
House Republicans Take Aim at Drug Abuse
The House Republican Task Force on Drugs and Law Enforcement, which is led by Rep. Jeff Pyle (R-Armstrong/Indiana), has unveiled a plan to combat illegal drugs. Pyle is sponsoring House Bill 323, which would make drug delivery offenses resulting in death a first-degree felony. Also, House Bill 2216 is being sponsored by Rep. Ron Marsico (R-Dauphin) to update the state's Wiretap Law and allow law enforcement to more easily prosecute criminals. House Bill 2255, which is being sponsored by Rep. Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster), expands the availability of alternative sentencing courts or "drug courts" that cut down on repeat offenses. These bills are part of a larger, 15-bill package aimed at the use of illegal drugs. The package is the product of several hearings, and input from numerous law enforcement officials and treatment specialists. For more details, visit goppublicsafety.com.
Sheriffs Rally to Expand Duties into Law Enforcement Activities
Hundreds of sheriffs and their deputies rallied this week on the steps of the Capitol Rotunda in support of legislation designed to strengthen their law enforcement role. House Bill 466, which is sponsored by Rep. Craig Dally (R-Northampton), aims to close a loophole in existing law that caused the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to determine that sheriffs and their deputies are not "investigative or law enforcement officers." More specifically, both sheriffs and deputy sheriffs would be permitted to investigate crime and make arrests so long as training similar to that of municipal police officers has been completed. According to testimony at a hearing held last month on the bill, the court ruling has greatly reduced a sheriff's ability to contribute to public safety. In fact, the Pennsylvania Attorney General was forced to suspend 75 deputy sheriffs serving on a drug task force following the court decision.