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Legislation Under Consideration
Academic Performance Incentives
Intended to reward good teachers and to attract the best and brightest to the profession, this would establish criteria for teacher compensation.
Athletic Department Reporting
Intended to end exploitation of college athletes and to ensure that they receive an education, this would amend the Right-to-Know Law by requiring each college or university to file an annual report listing revenues and expenses of athletics programs.
Board of Revision of Taxes bill
To authorize the City of Philadelphia to create a new appellate board, which has already been approved by referendum. Under this bill, members of the Appeals Board would be appointed by the Mayor from a group of nominees identified by a nominating panel of industry and professional experts. Appointments would require confirmation by City Council and appointees could only be removed for cause.
To require that members of the General Assembly pass a Commonwealth budget by July 1 or forfeit their salaries until the budget passes.
City Gas Companies – Lien Policies
Intended to better protect the rights of innocent property owners, this bill would prohibit any city natural gas distribution operation from collecting delinquent receivables through the imposition of property liens. A responsible landlord should not have to pay delinquent gas fees incurred by a negligent tenant or suffer the consequences of a resulting property lien.
Credit Checks for Insurance
To prohibit insurance providers from denying or canceling homeowner or private passenger automobile insurance due to a person’s credit history.
Criminal Background Checks
Intended to reduce the number of persons not hired due to false information on a criminal background check, this would standardize criminal background checks so that they are conducted exclusively by the Commonwealth, rather than by prospective employers using private companies.
Following a suggestion made by an entrant to my There Oughta Be a Law! competition, the bill would also prohibit disclosure of misdemeanor offenses committed when the applicant was under 21 years of age as well as misdemeanor offenses by an applicant who has been free of arrest or prosecution for seven years or more.
Decedents’ Life Insurance
To require the PA Insurance Department to provide a decedent’s life insurance information to a licensed funeral director, thus allowing families with limited means to know if the policy will cover funeral costs or if other arrangements need to be made in a timely manner.
To establish guidelines and prohibitions that the Delaware River Port Authority commissioners, officers, directors and employees must follow in order to provide more transparency and prevent impropriety.
To ease the practical difficulties faced by people attempting to exercise their constitutional right to vote by establishing early voting sites at which electors may cast a ballot for up to two weeks prior to an election. With this, Pennsylvania would join 35 states which allow some form of in-person early voting, no-excuse absentee ballot voting and/or all-mail voting.
Employer Credit Checks
Intended to end unlawful discrimination practices, this would prohibit employer credit checks unless the check is job related or proper notice is given.
False Claims Act
To give the Attorney General investigative and prosecutorial authority to guard against fraud, waste and abuse of taxpayer funds due to false claims and to provide for recovery of treble damages, costs and civil penalties.
Fast Food Nutrition Disclosure
To require large fast food companies to display nutritional content, so that people can be made more aware of the health consequences of what they eat.
Fracking Chemicals Disclosure
To require well-operators drilling in the Marcellus Shale to disclose chemical constituents, chemical compounds, quantities of chemicals and the quantity of flowback at each well-site.
The winning entry in my 2012 There Oughta Be a Law! competition , this is intended to reduce the air pollution and the waste of energy resulting from idling vehicles. Current law imposes limits on idling commercial vehicles with a gross weight of 10,001 pounds or more. This would extend these limits to lighter vehicles as well.
Illegal Transportation of Firearms
To allow forfeiture of property and seizure of vehicles or vessels used to unlawfully transport firearms and to allow for a forfeiture hearing in criminal court so the lawful owner may receive due process and challenge the forfeiture.
To establish a pilot program to assist families in which children are being raised by their grandparents or other generation-skipping older relatives. It would provide:
- Rental assistance
- Day-care assistance for working heads of households
- Training for state Department of Public Welfare employees
- Caseworkers to offer support and counseling
- Development and improvement of intergenerational housing
- Activity areas for children in intergenerational family homes
Mortgages and Drilling
Intended to address the reluctance among lenders to grant mortgages on properties that are leased for gas drilling and to reduce the number of landowners who unknowingly fall into “technical defaults” on their mortgages, this would require drilling companies to obtain written permission from a lender prior to putting leases on mortgaged properties.
To allow independent and non-party voters to vote in primary elections.
To require that one of four approved models of reform be instituted at a habitually underperforming school if a majority of parents petition for reform:
- Turnaround – School management is changed replacing the principal, as well as retaining no more than 50 percent of the current staff. The new principal is also given more operational flexibility to ensure the turnaround of the school.
- Transformation – Similar to the turnaround method, this model also replaces the principal and also identifies and rewards school staff member who have increased student achievement.
- Restart – The failing school is converted or is closed and then re-opened under a charter school operator, a charter management organization, or an education management organization that has been selected through a review process. Any former student who wishes to attend the school must be accepted.
- School closure – The low-performing school closes, terminates the staff employment, and sends students to higher achieving schools within the district.
Philadelphia School Reform Commission (SRC) Reform
Intended to increase accountability of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission (SRC), this would add an educator, a parent/guardian and a student to the SRC. Members would need to be residents of Philadelphia and would not be permitted to engage in business activity with each other or with elected officials, outside of official SRC business. The terms of SRC members would be coterminous with those of the appointing governor or mayor. The SRC would issue an annual report to parents.
Pink Slime in Schools
To address the recent health and safety concern regarding the use of “pink slime” in beef served in schools, this legislation would prohibit schools in the Commonwealth from purchasing or serving food treated with ammonium hydroxide or “pink slime.” The prohibition would apply to public schools, private schools, charter schools, cyber charter schools, nonpublic schools, intermediate units and area vocational-technical schools.
Post Conviction DNA Testing bill
At times, innocent people confess to crimes they did not commit. This will codify a recent PA Supreme Court ruling that a confession does not bar access to post conviction DNA testing. In order to obtain post conviction access, the applicant must assert that there is a reasonable possibility that his or her requested DNA testing would produce exculpatory evidence establishing his actual innocence.
Recycling and Waste Reduction
To update the Municipal Waste Planning, Recycling and Waste Reduction Act. To create more progressive waste disposal goals; to require the Department of Environmental Protection to report to the Legislature and to the public on annual progress; to increase the amount and types of materials required to be collected and to increase the number of municipalities required to engage in curbside recycling if economically feasible.
Intended to make essential information available to law enforcement for purposes of tracing guns used in crime, as well as to reduce illegal firearms sales by creating owner accountability, this would require registration of all firearms in the Commonwealth.
Retired Educators Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA)
Intended to address the fact that retired teachers in Pennsylvania have not received a cost of living adjustment since 2002, the longest time span in any state, this would provide a pre-funding mechanism for COLAs for retired public school employees only.
Solemnization of Weddings
To allow religious organizations, institutions and societies to join persons together in marriage whether or not one or both of the persons marrying is a member of that religious organization, institution or society.
This proposal earned an Honorable Mention in my 2011 There Oughta Be a Law! competition. It would expand a program of property tax deferral to provide relief to older Pennsylvania homeowners without requiring an increase in taxes for other Pennsylvanians. A qualifying senior would be able to defer his or her tax payments, with interest, until he or she passes away, sells the home or otherwise disposes of it.
Website Witness Protection Act
To make it a felony of the second degree, punishable by one to ten years in prison, to publish on a website the indentity of a cooperating witness in a criminal investigation.