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  • Beth Bernstein

2015 Legislative Session Summary for May


Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Here is my Legislative Update for May! As we reach the end of session, the House of Representatives continues to remain busy. We just passed the Domestic Violence Reform Act which is now off to the Governor for her signature. Unfortunately, we still have not received the roads bill or ethics bill back from the Senate, which make it unlikely that this legislation will pass before session ends on June 4. For all of the highlights from this month, please see the summaries listed below.

As always, I am interested in hearing your thoughts and concerns on the issues.

Thank you for electing me to serve you and our community at the State House.

Warm regards,

HOUSE WEEK IN REVIEW May 5, 2015

The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.3890, a bill revising the authority for FORGIVING SCHOOL DAYS MISSED BECAUSE OF SNOW, EXTREME WEATHER CONDITIONS, OR OTHER DISRUPTIONS, and enrolled the bill for ratification.

The House voted not to concur in Senate amendments to S.11, a bill ENHANCING PUBLIC NOTICE REQUIREMENTS FOR GOVERNMENT MEETINGS under the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3151, a bill REVISING AMERICAN CIVICS INSTRUCTION REQUIREMENTS FOR PUBLIC HIGH SCHOOLS AND PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER LEARNING in the state. The legislation revises the requirements that all public high schools and all public institutions of higher learning provide instruction in the essentials of the United States Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Federalist Papers, including the study of American institutions and ideals, and that no student may receive a certificate of graduation without first passing a satisfactory examination on this material.

HOUSE WEEK IN REVIEW May 12, 2015

The House of Representatives returned S.47 to the Senate with amendments. The legislation makes provisions for EQUIPPING LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS WITH BODY-WORN CAMERAS that make audio and video recordings. The legislation requires state and local law enforcement agencies to implement the use of body‑worn cameras according to guidelines established by the Law Enforcement Training Council. Deadlines are set within a year’s time for conducting a study of jurisdictions where body-worn cameras are in use and then for producing guidelines that address such issues as which law enforcement officers must wear cameras, when they must be worn and activated, and how consent should be obtained from victims and witnesses for recording their interviews.

The House approved S.426, the “MENTAL HEALTH COURT PROGRAM ACT”, and enrolled the bill for ratification.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3325, a bill establishing the UNIFORM PARTITION OF HEIRS’ PROPERTY ACT as a means of preserving property rights in situations where land has been passed down through generations without written wills or properly probated wills so that the property is owned in common by multiple heirs.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3794, a bill revising DRIVER’S LICENSE RENEWAL provisions. The legislation provides for a simplified ten-year driver’s license renewal schedule for those who are under the age of sixty-five by eliminating current provisions for these individuals to satisfy vision screening requirements during the fifth year of a ten-year driver’s license. The legislation retains the current five-year driver’s license renewal period for those who are at least sixty-five years old and establishes a schedule that requires in-person renewal at a Department Of Motor Vehicles facility, but allows these senior drivers to renew a license through the submission of a certificate of vision examination once every ten years.

HOUSE WEEK IN REVIEW May 19, 2015

The House returned S.268 to the Senate with amendments. The legislation revises the processes for initiating the STATE GRAND JURY, extending a state grand jury’s term, expanding the scope of a state grand jury investigation, exercising judicial oversight, resolving conflicts of interest, and imposing disqualifications.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3909, “THE DYLAN PAUL MITCHELL BICYCLE AND PEDESTRIAN SAFETY ACT”. The legislation: strengthens drivers’ responsibilities for yielding to pedestrians in a roadway crosswalk; establishes new penalties for drivers who cause serious physical injury or death by failing to exercise due care to avoid colliding with pedestrians and bicycles; expands requirements for drivers to exercise due care to avoid collisions with pedestrians and bicycles by also including wheelchairs as well as farm tractors or a similar vehicles designed primarily for farm use; includes bicycles with helper motors and electric-assist bicycles within provisions governing bicycles; and, better defines how bicycle lanes are to be marked.

The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.3646, a bill that deals with PASSIVE SOIL-BASED ON-SITE DISPOSAL SYSTEMS used to collect, treat, and discharge, or reclaim wastewater or sewage, and enrolled the legislation for ratification.

The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.3847 and enrolled the legislation for ratification. The joint resolution provides that an applicant for LICENSURE AS A SPEECH‑LANGUAGE PATHOLOGIST ASSISTANT who earned a bachelor’s degree in speech‑language pathology from a nationally accredited institution of higher education is exempt from the recently-enacted requirement of having a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution of higher education.

HOUSE WEEK IN REVIEW May 26, 2015

The House of Representatives concurred in Senate amendments to S.3, the DOMESTIC VIOLENCE REFORM ACT, and enrolled the bill for ratification. This comprehensive legislation includes recommendations of ad hoc committees appointed in the House and Senate to focus on the issue.

Domestic Violence Penalties The legislation revises criminal penalties for domestic violence so that they emphasize not only the number of previous incidents but also better address the severity of violence as well as take into account whether certain aggravating circumstances are involved. Under the revisions, enhanced criminal penalties apply if certain egregious elements are present in an incident, such as strangulation, abuse committed in the presence of children, abuse of pregnant women, and violence that is used to prevent someone from summoning emergency assistance or reporting a crime.

The legislation establishes firearms restrictions in conjunction with domestic violence convictions and protection orders that include an automatic lifetime prohibition on possessing firearms and ammunition for those convicted of the felony Domestic Violence of a High and Aggravated Nature, an automatic ten year ban for those convicted of the felony First Degree Domestic Violence, and provisions that allow for a ban of up to three years in convictions for the misdemeanor offenses of Second Degree and Third Degree Domestic Violence.

Bond Reform The legislation provides that when a person is charged with a domestic violence violation, the bond hearing may not proceed without the person’s criminal record and incident report or the presence of the arresting officer. These bond hearings must still occur within twenty‑four hours after the arrest. The considerations used for determining bonds are revised to include whether someone poses a danger to an individual as well as to the community.

Permanent Restraining Orders The legislation includes provisions that allow victims of domestic violence, sex crimes, and certain other offenses to obtain a permanent restraining order against an offender which a judge would put in place for life so that the order would not need to be periodically revisited and extended.

The House approved S.153, a bill to provide for the EXTENSION OF A PROPERTY TAX EXEMPTION TO THE VEHICLE OF A DISABLED VETERAN’S SURVIVING SPOUSE, and enrolled the legislation for ratification.

The House approved S.261, legislation EXPANDING PROVISIONS ALLOWING SENIORS TO ATTEND CLASSES AT THE STATE’S INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER LEARNING TUITION FREE, and enrolled the bill for ratification.

A conference committee was appointed to address the differences between the House and Senate on S.47, legislation that makes provisions for EQUIPPING LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS WITH BODY-WORN CAMERAS that make audio and video recordings.

The House returned S.250, a bill addressing ACCESS TO MEDICAL RECORDS IN CASES OF SUSPECTED CHILD ABUSE OR NEGLECT, to the Senate with amendments. The legislation establishes provisions that afford medical providers access to children’s medical records in child abuse cases without the necessity of obtaining a court order or parental signature.

The House returned S.199 to the Senate with amendments. This legislation ENHANCING PENALTIES FOR HIGHWAY WORKER ENDANGERMENT is designated as “PEANUT’S LAW” in memory of Kenneth “Peanut” Long, Jr. who was only twenty‑two years old when killed on August 12, 2013, by a driver that did not slow down in the road work zone where Peanut was performing his duties as a flag man for a road construction project in Williamsburg County.


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