Pennsylvania State Capitol. Pennsylvania State Capitol. Photo credit: Zack Frank/

Following is a listing of executive and legislative action for the week of July 2. The General Assembly is set to return to session in September.

Tort Claims Act

Sen. Lawrence Farnese Jr., D-Philadelphia, announced his intention to reintroduce legislation aimed at amending the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act to raise the damages cap.

Farnese said in a July 5 memorandum that the move was spurred by several recent municipal water main breaks in Philadelphia.

“The $500,000 cap was instituted in 1980 and has not been reconsidered since that time. It is important to note that the current Section 8553 requires that any insurance benefits a claimant receives or are entitled to under their homeowners or other policy be deducted from the damages that could be considered recoverable via the municipality,” Farnese’s memorandum said. “However, in order to better protect property owners around the state from personal property damages that are not recoverable via their insurance policies, I am again proposing to increase the municipal tort cap under this section to $2 million to assist with the recovery of property in these types of situations. The legislation will also include an annual adjustment based upon the Consumer Price Index (CPI).”

Senate Bill 896 was introduced last session.

Substance Use Disorder Treatment

Gov. Tom Wolf announced July 2 that the Department of Human Services (DHS) received approval from the federal government for a waiver amendment allowing DHS to continue to receive federal Medicaid funding to be used for the treatment of substance use disorders.

The Section 1115 Demonstration Waiver Amendment was developed in collaboration with the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs to continue more than $55 million per year in federal funding to provide more than 12,000 individuals access to SUD treatment across the state through more than 150 service providers, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

“This waiver continues the funding that helps Pennsylvanians suffering from substance use disorder receive the full treatment continuum they need to recover,” Wolf said in the release. “We would not have allowed anyone to be removed from treatment, but this goes a long way in relieving some of the financial burden of that care.”

In addition, the release said, the waiver approval recognizes the transition from the Pennsylvania Client Placement Criteria (PCPC) to the evidence-based American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) criteria as a placement tool and guide for clinical care. The ASAM criteria was developed to establish a national standard for care by creating individualized, results-based treatment plans for those seeking treatment for SUD and is used by more than 30 other states. The ASAM also eases coordinated care for individuals needing treatment for a co-occurring behavioral health condition.

Parental Rights

State Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-Berks, announced July 2 his plan to introduce legislation that would clarify that parental rights can be terminated if the parent conceived a child as the result of statutory sexual assault. Under current law, parental rights can be terminated if a child is conceived as the result of rape or incest.

“In 1995, what used to be known as ‘statutory rape’ was repealed and replaced with ‘statutory sexual assault,’ but unfortunately a corresponding change was not made to our termination of parental rights statute,” Rozzi said. “This legislation will make clear that statutory sexual assault is grounds for the termination of parental rights.” •