(6/2016) Legislation that I supported to help children suffering from seizure disorders, veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy among others is now law.
Act 16 of 2016, which passed the House and Senate by overwhelming margins, permits physicians to recommend medical marijuana to patients with certain qualifying illnesses. The medicinal strain will be available from centers licensed by a new state board. So far, 23 states have authorized some form of legalized use of medical marijuana.
Another new law will help families cope with disability-related expenses. Act 17 of 2016 would provide for tax-exempt savings accounts that will enable families to better afford expenses associated with caring for a loved one with a qualifying disability.
The new law creates the Pennsylvania Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (PA ABLE), which provides for a wide range of disability-related expenses including health care, housing and transportation, without jeopardizing eligibility for important programs on which individuals with disabilities depend.
The tax-exempt savings accounts are modeled on Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code, which recognizes state-established savings programs to meet future college expenses. The Pennsylvania Treasury has been administering the Pennsylvania 529 program since 1993 and will administer the ABLE Program. For more information, visit http://pa529.com/able.html.
A bill that would give caregivers additional resources to care for a loved one who has been recently hospitalized has been signed into law. Act 20 of 2016 will require health care facilities to record the name of the family caregiver when a patient is admitted to a hospital. Facilities would also be required to notify the designated caregiver when the patient is to be
discharged to another facility, such as a rehab center or home. In addition, a live explanation or video instruction on the medical tasks necessary to care for the patient will be given by the facility. The goal of the new law is to ensure a smoother transition back home and maximize recovery.
For anyone in need of human services in the Commonwealth, the United Way has a free telephone service that is providing much-needed assistance in connecting Pennsylvania residents with help in their communities.
By dialing 2-1-1, residents can be connected to trained caseworkers who have access to a database of health and human service assistance available through government programs, as well as assistance provided locally through faith-based organizations and private nonprofits. The number may also be used in times of disaster, leaving 9-1-1 to be used primarily when first
responders are needed.
Currently, six regional 2-1-1 programs provide services to approximately 85 percent of the state’s population. At a recent public hearing, service providers advocated for $1.5 million in state funding in Fiscal Year 2016-17 in order to make 2-1-1 service available statewide, and to expand the database, implement new technology, such as text-to-chat, and improve the
consistency of services throughout the state. To learn more, visit http://www.uwp.org/what-2-1-1.
Finally, as a way to recruit more first responders, the House has endorsed a proposal authorizing local governments to enact earned income and property tax liability tax credits for active volunteers of a fire company or emergency medical services (EMS) company.
House Bill 1683 would give municipalities, county governments and school districts the authority to offer active volunteers a tax credit of up to 20 percent of their tax liability. The measure also would require the state fire commissioner to establish the annual requirements of the tax credit program for active volunteers, such as the number of calls responded to, the
training undertaken, or qualifying participation in the functions of the organization. The bill is now under consideration in the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee.
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