Over the nearly two years that I have served in the State Senate, I have found the pace of legislative activity to rival molasses in winter. The review and approval process takes time and gives the appearance that government is slow to act. But, I’d rather move slowly and develop good laws – the kind that make Pennsylvania and Erie County a better place to live — than pay the price of living with a bad law that was put together too quickly and voted on without proper deliberation.
Things were much different recently as we wrapped up the last scheduled voting week of the 2017-18 Legislative Session with action on more than 80 bills. I am pleased to report that my bill updating and streamlining reporting requirements for insurance companies in Pennsylvania was among those that received final legislative approval during the end-of-session flurry of activity.
Senate Bill 1205, which was enacted as Act 163 of 2018, requires insurance companies to provide specific information on their corporate structure. This information will ensure that the Department of Insurance continues to meet the National Association of Insurance Commissioners-mandated requirement to conduct financial stability examinations of companies doing business in Pennsylvania.
For insurance companies, especially our smaller firms, the bill reduces the cumbersome burden that comes with the Department’s financial stability examination since much of the relevant material will be already provided and updated annually. The new law also helps Pennsylvania-based companies by increasing the parity between the reporting requirements they face and those imposed on out-of-state businesses.
Public safety was definitely a priority as we approved several measures during the week addressing that subject, including a bill setting tougher punishments against habitual drunk drivers (Act 153); one that allows county housing authorities to relocate domestic violence victims to protect them from their abusers (Act 148); and another measure ensuring that an abusive spouse is ineligible to receive financial support from the person that he or she was convicted of abusing (Act 102).
In response to a highly publicized hazing death at Penn State University, we approved a bill that emphasizes prevention, enforcement and transparency in order to end hazing (Act 80). Act 80 increases penalties for those involved in hazing; requires schools to have policies and reporting procedures in place to stop hazing; and ensures that parents and students are provided with information related to the issue. It establishes parameters on hazing for fraternities and sororities, while creating safe harbor provisions so students know they can call for help for someone in distress without fear of prosecution.
Other bills we passed during the end-of-session flurry will provide for better monitoring of opioid prescriptions (Act 96), ensure emergency medical services agencies are reimbursed for services provided when care is rendered, but transport to a hospital does not take place (Act 103), and crack down on motorists who illegally pass school buses through the placement of cameras to record those who ignore flashing red signals (Act 159).
A number of bills advanced to help protect taxpayers and reduce the cost of government, including a comprehensive welfare reform package that included new measures to prevent waste, fraud and abuse of public benefit programs (Act 125). We also approved critical reforms to the Worker’s Compensation program to ensure the system remains solvent well into the future (Act 111 and Act 132).
In addition, lawmakers took action to provide alternatives to Keystone Exams for students to fulfill high school graduation requirements (Act 158). I also supported passage of a bill that would allow school districts to discuss school security matters in private executive sessions and limit access to security plans (Act 156).
In closing, I encourage local residents to visit my website, www.senatorlaughlin.com, and my Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/senatorlaughlin/, to keep up to date with state government news – including the state budget – and learn more about state services and agencies.
Contact: Matt Azeles firstname.lastname@example.org