Senator Yudichak and Members of the Task Force on Lead Exposure Discuss Legislative Recommendations of Advisory Committee and Task Force Report on Lead Exposure

Harrisburg, May 7, 2019 – Senator John Yudichak (D – Luzerne/Carbon) and legislative members of the Task Force on Lead Exposure held a press conference today to discuss the legislative recommendations that were part of ‘Lead Exposure Risks and Response in Pennsylvania: Report of the Advisory Committee and Task Force on Lead Exposure.’ The legislative members of the task force included Senators Lisa Baker (R – Luzerne/Pike/Susquehanna/Wayne/Wyoming), Wayne Fontana (D – Allegheny), Judy Schwank (D – Berks), Pat Stefano (R – Fayette/Somerset/Westmoreland) and Gene Yaw (R – Bradford/Lycoming/Sullivan/Susquehanna/Union).

“The members of the Advisory Committee and Task Force on Lead Exposure, created by Senate Resolution 33, have worked tirelessly to analyze the public health threat of lead exposure and their report underscores that lead exposure is an issue in every Pennsylvania county. We come together today, in the spirit of bipartisanship, to advance the legislative policy recommendations put forth by the Joint State Government Commission that will better protect Pennsylvania children from the risks of lead exposure and lead poisoning,” said Senator John Yudichak.

 

The advisory committee and task force made the following recommendations, several of which are being addressed through legislation announced at today’s press conference:

  • Require universal blood screenings for children;
  • Mandate inspections/certifications of child-care facilities with vulnerable populations;
  • Ensure safe housing is available to families through a residential rental property certification program;
  • Establish a statewide rental housing registry;
  • Establish a lead abatement grant program to assist property owners in conducting lead abatement;
  • Establish an interagency council to coordinate implementation of lead prevention programs and policies among the relevant state agencies;
  • Require all school drinking water systems to be inspected and certified;
  • Clarify plumbing system lead ban;
  • Permit municipal authorities operating public drinking water system to replace lateral lead service lines;
  • Require lead service line replacements and restrict partial lead water service line replacements;
  • Adopt the Uniform Property Maintenance Code; and
  • Provide guidance on private well construction.

Senator Lisa Baker and Senator Yudichak have introduced Senate Bill 312, which would require universal blood testing for children. Senate Bill 312 has been referred to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

“We have known for a while now how debilitating lead exposure is to the health and development of children. Recent revelations of lead tainted water in schools and homes have raised additional alarms. There is an obligation to have every child tested, in order to find out who has been affected, to monitor and treat those who have, and to locate the source of contamination so preventative measures can be taken,” said Senator Baker.

Senator Judy Schwank has introduced Senate Bill 39, which will require lead testing at child daycare programs. The bill requires the Department of Human Services to include lead testing of water, paint, soil and dust in the licensing process for child daycare programs. Senate Bill 39 has been referred to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

“My bill, SB 39, aims to protect children in day care programs by ensuring the facilities where they play and learn at the earliest ages are tested for lead,” Senator Schwank said.

Senator Gene Yaw will introduce legislation that requires all school drinking water systems to be tested for lead contamination.

“Lead contamination in schools and in public drinking water supplies is a real threat across our state and our nation,” said Senator Gene Yaw. “It’s unfortunate that schools, a place where our children spend much of their time, can have unsafe levels of lead in their water supply. The bill is one more step we can take to protect our children and school employees from potential health hazards.”

Senator Wayne Fontana plans to introduce a bill that will establish a statewide rental housing registry.

“Our fundamental job as public officials is to protect the health, safety and welfare of our citizens. With increasingly aging infrastructure throughout our Commonwealth, it’s imperative that we do all we can to help local communities on lead abatement projects,” said Senator Fontana. “We must also monitor the sources of lead contamination in our public spaces and in private homes, so that people are educated to what degree they may be exposed. As a result of the study recommendations, my legislation will establish a statewide rental housing registry that has been certified as lead free or lead safe so as to allow potential tenants to verify if housing they are considering will be safe for their families.”

