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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 October 31, 2016

Introduction of Aran Barrero Florez and Muratova Kamila Zhastalapovna
I recently had the opportunity to give two foreign exchange students a tour of the PA State Capitol, as well as introduce them on the Senate Floor. Aran Barrero Florez, from Cangas del Narcea, Spain, and Muratova Kamila Zhastalapovna, from Uralsk, Kazakhstan. Both are 16-years-old, staying with Bill and Pat Kasper and attending Northern Lebanon High School while in Pennsylvania.

Senator Folmer Enews

Muratova Kamila Zhastalapovna, Senator Folmer, Aran Barrero Florez

Aran is the daughter of Maria Dolores, and has a younger brother, Roman. Aran would like to continue her education in the U.S. to pursue a degree in an international politics or language field to become a teacher or work in an embassy. She speaks Spanish, English and French, and is currently learning Japanese.

Kamila is the daughter of Zhastalap and Bibigul, and has a younger brother, Sanzhar. Her favorite subjects at Northern Lebanon are forensic science, photography and physics. Kamila speaks Kazakh, Russian and English, and is currently learning German. She would like to continue her higher education at a European university, and aspires to travel around the world to gain cultural experience and view life from other perspectives.

Senator Folmer Enews

Muratova Kamila Zhastalapovna, Governor Wolf, Aran Barrero Florez

Aran and Kamila are studying in the United States on a scholarship in which only 500 of 8,000 applicants received, and are very much enjoying their year and are extremely thankful for the opportunity to study in Pennsylvania. They even got to meet the Governor!

Column: The Wizard of Oz
Toward the end of the classic movie “The Wizard of Oz,” the Wizard ostensibly grants Dorothy’s companions their wishes: the Scarecrow is given a diploma to prove knowledge, the Lion a medal to demonstrate courage, and the Tin Man receives a ticking heart-shaped watch.

Apparently, the federal government is now the Wizard of Oz as they believe the 2005 REAL ID Act will better protect Americans with driver’s licenses and identification cards.

REAL ID sets minimum federal standards for identification forms, including driver's licenses. It also prohibits federal agencies from accepting licenses and identification cards from states that don’t meet these standards.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently informed the Commonwealth it’s not in compliance with REAL ID. According to DHS, Pennsylvania has failed to:

  • Fully comply with DHS-approved security markings for driver’s licenses and identifications;
  • Require “in person re-issuance when there is any material change in personal identifiable information since prior issuance”;
  • Prohibit “the remote renewal of REAL ID DL/ID when there is a material change in personally identifiable information”;
  • Allow individuals to hold more than one REAL ID document and no more than one drivers’ license, and;
  • Note current driver’s licenses are not acceptable for official federal purposes because they don’t incorporate “a unique design or color indicator that clearly distinguishes them from compliant licenses and identification card.”

Before a REAL ID card can be issued, applicants must provide:

  • A photo ID (or a non-photo ID that includes full legal name and birthdate);
  • Birth date documentation;
  • Documentation of legal status and Social Security number, and;
  • Documentation showing name and principal residence address.

Digital images of each of these documents must be stored in a database in each state.

When you cut through all of this bureaucratic mumbo jumbo, it appears Pennsylvania residents will not be able visit federal facilities using state-issued driver’s licenses or identification cards beginning January 30, 2017 and will not be able to board commercial aircraft using these ID forms beginning January 22, 2018 simply because our driver’s licenses don’t have a federally approved sticker or are the wrong color. If only these requirements applied to the receipt of public benefits or voting.

More importantly, how does a sticker or a color code make anyone safer?

With the federal government already collecting, storing, and amassing data on us from cell phones, computers, and other electronic devices (sometimes without 4th Amendment warrants), I’m reminded of Benjamin Franklin’s quote etched in the Capitol’s granite steps: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

In 2009, I introduced legislation to exempt Pennsylvania from REAL ID. That bill was amended and reintroduced in 2011, when it was again amended before being overwhelming passed by both the Senate and House and signed into law in 2012.

At the time, other states had taken similar action, including: Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, DC, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kentucky, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Despite the lack of evidence on how this unfunded federal mandate will better protect us, other states have begun to cave to federal pressure and are beginning to comply with REAL ID.

It will be interesting to see what Pennsylvania does – especially if we remember the 10th Amendment: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

House Bill 967 – Industrial Hemp – Bill Signing Ceremony
Governor Wolf held a bill signing ceremony for Representative Diamond’s House Bill 967, the industrial hemp legislation, now Act 92 of 2016. I was pleased to attend as I was very supportive of this measure, along with Senator Schwank, prime sponsor of Senate Bill 50, and many of the advocates of this important agricultural legislation.

Senator Folmer Enews

Les Stark, a hemp historian, member of Keystone Cannabis Coalition (KCC) and the PA Hemp Industry Council (PAHIC), and strong advocate of industrial hemp and my medical cannabis legislation, made the day even more special when he proposed to Erica McBride, also a member KCC and PAHIC, during the bill signing. She said “yes”! Congratulations!

