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State Representative Justin Simmons Report

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The Weekly Roundup
Thursday, March 15, 2018  The latest news from the State Capitol

UPDATE: Downsizing the Legislature

In an effort to streamline and improve the efficiency of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, the House passed House Bill 153 this week, which would allow voters to decide if both the House and Senate should be reduced in size via a ballot referendum to amend the Pennsylvania Constitution.

The legislation, which I am co-sponsoring, originally would have reduced the House from 203 to 151 members. House Bill 153 passed both the House and Senate by significant margins last session. However, it was amended in the House last month to also include a reduction of the Senate from 50 members to 38. While I support reducing both chambers of the General Assembly, I did not vote for the amendment, because any change to the bill means that it must restart the constitutional amendment process.

For a constitutional amendment to be placed on the ballot for final approval by the voters, it must pass both chambers of the General Assembly in consecutive sessions with identical language.

House Bill 153 now goes to the Senate for consideration. If the Senate amends the bill back to its original form and the House agrees, the voter referendum could conceivably be on the ballot this fall.

My Legislation on the Move

Legislation I am sponsoring that would remove the ability of school board candidates to cross-file nomination petitions in Pennsylvania. This week, House Bill 638 was approved by the House State Government Committee and sent to the full House of Representatives for consideration.

Voters are often confused when a school board candidate receives the nomination of more than one party on the ballot. By eliminating a candidate’s ability to cross-file, we would provide some clarity to voters in school board elections.

These positions are truly political in nature because of the budget-related decisions school board members make, and the election process for them should be the same as any other political candidate.

Discussing the Issues

My thanks to everyone who participated in Monday night’s telephone town hall meeting. We had a great discussion on a variety of issues, including the opioid epidemic, school property taxes and the state budget. These events are an effective way for me to keep in touch with constituents and their concerns.

School Safety Focus of Education Hearing

The House Education Committee held a hearing on Thursday to examine the status of school safety in Pennsylvania. The committee used the hearing to take a thorough and holistic look at school safety in Pennsylvania to determine if further legislative actions need to be taken, and if so, what those actions should include.

The hearing was organized into four panels: Current landscape of school safety; views of Pennsylvania education organizations; national approaches to school safety; and recommendations to improve school safety.

The committee not only heard about what is already being done in Pennsylvania to protect our students but also what other states have done and possible approaches to enhance school security even further.

Several school safety-related bills are already before the House Education Committee for review.

Protecting Consumers from Unsafe Breaches

To help protect consumers from having their personal information stolen or used fraudulently, the House passed two bipartisan bills this week to address data breaches.

House Bill 1846 would require notice within 45 days to residents of the Commonwealth when there is a breach of security of a system. The notice must be in plain language, and include the date of the breach, the type of information subject to the breach, and toll-free numbers to credit reporting agencies.

Similarly, House Bill 1847 would waive the current fee to freeze a credit report, which is $10 for each request, should a data breach occur. In the instance of a data breach, consumers would be provided with three months of free credit monitoring and up to three free credit reports for one calendar year after the date the breach is reported.

Consumers are urged to be proactive in monitoring their credit reports and financial account statements, such as credit cards and utilities, by clicking here. To report any suspicious activity, call the attorney general office’s hotline at 1-800-441-2555 or click here to send an email.

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