Parkland Press

Thursday, October 17, 2019

A look at the year ahead

Thursday, January 31, 2013 by JULIE HARHART State Rep. 183rd in Opinion

On Jan. 1, I took the oath of office for the 2013-14 legislative session of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

This was a great time to assess the past and look ahead to the future. As 2013 begins, the new legislative session provides us with many challenges and opportunities to make Pennsylvania better.

Legislatively, we have an aggressive agenda ahead of us, with the state budget being our No. 1 priority.

The economy has been slowly improving each year and the unemployment rate has been coming down, but there are still many areas of the state budget that are in need of greater funding than we are able to give them.

The challenge will be to strike the right balance between adequately funding the core functions of government while also supporting those agencies and organizations that provide services to those most in need and help advance our state forward economically.

As always, I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House and Senate to formulate a plan that will provide the most benefit to the commonwealth and its residents.

Leaders in the House, as well as the governor, have also been outspoken about several other legislative issues that will most likely be a high priority in the coming year.

One of these issues is pension reform for both the State Employees' Retirement System and the Public School Employees' Retirement System. These two public pension systems both have a large amount of unfunded liability and need to be restructured in order to prevent a future catastrophic financial burden on the state.

Private sector job creation and liquor store privatization are also likely to come up again. I am hopeful that new ideas and some compromise will help us reach consensus on these issues.

With the recent tragic events that took place in Newtown, Conn., school safety will also be an area that we will most likely examine this year.

More than a decade ago, I authored a law establishing safe school grants, which provide schools with the funding needed to put in place violence prevention measures and make classrooms safer.

However, due to recent events, I believe now is a good time to re-evaluate our school policies and procedures and, if changes are warranted, then proceed in a deliberate and thoughtful fashion by working closely with educators and law enforcement personnel to make sure schools have the tools they need to better ensure the safety of all school students and school personnel.

On the heels of a report from the Task Force on Child Protection, I will once again be introducing my legislation to create a funding stream for children's advocacy centers.

CACs serve as a one-stop-shop for the delivery of medical care and mental health treatment to child victims of physical and sexual abuse. These centers bring together doctors, nurses, prosecutors, social workers and police in one location in order to provide an effective and comprehensive program of treatment and healing.

We currently have 21 accredited CACs in Pennsylvania, and these centers are primarily funded through federal grants, charitable organizations, private donations and sponsoring institutions. My legislation would create the Children's Advocacy Center Funding Act, which would be funded by money raised through additional fees on certain court filings.

Of course, these are only a sampling of the numerous topics sure to come before the General Assembly in the year ahead. As always, I look forward to working with my colleagues in both the House and Senate, as well as with the governor's administration, to create sound and reasonable laws aimed at improving the quality of life, safety and opportunities of those residing and working in the commonwealth.