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Legislative Roundup

Third Vows and Valentines wedding and vow-renewal ceremony set for Feb. 14; Farry sponsors bill to implement specific penalties for mail theft

Linda Bobrin

Get married or renew your vows

Bucks County Register of Wills Linda Bobrin will hold the third Vows and Valentines wedding and vow-renewal ceremony on Feb. 14.

The event will take place from noon to 2 p.m. in the third-floor rotunda of the Bucks County Courthouse Administration Building, 55 E. Court St., in Doylestown.

Bridal flowers, boutonnieres, photography, videography, live music and a catered lunch will be provided. Due to space restrictions, couples may bring up to two guests only.

Interested couples should email emarriage@buckscounty.org and begin a marriage license application. Bucks County marriage applications are accepted online and can be started at https://propublic.buckscountyonline.org/psi3/marriagelicense. To participate in the wedding ceremony, couples must submit a short, paragraph-long bio by Jan. 31 and must obtain their marriage license by Feb. 7. ••

Protection for pregnant and postpartum women in jail

State Reps. Tina Davis and Morgan Cephas celebrated the final passage of their legislation to better support pregnant and postpartum incarcerated women.

The bill, H.B. 900, passed the House with bipartisan support in June and cleared the Senate earlier in December. Gov. Josh Shapiro was expected to sign the bill.

Introduced by Davis, Cephas and Rep. Mike Jones, H.B. 900 creates protections for pregnant and postpartum incarcerated women, including restricting shackling and solitary confinement; providing trauma-informed care training of corrections officers interacting with pregnant and postpartum women; and providing up to three days of post-delivery bonding time between a mother and newborn child.

“Pregnancy can be a stressful time, especially for women who are separated from their families,” Davis said. “As the number of pregnant or postpartum incarcerated women rise, we must ensure they have the support that they and their babies need. We have devoted years to making this right, and I am thankful that it will soon become law.” ••

Money to address cancer mortality

Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick and Debbie Dingell introduced the Knockout (K.O.) Cancer Act of 2023.

The legislation boosts funding for the National Cancer Institute by 25 percent over fiscal years 2024 through 2028 to more appropriately align with the current cancer mortality rates. Additionally, the Knockout Cancer Act asks Congress for a report on the shortage of cancer drugs that is facing the nation.

“Over five decades ago, our nation declared war on cancer with the signing of the National Cancer Act. We have made significant progress in combating this devastating disease, but there is still work yet to be done,” said Fitzpatrick, co-chairman of the House Cancer Caucus. “Current funding levels for research do not meet the alarming rate at which Americans are dying from this horrendous disease, and I am proud to lead the bipartisan Knockout (K.O) Cancer Act to ensure that the medical research community has adequate funding so that we can eventually defeat cancer once and for all.” ••

Child custody bill passes

The state Senate unanimously passed critical Senate Bill 55, also known as Kayden’s Law, that provides reform to Pennsylvania’s child custody statute. The legislation is sponsored by Sens. Steve Santarsiero and Lisa Baker, and is named for Kayden Mancuso, a 7-year-old from Lower Makefield Township who was killed in 2018 by her biological father during a court-ordered, unsupervised visit granted following a year-long custody dispute.

“Kayden’s Law will ensure the safety of the child is paramount in custody cases and will save children’s lives,” Santarsiero said. “No child in Pennsylvania should fear for their safety or be left alone with an abuser. Kayden’s Law will help ensure that never happens again by requiring supervised visitation at a minimum when there is a potential risk to the child’s safety.”

Senate Bill 55 will strengthen the current factors that judges must consider in making custody and visitation decisions to make it clear that the most important issue is the protection of the child; ensure that if there is a finding by the court of an ongoing risk of abuse, that any custody order includes safety conditions and restrictions necessary, including supervised visitation, to protect the child; and encourage the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania to implement an annual educational and training program for judges and relevant court personnel on child abuse, adverse childhood experiences, domestic violence and its impact on children.

Santarsiero said, “Kayden’s Law has been a years-long collaborative effort, led by the tireless advocacy of Kayden’s mom Kathy Sherlock, along with family law advocates and experts. Kathy’s strength and dedication have continued to motivate me to push for this legislation and get it to Gov. Shapiro’s desk to be signed into law. I want to thank my colleague, Sen. Lisa Baker, for her partnership in writing the bill and helping it get through the Senate. I also want to thank my House colleagues Tina Davis and Perry Warren for their work on this issue.”

“Every day children are at risk of being ordered to remain in abusive, unsafe and deadly situations,” Sherlock said. “I vowed to do whatever it took to protect children and have found support from so many on this journey and with today’s overwhelming vote for Kayden’s Law we are one step closer to fulfilling our mission of ‘not one more.’ “

Senate Bill 55 moves to the House of Representatives for consideration. ••

Specific penalties for porch pirates

Legislation to combat porch pirating was signed by Gov. Josh Shapiro.

