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Argall's Legislative Report tells of happenings in the Senate

Published June 26. 2013 05:03PM

State sen. David G. Argall has released his report on recent legislative action.

Legislation strengthening DNA laws approved by Senate:

A long-overdue strengthening and modernization of the laws governing the collection and use of DNA technology to fight crimes in Pennsylvania was approved by the Senate on June 18. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Senate Bill 150 will allow law enforcement agencies to make better use of DNA evidence by requiring individuals arrested for serious crimes to submit DNA samples. The bill also strengthens privacy protections and requires DNA laboratories and technicians to meet national standards. In addition, the bill establishes privacy protections, an expungement process and new quality controls. It also authorizes a new type of DNA search to help identify suspects in unsolved crimes.

Senate approves measure to improve safety on school buses:

The Senate passed legislation on Wednesday that will improve safety and allow school districts to resolve disciplinary incidents on school buses faster and with more certainty. Senate Bill 57 allows for audio taping on school buses. Currently videotaping can be done on school buses but audio taping is not allowed due to concerns that it could be a violation of the Wiretap Act.

For two decades, school districts have used video monitoring of school buses for student security and discipline purposes. This has been a valuable tool in resolving discipline action and has helped reduce violent acts on school buses because the students know that there is a camera on the bus.

Senate Urban Affairs & Housing Committee Approves Tobash Bill, Two Other House Bills:

The Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee unanimously approved three bills from the House of Representatives on June 19.

House Bill 1122, which mirrors legislation I introduced in the Senate (Senate Bill 859), would provide a 10-year window for developers to complete the construction of planned communities. The Uniform Planned Communities Act currently mandates that all construction be completed within seven years.

Many developers have expressed concerns regarding their ability to complete planned communities due to new lending restrictions enacted by many financial institutions in response to the recent recession. If communities are not completed, the responsibility for maintaining the undeveloped properties falls on other homeowners within the homeowner's association.

In many cases, new homeowners do not have the financial resources to maintain the roads, sewer lines, water lines and other infrastructure, and the municipalities are left to pick up the slack. It makes more sense to allow developers to finish the job they started instead of burdening local taxpayers with the costs of maintaining undeveloped or underdeveloped properties.

The committee approved House Bill 1319, sponsored by Rep. Mike Tobash (R-125), which would restrict the use of employment contracts by housing authorities.

According to Tobash, the bill ensures lawful hiring practices.

Tobash notes that his bill clears up an older law, and mainly prevents housing authorities from skirting the civil service system when hiring new employees. He also highlights that our state has a civil service system of hiring in place for a reason: There are plenty of hard-working, qualified folks waiting for jobs, and it's important that they are being considered by our housing authorities.

The committee also approved House Bill 1363, legislation that would encourage private investment in efforts to remediate blighted properties by improving state laws regulating conservatorships.

The proposals now move to the full Senate for consideration.

Other bills approved by the Senate last week:

House Bill 84 changes the county inspection requirement for preserved farms from annually to every two years and eliminates some of the burdensome notification and reporting requirements. Since the statewide program began in the late 1980s, many counties have hundreds of farms preserved and limited staff to conduct inspections. In addition, technology has also evolved where aerial photographs may be used to help identify possible violations. The bill goes to Gov. Tom Corbett for his signature and enactment into law.

Senate Bill 137 advances consumer protection and patient results by ensuring that all audiologists, and those performing the functions of the profession, are properly licensed by the state.

Senate Bill 305 establishes a uniform procedure for the disposition of contraband left in the possession of probation and parole agencies.

House Bill 326 increases the number of members on the governing board of a third class county convention center from nine to 11 members. The bill now goes to the governor for his signature and enactment into law.

Senate Bill 358 requires facilities offering mammograms to provide patients with information regarding their breast density.

Senate Bill 437 allows the Department of Education to recognize the military science instruction certification. This legislation would allow those teaching JROTC to continue to provide instruction with a military science endorsement as an instructor as long as the instructor has a documented 20 years of military service.

House Bill 891 permits the checking of traps remotely by electronic means by a properly permitted Nuisance Wildlife Control Operator. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

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