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Flurry of Legislative Activity in Harrisburg Occurs Before Holiday Break

A frantic final legislative session week of 2021 saw overlapping committee meetings, bills zooming back and forth from each chamber, and the beginning of deliberations on congressional and legislative reapportionment (redistricting).

PPC was pleased that the Senate Health and Human Services Committee took up several bills that are part of the Thriving PA campaign's agenda centered on improving child and maternal health. The committee considered the following bills of interest:

  • Senate Bill 522: Seeks to ensure that all pregnant women and children in Pennsylvania receive blood tests to detect lead poisoning. The bill was unanimously reported as amended. Thriving PA and PPC supports this legislation.
  • Senate Bill 200: Expands early intervention services for mothers and children and will add postpartum depression to the list of eligible conditions to receive early intervention services. SB 200 was unanimously reported as amended. Thriving PA and PPC are neutral on the bill.
  • Senate Bill 358: Would add "severe maternal morbidity" to the list of reportable events within the Pennsylvania Department of Health. This bill would also categorize maternal deaths and severe maternal morbidity complications as reportable events. The Maternal Mortality Review Committee would then submit a report including each reportable event to the department. The legislation was unanimously reported as committed and is supported by Thriving PA and PPC.
  • Senate Bill 967: Creates the Women, Infants, and Children State Advisory Board (WICSAB). The board will be tasked to advise DOH on the operation of programs to increase enrollment and utilization, such as the proper implementation of ARP funds for technology and data improvements, thus improving the access and availability to those served by WIC. SB 967 was unanimously reported as committed; the bill also received second consideration and was re-referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee. Thriving PA and PPC supports the bill and encouraged the committee to continue a dialogue with the Department of Health, as efforts are already underway in the agency to create a WIC task force.

In addition, several other bills saw activity in the House and Senate, including:

  • House Bill 2045: Would require the Department of Education to create a professional development program and applied practice in reading science for school districts that volunteer to participate. This bill was amended on second consideration in the House and was re-referred to the House Appropriations Committee. PPC is monitoring the bill.
  • Senate Bill 324: Would require school entities to provide increased supports to a student who has experienced education instability, including assigning a point of contact to the student, developing policies and procedures for previous coursework, removing penalties for dress code violations, and providing for extracurricular activities. This bill received second consideration in the House and was re-referred to the House Appropriations Committee. PPC supports the legislation in concert with fellow stakeholder groups in the child welfare space, including the Juvenile Law Center.
  • House Bill 2072: Would allow contractors to apply to the Department of Human Services for reimbursement from federal stimulus funds for nonpayment of Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) premium balances from March 1, 2020, through December 31, 2021. This bill received second consideration in the House and was re-referred to the House Appropriations Committee. PPC is closely monitoring this bill.
  • House Bill 1642: Would amend the definition of "economically disadvantaged school" and move the $5 million supplemental scholarship programs for students attending economically disadvantaged schools from the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) to the Education Improvement Tax Credit (EITC). The bill passed the Senate and was referred to the House Rules Committee. PPC continues to monitor this bill and other similar efforts in the event of potential amendments pertaining to voucher programs, which we oppose.

The following two bills were signed in the House and Senate and go to the Governor for final approval:

  • House Bill 1332: Requires school entities to post all curriculum offered on a publicly accessible website and update the information each time a school entity uses a new or revised curriculum, beginning with the 2021-22 school year. Governor Wolf has vowed to veto this bill and PPC has weighed in opposing it.
  • House Bill 412: Provides flexibility for school entities regarding hiring substitute teachers. PPC is monitoring the bill.

The House and Senate are in recess through the holidays. Their next voting session weeks are January 10th for the House and January 18th for the Senate.

Late last week the Pennsylvania Legislative Reapportionment Commission approved a Preliminary Reapportionment Plan for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and Pennsylvania Senate, in accordance with state constitution. Earlier in the week the Commission also approved preliminary maps for U.S. congressional districts, with the distinction of reducing the overall number of districts from 18 to 17, due to Pennsylvania’s reapportionment following the 2020 decennial census. Of note on the state legislative side is the somewhat surprising decision to pit several sitting incumbents – Republicans and Democrats alike – against each other in the 2022 election, with over 20 current members drawn into districts with a fellow legislator.


