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Legislative memos reveal focus to session for Rapp, Hutchinson

With the Pennsylvania General Assembly’s 2021-2022 session underway, it’s time to take a look at where the focus of our legislators will be.

State Representative Kathy Rapp – whose district includes all of the county – and Sen. Scott Hutchinson – whose district includes almost all of the county – have released various co-sponsorship memoranda on the specific legislation they will be bringing to the General Assembly this session.

Rapp’s first co-sponsorship memo was a joint effort on Dec. 1 – a resolution aimed at disputing last November’s General Election Results

The resolution cited “allegations of substantial irregularities and improprieties associated with mail-in balloting, pre-canvassing, and canvassing during the November 3, 2020 election” and “disapproves of and disagrees with the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s premature certification of the results of the November 3, 2020 election regarding presidential electors.”

It asked the certification be withdrawn and urged “the United States Congress to declare the selection of presidential electors in this Commonwealth to be in dispute.”

That effort didn’t pay off in the way the resolution hoped, in spite of the insurrection at the Capitol last week.

Three other memo’s from Rapp’s office followed the following day.

They all highlight health issues. She will have the opportunity to shepherd these bills as chair of the House Health Committee.

The first is a reintroduction of a bill from the last term aimed at ensuring patients have “access to available and emerging diagnostics and treatment options for Lyme disease and related tick-borne diseases.”

Rapp cited data showing Pennsylvani highest in the country in the number of confirmed cases of Lyme with over 10,000 cases annually since 2016.

“My legislation will require health insurers to cover treatment plans for Lyme disease or related tick-borne illnesses,” she said, “as prescribed by a patient’s health care practitioner, regardless if the treatment plan includes a short-term or long-term antibiotic treatment.”

The legislation, she said, passed 158-34 in the last session.

Another health-related memo outlines legislation “that would protect consumers from surprise balance bills from medical providers,” typically from providers who the patient believed to be in-network or after an emergency.

Dubbed the “Surprise Balance Bill Protection Act,” the legislation would make consumers only “responsibility for their in-network cost-sharing obligations and require providers to bill insurers directly “while also allowing consumers to trigger protections if they do receive a balance bill,” among other things.

A third memo is a resolution aimed addressing rural dental care.

“My resolution will explore ways to reduce the cost of dental care while increasing availability,” she wrote. “It will include a review of the benefits of teledentistry, mobile dentistry, and a cost benefit analysis of increasing oral care to those living in rural communities.”

State Senators Scott Hutchinson and Michele Brooks have joined together on a couple initiatives already during this session.

Hutchinson represents the vast majority of the county while Brooks represents the four western municipalities – Columbus, Spring Creek, Eldred and Southwest.

The first would rescind a public-private partnership for bridge reconstruction and rehabilitation on the interstate system that the senators claim would “essentially… toll five to 10 bridges on the Interstate System and freeways in the Commonwealth.”

They claim the move would “negatively impact local economies.”

The second joint initiative would require the Department of State to produce a report on all election-related complaints received by the department.

Hutchinson in a memo writes that he will be re-introducing legislation “eliminating the power of the Governor or municipal government executives to restrict the purchase and possession of firearms during an emergency.”

The legislation, he says, would specifically limit the governor and municipal government’s ability to “ban the legal carrying of a firearm on any public street or piece of public property” and not permit the governor to suspend or limit firearm sales.

An additional proposal would create a sales tax exemption for the purchase of firearm safes and vaults as a means of incentivizing such purchases.

He also plans to push legislation that changes the criteria for funding under the PennVEST program, which funded the City of Warren’s sewer plant upgrades several years ago; that would create Pennsylvania Affordable Energy Development Zones in connection with the unconventional natural gas industry; that would create a sales and use tax exemption for some equipment for data centers as a means of attracting them to the state and a packet of bills aimed at small business reform.

Two additional pieces of legislation would tack on a $5 fee on DUI fines to provide funding to the state police for training of both state and local drug recognition experts. The second would pave a path for senior disabled veterans to receive a discount on licenses and allow active duty personnel to receive the same discount among other provisions.

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