Senator Pat Stefano will be introducing legislation that clarifies the plumbing system lead ban.

“Consumer education is key in preventing lead exposure. That’s why I am introducing legislation that would put educational information in the hands of consumers who may be most at risk for led exposure,” said Senator Stefano.

The Advisory Committee and Task Force on Lead Exposure was formed after legislation sponsored by Senator Yudichak, SR 33, was approved in 2017. The Joint State Government Commission released the report in April. The report is available online at http://jsg.legis.state.pa.us/

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Watch Press Conference

 

Senator Yudichak and Senator Baker Host Roundtable on Lead Exposure and Lead Testing

Wilkes-Barre, February 13, 2018 — Senator John Yudichak (D-14) and Senator Lisa Baker (R-20), joined by members of the Senate Lead Task Force, hosted a roundtable on lead exposure, lead testing, and lead abatement policies in Pennsylvania.

The roundtable featured Luzerne County Head Start, Maternal and Family Health Services, Early Intervention Services for Luzerne and Wyoming Counties, and St. Luke’s Hospital – Miners Campus.

Last October, the Pennsylvania State Senate unanimously approved Senate Resolution 33 — a measure authored by Senator Yudichak that created a statewide Senate Lead Task Force and Advisory Committee under the direction of the Joint State Government Commission.

 

Representing organizations that provide direct health and educational services to thousands of children in northeastern Pennsylvania, the roundtable participants added valuable input on newly proposed legislation by Senator Yudichak and Senator Baker that would require universal lead testing for children and expectant mothers.

“Universal lead testing is an effective and essential tool in preventing lead exposure in Pennsylvania children,” said Senator John Yudichak. “With over seventy percent of homes in Luzerne County being built prior to the 1978 federal ban on lead paint, it is imperative that universal lead testing become a primary prevention strategy for lead exposure in Pennsylvania.”

Currently, federal law requires children covered by Medical Assistance and the Affordable Care Act to be tested.

“Head Start screens all children who go through our program for lead exposure. It’s a national regulation that we follow and we know that even very low levels of lead exposure can have lasting negative effects on children,” said Lynn Biga, Executive Director of Luzerne County Head Start.

Lead exposure can cause long-term neurological and physical impairments, and children in at least 20 Pennsylvania cities, including Wilkes-Barre have tested positive for elevated lead levels.

“Although a lot of work has been done to determine and document the serious health effects of lead exposure, it too often remains a hidden threat. The effects are especially devastating in the development of children. There is much to be done in terms of alerting people to the dangers, identifying sources of lead contamination, and paying for removing and eliminating the risks,” said Senator Lisa Baker.

The roundtable was also attended by staff of the Joint State Government Commission, who are conducting research for a comprehensive report required from the Senate Lead Task Force and Advisory Committee.

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Senate Committee Approves Bipartisan Legislation on Prison Closings

HARRISBURG – January 29, 2018  – Today, the Senate State Government Committee unanimously approved bipartisan legislation reforming possible state prison closures in Pennsylvania.

On January 6, 2017, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections publicly announced the closures of two of five selected state correctional institutions located across the state. A final decision for closures was set for January 26, 2017, leaving only twenty days to gather feedback from parties directly affected by these closings, including the institutions’ workforce, local governments and elected officials.

Senate Bill 748 establishes the Public Safety Facilities Act which ensures there is adequate notice and consideration of any proposed state correctional institution closures, as well as other structures that employ law enforcement staff. The bill requires specific notification requirements and the development of comprehensive strategies to minimize undue stress on employees and local communities. The bill is modeled after a law passed in New York regarding a similar debate.

The prime sponsor of the bill, Senator David G. Argall (R-Berks/Schuylkill), mentioned his disappointment and concern when SCI Frackville was on the list of potential closures. “When we heard the department’s announcement, our county delegation, state representatives, and senators in the area joined together to make the bipartisan case that closing this institution was not only unjustifiable, but it would have an adverse effect both financially and on the public safety of the community and its residents,” Argall said.

