November 30, 2016

House Select Committee Releases Report On Technical Education, Career Readiness

House Select Subcommittee on Technical Education and Career Readiness Co-Chairs Seth Grove (R-York) and Pat Harkins (D-Erie) Wednesday released the final report on career and technical education (CTE) as required by House Resolution 102 (Saylor-R-York).
The report is the culmination of seven hearings the select subcommittee across Pennsylvania during the 2015-16 legislative session.
During the hearings, the subcommittee heard countless hours of testimony from more than 60 business and education leaders. Their input was taken into account and led to a series of recommendations on how to improve career readiness among our youth.
The subcommittee made more than 40 recommendations contained in five major categories.  Those categories are:
-- Continue Legislative Oversight of CTE Initiatives.                                      
-- Address Business and Industry Demands.                                                    
-- Strengthen Partnerships with Business and Industry.
-- Increase Access to Career and Technical Education Programs.                    
-- Confront Misperceptions regarding Career and Technical Education.
“To meet the state’s employment needs, we studied ways to better develop future generations for the workforce which will serve to improve Pennsylvania’s economy while also ensuring good-paying manufacturing jobs stay in the state,” Rep. Grove said. “The subcommittee’s report produced one of the most comprehensive CTE reports ever done by a legislative body; our committee reviewed technical and career preparation programs and business partnerships in the state.”
Rep. Harkins said, “I was honored to serve as co-chair of the Subcommittee on Technical Education and Career Readiness with Rep. Seth Grove. We had a very productive two years of traveling around the Commonwealth gathering critical information from all the stakeholders including teachers, students, parents and employers.
“The next logical step in the process is to introduce legislation in the new session that will move forward with the House, Senate and governor collectively putting these proposals into action so as to ultimately enhance the students’ ability to learn the trades and finally achieve a marketable education and be prepared for the workforce,” Rep. Harkins said.
“This report bears out what I instinctively knew when I created the subcommittee as one of my first actions as the new Education Committee chair – that many Pennsylvanians are missing out on excellent-paying jobs by the cultural conditioning of thinking that everyone needs a four-year liberal arts degree. I strongly support the addition of the Select Subcommittee on Technical Education and Career Readiness as a permanent panel of the Education Committee. There are tremendous job opportunities out there for candidates with the right technical skills,” said Rep. Saylor.
“I appreciate the bipartisan cooperation demonstrated in this effort, and I hope we will see more of that in the next session. Education funding will once again be key if we are to help all of our students to succeed. I am pleased the subcommittee included recommendations about making it easier to transfer credits and funding programs for non-traditional learners, such as people who dropped out of high school and other ‘second-chance’ citizens,” said Rep. Roebuck.
Eight representatives – five Republicans and three Democrats – made up the subcommittee, along with Representatives Stan Saylor (R-York) and James Roebuck (D-Philadelphia), Majority and Minority Chairs of the House Education Committee who were ex-officio members of the subcommittee.
A copy of the full report is available online.

Pennsylvania Improves Ranking In State Workers’ Compensation Insurance Costs

Gov. Tom Wolf Wednesday announced a national study shows Pennsylvania has improved its standing among states under his administration in workers' compensation insurance costs.
The study ranks Pennsylvania 26th highest among all states, down from 17th highest in the last such study, done in 2014.
The Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services conducts the study comparing workers' comp insurance rates for 50 selected employment classes based on methods that put states' workers' comp rates on a comparable basis with a constant set of state-specific risk classifications.
"This is good news for businesses in Pennsylvania and those considering coming to our state," Gov. Wolf said. "As we become more competitive in the cost of doing business, we are encouraging companies to create jobs that pay."
Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller noted the department under Gov. Wolf's leadership is working to maintain a vibrant and competitive workers' compensation insurance market.
"More than 325 companies offer workers' compensation insurance coverage in Pennsylvania," Commissioner Miller said. "This means employers are able to find attractive, cost-efficient options for this vital insurance."
In addition to lower workers' comp insurance costs noted in the study, the Department of Labor & Industry, which oversees workers' compensation in the state, offers discounts through certified workplace safety committees.
"Certified workplace safety committees help employers and workers keep safety top-of-mind at all times," Labor & Industry Secretary Kathy Manderino said. "And those companies with a committee receive a five percent discount on their workers' comp insurance premiums."
Commissioner Miller and Secretary Manderino noted these costs savings for businesses were achieved while maintaining benefit levels for injured workers.
A copy of the study is available online.

