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Senate Endorses Bill to Crack Down on Sexual Predators
The state Senate recently passed legislation which I cosponsored to improve the state's efforts to track and prosecute sex offenders and make Pennsylvania a part of a national sex offender registry.
Senate Bill 1183, as amended, would bring Pennsylvania into compliance with the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, part of the federal Adam Walsh Act. Pennsylvania must bring its law into "substantial compliance" or suffer a 10 percent reduction in federal crime protection grants.
This bill creates a national registry that law enforcement officers can access and will be available to the public on the Internet. It also toughens penalties for offenders and ensures that they are more carefully tracked if they move from state to state. If this is signed into law Pennsylvania will become a part of a coordinated and national system for the registration of sexual offenders so that we can better enforce laws and keep our children safe.
The bill will close loopholes in current law that have allowed homeless and out-of-state offenders to avoid registering under the state's Megan's Law.
The legislation also:
The bill also requires notification to the federal government if the offender intends to travel abroad and requires transient sexual offenders to register and update their registration information.
Rafferty's Private-Public Partnership Legislation Voted Out of Transportation Committee
After considerable negotiation with the House of Representatives, the Senate Transportation Committee, which I chair, unanimously amended and re-reported Senate Bill 344. The legislation, which I sponsored, would establish Public-Private Partnerships – allowing the private sector to join with the Commonwealth in providing funding to address transportation deficiencies throughout the state.
According to a report by the State Transportation Advisory Committee released last year, Pennsylvania faces a $3.5 billion shortfall to pay for critical transportation improvements.
This bill isn't the answer to all of our state's transportation problems, but it is, I believe, a positive and proactive step we can take now to start addressing those concerns. We've worked extensively with the House and other interested parties in refining this bipartisan bill, and I look forward to seeing it through the process and eventually into law.
SB 344 would also:
Provide that the net proceeds paid to the Commonwealth or a municipal authority by a private sector partner would only be used for transportation funding in the state.
Legislation to Improve Meth Lab Cleanup Procedures Passes Committee
Legislation I sponsored to improve the process for cleaning up and removing methamphetamine labs recently cleared a key Senate hurdle.
Chemicals used in meth production are extremely toxic and can pose a risk to health, even after the drug-making materials have been removed. Unless a structure has been thoroughly decontaminated, residual chemicals still remain on the walls and in the carpet as well as in heating and air conditioning ducts and can be very dangerous to people living there.
Senate Bill 878, which was approved by the Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee, would require owners or landlords to fully disclose that a property was previously used as a location to manufacture methamphetamine.
It would also require the state Department of Health to develop scientifically based standards for the removal of hazardous materials used in meth labs and establish regulations relating to those standards.
If a property is contaminated, the owner or renter may report the contaminated property to the department, which would be responsible for monitoring its decontamination and certifying that it has been properly cleaned.
Our goal is to ensure that these properties are identified and cleaned up correctly so that people aren't exposed to dangerous chemicals.
Governor Signs Legislation Banning Texting While Driving
I am very pleased that the Governor has signed legislation I supported that would make Pennsylvania roads safer by prohibiting drivers from texting while driving. Pennsylvania will join 34 other states in enacting texting-while-driving bans – it’s one of the most important things we can do to prevent needless tragedies caused by distracted driving.
Senate Bill 314, which was signed into law as Act 98, makes texting while driving a primary offense, meaning that police can pull over motorists for sending or receiving text messages from a wireless communication device. Drivers who violate the law would face a $50 fine.
A recent study by a safe-driving institute found that drivers who text are 23 times more likely to be in an accident. The texting ban will supersede and pre-empt all local ordinances related to the use of an interactive wireless communication device.
There is only one thing a driver should be doing behind the wheel of an automobile, and that is paying attention to the road and other drivers. Text-distraction doesn’t just jeopardize the lives of those texting, but also puts the lives of everyone on the road with them at risk. For the sake of lives and public safety, I am glad we have moved to ban this practice.
To read an article on the legislation, click here.
Heating Assistance Program Now Open
Pennsylvania's Low-Income Home Energy Assistance (LIHEAP) grant program is now open for the 2011-12 heating season. Grants are based on income, family size, type of heating fuel and region.
Rising fuel costs have taken a toll on all of us, especially those who rely on oil to heat their homes. This burden has been especially heavy on low-income families and those people on fixed incomes. I urge everyone who may be eligible for LIHEAP to apply.Additional information, such as specific income limits, and applications for LIHEAP grants are available online via the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Access to Social Services (COMPASS) Web site at www.compass.state.pa.us. Applications are also available at county assistance offices, local utility companies and community service agencies, such as Area Agencies on Aging or community action agencies. Applicants may also call 1-866-857-7095.