Sen. Dan Laughlin, R-49th

The start of a new year marks the beginning of the second half of the 2019-20 Legislative Session – which makes this a good time to provide an update on the legislative activities of the previous year.

Nearly 1,000 bills were introduced in the Senate in 2019 – including 15 that I introduced. More than 2,000 bills were introduced in the House of Representatives over the course of the year. Several hundred pieces of legislation – bills and resolutions – were considered by Senate committees and more than 220 of those were ultimately approved the full Senate.

Some of the bills were rather simple, such as bridge renaming measures. Others, such as the 15 appropriations bills in this year’s budget package, were a bit more complex. In any event, each bill that came before the Senate received a comprehensive review before a final vote was taken.

Of those measures, more than 130 bills were enacted into law in 2019 and four bills were vetoed by the Governor. I am pleased to report that four measures I introduced are among those that were enacted into law. Two of my bills were signed by the Governor, while the language of two others was included in House Bills that were enacted.

Senate Bill 469, which was signed into law as Act 30 of 2019, extends Pennsylvania’s existing Tender Years Hearsay Exception for court testimony to those with intellectual disabilities or autism. While hearsay evidence is usually prohibited in a criminal trial, the "tender years exception" allows for a statement made by a child under age 12 to some other person to become admissible against a defendant. Act 30 is a vitally important measure since U.S. Department of Justice statistics indicate that people with intellectual disabilities are sexually assaulted at a rate seven times higher than people without disabilities.

My other bill signed into law, Senate Bill 147, Act 107 of 2019, provides for hunting on three Sundays each year: one during rifle deer season, one during the statewide archery deer season and one on a Sunday determined by the Pennsylvania Game Commission. The measure also makes trespassing while hunting a primary offense and increases the penalties for the offense. The new law further provides that hunters must have the written permission of the landowner to hunt on private property on any Sunday.

I am pleased that two of my other bills completed the legislative process as well. The language of Senate Bill 723, which the Senate approved on September 23, was enacted as part of House Bill 49 -- Act 91 of 2019. Themeasure allows students to apply their practical financial knowledge toward their school district’s graduation requirements.

Senate Bill 593, which I introduced to renamethe Interstate 79 northbound bridge over West 16th Street in Erie as the Thomas J. Kennedy Jr. Memorial Bridge, was approved by the Senate on June 12 and ultimately enacted as Act 44 of 2019 with the signing of House Bill 65. Marine Corps Capt. Kennedy was serving as the Senior Battalion Advisor to the Fifth Battalion, Vietnamese Marine Brigade, in the hostile area of PhuAn, Quang Ngai Province, Vietnam, when he was killed in action on June 12, 1966.

I am pleased that these measures are now law in Pennsylvania and I look forward to another productive year when the General Assembly returns to session later this month.

In closing, I encourage local residents to visit my website, www.senatorlaughlin.com, and my Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/senatorlaughlin/,to keep up to date with state government news — including the state budget — and learn more about state services and agencies.

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