Sen. Frank Farry (R-6th dist.) sponsored Senate Bill 527 – now Act 41 of 2023. It implements specific penalties for theft of mail, which includes a package, bag or letter. In Pennsylvania, theft of mail is currently charged under other theft offenses based solely on the value of the item taken.

“With online shopping being a growing method of commerce, package thefts have been on the rise nationwide. It’s time to hold these thieves accountable,” Farry said. “This bill focuses on repeat offenders by using a grading system that would increase the penalties if the thief had prior convictions for theft of mail.”

According to Forbes, nearly eight in 10 Americans had a package stolen in 2022.

Reps. Kristin Marcell and K.C. Tomlinson have companion legislation, HB 696, in the House of Representatives.

“Here in the commonwealth, package theft has impacted almost 2 million Pennsylvanians,” Marcell said. “When you consider the median value of stolen packages are valued at $50, you can see this crime leaves a sizable financial toll on families and businesses, not to mention the emotional distress of having your personal property violated.”

“The increasing penalties within this bill for package theft will serve as a deterrent the way the current law does not,” Tomlinson said. “Our hope behind this legislation is that it will reduce the occurrence of these crimes and will lead to a safer community.”

Pennsylvania joins eight other states ­– Texas, New Jersey, Michigan, Oklahoma, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas – that have already made porch pirating a felony. ••

Funds for water, sewer projects

State Sen. Frank Farry and Rep. Brian Munroe announced that the state has awarded more than $1.4 million for three water and sewer projects in Bucks County, funded through the Commonwealth Financing Agency.

Under the H2O PA grant, the Warminster Township Municipal Authority will receive $912,000 for construction to retrofit the Tennyson and Whittier basins.

In addition, the North Wales Water Authority and Ivyland Borough will receive $120,400 and $422,301, respectively, through the PA Small Water and Sewer grant program.

The North Wales Water Authority will use the funds to install a permanent backup generator at their disaster recovery facility in Warrington Township.

Ivyland will use its grant to help fund the Greeley Avenue Storm Sewer project.

“Proper storm and sewer management systems improve our local economy, our health and our quality of life,” Munroe said. “I am happy to see these worthy projects receive state funding.”

Added Farry, “I am proud that we’re partnering with our local communities and their authorities on these worthwhile projects. The approved funding will enhance our infrastructure’s reliability and support necessary project upgrades.”

The H2O Grant provides for single-year and multi-year grants for the construction of drinking water, sanitary sewer and storm sewer projects; the construction or renovation of flood control projects; and the repair or rehabilitation of high-hazard unsafe dams.

The Small Water and Sewer program funds activities to assist with the construction, improvement, expansion, or rehabilitation or repair of a water supply system, sanitary sewer system, storm sewer system or flood control projects. ••

Drug education bill goes to governor

Legislation sponsored by Rep. Kristin Marcell to require the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs to engage in a public awareness campaign to educate the public about the dangers of human use of xylazine has been included in a Senate bill that passed the General Assembly and is going to the governor.

House Bill 1690 was inserted into Senate Bill 683.

Over the past several years, law enforcement officers and public health professionals have detected an increase in the prevalence of the illicit use of xylazine, an animal tranquilizer — or “tranq” — in street drugs used in the commonwealth. In fact, about half of all Pennsylvania counties saw cases where illicit use of xylazine caused a death in 2021. Worse, 90 percent of the opioids sampled by the City of Philadelphia showed xylazine in 2021.

“Yet too few people are aware of this drug’s existence,” Marcell said. “Increased public awareness of the impact of the illicit use of xylazine can help the effort to protect our residents. My legislation would require DDAP to enter into partnerships with healthcare providers, community-based health centers and hospitals to educate Pennsylvanians on the dangers of human use of xylazine. 

“It would also require the creation of informational materials for distribution to Pennsylvanians on the effects of xylazine on the human body, how to discuss the dangers with family and friends, and other information deemed necessary by DDAP to educate the public on this topic.”

Xylazine, designed as a horse tranquilizer, is being used as a cutting agent for heroin and fentanyl used by humans. The drug’s users tend to get wounds that do not readily heal. ••

Farry office hours in Bensalem

State ​​Sen. Frank Farry (R-6th dist.) is offering satellite office hours the first Wednesday of every month, from 9 a.m. to noon at the Bensalem Township Municipal Building, 2400 Byberry Road, Bensalem.

Farry’s staff will be on site to assist with state government services; Property Tax/Rent Rebate applications, birth and death certificate applications, SEPTA Senior Key card registrations and renewals; and unemployment issues. ••

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