Review the Preliminary Reapportionment Plan maps here and political commentary and analysis from the Penn Capital-Star and Spotlight PA.


Reconstituted Special Education Funding Commission Releases Long-Awaited Report

As if the last week wasn’t busy enough, the legislative Reconstituted Special Education Funding Commission met to release its final report. Initially convened in 2019, the report was delayed several times until its recent unveiling, with an original due date of November 2019.

Recommendations of note include:

  • Revising the weighting factors based on results from the Independent Fiscal Office’s survey of student cost distribution.
  • Using a three-year average of the Act 16 Report student headcounts in the Special Education Funding Formula calculation.
  • Setting data used in the annual distribution of Special Education Funding as of June 1st prior to the budget year.
  • Again, reconstituting the Commission in 2024, with a report due that November.

Read the report here.


In Washington, the Build Back Better Act Takes a Hit from Sen. Manchin

The federal Build Back Better Act is in jeopardy after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) said he could not vote to continue considering the reconciliation package. The bill contains many of President Biden's domestic spending priorities, including funding for child care and universal pre-k, along with health care and climate change provisions. The administration and Democratic leaders in both chambers of Congress are evaluating next steps leading into the New Year.

PPC has a summary of notable provisions in the Build Back Better Act for kids and families.

In the interim, Congress last week approved a $2.5 trillion increase in the federal debt ceiling, averting a U.S. government default and pushing off the need to raise the cap again until after the November 2022 mid-term elections. A procedural vote the week prior allowed approval of a debt ceiling increase to pass in the Senate by a simple majority going forward. The vote on the debt limit increase was 50-49 in the Senate and 221-209 in the House, with just one Republican voting for the measure.


Building Better Futures in 2022: Support PPC TODAY!

As 2021 ends, the advocacy efforts of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children are needed more than ever to help build better futures for children and families in Pennsylvania when the public health emergency does end.

Please consider supporting the critical work we do to highlight and advocate on behalf of Pennsylvania's children and families by making a gift today.

Your giving supports many of our activities, including our State of Children's Health Care report and our State of Child Welfare report. We noted this year that the pandemic's total impact on the health and well-being of children and youth in the commonwealth is unknown. The data we track and analyze for 2021 will help us paint a picture in 2022 to effectively move the needle to ensure family stability and access to health care for millions of children.

But our work does not stop there. Your support will also bolster our advocacy efforts in these areas:

  • Early learning investments in high-quality, publicly funded pre-k as well as supporting the hard-hit child care industry so children have access to high-quality early care and education.
  • Evidence-based home visiting, which is essential for families facing isolation, stress, unemployment, and lack of resources.
  • Access to Career and Technical Education and support for Special Education within K-12 education ensure our public education system is meeting the needs of students and the demands of our economy as it continues to rebuild.

Would you please stand with us and support our work by making a gift today? Thank you in advance for your consideration. Pennsylvania's nearly 2.6 million children are depending on all of us. 


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.


In Case You Missed It...

  • PPC's President and CEO Kari King joined Scott Lamar on WITF's Smart Talk. During the show, Kari highlighted our annual State of Child Welfare report, including fewer child abuse referrals and children served in the foster care system, and the need to better address kinship care, focus on transition age youth, and support the workforce.
  • PPC's policy director Rachael Miller also discussed the State of Child Welfare with Lancaster Online and Public News Service. Reduced overall child abuse reports and foster care trends were seen from 2019 to 2020, as children had less interaction with mandated reporters. The report also emphasizes increasing trends and the state's ability to respond to the current workforce crisis
  • Kari was also quoted in recent Philadelphia Inquirer article on the rates of underinsured children in Pennsylvania and how public health coverage options like Medicaid and CHIP have helped families weather the storm of the pandemic. The story also ran in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  • A new policy brief discusses policy recommendations for homeless and foster youth and how to address racial inequities and target solutions to improve long-term outcomes for these populations.
  • Pennsylvania's education lawsuit continued last week with testimony by district educators, the State Board of Education, and the National Institute for Early Education Research. 

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

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