Senator Folmer Enews

Bills Pass Senate, Go to House for Further Consideration
All bills passed unanimously unless otherwise noted.
Senate Bill 805 – (35-13) allows large commercial and industrial energy users to opt-out of the Energy Efficiency and Conservation program under Act 129 of 2008;
Senate Bill 1331 – reforms insurance licensure requirements for PA travel agents;
House Bill 568 – updates the PA Construction Code;
House Bill 1885 – (34-14) addresses issues related to “sanctuary cities” in PA;
House Bill 1887 – (46-1) requires the PA Department of Health maintain a toll-free gambling assistance number and also seeks to address the local share provision for municipalities that was recently struck down by the PA Supreme Court.

Bills Pass Senate, Go to Governor for Further Action
All bills passed unanimously unless otherwise noted.
Senate Bill 356my bill to amend the Local Tax Enabling Act;
Senate Bill 385 – (46-2) updates the Transit Revitalization Investment District Act;
Senate Bill 486 – allows counties to apply a fee on each deed and mortgage recorded to be used for a demolition program to help combat blight;
Senate Bill 562 – (31-16) provides additional legislative oversight of regulatory review process;
Senate Bill 613 – expands the Human Services Development Block Grant;
Senate Bill 881 – clarifies the definition of a “public utility”;
Senate Bill 984 – (47-1) regulates Transportation Network Companies (TNCs), such as Uber and Lyft, operating in PA;
Senate Bill 1062 – increased penalties for home invasion burglaries;
Senate Bill 1202 – requires “pain management” and “prescribing practices of opioids” to be included in continuing medical education credits;
Senate Bill 1235 – upgrades the PA One Call Law;
Senate Bill 1265 – (45-3) gives employers the option to pay employees via debit card;
Senate Bill 1282 – (29-18) clarifies fees for condominiums, cooperatives and planned communities;
Senate Bill 1311 – brings PA into compliance with the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act;
Senate Bill 1367 – requires all prescribers receive written consent from a minor’s guardian to prescribe opioids and discuss the risks of addiction;
Senate Bill 1368 – requires medical schools provide a “Safe Opioid Prescription Education” and requires the PA Department of Health to create non-opioid forms for patients;
House Bill 162 – allows adult adoptees in PA to access their original birth certificates;
House Bill 192 – amends the Civil Service Act regarding Veterans Preference;
House Bill 245 – (36-12) clarifies Act 32 tax practitioner concerns;
House Bill 263 – (40-7) allows the PA Game Commission to regulate the use of air or gas powered weapons for hunting;
House Bill 319 – (39-8) amends the Unemployment Compensation Law providing for seasonal worker benefit eligibility (I was not able to support this measure as I was concerned with the financial impact the proposal would have on the Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund);
House Bill 516 – licenses Naturopathic Doctors under the State Board of Medicine;
House Bill 850 – updates Pennsylvania’s Money Transmitters Act;
House Bill 946 – (47-1) creates the Pharmacy Audit Integrity and Transparency Act and revises the reimbursement formula for PACE/PACENET prescriptions;
House Bill 1087 – provides the Governor veto power over actions of PA Commissioners on the Delaware River Port Authority Board;
House Bill 1118 – reestablishes the Pennsylvania Independent Counsel Statute;
House Bill 1196 – (44-4) gives beer distributors more options in selling beer;
House Bill 1398 – modernizes PA law on partnerships and limited liability companies;
House Bill 1403 – requires insurance companies compare policies with the Social Security Death Master File to ensure beneficiaries are made aware of unclaimed benefits;
House Bill 1437 – reduces the time for a purchaser to correct known code violations to better combat blight;
House Bill 1496 – gives judges the flexibility to impose greater penalties for felons who illegally possess firearms;
House Bill 1538 – (39-9) protects law enforcement pending investigations involving firearm discharges or use of force;
House Bill 1600 – provides a fee waiver for veteran and service-disabled veteran owned businesses (Pennsylvania Start Ups for Soldiers);
House Bill 1618 – (29-18) creates an Independent Office of Inspector General;
House Bill 1653 – allows PA Department of General Services to certify minority-owned, woman-owned and veteran-owned businesses;
House Bill 1683 – authorizes municipalities to enact a tax credit against the earned income and property tax liability of fire companies and EMS active volunteers;
House Bill 1699 – prohibits emergency providers from prescribing long-acting opioid painkillers in ERs and places a limit on discharge prescriptions;
House Bill 1703 – updates PA age restrictions for all-terrain vehicles;
House Bill 1737 – enables PA’s waste-to-energy facilities to destroy pharmaceuticals;
House Bill 1785 – requires each assisted living and personal care home in PA to post and disseminate information on influenza vaccines;
House Bill 1864 – clarifies the Cosmetology Law for student clinical work in cosmetology schools;
House Bill 1907 – updates the truancy law;
House Bill 1998 – (36-12) modernizes structure of the Philadelphia Parking Authority;
House Bill 2025 – amends the vehicle code relating to temporary vehicle registration, and certification and sanctions for safety inspection stations and mechanics;
House Bill 2058 – allows paramedics conduct blood draws at police stations for alleged driving under the influence cases;
House Bill 2078 – alleviates financial and logistical barriers for members of the military and their spouses to receive educator certification in PA;
House Bill 2084 – requires the PA Department of Corrections provide pepper spray to all state prison guards;
House Bill 2107 – (47-1) prohibits the PA Department of General Services from contracting with an entity engaging in an economic boycott against Israel (language from my Senate Bill 316 was also inserted into this bill providing for more openness and transparency in the award of state sole-source/no-bid and emergency contracts);
House Bill 2148 – expands the Enforcement Officer Disability Benefits Law to cover other first responders;
House Bill 2241 – amends Title 40 (Insurance) concerning retroactive denial of reimbursements;
House Bill 2290 – allows the Navigation Commission for the Delaware River and its navigable tributaries to increase River Pilots license fees;
House Bill 2291 – provides a rate increase for River Pilots of the Delaware River and its navigable tributaries;
House Bill 2303 – clarifies the Pennsylvania Breeding Fund;
House Bill 2338 – ensures students at an accredited institution remain eligible for state financial assistance and benefits if the US Department of Education discontinues recognition of the accrediting agency;
House Bill 2370 – clarifies Tax Reform Code changes regarding Agricultural Conservation Easements and the Realty Transfer Tax.

