Department of Drug & Alcohol Programs Secretary Jen Smith (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller).
Happy weekend, all.
State officials from the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs continued their county-level listening tour this week, visiting Allegheny County to hear from substance use disorder treatment providers and prevention specialists about local efforts to manage addiction.
“This a comprehensive way to learn about local efforts to manage the addiction crisis in Allegheny County, which has lost a devastating number of individuals to an overdose in the last few years alone,” DDAP Secretary Jen Smith said. “It’s also an opportunity to hear directly from folks in this region of the state regarding what successes and challenges they’re currently experiencing and how our multiple levels of government moving forward can collectively address substance use trends, while more broadly tackling the behavioral health crisis we are experiencing.”
The state agency began the listening tour in 2021 in response to the increase in overdose deaths and polysubstance use throughout the commonwealth.
“The pandemic has been especially hard on those with a substance use disorder,” Maisha Howze, Assistant Deputy Director for the Allegheny County Department of Human Services Office of Behavioral Health said. “In Allegheny County, we have been fortunate in that we’ve had the ability to adapt and meet new and changing service needs.”
As always, the top five stories from this week are below.
Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled Senate approved legislation on Thursday proposing reform to the state’s existing fireworks law, including restrictions on when they can be set off.
The bill, introduced by Rep. Frank Farry, R-Bucks, passed the upper chamber with a 44-6 vote. It now goes back to the House of Representatives for concurrence.
After the Legislature legalized the sale and use of consumer fireworks in 2017, lawmakers received complaints from communities and law enforcement about noise and safety.
The Pennsylvania House of Representatives on Thursday passed a roughly $45.2 billion budget plan that includes an $850 million increase for K-12 school districts, more money for mental health, and the largest investment in environmental protection in a decade.
The vote on the general appropriations bill — touted as a bipartisan compromise that invests in people and the future of the commonwealth — passed by a 180-20 vote and now heads to the Senate.
Erica Clayton Wright, a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland, told the Capital-Star that the GOP caucus is going through the spending plan line by line. She added that a formal agreement had not been reached as of Thursday afternoon.
Amid budget negotiations dragging five days past the June 30 deadline, a York County lawmaker on Tuesday announced he would introduce a bill that would expand the number of truck stops eligible for video gaming licenses.
Rep. Seth Grove, R-York, said he would soon introduce a bill to end the requirement that a video gaming terminal licensee sells at least 50,000 gallons of diesel fuel each month on average.
“Simply, linking a licensee to a commodity makes no sense. Think of it this way, would the commonwealth link a tavern license to how many wings a tavern sells per month?” Grove wrote in a memo seeking co-sponsors for his proposal.
If some members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly have their way, voters in the Commonwealth could soon be casting ballots on constitutional amendments that would reduce the terms of judges and state Supreme Court justices, allow the Legislature to decide how much Pennsylvania judges are paid, and limit the Supreme Court’s rulemaking abilities and its authority to draw Congressional maps.
And that’s just a sampling of proposed constitutional amendments related to the judiciary – there are also a host of other proposed amendments in various stages in Harrisburg related to expanding the General Assembly’s power to reject executive orders, lowering the voting age to 16, creating ranked-choice voting in Pennsylvania, establishing that there is no right to an abortion under Pennsylvania law and requiring identification to vote.
Despite opposition from Senate Democrats, Republicans in the upper chamber advanced a proposal to add language to the Pennsylvania Constitution stating that the governing document does not guarantee any rights relating to abortion or public funding for the procedure.
After voting to waive a rule banning votes after 11 p.m., the Senate Rules Committee on Thursday tacked on proposed amendments, including language requiring voters to show ID at polling places, allowing gubernatorial candidates to select their running mates, and creating a system for election audits. The bill also includes language that would let lawmakers disapprove regulations without a possible veto from the governor.
And that’s the week. We’ll see you back here next week.
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