The state Senate unanimously passed a bill sponsored by Sen. Lisa Baker, R-20, Lehman Twp., that enhances the safe transportation of school children by establishing new traffic rules and strengthening penalties for overtaking a school bus.
“Violators of school traffic laws are fundamentally guilty of one of two offenses — aggressive or distracted driving. Neither is defensible nor acceptable,” Baker said. “Deaths and injuries are entirely preventable.”
Senate Bill 897 extends the stopping distance requirement to 15 feet before reaching a school bus when the red signal lights on the bus are flashing and the side stop signal arm is activated.
For the first time, the law would include specific penalties for drivers who fail to proceed with caution or those who do not prepare to stop when a school bus has engaged its flashing amber lights.
The bill also creates increased penalties for repeat offenders of the school bus stopping law. Upon conviction for a subsequent offense, violators would be subject to the same driver’s license suspension and accumulation of points, plus an increased fine and completion of either a driver improvement school, or examination testing, as determined by PennDOT.
The bill heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Bill updating controlled substance scheduling approved by committee
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved legislation sponsored by Baker and Sen. Devlin Robinson R-37, Allegheny County, that updates the state’s controlled substance scheduling.
A controlled substance is defined as a drug, substance or immediate precursor included in Schedules I through V of the Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act. Senate Bill 959 amends the act and allows for the scheduling of controlled substances in to automatically follow the federal government’s Drug Enforcement Administration’s classification whenever a new substance is added.
“Unfortunately, there will never be a crystal ball that will tell us what the next fentanyl or bath-salts will be,” Baker said. “This bill, however, is vitally important because it allows law enforcement to act swiftly when dangerous new substances appear on our streets.”
The bill moves to the Senate for consideration.
Kayden’s Law unanimously voted out of Senate Judiciary Committee
Senate Bill 55, known as Kayden’s Law, was unanimously voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The bipartisan legislation is sponsored by Sen. Steve Santarsiero, D-10, Bucks County, and Baker is named for Kayden Mancuso, a 7-year-old from Lower Makefield Twp., who was killed in August 2018 by her biological father during a court-ordered, unsupervised visit granted following a year-long custody dispute.
The bill strengthens the 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; ensures 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 encourages the Pennsylvania Supreme Court 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.
Senate Bill 55 goes to the Senate for a full vote.
Casey, Romney introduce legislation to expand early childhood education training
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, introduced legislation to prepare principals, superintendents and other school leaders to facilitate high-quality early childhood education programs in school districts.
The Creating Early Childhood Leaders Act provides school leaders with the tools and training to support early childhood educators.
“As states expand access to early childhood education programs, we must ensure that our school districts are prepared to support children in these fundamental years,” Casey said. “The science is clear: when children learn more earlier in life, they earn more later. The Creating Early Childhood Leaders Act helps to support the emotional, social and academic development of young children in Pennsylvania and across the nation.”
Casey to USPS: Fix payroll disruption affecting rural Pennsylvania
Casey sent a letter to United States Postal Service Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to express concern for rural mail carriers who missed or partially received their Sept. 1 paychecks due to a payroll error.
While USPS has since indicated the problem has been resolved, Casey has heard from Pennsylvanians who received incomplete, erroneous or delayed paychecks in the weeks that followed.
Disability advocate available at Bakers’ Dallas office
A representative from Northeast PA Center for Independent Living will be available 10 a.m. to noon Friday at Baker’s office at 22 Dallas Shopping Center, Memorial Highway, Dallas.
Information and resources will be offered to people with disabilities and their families to help them obtain home and community-based services, transportation, housing and other assistance to promote greater independence in the community.
To schedule an appointment, call 570-675-3931.
CAPITOL DIGEST runs periodically in The Citizens’ Voice and features news about local lawmakers in Harrisburg and Washington, D.C.