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Gov. Wolf Launches The PA Long-Term Care Council

On behalf of Gov. Tom Wolf, the Department of Aging Tuesday announced appointments to the PA Long-Term Care Council, a 35-member body charged with making recommendations on regulations, licensure, financing or any other responsibilities of the departments and agencies that relate to the commonwealth's long-term services and supports system.
Rep. Lynda Schlegel Culver (R-Northumberland) served as the prime sponsor of the Pennsylvania Long-Term Care Council Act, Act 64 of 2015, which was passed by the General Assembly as a replacement for the Intergovernmental Council on Long-Term Care in order to reflect today's broader long-term care continuum.
The council is intended to focus on several key areas of concentration, including regulatory review and access to quality care; community access and public education; long-term care service models and delivery; workforce; housing; and behavioral health issues of seniors over the age of 60.
Chaired by Secretary of Aging Teresa Osborne, the council is comprised of a diverse array of stakeholders, including long-term care consumers, advocates, caregivers, providers, and policymakers.
"Pennsylvania spends over $5 billion dollars annually on long-term services and supports that range from in-home services and supports to round-the-clock care provided by professional nurses and trained staff in licensed nursing facilities throughout the commonwealth," said Secretary Osborne. "Recognizing that our state faces multiple demographic challenges within our long-term services and supports system, the creation of the Pennsylvania Long-Term Care Council is quite timely as we look forward to working with its members to ensure that every Pennsylvanian, including our seniors and persons with physical disabilities, have access to quality care in the most appropriate setting for their particular needs."
Charles Quinnan has been appointed to serve as the executive director of the council. A native of Lackawanna County, Quinnan most recently served as the legislative director for the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.
Prior to that, he worked as the government relations director for the Pennsylvania Homecare Association and in various positions with the House of Representatives, including serving as the executive director of the Finance and Aging and Older Adult Services committees. Quinnan holds a bachelor's degree in public policy from Penn State University.
"Each member of the council has experience with Pennsylvania's long-term care system and brings both a unique and pivotal perspective to the table," Quinnan said. "Their participation will be invaluable as the commonwealth continues to look for innovative approaches to living and aging well."
Council members include:
Sen. Michele Brooks (R-Crawford), Majority Chair of the Senate Aging and Youth Committee
Sen. Art Haywood (D-Montgomery), Minority Chair of the Senate Aging and Youth Committee
Rep. Tim Hennessey (R-Chester), Majority Chair of the House Aging Committee
Rep. Pamela A. DeLissio (D-Montgomery)
Brigadier General Anthony J. Carrelli, the Adjutant General
Honorable Ted Dallas, Secretary of Human Services
Honorable Teresa D. Miller, Insurance Commissioner
Honorable Karen Murphy, PhD, Secretary of Health
Honorable Teresa Osborne, Secretary of Aging
Honorable Leslie S. Richards, Secretary of Transportation
Brian A. Hudson, Sr., Executive Director & CEO, Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency
Other members include: Joan Bradbury, Dr. Mario Cornacchione, DO, Timothy W. Coughlin, Lynn Fields Harris, Anne Henry, Lydia Hernandez-Velez, Dr. Jason Karlawish, MD, Kathleen Kleinmann, Commissioner Ted Kopas, Westmoreland County, John Kordish, Ray Landis, Thomas M. Lilly, JD, Robert F. Marino, Joyce T. McClary, Diane Menio, Mildred E. Morrison, Dr. David A. Nace, Shane Nugent, Vincenza Portzline, Kenneth G. Potter, JD, Nicole Pruitt, Michael Sokoloski, Matthew Yarnell, Heshie Zinman.
The council's first meeting is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. on November 30 at the Department of Aging, 555 Walnut Street, Harrisburg, PA 17101.
More information will be posted on Aging’s PA Long-Term Care Council webpage.
Aging Names Members To Long-Term Care Council

