ROBERT SWIFT: Capitol Matters: Bill 'pings' and 'pongs' through legislature
HARRISBURG - A bill to require training for teachers to help raise awareness of youth suicide risks is in what could be called the "ping pong" stage of the legislative pipeline.
The House and Senate have each approved the measure sponsored by Rep. Frank Farina, D-115, Jessup; and now they are sending it back and forth to each other with amendments. It will be the Senate's turn next to vote after House lawmakers amended it last week.
The late amendments attest to the importance of the legislation and how it's being considered at a time when state lawmakers are looking for better ways to protect children from abuse and exploitation. Several of the final bills to overhaul Pennsylvania's child protective services network in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal are close to becoming law.
Mr. Farina introduced the bill last year to require teachers in grades six through 12 to receive a set amount of training in awareness and prevention of youth suicide.
Mr. Farina's bill is based on personal experience. He lost his brother, Louie, to suicide. The tragedy of teen suicides hit home in Luzerne County when four teens took their lives in a week in 2012.
The measure requires the state Education Department to develop a model policy, model curriculum and professional development materials relating to the topic that schools can use. The state Board of Education is required to conduct a study on how youth suicide awareness education is offered and deliver a report by Nov. 30, 1017.
The House expanded the scope of the bill to address the issue of child exploitation as well. A provision requires the education department to develop a similar model curriculum and materials relating to awareness about child exploitation.
Mr. Farina supports the bill's expanded scope.
"Now we are helping more children," he said. "Children that are victims of child abuse become victims of suicide."
A bill providing more consumer protection with the purchase of mobile homes awaits Gov. Tom Corbett's signature.
The measure, sponsored by Rep. Sid Michaels Kavulich, D-114, Taylor; would require sellers of mobile homes to obtain a tax status certification from a tax collection office as a condition of sale.
This would include a statement of any taxes owed or in delinquency. The current owner would be required to pay any owed taxes before a sale could occur under the bill.
"I've heard of cases where sellers of mobile homes would sell the home without settling their property tax bill," said Mr. Kavulich. "The new owners were held responsible for resolving the debt of the previous owner. This creates an unexpected hardship on the new property owner."
ROBERT SWIFT is Harrisburg bureau chief for Times-Shamrock Communications newspapers, of which The Daily/Sunday Review is a part.