In This Update:
Senate Approves Liability Protections for Schools, Health Care Providers, More
Many health care providers, schools, businesses and other entities have raised concerns about lawsuits being filed against them related to COVID-19, even if they closely followed all health directives from state and federal health agencies. The Senate approved a bill this week that would protect these entities from lawsuits if they acted in good faith to protect public health.
The liability protection does not apply in cases in which these entities were responsible for any intentional wrongful acts or reckless acts. The legislation does not provide complete immunity for any person or group; it simply ensures they will not be held responsible for any harm that occurred when health directives were followed.
Read my full press release on the passage of this legislation here.
Senator Aument: “Election Audits are Necessary, Not Partisan”
I firmly believe that the General Assembly has a duty to review all the concerns that have been raised about this election and to take decisive action to restore trust in our election process. We need to advance policies that will ensure that the procedural failures that occurred in 2020 are not repeated in future elections.
To that end, the House recently passed House Resolution 1100 which directs the Legislative Budget & Finance Committee to conduct a risk-limiting audit of the election, including a review of the way mail-in and absentee ballots were handled by each county. Additionally, both the House and Senate State Government Committees intend to hold hearings on the election process to review the impact of how the process was directed and implemented, as well as make recommendations for improvements.
I understand some will say these audits are unnecessary, but I strongly disagree. If these audits find discrepancies in how this election and the ballots cast were handled county by county, we have a duty to address those issues before the next election. And if these audits confirm the results with no issues to report, it will go a long way toward restoring confidence in future elections.
Read my full op-ed on the election audits here.
Senate Approves Bills to Protect Second Amendment Rights of Pennsylvanians
Two bills approved by the Senate this week would ensure the Second Amendment rights of Pennsylvanians are protected during emergency declarations. Both bills were sent to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.
Under current law, the rights of law-abiding citizens to open carry firearms can be limited during a state of emergency. The Senate approved a bill that would ensure these rights are not infringed during a state of emergency. The bill would also ensure firearm sales are not prohibited during an emergency declaration.
The Senate also approved a bill that would establish the Hunting, Firearm, and Ammunition Life-Sustaining Business Act to ensure shooting ranges, sportsman clubs, hunting facilities and firearm and ammunition manufacturers, retailers and distributors are considered life-sustaining businesses that will not be shuttered by state government during an emergency declaration.
Bill Would Provide Flexibility for Teacher Certifications, Keystone Exams
Schools would have more flexibility to respond to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic under legislation that was approved by the Senate this week. The bill would ease many certification and staff development requirements that are difficult to fulfill during the pandemic and extend certain emergency permits when staff development requirements cannot be completed.
The bill would also delay the use of the Keystone Exams as a graduation requirement until the 2022-23 school year. Additional provisions are also included to deal with problems related to pupil transportation.
General Assembly Approves Bill Cracking Down on Repeat DUI Offenders
A bill that would crack down on dangerous repeat DUI offenders was approved by the Senate this week. The bill would increase jail time for certain repeat offenders, double the amount of time that repeat offenders must have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicle and ensure repeat DUI offenders with two or more prior offenses serve their sentence consecutively to any other sentence imposed by the court.
The legislation, also known as Deana’s Law, also mandates the use of continuous alcohol monitoring devices as a condition of probation, parole or bail. The devices, which are similar to home arrest monitors, are strapped to the wearer and automatically test for the presence of alcohol.
The legislation was named in honor of Deana Eckman, a Delaware County woman who was killed in 2019 in a head-on collision with a repeat DUI offender who was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident.
Legislation Supports Organ and Tissue Donation
The Robert P. Casey Memorial Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Trust Fund was created in 1994 to encourage residents to become organ donors. The program allows Pennsylvanians to voluntarily donate $3 to the fund through a check-off box when they renew driver licenses, photo ID cards and vehicle registrations.
The General Assembly approved a bill recently that updates the program to reflect the fact that Pennsylvanians can now complete vehicle registrations on a biannual basis. The legislation allows state residents to donate $6 instead of $3 when they complete a biannual registration.
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