November 29, 2016

Gov. Wolf Reminds Pennsylvanians Of New Criminal Record Sealing Law

Gov. Tom Wolf Monday reminded Pennsylvanians that Act 5 of 2016 is now in effect which expands criminal record sealing for many low-level misdemeanors in Pennsylvania to reduce recidivism, relieve the pardon system, and provide ex-offenders greater opportunity to join the workforce.
The bill was enacted because of significant effort by Sen. Stewart J. Greenleaf (R-Montgomery) and Rep. Jordan Harris (D-Philadephia).
“The United States is the world leader in incarceration and a criminal record often carries a lifetime of consequences that often lead to poverty or re-incarceration,” Gov. Wolf said. “This law is a commonsense, positive and unprecedented step to help Pennsylvanians with minor or dated criminal records have a fighting chance at opportunities for gainful employment.
“Too many first-time and low-level offenders are serving their time and unable to improve their lives after leaving the system because they have a criminal record. And, they are too likely then to return to the system. We still have more to do to break this cycle; it is robbing too many of their lives and it is costing taxpayers far too much.”
Act 5 amended Title 18 (Crimes and Offenses) to allow individuals who have served their punishment and remained free of arrest, prosecution, or conviction for ten years, for nonviolent misdemeanors, to petition the court for their record to be sealed from public view, but still available to law enforcement and state licensing agencies.
Pennsylvanians may be eligible if all the following apply to them:
-- Convicted of a misdemeanor of the 2nd or 3rd degree;
-- Free of arrest and conviction for a period of 10 years;
-- Never convicted of certain crimes (felonies, 1st degree misdemeanors or 2nd degree simple assault);
-- Have fewer than four misdemeanor convictions; and
-- All fine and costs associated with the case have been paid.
Act 5 does not provide orders of limited access for any felony or first degree misdemeanor.  Other exceptions are made for certain misdemeanors, such as sex offenses.
A petition must be filed with the Court of Common Pleas in the county where the charge originated. Petitions may be acquired through the PA Courts website.
A criminal record often carries a lifetime of consequences, and even a minor criminal record can be a serious impediment to employment, housing, education and training, public assistance, financial empowerment, and more.
More than half of U.S. states allow some misdemeanor and even felony convictions to be expunged or sealed.
New Criminal Records Law Takes Effect At Erie Courthouse

