Apr. 13, 2018

Workplace Harassment, Misconduct Focus of House Republican Announcement

Working to ensure Pennsylvania has the most effective laws to address sexual and workplace-related harassment, the House Republican Caucus this week unveiled new legislation to further protect employees. Workplace harassment and misconduct are wrong and must be stopped because no one should ever be uncomfortable going to work.

The two-bill legislative package would create a task force to investigate the laws, practices and procedures surrounding harassment and sexual misconduct in the workplace. This comprehensive review would reveal any inadequacies in current laws, regulations and policies surrounding this subject and produce a report to the General Assembly with its findings and recommendations.

A second bill would review anti-harassment and discrimination laws and policies affecting Commonwealth employees. The Joint State Government Commission would be tasked with reviewing the number, types and results of workplace complaints in state government agencies and entities and provide a comparison of workplace policies related to harassment and sexual misconduct.

An array of federal, state and local laws are already in place that prohibit harassment and sexual misconduct at work. To begin that review process, the House Labor and Industry Committee will hold a fact-finding hearing on April 24.
Judiciary Committee Holds Hearings on Firearms Bills

To find ways to reduce gun violence in Pennsylvania while respecting the Second Amendment, the House Judiciary Committee began a series of hearings this week on various pieces of legislation pertaining to firearms and public safety.

Nearly 30 members from both sides of the aisle are bringing their ideas before the committee. The proposals involve ways to keep firearms out of the hands of dangerous criminals, prevent domestic violence, enhance school safety, address street crimes and strengthen background checks.

The hearings will continue next week. Live webstreaming is available at PAHouseGOP.com.
Ensuring Fairness in Lodging Industry

In an effort to ensure fairness among overnight lodging facilities, the House Tourism and Recreational Development Committee held a public hearing this week on legislation that would require online home-sharing platforms and short-term rental companies to register with the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue.

The registration would allow counties and state government to better collect the hotel occupancy taxes from patrons, and hosting platforms cannot facilitate the booking of lodging until they are registered.

The legislation, House Bill 1810, would help ensure that all entities that provide overnight lodging in their residences apply local and state hotel taxes and are aware of their obligation to do so. Some online platforms already collect and remit taxes, while others do not.

The hearing included testimony on both sides of the bill, with supporters arguing that online companies should be remitting taxes and providing basic information to ensure transparency and compliance with the law, while opponents cited differences within the industry that would make the legislation impractical and ineffective.
Protecting Children from Abuse

To help raise awareness of child abuse and seek ways to prevent this crime, the House passed House Resolution 757, which designates April 2018 as Child Abuse Prevention Month in Pennsylvania.

In 2016, 4,416 children were victims of abuse or neglect in Pennsylvania, with 46 of those children dying as a result. Additionally, reports of child abuse or child neglect hit an all-time high that year with 44,359 cases. This illustrates that the public at large is becoming more vigilant and taking their responsibility to report seriously.

Over the last several years, the House has passed nearly two dozen laws to make abusers pay the price, improve child abuse reporting and investigations, expand due process protections for those wrongly accused, share information to increase protection and strengthen prevention efforts.

Many of those laws will continue to be re-examined and revisited to ensure that our laws are among the best in the nation to protect some of our most vulnerable members of society.
State Parks, Forests Seek Volunteers

If you are seeking a way to volunteer and spend time outdoors, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Conservation Volunteer program encourages individuals to check out their local parks and forests for a wide range of opportunities.

The DCNR program is in addition to a volunteer initiative developed by the Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation (PPFF). Under the PPFF umbrella, 41 chapters or “friends of” groups have formed in individual state parks and forests, focusing their energy on the local park and forest in their neighborhood.

Opportunities also exist in the “Stewards of Penn’s Woods” program. More information on that program, which allows volunteers to set their own schedule, is available here.

Pennsylvania has 121 state parks and 2.2 million acres of state forest land.