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Pennsylvania House Passes Eight Bipartisan Bills in Productive Return to Session

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by Peter Hall, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
April 28, 2023

Pennsylvania House lawmakers passed eight bipartisan bills, including four with unanimous approval, in the lower chamber’s return to session this week after a nearly two-month hiatus. 

With a narrow one-vote majority for the first time in more than a decade, House committees also cued up a blizzard of bills on Democratic policy priorities, such as protection from discrimination for LGBTQ+ people and a suite of gun safety measures.

While some of those are unlikely to pass in the Republican-controlled state Senate, the House’s work this week included bills with broad appeal on both sides of the aisle.

The House unanimously passed Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward’s, R-Westmoreland, bill eliminating the patient’s share of costs associated with mamograms and screening for hereditary breast and ovarian cancers. The proposal, Senate Bill 8, also provides for supplemental screening for women with a high lifetime risk of breast cancer. 

The bill now goes to Gov. Josh Shapiro for his signature. 

The House passed a pair of bills from the Education Committee. Lawmakers unanimously approved legislation that would amend the state’s Public School Code to remove archaic and derogatory terms describing students with physical disabilities, developmental delays, and mental health issues.

Republicans were divided, however, on a bill to provide educational materials to the parents of adolescent students to spot warning signs of eating disorders. The bill passed with a 158-43 vote.

House lawmakers unanimously approved legislation that allows home health care applicants to be interviewed via video. The bill, introduced by Rep. Benjamin Sanchez, D-Montgomery, takes a lesson from the easing of regulations during the pandemic to address a projected need for 45,000 direct care workers in the next few years by streamlining the hiring process.

The House’s first Indian-American lawmaker, Rep. Arvind Venkat introduced legislation to observe Diwali, the Hindu celebration of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance and good over evil.

The holiday, which falls on the 15th of the Hindu month of Kartik (Nov. 12, this year) would be a state holiday. The bill passed in the House 200-1; Rep. Stephanie Borowicz, R-Clinton, cast the only vote in opposition. An identical bill passed unanimously in the Senate on Wednesday.

In the wake of a carbon monoxide leak at an Allentown day care center that sickened dozens of children and caregivers, the House passed a bill requiring that such facilities have carbon monoxide detectors if they have a heating system that burns fuel. The legislation passed with a 158-43 vote.

Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler’s bill to require informed consent for pelvic or rectal examinations of unconscious patients passed unanimously. Fiedler, D-Philadelphia, said she introduced the bill after learning from a constituent that such exams are routinely performed for the benefit of medical students. 

The House on Tuesday finally passed a bill proposing a constitutional amendment to give adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse an opportunity to seek legal compensation from their attackers and organizations that enabled them. 

Passed in the House with a 147-54 vote, the future is unclear for the long sought two-year exception to the 12-year deadline to file such lawsuits. Senate Republicans bundled the proposal with other amendments on voter identification, election audits and the power for the General Assembly to veto regulations. GOP leaders in the Senate say they will not pass the survivors’ amendment without the other proposals. 

This story was written by Peter Hall, a journalist for the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, where this story first appeared.

Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John Micek for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

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