PA District Attorneys Recommend Guidelines For Police Shooting Investigations

The PA District Attorneys Association Tuesday recommended that officer-involved shootings should be investigated by an independent agency and that the local District Attorney should provide the public with a written report following the completion of the investigation.
The recommendations are part of 16 guidelines established by Association’s Best Practices Committee dealing with processing, investigating and communicating determinations made in officer-involved shootings.
The Best Practices for Officer-Involved Shootings will provide prosecutors with recommendations to ensure investigations are conducted with independence and objectively. The guidelines are believed to be the first statewide guidelines for prosecutors produced in the United States.
“Officer-involved shootings are traumatic, complex, and highly publicized events,” said PDAA President and Lebanon County District Attorney David Arnold. “As prosecutors, it is our duty to ensure than any police-related shooting is thoroughly reviewed in a manner that is objective and fair for everyone involved. In making these recommendations, our goals are to help law enforcement use best practices to make good decisions, even under incredibly difficult circumstances, and help the public better understand and have greater confidence in the process.”
The guidelines are the culmination of many months of work by the PDAA’s Best Practices Committee. Chaired by Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan, the committee collected and reviewed the responses to police-involved shootings by law enforcement and prosecutors nationwide.
The committee also sought the input of community groups, police organizations, and prosecutors in making 16 recommendations.
“As we reviewed the responses to officer-involved shootings across the United States, we saw wide disparities in responses by prosecutors,” said Hogan. “Pennsylvania’s law enforcement agencies have the skills and ethics to do these investigations, but engaging an independent agency in the investigation removes any questions or negative perceptions that may come from the community. Having clear procedures based on best practices will not only improve investigations, but enhance community relationships.”
Hogan stressed that Pennsylvania’s 67 counties vary widely, with sparsely populated rural areas, suburban counties, and densely populated urban centers. Therefore, each District Attorney must use their discretion to customize the recommended guidelines to fit the needs and resources of individual counties.
The 16 recommendations and guidelines cover the broad spectrum of responses required following an officer-involved shooting, ranging from which agency should investigate and processing the scene to interview best practices and communication with the public.
There are also specific measures related to the injured parties.
“We are very pleased with the initiative that the District Attorneys are undertaking here,” said Deacon Gary Wattie of St. Paul’s Baptist Church in Chester County. “This opens the curtains to the process which hopefully will get better buy-in to the outcome, regardless of what it is.”
Highlights of the PDAA Officer-Involved Shooting Investigation Best Practices and the 16 recommendations include:
1. Investigations Should Be Independent: To ensure the integrity of the investigation of an officer-involved shooting, investigations should be conducted by an agency separate and independent from the law enforcement agency involved in the shooting. Officer-involved shooting investigations deal with complex and difficult facts that must be dispassionately examined. Utilizing an agency not affiliated with the incident (for example, county detectives, the Pennsylvania State Police, or a neighboring jurisdiction) will reassure the public that the investigation was conducted without bias or direct connection to the officer(s) involved.
2. District Attorneys Should Direct Investigations: Under the Commonwealth Attorneys Act, the District Attorney is charged with determining if any shooting is justified or if charges should be filed. Just as the DA must adjudicate and determine charges related to other shootings and violent crimes in their communities, their practical experience and professional responsibilities are vital components in the interviews and evidence-gathering that must take place following an officer-involved shooting. Accordingly, the recommendation is that the DA’s office directs officer-involved shooting investigations.
3. On-Site Safety and Security Is Essential: The first issue at every officer-involved shooting scene is the safety and security of all those involved and the community. Once the threat is neutralized, officers at the scene must render aid immediately to any and all injured parties. If a person is deceased at the scene, the police should shield the body from public view.
4. Utilize Best-Available Technology to Process the Scene: Officer-involved shooting scenes are often large and confusing. Detailed evidentiary review and documentation of the scene is the first and essential step to determining the facts, including the use of 3-D mapping of the entire scene. It also is important to capture and review all possible video recordings of the incident, including police recordings, recordings from nearby businesses or homes, and civilian recordings.
5. Communicate with the Public: The District Attorney may give a preliminary report on the status of the event after it happens, understanding that the detailed investigation may uncover more evidence. Once the full investigation has been completed, the District Attorney should report the findings to the public.
These guidelines do not address use-of-force policies for law enforcement. The use of force laws already have been addressed in detail by Pennsylvania statutes (18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §501 et seq.) and the United States Supreme Court (Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989)).
Cambria County District Attorney Kelly Callihan stated, “The PDAA guidelines for officer-involved shootings reflect a straightforward, common sense, and balanced approach to these difficult events. Fortunately, many of the counties in Pennsylvania already have adopted these guidelines, so they have been tested and reviewed under the glare of real-life situations, and have been used successfully to reach fair and just outcomes.”
The PDAA’s Best Practices Committee serves as a collaborative, non-partisan network to identify best practices, research, and legal methods to assist in the proper and just evolution of the criminal justice system.
Created in 2014, the committee formalized the Association’s long history of identifying and promoting reforms and efficiencies in order to protect the innocent, convict the guilty, and ensure justice for the victims of crime.
The Best Practices Committee will periodically release other proposed best practices addressing important issues.
Last spring, it released guidelines regarding eyewitness identification. Other issues currently being reviewed by the Committee are body-worn cameras and recorded interviews.

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