Argall also noted that many local residents reached out to them to voice their concerns about the negative impact the closure would personally have on them. A petition which urged the governor and Secretary Wetzel to keep the facility opened was signed by 5,670 local residents.

Senator John Yudichak (D-Luzerne/Carbon) and Senator Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne/Pike/Susquehanna/Wayne/Wyoming), both co-sponsors of Senate Bill 748, also fought to save correctional facilities in their areas that faced the potential threat of closing. SCI Retreat is located in Senator Yudichak’s district and SCI Waymart is located in Senator Baker’s district.

While all three state correctional facilities remain open, future prison closures across the state remain possible. Argall believes that with the committee’s passage of Senate Bill 748, the process for prison closures can be better streamlined. “Senate Bill 748 allows local residents to be a part of the decision-making process and helps local officials, as well as the Department of Corrections, to comprehensively identify the potential impact that closing a state correctional facility would have on our communities.”

Senator Yudichak praised the committee’s passage of this important initiative. “Empowering citizens to have their voices heard in Harrisburg is always a good idea, and Senate Bill 748 simply ensures the voice of local citizens is heard before a state prison is closed in their community,” said Yudichak.

Senator Baker noted the importance of creating open dialogue between state facilities and local communities. “Wherever state facilities are located, an immensely important economic relationship is developed with local communities. If the necessity arises for changing that relationship, it should result from an open and extensive discussion with the affected communities,” stated Baker. “There is not a set of circumstances to justify using state facilities as political or budgetary leverage. This measure establishes a thoughtful and deliberative process.”

Other co-sponsors of Senate Bill 748 are: Senator John Blake (D-22); Senator Jay Costa (D-43); Senator Kim Ward (R-39); Senator John Rafferty (R-44); Senator John Gordner (R-27); Senator Wayne Fontana (D-42); and Senator Michele Brooks (R-50).

The bill will now move to the full Senate for consideration.

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Area Lawmakers Host Luzerne County Senior Expo

 

Kingston, October 12, 2017 − Senator John Yudichak (D-14), Senator Lisa Baker (R-20), Representative Aaron Kaufer (R-120), and Representative Gerald Mullery (D-119) hosted the 2017 Luzerne County Senior Expo at the Kingston Armory today.  

Nearly 1,000 seniors attended the event which featured local, state and federal agencies, and other local organizations that provide vital services to area seniors. In addition, attendees were treated to free health screenings and flu shots.

“Every year I look forward to welcoming our area seniors to the Senior Expo. Whether they are here to learn about programs that can assist and protect them, or they are here to get health screenings or their flu shot, we’re glad we can help them out,” said Senator Yudichak.

“There are so many great programs available to help our seniors,” Senator Baker said. “People were lined up before the doors even opened. They told us they appreciate the chance to gather information all under one roof.”

It is great that our seniors have this opportunity today to connect with organizations that stand ready to help them,” said Representative Kaufer. “It’s great to see so much support for our seniors in Luzerne County.”

Many of the area seniors attending the Expo brought non-perishable food items that were distributed to the local food bank. 

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Senator Baker and Senator Yudichak React to Federal Denial for Disaster Declaration Request

Harrisburg, June 13, 2017 — State Senator Lisa Baker (R-20th district) and State Senator John Yudichak (D-14th District) issued a joint statement following today’s announcement that the Commonwealth’s appeal for a federal disaster declaration for the financially crippling snowstorm that hit northeastern Pennsylvania in March was denied.

“After Winter Storm Stella crippled Luzerne County and most of northeastern Pennsylvania, we find ourselves in a position where funding is needed. We never expected to meet the high federal threshold for assistance, despite the extraordinary impact on Wyoming Valley communities. Several years ago, we worked together to create a small disaster assistance program to help counties and municipalities impacted by disasters that do not meet the requirements for federal aid. Budget cuts have zeroed out funding for the program. It is our hope that we can work with our colleagues, Governor Wolf and PEMA to restore funding and provide relief to hard-hit communities.”

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