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Both Chambers Back in Harrisburg with a Busy Week

Last week the state House and Senate were in session together for the first time this year – here is what we had our eye on that would impact kids:

  • SB 967 addresses the need for an advisory board for the Pennsylvania Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), a priority for the Thriving PA campaign. This bill creates the WIC State Advisory Board to provide direction on increasing enrollment, identifying technology improvements and prioritizing other policy initiatives largely aimed at modernizing the program. PPC and Thriving PA both support the ability for stakeholders to have a stronger voice in the process of advising the WIC program. Still, we encourage ongoing coordination with the Department of Health, which is concurrently planning a similar effort with a slightly broader scope than what is contained in the bill’s language. SB 967 passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee this week and we will continue to monitor as it awaits final passage in the Senate.
  • HB 764 would amend the Child Protective Services Law to provide employers a 45-day provisional window for employees who have direct contact with children until clearances are processed. This window is in place for child care centers, but is currently a 90-day window for other employers. The bill passed the Senate unanimously but was amended on the floor, so it needs to go back to the House for a concurrence vote.
  • The Senate Aging and Youth Committee took up HB 1737, which would give county children and youth agencies the authority to conduct a drug screen if there is suspected drug use when someone is reported. The bill, which has garnered some controversy over its potential impact, passed on a party-line vote. The committee also voted on SB 936, which would require the continued reporting to child welfare any infant born with an addiction to opioids or other illegal substances beyond the conclusion of the current Opioid Disaster Declaration of Emergency. That bill passed unanimously, with both pieces of legislation now moving to the Senate floor. PPC will continue to monitor.
  • Over in the House, the Children and Youth Committee held a public hearing on HB 2213 and 2214, which seeks to mitigate insurance premium increases, reductions in coverage or even withdrawal of coverage experienced by children and youth services providers. Those testifying at the hearing included the Pennsylvania Council of Children, Youth and Family Services. PPC will continue to monitor these bills.
  • HB 2072 passed the House of Representatives unanimously. It would use federal stimulus funding to make delinquent payments to insurers within the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) that have not been paid during the pandemic. PPC will continue to monitor as it heads over to the Senate.

Additionally, Governor Wolf signed the first two bills of the year into law this week:

  • Act 1, formerly SB 324, by Sen. Langerholc provides a path for youth in foster care and those experiencing homelessness to maintain their educational track and graduate on schedule. PPC co-signed letters supporting SB 324 and applauded its final passage and signing by the governor. You can also listen to PPC Policy Director Rachael Miller's interview with Keystone State News Connection about the importance of this bill for disadvantaged youth.
  • Act 2, formerly HB 253, by Rep. Owlett establishes a task force between the executive and legislative branches studying the impact of the opioid epidemic on children. The bill also was amended this week to provide $200 million in remaining federal stimulus dollars to hospitals and health care workers.

The redistricting process continued to progress last week as the clock continues to tick. The Republican-controlled Senate recently passed a new congressional redistricting plan along party lines by a 29-20 vote margin. The governor then vetoed it, meaning the court will likely have the final say on the map. The court will host hearings to consider 14 different congressional map proposals. It could issue a ruling as soon as this week but redistricting observers expect the decision to be appealed to the state Supreme Court.


It's the Most Hectic Time of the Year – Budget Season Set to Begin 

Under state law, the governor must submit to the General Assembly his annual budget request by the end of the first full week of February each year. This year's budget address will differ from the last few we've seen. It will be Governor Wolf's 8th and final budget address to the legislature, and Pennsylvania has more money in the bank than we've seen previously. The legislature sits on a large budget reserve, a healthy and growing surplus, and billions in unspent federal coronavirus relief cash. However, in an environment of partisanship between the Democratic governor and Republican-controlled General Assembly, and in what many expect to be a nationally-watched competitive election year, we don’t predict a rosy budget season ahead of us. Read more: WESA-AM story sums up legislative landscape heading into budget address.

