|Ready to Get to Work in New House Session
My colleagues and I in the state House of Representatives gathered on New Year’s Day to take the oath of office and begin a new, two-year legislative session.
The state Constitution stipulates the House must convene on the first Tuesday of each year. The first Tuesday this year fell on New Year’s Day, so legislators were at the Capitol on the holiday to officially convene the new session.
I look forward to working this session to combat the opioid epidemic in Pennsylvania, control state spending in order to protect taxpayers, promote private-sector job growth, ensure workers have the skills necessary to obtain good-paying jobs, and address other issues and opportunities facing the Commonwealth.
I was for the second term in a row selected by my Republican colleagues to serve as caucus administrator, a highly esteemed position that is part of the caucus leadership team. As administrator, I manage various business affairs related to caucus operations.
The House is now comprised of 110 Republicans and 91 Democrats, including 43 first-term members. There are two vacancies.
On swearing-in day, representatives also selected a speaker of the House, certified election results and adopted rules to govern the chamber.
I was joined Tuesday by my wife, Brenda.
PA Farm Show Starts on Saturday
The 103rd Pennsylvania Farm Show will kick off Saturday, Jan. 5, and run through Saturday, Jan. 12. This year’s theme is “Inspiring Pennsylvania’s Story.”
In addition to all the delicious food offerings, the Farm Show features 6,000 animals, 10,000 competitive exhibits and 300 commercial exhibitors.
Admission to the show is free, but parking is $15 per vehicle. Shuttle service is provided.
More information is available at farmshow.pa.gov.
New Law Cracks Down on Repeat DUI Offenders
A new law cracking down on habitual DUI offenders is now in effect. Statistics show repeat offenders cause 40 percent of all DUI-related crashes.
Pennsylvania was previously one of four states that did not punish repeat DUIs as felonies.
Act 153 fixes that by increasing penalties for repeated DUI crimes.
Under the new law, any individual convicted of his or her third DUI with a BAC of 0.16 or higher could be found guilty of a felony offense.
The same penalty would apply to all individuals convicted of four or more DUI offenses.
Repeat offenders who are convicted of homicide while DUI now face a minimum prison sentence of five or seven years, up from the previous three-year minimum.
Increased Funding to Aid Ambulance Services
Ambulance companies across Pennsylvania will see a much-needed increase in Medicaid reimbursement rates this year.
Approved as part of the 2018-19 budget, reimbursement rates have increased from $200 to not less than $300 for Advanced Life Support (ALS) services and from $120 to $180 for Basic Life Support (BLS) services, effective January 1.
The increases, to be funded by $4 million in state funds and approximately $8 million in federal matching funds, are necessary to help meet growing costs faced by the Commonwealth’s emergency medical service providers. It is the first increase since 2004.
To further support these life-saving services, another new law, Act 103 of 2018, requires both private insurers and Medicaid to reimburse for treatment provided regardless of whether transport takes place. This is a common occurrence with patients suffering with diabetes as well as for drug overdose calls.
Additional initiatives to shore up the state’s fire and emergency response organizations were outlined in a recent report released under Senate Resolution 6 of 2017. The report includes 92 concepts incorporated into 27 recommendations to address challenges in the fire and EMS communities, with most of them focused on staffing, funding and training needs.