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Welcome to "Mike's Memo," an update on what's happening in the 48th Legislative District, the State Capitol, and the progress of my legislative priorities. If you haven't done so already, please take a few moments to visit my website at to learn more about issues that may affect you and your family.

Week of June 8, 2015

Bills Pass Senate, Go to House
All bills passed unanimously unless otherwise noted.
Senate Bill 78 – revokes and prohibits new kennel licenses to immediate family members where licenses have been revoked within the last ten years;
Senate Bill 294 – redefines torture and penalties for horse cruelty (Cordelia’s Law);
Senate Bill 305 – allows Pharmacists to administer flu vaccines to children over 7-years-old with parental consent;
Senate Bill 373 – (45-4) strengthens tethering and cruelty to animal laws;
Senate Bill 490 – (32-17) requires Senate confirmation of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) Director;
Senate Bill 594 – imposes penalties for harming pets by people with protection-from-abuse orders against them;
Senate Bill 695 – requires lobbyists and lobbying firms to register and file reports electronically.

Executive Nominations Confirmed by Senate
All were confirmed unanimously unless otherwise noted.
Insurance Commissioner:  Teresa Miller of Harrisburg
Secretary of Banking and Securities Robin Wiessmann of Newtown
Secretary of Conservation and Natural Resources Cynthia A. Dunn of Camp Hill
Secretary of Human Services:  Theodore Dallas of Philadelphia
Secretary of the Commonwealth Pedro A. Cortes of Harrisburg (31-18, I was a nay)
Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera, II of Lancaster
Secretary of Environmental Protection John H. Quigley of Camp Hill (44-4)

Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program Application Deadline Extended
The Property Tax/Rent Rebate program deadline for older adults and residents with disabilities that fall within the income limits to apply for rebates of rent and property taxes paid in 2014 has been extended from June 30 to December 31, 2015.

Each year the department evaluates the program as the June 30 deadline approaches to determine if funds are available to extend the deadline.  To date, funding has been available to allow all who qualify to take advantage of this program.  As of May 22, the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue received 449,224 applications.  Rebate distribution will begin on July 1, and after June 30, rebates will be distributed as claims are received.

Applicants may obtain Property Tax/Rent Rebate claim forms (PA-1000) at my Lebanon District Office, Room 101 Municipal Building, 400 South 8th Street, Lebanon; calling the Department of Revenue toll-free at 1-888-222-9190, or; online at  Status of claims can also be checked online.

Persian Gulf Theater Veterans One-Time Bonus
Pennsylvania veterans who fought in the Persian Gulf Theater in the early 1990s could receive up to $525 a month for their service if they apply now for a special, one-time bonus.  The payments are for veterans who were on active duty during Operations Desert Shield or Desert Storm between August 2, 1990, and August 31, 1991.  The deadline to apply is August 31.  Click here for more information.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund Faces Never Forgotten Campaign
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund has launched the Faces Never Forgotten campaign to collect a photograph of each of the more than 58,000 men and women whose names are inscribed on The Wall.  You can find a list of Pennsylvania service members whose photos are needed here.

Column – Update: Medical Cannabis
My efforts to help sick children, veterans, and others by bringing medical cannabis to Pennsylvania began with a meeting with two mothers of children with seizures.  While the journey has been long, I’m pleased with the progress we’ve made over the past year.  My goal has been – and continues to be – helping those Pennsylvanians with medical challenges – especially children with seizures and veterans with PTSD – to benefit from medical cannabis.

We recently took another important step as the Pennsylvania Senate overwhelmingly passed my Senate Bill 3, 40 – 7.  This is the second time the Senate has considered and passed legislation to allow medical cannabis as a treatment option for people with diseases and debilitating conditions.  SB 3 is a more comprehensive bill than last Session’s SB 1182 thanks to the tireless efforts of advocates and the continued strong support of my Senate colleagues.

I especially want to thank Senator Camera Bartolotta (R-46, Beaver, Greene, and Washington Counties) who partnered with me to strengthen and expand SB 3.  Working together, we were able to get a number of key changes into the bill, including an expansion of the list of diseases and treatable conditions to include Crohn’s Disease, Diabetes, and chronic or intractable pain.

We were also able to add vaporization as a delivery method for cannabis, which would be particularly beneficial to children with seizures and veterans with PTSD.  I’m pleased Senator Bartolotta and I were able to explain the important differences between nebulization and vaporization.

Nebulization is the process of creating a fine mist from a liquid.  Vaporization is the process of creating a fine mist, or vapor, from a liquid or a solid.  An example of the difference between the two is Vicks VapoRub, which can be vaporized but not nebulized to create a vapor that can be taken into the sinuses and lungs where the medicine has a more immediate impact.

This is especially important when administering medical cannabis.  Vaporized cannabis has a more rapid effect because it’s delivered to the lungs as a mist and goes directly into the blood stream within seconds.  Ingesting cannabis can take an hour or more to take effect, which is a problem for veterans suffering panic attacks due to PTSD where time is of the essence. 

With vaporization, the dosage is also better minimized and adjusted.  The patient can start with a low dose, knowing they can safely and rapidly escalate the dose and not have to wait hours to get it right, as with ingested cannabis. 

Senate Bill 3 as passed by the full Senate represents countless hours of discussion, deliberation, debate, and drafting and redrafting.  I’m so grateful to everyone who labored to fine tune and pass this legislation. 

However, our work is not over as we now begin the journey in the House of Representatives, which has not had the same opportunities to study this issue as has the Senate.  I look forward to working with the House to bring them up-to-date on the provisions of SB 3 and to help explain the importance of bringing this medicine to Pennsylvania. 

While there will continue to be concerns with medical cannabis and some will not be able to support SB 3 because of these concerns, please know you’re not my enemies.  I too have opposed bills I could not support in my heart and I understand and appreciate the dilemmas with SB 3 because I too have been there.  Hopefully, as this journey continues, you too will be convinced. 

Finally, to those who are disappointed we weren’t able to get more into Senate Bill 3, I’m sorry – we tried.  And, we have a solid foundation with which to begin deliberations in the House.

Contact Information
Please feel free to contact me at any time on state-related issues that are of concern to you. I may be reached through my website or my Lebanon or Harrisburg offices.

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