Following the budget address, both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees will meet and hold a series of budget hearings. Each department or agency must provide supplemental information to the committees for review as part of this budget process. Here are the hearings we will tune into and provide updates on:

House: http://www.pahousegop.com/budgethearings

  • PDE: Monday, March 7
  • DOH: Thursday, March 3
  • DHS: Wednesday, March 9

Senate: https://www.pasenategop.com/budgethearings/

  • PDE: Thursday, March 10
  • DOH: Wednesday, March 9
  • DHS: Tuesday, March 8

What else is on our watch list for this year's budget address? We're keeping an eye on a few things:

  • Will the legislature touch the ballooning rainy day fund?
  • There is still federal ARP stimulus money in the bank from last year. Where will the state use those dollars (and how much)?
  • Will the programs we advocate for receive additional funding?
  • As all the appropriations chaos is going on, what sneaky policy-related issues will pop up in other bills (especially at the 11th hour)?

We won't know anything official until Governor Wolf delivers his budget address on February 8th, but we will be monitoring it ALL. Look for future updates and follow us on social media channels so you can be in the know.


Thriving PA Spotlight: Perinatal Health

Thriving PA is working to ensure all women and birthing parents have access to the health resources they need to give birth to and raise their children.

Watch the campaign's latest video about perinatal health – an essential component to ensuring mothers and birthing parents are healthy and their children have the best start possible in life.

Learn more at ThrivingPA.org, and follow the campaign on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

Data made possible by the Pennsylvania KIDS COUNT Data Center, home to more than 130 child well-being indicators related to education, poverty, health, and youth risk factors.


Data and Indicators Webpage Coming Soon  

For those like us who can't get enough data, we are happy to announce we will be bringing even more data to you! As part of our work with the national KIDS COUNT Network and as the Pennsylvania KIDS COUNT grantee, the Pennsylvania KIDS COUNT Data Center is home to more than 130 child well-being indicators related to education, poverty, health, and youth risk factors, we will soon offer more current data releases.

Our updates to the KIDS COUNT Data Center's indicators include research-based context that we are excited to share with you so that you, too, have the most current high-quality data surrounding the well-being of children!

Look for a webpage with these updates in our following newsletter for more information!


In Case You Missed It...

  • Pennsylvania's Department of Health (DOH) recently released its Maternal Mortality Review 2021 Report highlighting the findings of Pennsylvania's Maternal Mortality Review Committee's (MMRC) individual case review of all maternal deaths in Pennsylvania in 2018, including policy recommendations to improve outcomes on mortality rates. This report is a follow-up to a prior report examining pregnancy-associated deaths in Pennsylvania between 2013-2018. The report also calls for sustained future funding of MMRCs to continue this work. Additional funding for these committees nationally has been contained in all iterations of the Build Back Better Act currently stalled in Congress.
  • The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services launched a new website to share information about implementing the new Enterprise Case Management (ECM) System. The ECM will allow information sharing among DHS program offices, counties, individuals/participants, and providers to enable better decision-making in areas such as child welfare, Medicaid, and early intervention. 
  • Pennsylvania's Department of Health recently adopted the CDC's new standards for lead poisoning in young children, which will help prioritize the children most at risk of lead poisoning. Using the latest standards and Pennsylvania data from 2020, an additional 6,106 children ages 1-5 years old would have elevated blood lead levels, a 90% increase. PPC is a part of the Lead-Free Promise Project working on policy changes to remediate more homes where lead is found and increase screening rates of children before 2-years old. 
  • Pennsylvania's Secretary of Education Noe Ortega testified in the state's education funding trial and noted how funding disparities directly impact college attainment. 
  • This week the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO), the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA) and the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools (PARSS) released the Winter 2022 School District Budget Report that surveys school superintendents, business officers and others on the top issues they are facing in the state’s public schools. The report reveals labor, supply chain and fiscal issues are top concerns across respondents with them noting budgeting constraints resulting from growth in mandated costs for special education, charter school tuition and pension contributions are specific pressure points. Read more about the report, including top areas where schools are investing federal ESSER stimulus funds. 
  • Senate Democrats released their plan for the 2022-23 budget for education spending this week, coming in at a $3.75 billion price tag. It calls for $1.1 billion for basic education run through the funding formula and $750 million in the Level-up initiative driven to the 200 districts with the largest adequacy gaps. Other education investments in the plan include $200 million for special education, $75 million for career and technical education, $50 million for pre-k, and $800 million for lead remediation in schools. Learn more

Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children
200 North Third Street 13th Floor
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17101
(717) 236-5680

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