Increased Punishments for Domestic Violence
Increased Punishments for Domestic Violence

Act 157
, which was signed into law this week, increases penalties for domestic violence committed in front of children.

Studies have shown there is a devastating impact on children who witness domestic violence. The short-term consequences include increased anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, aggression, difficulty concentrating, social isolation and lack of empathy. The long-term consequences are similarly troubling.

Additionally, when these affected children grow up, they are more likely to engage in dangerous behavior and are more likely to be caught up in a vicious cycle of abuse; they become an abuser or an abused person themselves.

Data suggests that children often witness domestic violence. One study found that half of domestic violence crimes were committed in the presence of at least one child. The data is clear that when a perpetrator commits an act of violence in front of a child, there is more than one victim – the child suffers many of the same consequences as if he or she had been the direct victim. Our Crimes Code will now recognize this painful reality by making it a separate crime.
Fighting the Opioid Epidemic
With the opioid epidemic continuing across the state, the legislature passed Act 96, which will require all opioid prescriptions be written electronically.

Written prescriptions are subject to being lost, stolen or sold. This legislation eliminates a major source of drug diversion by requiring controlled substance prescriptions to be electronic. If a physician uses his or her clinical judgement to prescribe an opioid, the prescription must be electronically transmitted to the pharmacy of the patient’s choice. In this way, there is no possibility that the prescription itself will fall into the wrong hands. It’s simple, effective and necessary for reducing drug diversion.

This legislation was written with the support of the PA Medical Society, PA Orthopedic Society, PA Pharmacists Association, emergency room physicians and the Hospital and HealthSystem Association of PA.
Student Loan Debt Transparency
Under a newly signed law, Act 121, institutions of higher education will be required to send annual letters to students with information on their student loan debt, including estimates of their total debt at graduation and estimated monthly payments.

With estimates putting outstanding student loan debt at over $1.4 trillion, it is important students understand the effects of their decisions to take out student loans.

This law will help students get the most out of their higher education experience while understanding their debt and encourage them to make reasonable and responsible financial decisions.

Other states across the country (Nebraska, Indiana, Maryland and Missouri) have introduced similar legislation. The Indiana law has reduced student loan borrowing, but has more importantly provided borrowers and their families much-needed and simpler information they can use to determine their needs.
Encouraging School Bus Safety
To help protect students across the state from drivers illegally passing school buses, the Legislature passed Act 159 to allow school districts to use stop arm cameras on school buses.

The stop arm cameras will start recording once the side stop signal arm and red signal light is deployed. The recording will capture violations and, after review by law enforcement, citations for violations can be issued.

While some cameras are operating today on some school buses, no specific statute permits them. They have been used to help the driver in identifying vehicles and drivers, but the bus driver’s testimony is still paramount in gaining a conviction of a driver. Under this new law, the evidence obtained from a stop arm camera will be able to be used as primary evidence against a violator.
Protecting Ospreys in Pennsylvania 


Yesterday I met with Rep. Parke Wentling (R-Erie/Crawford/Mercer/Lawrence) and Dr. Sarah Sargent, executive director of the Erie Bird Observatory about protecting ospreys from power lines in Pennsylvania. Wentling has been leading the effort in Pennsylvania to protect osprey from the dangers of nesting on power lines which can fatally harm the raptor and their young and cause power outages.

Ospreys, which were once registered on the endangered and threatened species list in Pennsylvania, are found along large rivers and lakes and tend to build their nests on top of man-made structures such as power lines. In order to remedy this issue, Wentling has worked diligently to form a strong partnership among various companies and organizations in Pennsylvania to help find a safer place for ospreys to reside.

The construction of osprey nesting boxes on utility poles located near power lines like the one in this photo have been erected.
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