By Rep. Anita Kulik
June is always the busiest month in Harrisburg. Even with the COVID crisis, June lived up to its reputation and we remained very busy.
Of particular note, Speaker of the House Michael Turzai resigned from the House. He had announced several months ago that he would not be seeking re-election and he decided to step down this month, which typically marks the end of budget season. I have known the speaker for a very long time, back to my law school days.
Rep. Turzai respected the role of speaker. We do not yet have the details of when a new speaker will be elected by the house members, and perhaps by the time this article is published, we may in fact have a new speaker.
As of the most recent week of session, SB0905 passed through the house. This bill outlined a number of projects that could receive funding through the capital budget.
HB400 passed the House, adding a new subsection to the crimes code that makes it a criminal offense to share any video, audio or still images of care-dependent individuals with the intent to ridicule them.
This would now be considered a type of abuse. HB2348 amends Title 64 (Public Authorities and Quasi-Public Corporations) to create the Unserved High-Speed Broadband Funding Program.
The program will provide grant money to broadband projects within Pennsylvania that support providing high-speed internet to unserved areas. This is of particular importance to rural areas, many in counties that border Allegheny. The lack of broadband access for hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians has been an issue for years now. This bill is an important step to helping all Pennsylvanians.
Two COVID-19 related bills passed also, HB2437 and HB2509. HB2437 would require the Department of Health to publish COVID-19 related data from long-term care facilities on their website, including the number of recipients and employees who have either tested positive or died from the virus.
In addition, the Department of Health must publish the measures taken in each facility to mitigate the spread of the virus. This data would be published on the department’s publicly accessible website. HB2509 would create a grant program to reimburse certain types of facilities for the cost of protective equipment. Funding would need to be made available and those eligible would include entities that provide care to care-dependent individuals.
As always, these bills will need to pass through the Senate and then on to the governor to be signed into law.
For further information on these bills or other state-related matters, including rent rebates or unemployment, (412) 264-4260.