Legislation accomplishments abound in 2012
The 2011-12 legislative session wrapped up in November, and before we begin the new session Jan. 1, 2013, I think it is wise to take a look back and see what we have accomplished.
Of course, some years are more productive than others but, this past year, we have been able to make significant progress on several fronts that will help improve the business climate in Pennsylvania, increase safety and protection, and honor our military men and women.
Certainly, the economy has impacted many families and businesses, and I know my district offices have worked with numerous individuals who lost their jobs and are looking for work.
In order to help strengthen our business community and attract more job-producing businesses to the state, we have enacted several initiatives this past year.
These initiatives help create a more competitive and level playing field for all employers by doing such things as phasing out certain onerous taxes, which have been deterrents to many companies looking to start or relocate a business here.
We also established tax credit programs to attract both high-tech and large-scale businesses to Pennsylvania.
In addition, several regulatory burdens have been removed to make for a more business-friendly environment, and we have implemented new laws to consider how small businesses might be negatively impacted when creating new business regulations and mandates.
For employees trying to return to the workforce, we recently created the Keystone Works program, which will enable unemployed residents to receive valuable on-the-job training while continuing to temporarily collect unemployment benefits, the goal of which is to provide more opportunities for employment and growth within a person's chosen field.
When it comes to public safety and protection, we have enacted laws to provide our volunteer fire and ambulance companies with grants to help defray the costs of training, equipment and facility upkeep.
Furthermore, in light of severe flooding events the past couple of years, we made it illegal for motorists to drive past, around or through a sign or traffic control device closing a road due to potentially hazardous conditions.
Anyone who doesn't heed the new "Turn Around, Don't Drown" law could be fined and have to pay the costs of being rescued, in addition to have points assessed to his or her driver's license.
In order to better protect our youth, we passed a sexting law that creates a new offense for minors caught transmitting sexually explicit photos of themselves or their peers to give law enforcement more options other than a felony punishment.
In addition, we enacted several laws outlining sentencing options for juveniles convicted of murder; ensuring greater protections for juvenile offenders regarding legal representation; streamlining the expungement of records; and defining the crime of cyber-bullying by minors.
On a more personal note, I authored legislation to create a funding stream for children's advocacy centers.
CACs serve as a one-stop-shop for the delivery of medical care and mental health treatment to child victims of physical and sexual abuse.
These centers bring together doctors, nurses, prosecutors, social workers and police in one location in order to provide an effective and comprehensive program of treatment and healing.
We currently have 21 accredited CACs in Pennsylvania, and these centers are primarily funded through federal grants, charitable organizations, private donations and sponsoring institutions.
My legislation would create the Children's Advocacy Center Funding Act, which would be funded by money raised through additional fees on certain court filings.
Although my legislation only made it to the committee stage this past year, I plan to introduce it again in 2013 with the expectation it will make it before the General Assembly and onto the governor's desk.
And, finally, the General Assembly enacted several new laws to honor our state's veterans, such as placing a U.S. military veteran's designation on driver's licenses and/or ID cards to aid veterans in obtaining the benefits available to them; creating the Pennsylvania Veterans Trust Fund to assist with the sale of lands, buildings and other real estate used for veteran's services or programs; and establishing a voluntary check-off mechanism on driver's license renewals and vehicle registrations for motorists to donate to the Pennsylvania Veterans Trust Fund; as well as offering a special license plate for both veterans and motorists who wish to honor veterans.
We also now encourage state agencies to contract with veteran-owned small businesses and provide training to help veteran-owned businesses learn how to apply for state contracts. These measure seem the least we can do to support the men and women who have sacrificed so much for our nation's protection and safety.
I look forward to having another productive year in 2013 with even more meaningful and impactful legislation signed into law to make Pennsylvania an even greater state to call home.