Bills Signed into Law by the Governor
Senate Bill 889 – Act 113 – extends heart and lung benefits to PA Game Commission and Fish and Boat Commission enforcement officers and investigators;
House Bill 49 – Act 110 – extends emergency responder death benefits to the PA Civil Air Patrol;
House Bill 1581 – Act 111 – creates the crime of felony strangulation;
House Bill 1619 – Act 112 – allows PA to join the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact.

Senate Resolution 421 Adopted by the Senate
Senate Resolution 421 calls on Congress and the President to thoroughly review changes made to the federal floodplain management standards and to determine if exceptions to prospective building projects should be made so applications can be submitted to the PA Housing Finance Agency for consideration. This Resolution was unanimously adopted.

Executive Nominations Unanimously Confirmed by the Senate of Pennsylvania
The following executive nominations were unanimously confirmed by the Senate:
State Board of Auctioneer Examiners – Daniel A. Trace, Meadville
Council of Trustees of Bloomsburg University – Edward G. Edwards, Bloomsburg, and Briand D. O’Donnell, Wilkes-Barre
Council of Trustees of California University of PA – James T. Davis, Brownsville, and Larry Maggi, Washington
DVRPC – Gina M. Burritt, Havertown
Council of Trustees of East Stroudsburg University – John J. Pekarovsky, III, Larksville, and Mario Scavello, Mount Pocono
Board of Trustees of Ebensburg Center – Gary F. Wills, Dysart
Council of Trustees of Edinboro University – Patricia J. Kennedy, McKean; Robert J. Lowther, Jr., Edinboro; Anthony J. Pirrello, Erie, and; Harold C. Shields, Pittsburgh
State Board of Education – Nathan C. Barrett, Scranton
Board of Governors of PASSHE – Donald E. Houser, Jr., Coraopolis; Thomas S. Muller, Macungie, and; Barbara McIlvaine Smith, West Chester
PHRC – Curtis J. Jones, Jr., Philadelphia, and Mayur N. Patel, Harrisburg
Council of Trustees of Indiana University of PA – Jonathan B. Mack, Indiana; David Osikowicz, Punxsutawney, and; Nathan T. Spade, Mechanicsburg
Council of Trustees of Kutztown University – Charles T. Blocksidge, McKees Rocks; Robert P. Grim, Kutztown; Jolynn L. Haney, Collegeville; Dianne M. Lutz, Wernersville, and; John P. Wabby, Pottsville
Council of Trustees of Lock Haven University – Mary A. Coploff, Lock Haven, and Deborah M. Suder, Harrisburg
Council of Trustees of Mansfield University – Ralph H. Meyer, South Waverly; Robert D. Strohecker, Mansfield, and; Bruce L. Vickery, Wellsboro
Council of Trustees of Millersville University – Jordan A. Harris, Philadelphia, and Michael G. Warfel, Camp Hill
Board of Directors of PHEAA – Robin L. Wiessmann, Newtown
Board of Trustees of the University of Pittsburgh of the Commonwealth System of Higher Education – Jake Wheatley, Jr., Pittsburgh
Council of Trustees of Shippensburg University – Charles R. Black, Williamsport; Jeffrey W. Coy, Shippensburg, and; L. Michael Ross, Chambersburg
Council of Trustees of Slippery Rock University – Alfonso Angelucci, Ellwood City; Suzanne A. Vessella, Ellwood City, and; Richard M. Wukich, Slippery Rock
Council of Trustees of West Chester University – Barry C. Dozor, Broomall, and Stephen Kinsey, Philadelphia

Contact Information
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